The secret library

School is a tough place.

The social hierarchy of any schoolyard is complex, unforgiving, and ever-changing. Kids need a safe space to explore who they are, be themselves, and discover that they’re not alone. 

School libraries are the safe harbour in the storm of adolescence–which is one of the reasons why today's campaigning was so important.

It’s too easy to suggest that school libraries are a relic of the analogue world. Books are a small, but important part of the value that school libraries offer. But the safe space that libraries create—a place of study, reflection and exploration—is the true gift of school libraries. 

To think about school libraries only as repository of books is to think of churches as storage units for stained glass. 

The school library is the one place on school property where anyone can seek refuge. It’s a welcoming, comforting place to escape the bullying (physical, but more often emotional), daily social upheaval and gang-like cliques of the school years.

The school library is a type of demilitarised zone in the war for daily schoolyard survival. It’s the one place where students who are serious about intellectual exploration can feel accepted and unashamed about wanting to excel. It’s the one place where loners, geeks, and misfits can escape to through fiction or fuel their interests with non-fiction.

Why do we need to protect these people? Look at the world’s most valuable companies and take note of who’s in charge. It’s the kids who took shelter in the library, the geeks and nerds, who are reprogramming our future.

The books are important, of course. They are the ultimate tools in self-guided learning, but they are only part of the mix that makes school libraries an essential place to shelter and protect our most promising youth.

School libraries aren’t a bunch of rooms filled with books; they are a national network of incubators for the economic drivers of tomorrow. And we only need to take one look at our recent economic performance to accept that we need these incubators more than ever.

 

Jeff Norton is a London based writer-director and the author of the METAWARS saga from Orchard Books.