Oakham's 25th Library celebrations

Oakham was delighted to welcome a renowned author, a leading academic, and the CEO of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals to our 25th anniversary celebrations of the Smallbone Library.

During the day of celebrations, pupils from both Oakham and from visiting local primary schools enjoyed hearing the award-winning author, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, give a wonderfully engaging talk about his books, his life as a writer and where he gets inspiration for his characters and stories. He talked about, and read from, some of the nine books he has written – which include MillionsFramed and The Astounding Broccoli Boy.  He also mentioned his highly successful screenwriting career, re-enacting the Daleks from Dr Who to the great enjoyment of the children!

In the evening, the School hosted the Smallbone Library Lectures – an event where staff, alumni, parents, members of the wider Oakham School community and members of The FOSIL Group were invited to hear the thoughts of Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Dr Huw Davies, a Lecturer in the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, on the topic of "School Libraries - enabling understanding through informational and recreational reading".

“The evening was a wonderful celebration,” says Headmaster Henry Price.  “There was a real contrast in the lectures; with Frank reminiscing about the briefness of childhood and Huw impressing the need to better equip children to search for truth online.  Both reminded us all that we need to pass on the baton of knowledge; that education is about sowing seeds that sometimes flourish when children are at school, but often don’t flourish until long afterwards. We are therefore incredibly fortunate, at Oakham, to have a library that sits at the very heart of our learning environment; one that helps our pupils to develop a love of books, reading and knowledge.”

The building, which was opened in 1994 after seven years of planning, is believed to be one of the biggest school libraries in the country, covering 2,400 square metres over two floors and holding approximately 30,000 books.  Nick Poole, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), described the Smallbone Library as “extra-ordinary” when he gave his opening address.  Given that his role takes him around the country’s 39,000 libraries, this is high praise. As too was his assertion that Oakham’s library, and notably the work that goes on within it towards “equipping our children with the skills that they need in order to live well in the complex world that we are creating for them…is pioneering”.

Indeed, the Library’s birthday celebrations were perfectly timed given the recent announcement that the School has been shortlisted for the Tes Strategic education initiative of the year award for its inquiry learning initiative, FOSIL, and The FOSIL Group, which freely shares this knowledge and approach – both of which were established by Oakham’s Head of Library. “The Times Educational Supplement (Tes) describes shortlisting for this award as ‘a remarkable achievement’,” says Darryl Toerien, Head of Library and Archives. “This national recognition, coinciding with our 25th Library celebrations, is wonderfully pertinent as the Library is at the heart of helping students to find things out for themselves.”

Alongside lectures, praise and insight, attendees also listened to the winners of our book-themed composition competition and enjoyed a drinks reception where they were able to see displays from the Archives that showcased the Library’s development over the past 25 years at Oakham. 

“We were delighted that so many people were able to join in with our Library’s birthday celebrations,” concludes Darryl. “To be able to gather to celebrate the embodiment of the vision of a Library integral to the intellectual and academic life of the School, 25 years on, is outstanding.”


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