In October 2001, the Minister for Education and Science announced the JCSP Demonstration Library Project as part of the Early Literacy Initiative. Commencing in the summer of 2002, the Project set up high-quality school libraries in 11 schools participating in the JCSP Programme nationally. From the outset, each library was staffed by a full-time professionally qualified librarian. Each of the librarians receive intensive training by the JCSP Support Service in literacy and language development specifically aimed at underachieving disadvantaged teenagers.
Back to top
The JCSP Libraries are welcoming comfortable exciting and dynamic learning spaces. Each Library is stocked with an exciting collection of carefully chosen books and other resources designed to entice and engage the reluctant teenager. These libraries are creative active learning spaces designed and run specifically to improve literacy levels and enhance the learning experience of JCSP students. While prioritising literacy development of JCSP students, the libraries also provide a service to the whole school including well stocked teacher resource sections.
Back to top
All of the libraries have established programmes of library-based classes, events and activities. Reading and writing skills are developed, reading habits nurtured and the information skills needed to navigate and participate in society are practised. Librarians, working in professional partnership with teachers, run intensive and focused programmes aimed at improving teenagers' Literacy and Numeracy skills. As cultural centres at the heart of schools, the school libraries regularly play host to diverse visitors including storytellers, authors, illustrators, film-makers, dancers, musicians and many more.
The Project libraries have become an intensive resource at the heart of the education system. With them comes recognition that many students are benefiting from a more practical hands-on experience of learning, which is reinforced by a growing sense of achievement. Broadening out the curriculum in a way which responds to the varying talents and abilities of students, is resulting in many students experiencing increased success in school.
The following is a sample of the wide range of activities, which are ongoing in the Project libraries:
Student and teacher book clubs;
JCSP Paired Reading;
Timetabled reading classes;
JCSP Word Millionaire;
Borrowing books for leisure reading;
JCSP Make A Book Exhibition;
Family Literacy Programme;
Student designed materials
Library and information skills training;
Creative writing and Drama;
Before and after school activities and Clubs;
Display of students work;
Author visits and residencies.
Over the initial 3-year pilot period of the Project, with the cooperation of the principals, teachers and students in the 11 Project schools, the support of the JCSP Support Team, the Project Advisory Committee and the Project Management Team, and the commitment of the librarians, a major evaluation of the Project was carried out. The impact of the libraries on the learning experiences of JCSP students, the learning experiences of other students, the teaching experiences of staff, the expectations of principals and the reactions of the wider community, were examined and analysed in considerable detail. The resultant research report ‘Room for Reading’ was published in 2005.
The main findings of the report include:
Significantly improved reading scores among JCSP students;
Continually increased book borrowing by students throughout the years of the Project;
Evidence of better attendance;
Improved retention to Senior Cycle;
Improved levels of concentration;
Increased interest and motivation among students
The school library became the hub of student-centered, positive, innovative and successful learning in the Project schools;
Library-based literacy strategies were having a direct impact on student learning
…the findings demonstrate over and over again, that well stocked, well managed school libraries, with access to books through structured library programmes that are directed towards the learning needs and interests of even the most reluctant and hesitant readers, can have impacts that are very significant (Room for Reading, 2005, p.131)
Follow-up research was carried out during the 2006-2007 academic year. This comprised of a study of JCSP ‘Graduate’ students i.e. JCSP students who participated in the original research study and who were still enrolled in their schools as Senior Cycle students. The longitudinal impact of having access to a professionally staffed school library on the educational aspirations, experiences and outcomes of such students was examined.
The main findings of this follow-up report include:
Continued regular use of school library;
Very high levels of public library use;
Positive association with their 2nd level education;
Positive impact of school library on students long-term educational aspirations;
Positive impact of school library on students holistic as well as curricular-based development;
Project research is ongoing with the extent and purpose of library use by teaching staff currently being evaluated.
Under the DEIS Action Plan, the JCSP Demonstration Library Project will expand into up to 50 designated disadvantaged schools by 2010. This expansion has already commenced with 20 new schools having joined the Project since 2007, bringing the total number of participating schools to 30. It is envisaged that a further 10 participant schools will be announced during 2009 and that library setup will commence in these schools early in the 2009/2010 school year.
The school librarian works as part of a network of librarians in the JCSP Demonstration Library Project. He/she is responsible, together with key school staff, for drawing up and implementing library strategies to tackle the literacy difficulties experienced by many JCSP students. All of the current libraries have established programmes of library-based classes, events and activities. Reading and writing skills are developed, reading habits nurtured and the information skills needed to navigate and participate in society are practised. Librarians are not timetabled to take classes. Rather they work in professional partnership with teachers and run intensive and focused programmes aimed at improving JCSP students’ literacy levels. A cross-curricular approach is taken to planning and designing all activities.