“The aim was to build a new Library that reflects the ethos and values of the school: friendly, down to earth yet progressive. It embodies tradition yet it’s modern, upcoming and at the very heart of the school – where pupils feel relaxed and happy in a safe environment.”
Meet Lesley Purcell
Bradford Grammar School opened its brand new 21st century Library in 2016. It offers pupils a superb resource. We caught up with Lesley Purcell, Library Manager, to hear all about it.
Tell us about the new Library. What was the aim of the project?
“The aim was to build a new Library that reflects the ethos and values of the school: friendly, down-to-earth yet progressive.
The old Library didn’t quite have that combination of qualities that managed to embody tradition yet be modern, upcoming and at the very heart of the school.
We needed something fresh and adaptable—like a college Library—to be able to offer our pupils the best facilities, but more importantly a place to go where it’s not just about education but about feeling relaxed and happy in a safe environment. It really supports the education/life balance that the school encourages for the pupils. So it really has been a complete transformation.
What makes it unique?
“There are many things that make the new Library unique. First of all we have some excellent facilities.
It’s a two-storey building including the Junior School Library and break out area—that also doubles as a Junior and Senior class area with a large, touch-screen PC. There’s also a Senior School Library including a sofa seating section with newspapers/journals and a Sixth Form study area that also doubles as a class discussion and debating zone.
On top of this there is a room specially designed to hold the School’s impressive archive once it is all catalogued, seating capacity for 200+ students and staff and an inspiring, varied selection of fiction and non-fiction books. It’s a very innovative space. We don’t use PCs anymore. It’s all Chromebooks, which the pupils love.
Besides this, it’s unique in that the pupils tell us what they would like to see in terms of books/resources/activities etc. With a young, fresh audience it means we’re always bridging the gap between what the pupils want and what they need, which means the Library is constantly evolving and gaining value to benefit everyone who uses it.
Why is it important for the school?
“It’s an essential space for pupils of any age at the school. With such a broad spectrum of age groups the pupils all go through different experiences, and a series of peaks and troughs, just like any children and young adults in life.
Our Headmaster has written various blogs about building confidence, once stating that ‘many 17 year olds may feel a crisis of confidence. They are neither children nor adults’ – they are discovering who they are as people.
So, in effect, the Library offers a refuge if you like, an oasis, as we like to call it, when the pupils feel they need to get away and have some peace and quiet. This could be during more stressful times such as GCSE or A Levels or they simply visit for pleasure and to say hello to the staff.
The staff in the Library really do connect with the pupils and our job, alongside all other teaching and non-teaching staff, is to nurture them to help develop that inner confidence.
What are the benefits for pupils and staff?
“A key benefit is that the Library supports the school’s broad curriculum, clubs and societies so the pupil’s Library experience mirrors and complements their educational learning.
Just before the summer holidays, Puffin author Marcus Alexander, who is the creator of the Keeper of the Realms series, Charlie Keeper and the magical world of Bellania, visited and spoke to Year 6, 7 and 8 pupils. It was fabulous to bring the stories to life and for the pupils to listen to his experiences. Now we are established in our new building we want to arrange more author and speaker visits.
Teaching staff are also arranging events to be held in the Library. Tamar Yellin (a Jewish author based in Yorkshire) has delivered a series of six workshops to all of Year 9 regarding Jewish religious literature and relating it to Jewish festivals (in particular the Passover) and the significance of Jewish ritual.
We also have lots more activities on the horizon now that the Library is up and running, such as storytelling sessions and other extra-curricular activities that will run at lunchtime and after school. Students also volunteer to help which is lovely. It’s a very exciting time.
Lastly – what’s your favourite part of the library?
“Oh well this is easy. It’s the Junior Library section. When we introduce the new comfy chair and standard lamp for the storytelling sessions it will be very ‘Jackanory’. There’s also mood lighting which makes it extra special.
But to be honest it’s all wonderful to me and quite frankly I feel honoured to be working here. I can honestly say I know how lucky I am to work at the School, particularly taking into consideration that public libraries are closing and there are cutbacks. It’s a fabulous role and I make the most of it.
“The Library offers a refuge if you like, an oasis, as we like to call it, when the pupils feel they need to get away and have some peace and quiet.
This could be during more stressful times such as GCSE or A Levels or they simply visit for pleasure and to say hello to the staff.”