Public and school library partnerships—Joy Court talks to Ailsa Gormley

SHARED PRACTICE

Public and school library partnerships—Joy Court talks to Ailsa Gormley

I have always felt that if school librarians wanted to create readers for life, they had to engage their students with public libraries so that the reading habit could be sustained outside of the educational environment. I am also a passionate advocate of the inspiration provided by live author events, and so I am doubly delighted to bring you this piece from Ailsa Gormley, Service Development Supervisor, Libraries (Young People), in Fife. I was lucky enough to meet some of the amazing Reckless Readers in the signing queue for the Sarah Crossan event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival that Ailsa mentions, and immediately I wanted to know more!

“We are very proud at Fife Cultural Trust to have a dedicated department within our libraries’ Service Development Team (SDT) who focus solely on young people. This has led to us developing very strong links with our local primary and secondary schools, allowing us to not only encourage youngsters into our facilities but also take our services directly to them.

Live author events have always been a huge pull for our young people. Alongside holding events within our venues, we often take our authors into the schools themselves. Book Week Scotland, for example, allows us the ideal opportunity to engage with the school audience, and as a result we see great enthusiasm and uptake each year. Having this connection with Fife’s schools means that we can ensure we reach as many children and teenagers as possible.

As a result of an MSc dissertation project, a digital teen space was created in the form of a closed Facebook Group—Reckless Readers—which has provided us with the opportunity to engage a large group of teenagers directly. Fife’s Secondary Schools, both teachers and librarians alike, have been very supportive of our Reckless Readers venture by actively promoting and encouraging students to join in and take part. We offer regular book discussions, games, film reviewing opportunities, and competitions.

Through this group we have explored further avenues to engage our young people in live author events, which has seen the development of Reckless Readers’ Live Author Chats and annual trips to the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF). Our most recent adventure saw nine of our Reckless Readers, alongside four very excited members of the SDT, attend Sarah Crossan’s EIBF event. Our Reckless Readers had a fantastic day and were ecstatic to have had the opportunity to meet Sarah and get their books signed.

Such opportunities allow our young people to create and develop their love of reading and writing. When they engage with the authors directly, they are personifying what is often no more than just a name on a cover and, as such, they often come away with the belief that “I can do that too!”. It is important to emphasise that, in organising these Live Author events and expeditions, we often put our young people in charge. They decide who we are going to see at the Edinburgh Book Festival, who they have live chats with, etc. They tell us what they want from the Reckless Readers group. We help to develop their ideas and assist in the execution, but ultimately the teens themselves lead the way.

We have since applied this method to other aspects of our service. In a recent consultation regarding the re-visioning of our public libraries, our young people were asked to tell us about their ‘ideal’ library via digital story-telling. Integrated cat cafés and library helter-skelters aside, we were afforded a valuable insight into what our young people expect from us and the library of the future.”

Ailsa would be delighted to tell you more, and you can contact her at Ailsa.Gormley@onfife.com.

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