Guest Post: Setting Up A School Library

by admin on 21/04/2015

LibraryThere are a number of things to be considered when establishing a school library.

Function: Is the library just for lending or do you see it as a place for study and research? Are you considering teaching in the area? Are you incorporating the idea of the library as a maker space?

Location: Ideally, it should be in a central location that is accessible to all students and staff. Classroom libraries are OK if there is no other facility available but ideally try to earmark a space for the school library. If you want a small collection in each classroom then this can work in tandem with a central location with stock being rotated around between both.

Furniture: Shelves should be functional and attractive. Ideally some shelves should allow for face out display. Details pertaining to health and safety regulations are in the CILIP Guidelines. Other furniture may be required once you have decided on the function of the library. Have a look at some of the following links, the furniture is beautiful but can be expensive. Consider asking for parent help, people may be prepared to give their skills to create similar items at a fraction of the cost.

Stock: What stock do you have already? Make sure to weed out any old/tatty books as these will only put the children off. If you have a budget for one big stock buy before launching your new library, ring booksellers to see who can offer you the best value for money and can offer you discounts. Beware of buying ‘cheap’ books.

Consider also stock in different formats including cds, dvds, e-books and audio books. E-books and audio books can be borrowed from our website at no charge. This method of reading appeals to many older children/teenagers, most of whom have iPods, smart phone and/or mp3 players of some sort. There is also a significant online reference library available to library members.

Layout: Fiction should be shelved alphabetically by the author’s surname. I’m not a fan of dividing by age groups although some teachers prefer to do this. That said, there is a case to be made for earmarking certain books as for eg. 6th class only; the content may not be suitable for a younger reader. Another alternative is to locate these books in the 6th class classroom. Picture books for the younger readers should be arranged face out if at all possible.

If you are on a tight budget, displaying books on Rain Gutter Book Shelves may be an alternative that you might consider. There’s also a YouTube video about them HERE

I suggest you use broad Dewey categories to shelve your information books; this is the system in use in all public libraries. Alternatively consider broad subject area layout, eg. countries, pets, science, nature, history etc. Be aware, however, that you may end up with a lot of books in the miscellaneous section! You also need to consider that you are catering for different age-groups.

ICT: You need at least one PC/Laptop for the library system. Some others are also required to allow students research and download resources. Consider also allowing the students to bring in their own devices for use in the library.

Library Management System: There are numerous systems available to purchase. Have a look at the relevant websites and maybe talk to colleagues in other schools.

There are lots of other systems out there – decide what you want from the system and then get the one that most matches it and that is most cost effective. At the very least I suggest you need a system that will keep a catalogue of stock, issue and discharge stock and maintain some basic records. Ideally you should also be able to reserve items, print overdue notices and keep some management statistics.

Simon Lewis from has blogged previously about Library Management Systems. You can read his blog post HERE

These are just some items that need to be considered when setting up the school library. It is important to set out a few key ideas before you do anything. By doing this you can avoid mistakes and may even save some money. My best advice probably applies to this as well as any project – think it through and plan before you do anything!

Maria O’Sullivan is  Senior Librarian: Children’s and Schools Services with South Dublin Libraries. You can follow her on Twitter at @MariaMernagh

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