My Catchphrases

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Saturday Spotlight: Librarian Interview with Melanie of Library Mice

It is my great pleasure to conduct an interview with Melanie from Library Mice. As a Secondary School Librarian my self I am always fascinated by the initiatives and incentives Librarians use to encourage reading in teens. Without further ado, over to Melanie:

Please introduce yourself with some background details for those that don't know you.

I am Mélanie from Library Mice, I am a qualified chartered librarian and I have been working in schools since late 1997. I have just started work in my fourth school which is a large rural mixed secondary school (11 to 18).

How did you become a Librarian?

I always wanted to work with books. It was either going to be publishing or librarianship – my dad said I had to make a decision by the end of my exchange year in a university in Northern Ireland. I applied to a few universities to do Librarianship studies and got in Aberystwyth to do their Master’s in Information and Library Studies.

• What qualities do you think a teen/children’s librarian should possess?

I think you have to be able to relate to them, and be interested in them and the things they like. It helps to be interested in children’s/teen literature and be willing to try new things. You have to be flexible and open-minded, and have a good sense of humour but be able to firm when needs be. Of course within a school you also need to be able to teach. It is a much harder job than people expect. They think it is all about stamping books :0)

Do you have a favourite author/genre?

Nope. There are genres I’d rather not read (crime, fantasy) but I try to stay open-minded. There are many authors that I “follow”, but have no favourites.

What reading incentives/initiatives do you have in place (if any)?

I have not done much yet as I have just started at my new school. I used to give house points on my previous school and other initiatives such as “Read Around the World” an Readathon.

How do you deal with bad behavior/non-return or damage to books.

In my last school year 11s had to return or pay for their outstanding books before they got their ticket to the leavers ball and that worked really well. But it is always a struggle to get overdue library books back. I don’t believe in charging fines, I only charge for the price of the book if it is lost or damaged beyond repair.

As for bad behaviour, I guess you learn on the job as far as this is concerned. I just got more confident over the years. I think consistency is the key!

What question would you like to ask another librarian?

“What has been your most successful project?” It is always really interesting to see what works (and what doesn’t work) in other schools.

Please feel free to leave your projects in the comments and I will pass them on to Melanie

Do you think that the current Library qualifications available enhance the library service and why?

I think so yes, but then I am a qualified librarian!

It is the same as any profession – would anybody like their children to be taught by an unqualified teacher? Most likely not. Would you like your teeth looked at by an unqualified dentist? Nope!

Experience is very important of course and there are a lot of amazing unqualified librarians around. But being a librarian is a job which, like most others, requires training. I think CILIP did right to introduce qualifications that can be done “on the job” so unqualified school librarians can get qualified status. Whether employers are willing to pay for it to happen is another story altogether!

• How would you like to see the library system progress?

I’d like to see the same as in my native France – school librarians train in the same way as teachers, a sort of PGCE in school librarianship, which makes so much more sense considering how much teaching is involved.

• Do you utilize other libraries resources in your area?

No we don’t really have a schools library service (there is one in Bristol but mainly caters for primary schools).

Maybe this could be suggested for a way to Save Libraries

• Do you have any predictions for new trends within the library in the coming year.

Not really, I just don’t want to see so many close down, whether it is public or school. I think it says a lot about our government if they are willing to close libraries by the hundreds. I am not their number 1 fan.

Neither am I.

• Manga fan or fad.

FAN! It has been one of my most successful accomplishments at my last school (about to embark on it in my new one too, with lots of interest). It attracted kids who never stepped foot in the library and it did tons to my street cred :0)

• How do you choose/recommend the fiction titles for your library?

I guess with the blog it has become easier to choose fiction as I am more aware of what is coming out. I always think Red House are great at picking out popular stuff too so always keep an eye on their catalogue. I try to mix what I buy – some popular stuff and some more “worthy” stuff but I’d rather buy what I consider to be rubbish but that will be read rather than buy what I’d like them to read for it to sit untouched on the shelves gathering dust.

To be able to recommend books, you need to know your stock. I am still getting used to my new one, but I always try to gauge what they have like in the past before making any recommendations.

• Do you think the UK should have dedicated Teen librarians the same as they have in the states?

These days yes, as there is so much published and it is a very different field from say, picture books. But considering there is barely any money for libraries, I can’t see that happening in a hurry!

• Are there any perks to being a librarian?

You get to choose and buy lots of books and you don’t pay for them out of your own pocket!

• What do you think of the stereotyping of librarians as dull, dumpy bookish nerds/geeks?

I don’t mind personally, it makes me laugh and it allows for great comedy moment such as the Mc Hammer song in Glee!

• How do you decide the age restrictions to place on books?

I don’t believe in it particularly so try to avoid it, but bearing in mind that in a school you act as loco parentis you do have to be careful. So if I know a book might cause problems, I might put a 14+ restriction on it. My first job was in Catholic school and there were a lot of restrictions on the books, and was also more limited in my stock development.

This isn't something I am completely at ease with either but you do have to give way to parental pressure :(

• Have you experienced any parental complaints? If so what was the outcome.

Not so far, but I never say never!

• Do you utilize book reviews? If so where do you place them.

I have in the past for handouts for parents, displays. We have a plasma screen in our reading room so we stick some there too. Also, I am setting up a blog for school at the moment and we will put some on there too.

Wow I am so jealous a plasma screen in your reading room - well actually a reading room *swoon*.

Huge thanks to Melanie for answering my really random questions.


  1. What a great interview. Librarians rock. You guys are shaping the minds of our teens x

  2. Brilliant interview. Manga is just excellent for getting non readers interested in books. I love the Read Around the World idea, that is fab. It makes me want to be a librarian.

  3. Great interview - looking forward to meeting Melanie for real in the summer!

  4. Thank you Emma, it was great fun to answer your questions!
    Manga group is now up and running and going really well. We watched "Ponyo" this week and they loved it.
    Having a reading room is such a luxury, and our pupils really appreciate it I think (Sue, that's where you will talking to our students :0))
    I have used Read Around the World with my son when he was flaking a bit with his reading - he'll do anything if there is something in it for him ;0)

  5. Wonderful interview - thank you! It's so great to find out more about Melanie. I agree that librarians rock!

  6. Ooh! A great interview (and I agree with all previous comments - librarians rock :D)

  7. What a wonderful interview, very interesting to read! Thank you Emma and Melanie :)


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