Last week (luckily, before the worst of the snow) I opened a library: I cut a ribbon and everything, just like a proper celeb! It was the sensational, new, sea-themed library at St Benedict's Catholic Primary School in Garforth, near Leeds.
I was there all day, working with the children. The school was a really warm and friendly place. The atmosphere felt very optimistic (a hard thing to pull off in these tricky times) and every class displayed just the right level of interest - really enthusiastic and keen to learn, but not over-excited and silly.
The highlight of the day was the unveiling of the new library (they used to have just a few shelves in the thoroughfare by the main doors). None of the children had been allowed in, so they (like me) were knocked sideways when they finally got to see how wonderful it is. Yes, it really does have a palm tree in the middle for them to read under!
I particularly love the blue boat, which serves as a desk and computer station, but also has hidden talents: beneath the fabric sail is concealed the projection screen. When it's pulled down, it looks exactly like a full sail - how simple but clever is that?
Designing the library was a very hands-on project, involving the staff and children at every stage. The children chose the theme and came up with the ideas for the various things featured in the space. They helped vet the professional designs and even wrote all the inspiration text around the walls. Leeds School Library Service gave advice (and paid for me to spend the day - thanks Pauline!), the PTA raised £4000 to help fund the project and parents in various trades were also heavily involved in the design, construction and printing. Truly a team effort.
Thanks so much to everyone I met during my visit, for making me feel so welcome and to Patrick Sice for letting me use his great photos. How lovely to have a good-news story to brighten the gloom and doom (especially in these depressing times for pubic libraries). Well done guys - enjoy your super new library!