A Spotlight on: the Literacy Library for Libraries Week
Across the 7th – 12th October, the CLPE, among many other literacy organisations, schools and educators, celebrates Libraries Week, an annual event in the UK which seeks to promote the value and necessity of libraries. In 2019, Libraries Week is focused on libraries in the digital world – and the ways in which libraries are engaging communities with technology.
At the CLPE we are in a unique position of hosting over 23,000 children’s books in our recently refurbished Literacy Library in London. The library brings together teachers, students, children, authors, illustrators, publishers and all those interested in children’s literacy to share their love for children’s books.
However, as a charity working to improve educational outcomes all across the UK, we’re committed to sharing our expertise and recommendations to as many teachers and schools as possible. That’s why we’re committed to hosting an online library too: Core Books. Core Books is our free, searchable database, showcasing the most up-to-date, high-quality children’s books upon which our training and research is based.
Our Librarian, Ann Lazim is often at the forefront of the happenings in the Literacy Library. We interviewed her for Libraries Week.
Q: How did you get into working with children’s books and in a children’s library at the CLPE?
Before I came to CLPE (more than 25 years ago!), I worked in public libraries as a children’s librarian and then as a secondary school librarian. Having my own children helped me to keep up with books for primary age when I was working in secondary! I trained as a children’s librarian in the 1970s and in 2005 completed an MA in Children’s Literature. I’ve always revelled in exploring the range of children’s books from around the world.
Q: What’s so special/unique about the Literacy Library?
The Literacy Library can be visited by anyone interested in knowing more about children’s literature. As it’s for reference only, there is continually a wide selection of the best in current children’s books on display. Recent books sit side by side with well-loved and more established titles, reflecting current trends and ‘classics’ in the broadest sense. Since the refurbishment of the library last year, it’s now a very beautiful setting in which to browse and learn, which the books and their creators richly deserve!
Q: 2019’s Libraries Week theme is the role of libraries in the digital world. How have you seen libraries transforming over time as we adopt more digital and online tools?
In our Literacy Library, the book as a physical object has pride of place. This is significant where picturebooks and the new generation of information books are concerned. However, we are always looking to develop ways of promoting literature online. Our Core Books online (a ‘library in the sky’) and other resources are updated frequently, and it’s much quicker in general these days to find out about new books and so help our users to make the most of the wide range of children’s books available.
Q: What do you look for when choosing a book to join Core Books online?
The lists on Core Books online are divided into three sections within each age group: Learning to Read; Literature; Information. The criteria for each are different and can be found on the main page for each Key Stage on the site. I’d say, though, that an overarching criterion is that a book should be worth revisiting. Sometimes a new book will be a clear candidate for inclusion and I’ll run into our teachers’ office, exclaiming ‘Look at this!’. Every book that is added to Core Books must have been read and recommended by at least two members of the team.
Q: What’s your favourite book on Core Books and why?
It’s impossible to name one favourite, and that would change regularly, anyway. However, my favourite part of the Literacy Library is our vast collection of traditional tales and this is reflected in some the selections on Core Books. These stories are the foundations of so much modern storytelling whether in books or other media such as films. I especially enjoy the ones that play with conventions. Particular plums in the current crop would include: Bethan Woollvin’s cheeky heroines exemplified in Rapunzel, Jamila Gavin’s recastings in Blackberry Blue and Carol Ann Duffy’s use of language in Faery Tales.
Q: Complete the sentence: Libraries are essential because….
People need to have unfettered access to human creativity and knowledge so that they can develop as individual human beings and be part of a democratic society. Libraries that are open to all with qualified staff trained to guide the users are the gateway to this. This begins with providing the very best for children as they grow.