A Cross-Curricular Book and Board Games Creativity Day at City of London School, David Rose.

The City of London School’s Library and English Department have participated in the Trinity Schools Book Awards since its inception in 2014. The Trinity Group is made up of roughly twenty Independent School Librarians in South East England. The Book Awards competition has been tweaked over the years but has remained fundamentally as follows. Each year the TSBA Committee of school librarians agrees on a theme and asks for member schools to recommend YA novels for the Longlist. The Committee discusses these recommendations and draws up a Shortlist. There is a fee for those schools which wish to participate and it is open to non-Trinity Group Schools. There is a higher fee for those schools which also wish to attend the Awards Ceremony. The theme for 2019 was ‘Secrets and Lies’ and six books were on the Shortlist. There were also eight books which were in the Trinity Plus category and were intended for older and more advanced readers. The Shortlisted books are aimed at Year 7, 8 and 9 students and they are encouraged to write book reviews of these and vote for their favourite book. Each participating school can submit the best two reviews for judging prior to the Awards Ceremony.

There is also a Creative Responsive competition in which students can submit an entry which has been inspired by reading any book either on the Shortlist or the Trinity Plus List. The Creative Response can literally be anything and past examples have included musical compositions, dramatic adaptations, videos, podcasts, artworks, baked food and even an ice sculpture.
At City, we decided in November to have a Trinity Cross-Curricular Day with the Year 8s. For one school day all our Second Formers were taken off timetable and spent the day with staff from the Library, English, Art & Design, Design Technology, IT and ICT Departments creating Board Games based on the Trinity books. The boys were divided into teams of six and worked on creating rules,boards, boxes and publicity materials for their games. On the day before I had arranged for Trinity Plus author Non Pratt to talk to all the classes about her appropriately named novel ‘Unboxed’. The Cross-Curricular Day involved the students using technology such as Photo Shop and Scanning Pens and they produced some great results. At the end of the day we all met up in the SchoolTheatre to judge the entries. All agreed that it had been an excellent way to encourage the boys to read more of the Trinity books and get our students thinking.

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My Journey to Fellowship, Elizabeth Hutchinson

I was really honoured to be awarded my Fellowship this year after registering last August. When a colleague asked me how I had managed to do it so quickly I realised that she had misunderstood the process. I had taken less than a year to pull all my evidence together and write it up but I believe that my Fellowship journey had started right at the beginning of my career in libraries when I was only 16, over 34 years ago.

When I offered to write this article I thought that a reflective piece would be nicer for the reader and help me to evaluate the process of Fellowship. Just writing this last sentence made me smile realising that the learning and evaluation never ends. I now understand that Chartership and Fellowship are not just box ticking exercises but chances to look at your career, see where it has taken you and to help you navigate the opportunities ahead. 

Looking back over my journey into librarianship, I was not a very likely candidate to become a Fellow. I left school at 16 and began working at Newcastle Central Library as a library assistant. Immediately I felt at home; I loved working with the public, enjoyed the day-to-day running of the library and soon had opportunity to progress. Moving on to the Local Studies department, followed by a stint in a couple of local branch libraries, my path was clearly entrenched in the public library service. Fast-forward and a move to Guernsey gave me a brief interlude in hotels (definitely not for me) and then family life took hold with three children keeping me busy enough to not work for a while. 

Feeling it was time to go back to work I was lucky enough to get a part-time library assistant’s job in the Guille-Allèslibrary, the only public library in Guernsey, however, life took another turn on finding that, Nicholas, baby number 4, was on the way. Once again I was facing being a stay-at-home mum for another few years. Not that I really minded but I thought I had moved on from talking about babies so I was delighted, one day, to find an Aberystwyth University prospectus on the staffroom table. Inside was the opportunity to be at home but also study distance learning for a library qualification. I could not wait to start, was extremely nervous, but was ready for the challenge.   

2003 found me with four children under eight, a BSc in Library and Information Studies and a part-time professional post as a School Library Liaison Officer for Schools’ Library Service where my love of school libraries began. Our service provided professional librarian support for every school in Guernsey, Alderney and Herm. Our role was to support the day-to-day running of the school libraries as well as manage the resources and to support literacy. I loved the interaction with the children and as we worked mainly with the primary schools it was lovely to think up new ways to encourage reading for pleasure. We offered book awards, book challenges, competitions and author visits but I always had the feeling that we needed to do something more with information literacy and our secondary schools. 

After Chartering in 2008, I took a brief interlude into school librarianship, giving me the opportunity to work with secondary students. This was an interesting but somewhat frustrating job that gave me great insight into the barriers and difficulty of working in schools. Thankfully it did not last long and my journey was to take me back to Schools’ Library Service (SLS) where I have been ever since. Armed with new ideas and an ability to feel confident working with secondary students I focused on finding an Information Literacy framework that we could use at SLS. 

The Head of Service position came in 2014 with the stipulation that I had to have a Masters in Library and Information Management, which gave me another opportunity to study from home with Aberystwyth. Luckily for me I enjoy studying and my children, this time, were all doing homework or revision for exams themselves so we did our homework together. It was a tough but positive time. 

