[g1_quote author_name=”John McIntyre” hide_author_image=”none” author_description=”Former teacher and children’s bookseller” author_description_format=”%link%” align=”none” size=”s” style=”solid” template=”01″]

It is worth remembering, in a climate where everything now needs to be measured and tested, that there is still a great need for people and places where lives can be changed by the simple act of fostering a love of reading. It’s called librarianship.

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For many of us growing up in the 50s and 60s, school libraries were non-existent.

At Tahunanui School in Nelson in the early 1960s I recall some books on the classroom shelves, but they were few and not always interesting.

But at Waimea College in 1965 I fell upon the library, housed as it was then in an empty classroom, and so began my love affair with reading. It’s a reminder that the provision of purposebuilt libraries, staffed by caring and knowledgeable librarians, is only a recently won facility for many schools, and should not be taken as a given.

You only need short memories to recall the Waikato high school that dismantled its library and threw out the books to make way for a cybercafe. The library has since been re-established following a change of management. There are rumblings now from some quarters that the e-book will mean libraries will become redundant in the future.

Regularly we hear about schools under pressure for space commandeering the library for classrooms, but libraries and librarians serve many purposes, both literary and social. Libraries act as refuges during breaks for children who can’t always cope with the dynamics of a school playground.

The literature can allow children to escape into someone else’s world, and some of our children do really need to escape from their own. They provide places to catch up on study, to get homework done uninterrupted by family issues, to relax, and to be turned on to reading by people with the knowledge to do so.

Good schools recognise the worth of their librarians as professionals, able to help teachers resource their programmes and to advise on the books they can use for both curriculum or leisure. Just as not every teacher is an expert in sport or maths, nor are they experts in choosing books to read to their class. Children will long remember the book you read, rather than the maths you taught.

It is worth remembering, in a climate where everything now needs to be measured and tested, that there is still a great need for people and places where lives can be changed by the simple act of fostering a love of reading. It’s called librarianship.

● John McIntyre

The Children’s Bookshop Kilbirnie

Wellington

childbkwgtn@xtra.co.nz