Creating a Buzz around Launching your Primary School Library

  By Sue Polchow   - Thursday 09 November 2023
Boy reading in a book nook

Having the responsibility for setting up a school library can be a thrilling but daunting challenge but is even more so if you have many other roles within a bustling primary school. Here are five steps for helping you to create and then launch an inspiring library in your school, that is a social reading space for everyone and fosters a lifelong love of reading.

1. Stock your Library with inviting reads

You may be starting with a blank canvas or already have a library area you wish to re-launch but every great primary school library begins with quality and relevant resources covering curricular and leisure topics and fiction genres. This may require weeding of existing books to remove anything worn or inappropriate for your library audience, but this can be enlightening as gaps in provision are identified.

If funding is available or been raised, shopping for books for a library can be a real joy in this golden age for children’s literature. Aim for a broad and diverse range of titles to appeal to different reading abilities, age ranges and interests. Consider additional resource types to books such as magazines and comics, audiobooks and ebooks. Bear in mind that while there is always room for well-known authors and classics, a host of exciting new authors, illustrators and poets are out there for children to discover and see themselves reflected in the pages.

2. Cultivate your Library Space to surprise and inspire

A primary library environment should be well lit, colourful and welcoming with no barriers to access. How your library layout flows is crucial to how it gets used, so strive to make maximum use of available space. Ideally provide quiet as well as more social reading and learning spaces.

Must haves are flexible shelving at child height that can be moved, clear signage about arrangement of stock, eye catching display areas and comfortable and varied seating with cushions and beanbags. Asking children, staff and parents what they would like in their new library may lead to ideas unthought of and start new funding bids.

Regular displays arouse curiosity and could feature spotlights on popular authors or new books, a creative writing or drawing competition, buildup to a themed national day or reflect a curricular focus. Using wall space for book quotes or collages of children’s books characters, having a storytelling chair or a reading tent adds to the visual message that here is our special reading place within school.

3. Become a Virtual Library and highlight usage trends

Reading Cloud software enables a school to keep track of pupil’s reading patterns and literacy progression and identify struggling or reluctant readers. It encourages children to explore new reading choices and provides key information on how the library space is being used and by whom. It’s fun to use as pupils can issue their own books, create reading lists and reviews and being cloud based their library can be accessed on mobiles and tablets anywhere at any time.

Girl choosing picture book

4. Make your Library Launch a day to remember

Countdown to library launch day can build excitement and expectation. Involve pupils in creating displays around the school and in designing library posters, bookmarks and bunting. Add announcements as digital banners on the school website and across its social media. Inviting an author to open the new library and to a booktalk assembly makes a lasting impression. Ensure copies of the author’s books are available to be signed on the day and there is a ribbon and even a cake to cut! Invite parents and governors as well as local media.

5. Retain that Library love to kindle involvement and interest

Now you have your school community on board, consider how to keep the glow from the library launch aflame. Promotional materials can be reused or reimagined for other reading activities such as book clubs and book swaps. Recruit pupil library helpers from across the year groups and have a rota of who helps when. Ask parents who attended the opening ceremony for help with the library and seize the moment to identify a governor to support you with new initiatives and fundraising.

Finally start to set goals and have in place a library development plan reflecting whole school objectives and literacy and learning outcomes for your new library.

Sue Polchow is Library Adviser for Reading Cloud having previously been a school librarian and a schools library service advisor.