Fellowship at this stage was still not on the horizon. My new role gave me the opportunity to support information literacy in our schools, working on new ways to teach enquiry-based learning, collaborating more with teachers and co-teaching in the classroom. This led to running training sessions and culminated in providing a whole school Inset day about using the school library across the curriculum. An invitation to present at a teachers’ conference via twitter led me on a journey of learning. I realised that school librarians needed to speak at these conferences in order to help schools and teachers understand what we do. Little did I know, or even think about at the time, but these were significant contributions and substantial achievements, I did it because I wanted to help schools understand what school librarians do and nothing else.

Fellowship for me was not about how I was going to do this but actually realising that I had done it already. I truly believe that librarianship is a vocation and we are very lucky to live in a time when learning from others is so easy. Without my Personal Learning Network (PLN) I honestly do not believe that I would have achieved half as much as I have. The opportunities that have been given to me through blogging and social media could never have happened even 10 years ago. Who would of ever heard of Elizabeth Hutchinson the librarian from Guernsey? No one! Now though things are so different: through my connections on twitter I have presented at conferences and been encouraged to write articles which have subsequently been published. I’ve taken many of the opportunities that have come my way and although some of it is terrifying it has led me to being a Fellow of CILIP, something that I am very proud of. 

If I was not thinking about applying for Fellowship how did I end up doing it? I had been a Chartership mentor for a few years and decided that it would be a good idea to go on a refresher course. I had several mentees and wanted to make sure that what I was telling them was correct. The course not only covered the information for the mentor but we were also given a reminder of what the mentee was told and finally as a bonus, one of the assessors gave us pointers from her perspective too. I found it all very useful and as I sat there listening I began to realise that everything I had achieved in the last four years was more than enough to apply for my own Fellowship. Those feelings I had all those years ago when I realised I could get a library degree whilst being at home started to bubble up again. 

Starting the process 

After a conversation with the assessor I realised that my Fellowship journey was not going anywhere without re-validating my Chartership first. I am someone that has always voted for compulsory re-validation mainly because I am the kind of person who will do it if I have to rather than choose to do it. This is not because I don’t think it is important, but like all tasks like this one there always seems to be something else more important to do. Now I had to get on and get it done. 

I was ashamed and delighted to see how easy it was. There really is no excuse for not re-validating every two or three years. If you are keeping your CPD up to date on the VLE your job is half done already. 250 words on your professional and organisational journey and demonstrating that you are aware of libraries in the wider profession and you are finished. I would really encourage you to do this if you are a Chartered Member of CILIP, as it not only keeps you on track with CPD but also keeps you focused on your professional journey. 

Now that I had re-validation under my belt it was time to focus on my Fellowship. I found a wonderful mentor called Carol Webb, someone who was not only patient but also very encouraging and who I enjoyed talking to a lot. We talked via Skype and email and we have never met each other, I am sure we will one day. When I was finding the journey hard she kept me going and on track. We both liked the deadlines I set myself and although I did have to give myself a bit of slack at the end I did finish within a month of when I said I would.  

My plan was to look at the PKSB and decide which areas I could focus on. If I were to do it again I would look at the PKSB in a much more structured way by being very specific about the areas I chose. However, I was not really sure what I was supposed do with it at the beginning and if I am honest it felt like a huge task and a waste of time. Having completed the whole journey I feel that if I had understood the end process better I would have given the PKSB the time it really deserves. I think the message to only choose 6-8 areas is not highlighted enough and it all seems so huge. If you can narrow it right down it is a far more useful tool. This does not mean that if you change your mind or direction that you can’t update your PKSB, you can. Whilst I did feel that I struggled with this it has led me to being far more comfortable in supporting my Chartership mentees to use this tool effectively. 

I chose to gather all my evidence on an online tool that I could share with Carol. I used Padlet, which not only allows you to collect your evidence but also comment and share it. After a conversation with Carol she pointed out that I needed to start thinking about why I felt that this evidence was worthy of being on my board, in other words not to forget the ‘So what?’ I should also keep four areas in focus:

  • What was the achievement? 
  • What impact did it have? 
  • What was the outcome? 
  • What was my analysis of it? 

This was one of the most useful things she said to me as many ideas got onto my board but if I could not write anything about the four areas then I knew that they would not make the final cut. 

You may be surprised reading this far that I found writing about myself very hard; there is a huge difference between writing about your life and writing about your achievements. It all felt so, “I’m great look what I’ve done,” which was not good. I know that there is no other way to evaluate this process so I just had to get over myself and get on with it. 

Even though I only had 1000 words to write I started by writing my personal and organisational journey much like this. Starting to write is the hardest part and just getting something written down was good. As you can tell I am quite a chatty writer by nature and I knew that with so few words I would have to be succinct and several drafts later it began to take shape. I focused on my personal journey first and then once I was happy with that moved on to the other two criteria, each time trying to decide which pieces of evidence to include. This was really hard as I felt that every piece deserved a place. I kept in my mind what I had learnt on the mentor course: I needed to provide no more than 15 pieces of evidence and it should be able to be read within two hours. Much of my professional judgement needed to be evident in which pieces I chose. Many months were spent adding and taking pieces of evidence away. 

