Where next? Playing by the Book is at a crossroads

posted in: Uncategorized | 55

I try to keep my personal life out of my blog, but given that things might be quiet here for a while today’s post is something by way of an explanation.

On Monday the school I work for informed their librarian that her services were no longer required, that as of the new academic year, the jobs the librarian was believed to be doing in the school would instead be distributed among teaching staff in order to save the school money.

On Tuesday I read this post on the importance of school librarians and library services. If you’re a regular to my blog Emma Barnes’ piece may not tell you anything new, but maybe it’s something you can share with your friends and colleagues to raise awareness of librarians who work in and for schools.

And now it is Wednesday and I’m able to bring myself to share in black and white that I’m that librarian who (with no warning) has been told there is no budget for her position. I can type it today without bursting into tears, which is certainly progress from earlier in the week.

The council which funds the school is virtually bankrupt and has been cutting jobs by the thousands [sic], (the School Library Service was one of its first services to be cut) so it is no surprise to hear that the school’s budget has been cut and therefore they need to save money. It is (not just personally) heartbreaking; this is a school which invested a great deal just two years ago in a fabulous new library opened by a brilliant author, a new library management system, and a (albeit part-time) member of staff who was passionate about her job. Ultimately it’s the children who lose out.

I understand the school no doubt had to make “difficult decisions”, and I don’t want to badmouth the school or its staff (and please, I’d rather you didn’t either) but this decision will have a far bigger impact than “just” making teaching staff more stressed as they have to pick up the different aspects of the librarian role as best they can when they are already stretched. I’ve only been a librarian there a year, but in that time I’ve had so many conversations with staff, kids and parents about finding just the right book for what they needed at that moment in time. I know that nearly every day I’ve been in work at the school I’ve made informed, creative, thoughtful suggestions to one person or another about just the right book, and I’m pretty sure that this will not be happening once I’ve gone, however happily staff (or will it be volunteers?) take to re-shelving and cataloguing.

All this turmoil comes as I was starting to plan how to celebrate the fact that next month I’ll have been blogging about children’s books for five years. I love blogging about books and I wanted to use my 5th birthday as an opportunity to celebrate, and to brainstorm about what-more, what-different, what-how for the next five years. But now that series of questions has become much larger in scope.

I need to earn some money to replace the salary I’m losing. But I want to earn it with integrity, utilising the passion I have for children’s literature. So far I’ve always chosen not to monetize the blog because I don’t want this space I love so dearly to become driven by contracts and payments and pushing you the reader to buy stuff. But maybe this is going to have to change? Would you care? Maybe not, but I would.

But what can a dispirited, saddened, demotivated Playing by the Book do? I know I need to pick myself up and dust myself down and move on to bigger and better things. And I will. For a start, on Saturday I’ve the next meeting of the new 8-12 bookgroup I’ve started at the local public library, and as we’ll be discussing comics and graphic novels I know we’ll have a brilliant time.

But I’d love to hear your ideas about ways forward beyond the weekend. Off the wall ideas? Yes please! Creative partnerships? Absolutely! Innovative, joy-filled ideas for spreading the word about the best of books for kids and young people? Well, that’s always been and always will be at the heart of what I try to do.

Maybe you’re an author who needs admin support? Or a publisher looking for someone to help with a specific campaign? Maybe you’re an investor who would like to hire me to run this amazing children’s bookshop which is up for sale? (Goodness only knows this would be my dream job.)

Ah well. I guess now I’ll turn to a book or two for some comfort.

55 Responses

  1. Gosh I feel for you – I think the suddeness makes it much worse ..

    I run a small children’s publishing company (had just discovered and was looking at your blog to check your review policy then read this).

    Just a few thoughts re using your fantastic experience going forward…

    – Beta reading/editing for aspring children’s authors – with your experience you could offer this service and you’d be great at it and be immersed in children’s books. Easy to get a quick idea of what people charge if you google it…

    – Become a reviewer for some of the many mummy/parenting websites and magazines and charge them for it. I am sure some of them would welcome a reviewer with your experience – it would add credibility to their magazines/websites.

    Very best of luck!

  2. I’m SO sorry Zoe. I hadn’t read this post yet. I don’t know what to say…how is a librarian expendable? I wish the very best of luck to you and the children of your school.
    Donna McKinnon recently posted..Shelf Landings

  3. Teresa Heapy

    So sorry to hear about this Zoe – I’m sure the grey sky will expand to a shining platinum lining soon and that wonderful things await you – but in the meantime, very sad for you and your school. Our school doesn’t have a library and the currenty decimation of school libraries and librarians is just awful. Wishing you everything good – you do such a brilliant job.

  4. I’m so sorry to read this, Zoe. I’m even sorrier, in fact heart-broken, for the kids.
    Susan Stephenson recently posted..Children’s Book Review, The Duck and the Darklings

  5. I am so sorry to read this Zoe. Feeling sad for the children as well. I am not much on twitter as I have started working and trying to complete my teaching practice but I do miss our chats. From time to time I pop on your blog and read your posts with interest as always. You are such a passionate person and I believe that with your experience -and your blog is a proof of your work- you will be able to find an amazing work. Hugs.
    Isil recently posted..Top 10 things to do on a City Break in Bruges

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