NSSM Guest Post from Tricia Adams, director of the SLA

In our final blog for this week, Tricia Adams, Director of the School Library Association (SLA), considers what makes a great place for sharing stories in a school. Since the establishment of a SLA award for creating inspirational library spaces, Tricia has seen a wide range of creative approaches to developing places for sharing stories and storytelling, even when budgets are limited, some of which she describes here.


A Place for Stories – great places for stories and storytelling?


As Director of the School Library Association you may not be surprised when I suggest that the school library is a great place for stories! But the issue is that some libraries may be formal, and thus not as comfortable as the story or the audience may demand. So how do we look at library design to make great storytelling areas? Or what can we create within our library to enhance storytelling?


At this point, just an aside, I shall refer to the library throughout – and by this I mean whatever your school calls its book and resource collection be it book corner, learning resource centre, the hub, learning centre, the ihub, or any other name.  It is difficult to say your library will have X, Y and Z as there is no ‘one size fits all’, every library will be different in just the same way as every school will be different – the library needs to serve the needs of its school and community.


So how do you suggest ideas for great storytelling areas that will be different in every school and every library? As an organisation the SLA has looked at library design for many years but since the inception of the Inspiration Award (previously School Library Design Award) we have had a series of criteria we look at libraries from when judging – and seeing so many new libraries has given us the opportunity to see how different approaches work. Plus, the School Librarian of the Year Award has also given us the opportunities to see a variety of venues and options – so here are a few thoughts on great storytelling spaces.


Our first winners of the Library Design Award (as it was then known, was a London Primary school with no space for a library – so they bought a London Bus and converted it.  The excitement of the children in using the bus was almost a physical thing – and the careful insertion of bench seating around the walls of the bus made a lovely space for stories or informal group work. Although most schools are not in a position to do something like this there is now a library design company that offers converted buses for purchase!  Library gardens can be great in the summer months, the atmosphere and the natural light available make such an added impact on stories if you are lucky enough to have one in your school.  But, why not create a reading space? This can be done with little expenditure but a great deal of creativity. One Primary school I knew created a story tent – from some old but colourful chiffon, an old carpet on the floor and loads of cushions of all colours – a great place to listen to Arabian Nights!


The key for any library to be able to create storytelling spaces is the flexibility of its arrangement.  If everything that isn’t fixed to walls is movable then there is the option to create either a large performance space or a small and intimate storytelling setting.  The availability of comfortable seating, cushions, carpets and rugs can all be used to make a suitable space – I have even seen school libraries with beds in them – and the bed is rarely empty as it is a prime space for children’s own storytelling too.


Whatever your own school’s arrangements don’t think ‘we can’t do that here’ – with a bit of creativity I am sure it will be possible to create a great little space for storytelling. For more information on our Inspiration Award do look at our website – www.sla.org.uk/inspiration-award.php and also have a look at some of the school libraries listed on the Designing Libraries website www.designinglibraries.org.uk  If you are in the lucky position of designing a new library then do check out all the library design companies that exist – they have some great furniture that can help you create fabulous storytelling areas.


Please let us know about the spaces for sharing stories and storytelling that you have developed in your school – we’d love to see some pictures! Look out for one of next week’s posts  about Bodnant School’s brand new library bus.


The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.

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