Our first guest is Ingrid Broomfield from Nottingham Girls' High.
Tell us about yourself, Ingrid!
After a (very) short career as a Sainsbury’s manager, I got a job as a trainee in a University library and then a place at library school in Manchester. During my postgrad year I rediscovered children’s literature, remembered vividly the delight in books that I had felt as a child and decided that passing on some of that joy would be a good way to earn a living. Suddenly it’s 30 years later (where did the time go?) and having worked in public libraries in London and Derbyshire and three different school libraries, I’m now at Nottingham Girls’ High and still loving reading and sharing literature with each new generation.
What’s your favourite aspect of being a librarian?
Oh dear, there’s lots! Working in a school you get direct contact with your readers – and as I look after two libraries I work with tiny tots just learning to read; excitable chattering juniors; gawky, awkward, teenagers and finally self-possessed sixth formers ready to move on to the next phase in their life. I have the absolute pleasure of buying and reading shiny new books and sharing them directly with their intended audience – equally I can introduce treasured classics from my childhood to a new generation. Within the constraints of the school’s development plan, I can pick and choose the library’s focus for the year ahead without worrying about attainment targets and of course, I get to meet lots of fabulous authors!
Have you ever banned a book from your library and why?
As a lifelong advocate of free speech I’m not a great fan of banning anything. That said, I would always tailor my stock to my clientele so of course there are books I choose not to buy – but that’s not quite as strong as banning.
Confession time: Wherever I have worked over the years I have always had an absolute policy of binning any Jeffry Archer books – can’t stand the man (but I realise that is outright prejudice and not to be condoned)
How can school encourage a reading culture?
Employ a qualified librarian, give that person management support and a half-decent budget and then leave them to do what they do best – all the studies show that this will make a difference. Then when they’ve worked their socks off and got everything running smoothly so it all looks fairly straightforward to the untutored outsider, DON’T replace them with a clerical assistant because it’s easier on the budget. I’ve seen this happen too many times.
Do you think Book Awards are helpful guides for teen readers?
Yes! They introduce authors we’ve never heard of, provoke discussion (always a good thing), and provide guidelines to parents for present buying. Some teens will never progress beyond comfortable, easy reads (and that is fine with me) but there is a sizable minority of the age group who enjoy a challenge and the opportunity to try something new. And they will talk to their friends about the new titles and word will spread ….. this happened with ‘Wonder’ on the 2013 Carnegie list.
If you could recommend one book for every child to read what would it be?
I would never do this – it smacks too much of government guidelines about ‘worthy’ literature – I’d much rather recommend books depending on an individual’s taste. However, if you forced me to name a title I’d go for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – it has a message for all time and all generations.
The school library at Nottingham Girls' High
How do you entice your teen students to read?
At this school they have regular contact with the library right through junior school and as part of the English curriculum in Year 7 and Year 8. During those years we buy the books they ask for (even if we think they’re rubbish) we run lunchtime clubs, competitions, activities, author visits and book weeks. So we hope to have laid strong foundations. In their teens they have so many other pressures in their lives – hormones, exams, friendships, relationships – that I am not surprised that reading and library use drops off and I feel forcing teens to do stuff can be counterproductive. So I keep close contact with our regulars and stay friendly with the rest. Hopefully they’ll come back to reading in due course.
I wouldn’t! If I love a book I hardly ever go to see the film – I much prefer the pictures in my head. Just a dyed-in-the-wool bookworm I suppose. Sorry.