Supported by

challenges that schools have faced over the past year and a half but Tarrant is clear about the impor- tance of a library to pupils. “No one in schools has had an easy time of it. To be a headteacher and to have overseen a school environment over the past two years has been an incredible feat and I have nothing but respect for them. But at the same time, it’s such a shame when these things happen because the school library isn’t just the room. A librarian is able to support pupils and build relationships, and reading helps wellbeing too.” She points to studies which have shown how, over lockdown, books have supported children’s wellbeing, with young people reporting that reading helped them relax (40%) and made them feel happy (35%).

“I feel like there is a bit of a block where people are looking

prevented browsing as usual. And while overdue titles are always a problem for school libraries, the two lockdowns means they have become a “nightmare”, in the words of one librarian.


for solutions but not seeing the things that are right in front of their eyes,” Tarrant says. “There are so many librarians who are saying, ‘I want to go in and deliver lessons, I want to do online stuff’, and so not utilising that additional resource seems a litle bit crazy for me.”

Challenges had changed for school libraries by the summer term as bubbles and restrictions reduced footfall and Covid rules

More than physical Looking ahead, librarians are worrying about a lack of funding as they prepare to rebuild and refresh their book stock. They also need to rebuild those rela- tionships, with both colleagues and pupils, which have suffered over the pandemic period. One librarian told the SLA about how masks, screens and distancing have “hamstrung” their abilit to support reading and literacy for students: “Some students I have never seen without masks and the relationship I need to build with them over seven years has been severely damaged.” Morale overall is “prety

low”, admits Tarrant. “Schools have had to invest a lot in extra cleaning and extra cover so lots of budgets have been frozen. “And there is also almost a sense of having to rebuild from scratch, in terms of collaboration with staff. You’ve got to go back in, rebuild the library as a physi- cal space.” Most of all, though, school librarians want to get back to being able to do their jobs. “Nearly everyone who works in a school does it for the children, that is their main driver for being there,” says Tarrant. “Working in a school isn’t well paid, the hours are long, it’s prety intense most of the time. The moments that remind you why you’re doing it have been reduced over the past couple of years in a situation which is tougher than ever. So that kind of emotional hit has really been felt by members too.”


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