Children in a primary school library and browsing bookcases

Case Study: Norwood Primary School

Our new area is not so much a library, now it is a Discovery Centre! It has made accessing information and resourcing books so much more enjoyable for the children
Rosemary Diskin, Head Teacher Norwood Primary School

Norwood Primary School in Hampshire is a growing school. The local community is rapidly expanding and the school has recently been extended to include a neighbouring children’s centre which will provide the much needed space and facilities to enable the school to change from a one-form intake to a two-form intake school.

The new extension houses, amongst other things, a new library. “The old library was small, cramped and dark with no space to sit and not enough room to display the books properly” says Sue Curtis, School Librarian. “It was used but only because that was the only access to the books. No-one lingered and no one really wanted to spend time there. Pupils visited once a week as part of their timetable but it was rare to find anyone in there at any other time.”

Rosemary Diskin, Head Teacher at Norwood, could see many pupils enjoyed reading and the school’s drive to encourage children to extend their reading through a whole school Reading Challenge was having an impact across the classes but it wasn’t possible to use the library in the old space to extend this any further. Rosemary was determined that the expansion of the school should be an opportunity to change the library.

Mobile school library bookcases

“Our pupils, like pupils everywhere, love the latest technology and working with computers” says Rosemary. “We didn’t want to take that away. Instead we wanted to build on it. We wanted to create one large dedicated space where IT and books could be brought together. We were keen to have a space where pupils could use computers and books together for research or pleasure and we wanted lots of spaces for children to sit, either at tables with a laptop or in a corner with a book.”

“We visited a number of school libraries before we met with BookSpace and nothing inspired us” says Sue. “We wanted something vibrant, something with a wow factor. Not run of the mill furniture. Then I came across the Mobile Curved Bookshelf from BookSpace and loved its shape and the fact that it can be moved. When we realised BookSpace could design the whole library for us we knew we needed to meet with them”.

“We were very impressed with Chris when he came to visit us” says Rosemary. “He understood what we wanted straight away and throughout the meeting suggested ways we could best use the space. He really listened to what we were saying and understood our vision. We discussed creating little zones for children to share books together and when we saw the Woodland Themed designs, we just knew we wanted a BookSpace library”.

Norwood Primary School is an urban school, in the middle of Eastleigh in Hampshire and though there is a playground, there is no green space at the school. A big part of the brief for the new library was to bring an element of green inside the school. The Woodland Theme was used to design the space, incorporating wall stickers in the form of trees, leaves and birds, tree-shaped panels, tree-shaped PC desking and little toadstool seats. A number of bespoke elements were also included including a three-way table to connect three Mobile Curved Bookcases. Boards mounted with 3 different design options were provided for the school to present to governors, pupils, teachers and parents. “We loved the colours and the designs. Right from the word go, BookSpace had got it spot on” says Rosemary. “We made some adjustments to the designs and BookSpace were very accommodating. The team work amongst all the staff at BookSpace was amazing”. When it came to the installation day, Rosemary and Sue were anticipating, as is often the case, mess, noise and lots of disruption. “The fitters were so professional” says Rosemary. “Throughout the day, they checked at each stage to see if we were happy with how everything looked. They even noticed a small chip on one of the tables and said they weren’t accepting it and would make arrangements to have it replaced. They were very professional!”

The new library space or Discovery Centre as it is now known, has been well received by everyone, not least of whom, the children. All agreed they were thrilled with having better access to the books and they had discovered new authors.

“It’s really easy to find the books now” Jack “Much more attractive, I love the seats” Anika “It’s easier to be quiet and enjoy time reading” Vinnie “I like the curves – they give you privacy” Holly “It’s better for doing research & homework “Amber “It’s good to be able to use the books and the PCs together” Joel “I’m really excited about using it with our parents” Sienna “Interestingly”, Sue says, “all of the children think we’ve bought lots of new books for the new library. They keep saying there’s way more books to choose from. Actually it’s the same books. It’s just that they can see them now! Before, they were squashed onto the shelves and they couldn’t see one for another”.

The school is already using the new library space in many different ways. Each class is timetabled to visit the library at least once a week but it is also used for literacy, topic work, IT , storytime clubs where the older children read and act out stories using puppets with the younger ones at lunchtime and free reading. There are two sets of 30 laptops plus 20 tablets. So even if a class is using the space another couple of classes can access the laptops and use them. Pupils can visit the library any lunchtimes or breaktime and Year 6 pupils are encouraged to help in the space, either as librarians or by reading to younger pupils.

The library is open after school too but not just for pupils. Parents who are waiting with younger pre-school children are encouraged to use the library while they wait for the school children to finish their after-school clubs. And there are lots of plans to encourage the local community to use the school library. One idea is to invite older local residents to come into the school library for a cup of tea and to read to pupils. Rosemary can see older residents may be keen to talk about books they used to read and to share their love of reading with younger generations. She is also keen to encourage grandparents to come to the library and for the grandchildren to teach them about technology. In return Rosemary is keen for them to help by listening to pupils read.

“Our school values are explore, inspire, achieve and flourish” says Rosemary. “With most of our pupils borrowing double the amount of books they used to, I’d say our new school library is certainly helping us achieve this”.

Reading table in school library area Cluttered school library area

Above: Previous library area

Primary school pupils in school library