[Just discovered this was still marked as private so have published it properly at the relevant date – Jen]
Back at the end of September, Rhona Skea and I found ourselves discussing Quantitative Indicators (QIs) with SLIC staff at the Scottish Learning Festival. We were told that the QIs were returning to gather further evidence promoting school libraries. While both Rhona and I thought this was a good idea, we also expressed our concerns that the QIs, by themselves, did not draw a representative picture of our respective libraries.
So it was good news to discover that SLIC had organised a survey of pupils’ attitudes to school libraries to provide a qualitative element to the research. The questionnaire took the form of ten questions, drawing on the work of Ross Todd and Carol Kulhthau.
- could we see a copy of the survey?
- would the survey be acceptable to Senior Management?
- how many pupils could fill in the questionnaire in the available time?
Fortunately, SLIC were happy to provide a copy, the Headteacher was very supportive and our PT PSHE was happy for classes to be extracted from Tutor Time (four times a week, 30 minutes each session). A quick trial run suggested ten minutes would be enough for a Tutor class, meaning three classes could complete the survey in each available session. Finally, senior pupils had a PSHE day forthcoming, with one period for each group in the Library for Careers information, so we planned the day’s activities to accommodate senior pupils completing the survey as well.
- in order to have the maximum time available, it was essential that the computers were already logged in and ready at the survey page. This wasn’t always possible depending on what had been happening in the Library the previous period and whether the computers behaved themselves or not. And of course, pupils are well trained to log off when they leave (argh!), meaning computers were constantly having to be reset.
- given the constant demand for Library access, I could only book survey classes in the occasional vacant spot over the course of the month; there was no opportunity to make a buzz about the survey and it was easy for staff to forget that their class was booked in, requiring replacement bookings.
- to give the pupils confidence in answering honestly, I explained that their responses were completely anonymous and that no-one in the school would see their answers or know who said what. However, this also led to some misunderstandings that could have been cleared up more quickly as pupils didn’t want anyone to ‘see the answers’ (see below)
- a large minority of senior pupils indicated that they couldn’t fill in the form as they ‘didn’t use the Library’. Since many of the pupils in question had actually used the Library over the previous weeks, their comments were a little surprising. It was obvious that some simply chose the most negative answer throughout without reading the questions.
- a group of worried S2 pupils sat muttering with each other, and eventually explained that they didn’t know how to answer the question about schoolwork because they ‘didn’t use the Library’. Again this made no sense as the pupils in this class had used the library just the previous day. When this was pointed out to them, they all asked if class visits could be included?The pupils assumed the questions only applied to lunchtime visits i.e. use of the Library by themselves rather than as part of a class.
It would never have occured to me to make clear the concept of ‘using the Library’, but it might perhaps explain some of the S5/6 responses too. There’s no way of knowing for sure. I’m quite concerned that pupils are not understanding that visiting the Library within classes also means ‘using the Library’.
- the same statements were questioned repeatedly because pupils didn’t understand them:
The school library has helped me work out the main ideas in the information I find.
The school library has helped me do my school work.
The school library has helped make me more aware of my own skills and abilities.
The school library has helped me develop clearer plans for my future.
It appears that many pupils were confused by the distinction between ‘the school library’ and ‘the school librarian’. The school librarian is a person; the school library is a room.
It was an exhausting initiative, but it was certainly an eye-opener. I’m looking forward to the results and seeing how my experiences compare with others.