Talk to the library

Communication between schools and libraries is a massive stumbling block.

“GO get information from the library” is a phrase students commonly hear from their teachers. “And that,” says Nohra Moerat, “is usually the end of the story, as far as the teacher is concerned.” Moerat is a librarian who has recently been appointed media liaison for the Library Information Service of South Africa (Liasa).
“Students will then descend on the local library and the librarian has no idea what to expect,” she says. “They haven’t set any books aside or collected the relevant material.”

Moerat says communication between schools and libraries is a massive stumbling block. “If teachers informed librarians of the projects for each term it would solve a lot of problems. Teachers are not proactive enough,” she says. Nazeem Hardy, a librarian at the Valhalla Park public library, agrees “It’s our biggest headache,” he says. “If schools told us just a term in advance about the projects we could be of real assistance to them.”

A simple knock-on effect would come into play. Librarians would have more time to complete a multitude of tasks, students would be better prepared, and so more confident and more receptive to learning, teachers would have less of a workload and achieve better results, leaving parents satisfied. Of course it’s not that simple. But a simple relationship between the school and the library could definitely make an big impact.

“When the kids do come,” says Hardy, “we have to help them understand the project. The projects are often poorly explained. We might also not be right.” Again, communication between schools and libraries can alleviate this. Hardy and his colleagues have instigated annual meetings with the six local schools which the library serves, in an attempt to improve the situation. Still, the schools fail to inform them of study topics. In this new era of a resource-dependant curriculum, this simply doesn’t make sense.

Hardy claims that “many teachers in the local schools don’t even know the library exists. They express shock once they come and see what we have to offer. The library plays a big role once they find out about us. But even those teachers who are aware of our existence should reaquaint themselves with us. What we need is a change of attitude.” Hardy is quick to admit that librarians “always feel like the wronged partner. We’ve also had to ask what we could be doing to improve our relationship with schools. We’re open to suggestion.”

—The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, June 19, 2000.

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