JCSP Librarians are based in thirty second level schools across Ireland. As well as providing access to an exciting collection of books and other resources, the libraries are creative active learning spaces designed to improve literacy levels and enhance the learning experience of students. With this in mind, in 2013 I successfully applied for a Study Visit in Vimmerby in south-east Sweden to learn about the integration of arts into education.
During the Study Visit I met and shared ideas with fellow professionals from across Europe. I maintained links with some of them. As a result of this contact, last year we took part in an Erasmus+ Mobility project. We hosted two colleagues from Vimmerby for a week to learn about different strategies and initiatives we implement to promote reading and improve literacy levels. Our guests were Jacob Kant, a teacher, and Jonas Forselius, a school librarian.
Activities during their time in the school included experiencing typical library activities, a performance poetry class with Elayne Harrington, storytelling with Aideen McBride, and a writing workshop with our school Reading Patron, Sheena Wilkinson. These kinds of activities take place throughout the school year and aim to create a reading culture within our school. During the week, Jacob and Jonas also had the opportunity to meet with teachers and exchange ideas. They accompanied a history class on a trip to Glasnevin Cemetery and learned more about Irish history. A maths dice tournament took place on the Wednesday with visiting students from four other schools, which illustrated how the library promotes numeracy as well as literacy.
I felt that it was important our guests also visit some other JCSP Libraries as each library has its own particular strengths. Friday did not signal the end of the visit as Jacob and Jonas attended the inaugural PDST post-primary literacy conference that Saturday in St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. This was a chance to attend workshops on a diverse range of topics such as visual literacy and cross-curricular literacy, as well as pick up ideas and tips from other conference delegates.
One of the most interesting projects to have taken place in our library is the ‘In Pieces’ project which saw a group of students work with author Kevin McDermott to produce a short novel. A class set of the book was presented to our guests and will be used to aid the teaching of English in Vimmerby. Who knows, there may even be scope to develop a project which translates the book into Swedish. That would be a fitting way to mark the exchange of practices and ideas between Ballymun and Vimmerby, which we hope will continue into the future.
Overall, I found the experience to be a very rewarding one and hope that links will be maintained. The success of the week was founded on both hosts and guests being willing to share ideas, and being open to learning new practices and skills. I would like to thank my colleagues in Trinity Comprehensive School, the JCSP Library Project and PDST for being so welcoming and generous in terms of sharing their time, ideas and resources with our guests.
An expanded version of this blog first appeared on Léargas's website 18th June 2015