Friday, June 1, 2012

Off the Shelf - Putting the Library Back at the Heart of a School

This year, Jumpstart takes places on 23rd and 24th August, 2012. We are excited to inform you that we are collaborating with German Book Office (GBO) to organize a workshop for librarians, teachers and prinicpals. 'Off the Shelf- Putting the Library Back at the Heart of a School' takes place on 24th August, 2012 (9am-1pm). Entry is by invitation, so please write to info@prathambooks.org or info@newdelhi.gbo.org.

Here's a short note on the workshop:

“I grew up borrowing books from my neighbourhood lending library.”
“I used to spend my entire summer holiday in the public library.”
“Our school librarian was very strict but she taught me how to choose books…”

If you have heard any of the above recently, you can be reasonably sure that the speaker was over 40! Book-love has changed over the years and the places where you found this love have been changing as well. Book shops now often look like glamorous cafes or like a page on your computer screen. Books themselves are found in different formats and can be accessed differently and e-publishing is a word that will soon be as ho-hum as email.

But what has happened to the good old library while we are learning to be bibliomaniacs with a new set of table manners? The library seems to be in a state of crisis. 

Public libraries are looking more dog-eared than anniversary issue magazines at the dentist. Local lending libraries seem to have retired shyly behind brash shop facades selling impossibly priced stationery. And school libraries seem to teeter between pious pronouncements about their importance and a benign yawn of indifference. Talk to any school teacher or librarian and you will hear an anecdote which will demonstrate the confusion around the role of the library in the school.

How often are books bought for the library? Who makes the decision for purchase and on what basis? What does the librarian do on a normal school day and where is she placed in the school hierarchy? What does the once a week library period mean to the children? Is it integrated in the school curriculum or other activities in any way that is meaningful to teachers and children? Can the library be the heart of the school where learning can be like flying kites of many colours in a very big blue sky? Or a cheerful open kitchen where you can cook with what you like…

The panel discussion and open interaction on libraries in schools will address many of these key questions from a place of sharing and hope. The lament of libraries losing ground is old and it is time to look at practices, old and new, that are making libraries what they should be. 

These best practices are like tendrils finding a new scaffolding and are transforming the library into an idea and a space that fits well in the new educational landscape.

We will look at the shape-shifting idea of libraries in different contexts. How are libraries being created, managed and used in resource-scarce situations? How can we work with governments to take some good ideas to scale? How are some schools making the library the most visited place after the canteen by aligning it with classroom teaching?

The panel discussion will present a tandoori platter of ideas. The open discussion will hopefully put many more pieces on it. This workshop will be a place to share, network and learn from each other so that our children cherish books and libraries for the joy and freedom that they bring.

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