As with many tasks like this I got distracted so easily. I wasted a lot of time working out the best way to present it on the VLE long before it was finished. I was too keen to see how it would look that I sent ages uploading documents that I ended up not using in the end. I did need to learn how it worked but I should have just waited until I was ready and then sorted all of this out. 

Imposter syndrome 

I got to about a month before my own deadline and hit a real crisis point. I felt sure that my evidence was not good enough or that something was really lacking. Conversations with Carol led me to posting a question on twitter and luckily for me I found Maria Grant who had just been awarded her Fellowship. She kindly shared her portfolio with me on the CILIP VLE and seeing how she had set up hers gave me the boost I needed. Her area of librarianship is so different from mine that it was impossible for me to do exactly the same but after a few attempts I had taken her idea and made it my own. She had used PowerPoint slides and brought together several pieces of evidence on one slide, I chose to use Word, keeping everything to a single page if I could. I am really grateful to Maria for sharing her work as it made me stop rushing and remember that it was my deadline that was creating the pressure. I took a deep breath and started to select the evidence properly and a month later I was ready to submit. 

Having gone through the whole process there are definitely things that I would do differently if I were to do it again: 

  • I would be more careful with my PKSB
  • I would group my evidence in relation to each criterion to make it easier to find, although at the beginning it was not always obvious which criterion it would be in 
  • I would wait to upload my statement and evidence on the VLE until I was sure that I had everything I really needed 

You could say that all of this was part of the process and I suppose it was and everyone is going to have a slightly different journey. Being a Fellow is not a magic wand to something better. What it is for me is an understanding that I have achieved something good, I do have expertise in my area of librarianship and when I have my ‘impostor syndrome’ moments it helps me remember that I do know what I am talking about. 

Elizabeth Hutchinson is Head of Schools’ Library Service in Guernsey, a Chartered librarian and Fellow of CILIP. She came runner up in the 2016 LILAC Information Literacy Award, is an international presenter and writes regularly about how school librarians can make a difference as a published author and through her blog.

Twitter: @elizabethutch blog: https://www.elizabethahutchinson.com/blog

(Article first published in School Libraries In View , Issue 44

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Announcing the launch of the FOSIL Group!


We are delighted to announce the launch of the FOSIL Group – a community specifically focused on developing learning through inquiry.

“We believe that children learn best by finding out for themselves,” says Darryl Toerien, Head of Library at Oakham School.  “Enabling learning through inquiry doesn’t happen by chance – it requires a fundamentally different approach.”

The development of this different approach is the focus of the FOSIL Group.  Centered on its website – www.fosil.org.uk – the FOSIL Group is a new, free and completely open community for those working in the field of education, that encourages its members to collectively develop their understanding of learning through inquiry, and to collaborate on designing and sharing resources to support learning through inquiry.

The FOSIL Group is the next step in over eight years of Darryl’s work in researching and developing FOSIL (Framework OSkills for Inquiry Learning).  Simply understood, FOSIL is a model of the inquiry process and an evolving framework of specific and measurable skills that enable each of the stages in the inquiry process. While FOSIL is a central focus of the Group, the community includes members who are working with other models of the inquiry process and/ or skills frameworks.

Darryl initially developed FOSIL as a response to the need to better prepare Oakhamians for the IB Diploma’s Extended Essay (a 4,000 word independent inquiry). Based on the framework produced by the New York City School Library System, under the leadership of Barbara Stripling (the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum – CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), it has since been significantly developed by Darryl to include ground-breaking work done by Carol Kuhlthau, a leading expert in this field.

Over the years FOSIL has been developed, honed and integrated into areas of Oakham’s curriculum. An early example isComputer Science, where students learn the entire Computer Hardware schemes of work via FOSIL-based inquiries, such as Year 7 learning how to define a computer by researching and answering the question ‘is my brain a computer?’

Darryl has been freely sharing the development of Oakham’s approach to inquiry learning since 2011 – having welcomed schools from across the country (representing both the state and independent sector) and, indeed, the world, to visit Oakham to discuss FOSIL as a tool for enabling inquiry, as well as sharing his thoughts, knowledge and developments at conferences and in articles.

“To more effectively support this growing community, and to increase its effectiveness, Oakham School has laid the foundation for the FOSIL Group, which, being centred on its website, will hopefully facilitate more people getting involved and enlarging the conversation,” says Darryl.  “Crucially, the FOSIL Group has been founded on the principle that made it possible in the first place – we give freely because we received freely.  Therefore membership is only required for those who wish to help shape the unfolding conversation.”

As effective inquiry depends on professional collaboration between teachers and librarians, we are delighted to be building the FOSIL Group with the support of the School Library Association (SLA) and the School Libraries Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIPSLG).

Alison Tarrant, Chief Executive of SLA, says, “Working together as a community is particularly important when time is short, and the School Library Association fully believe that this is an important development in enabling the delivery of high quality inquiry-based learning. The impact on learning, and on pupils, is clear and this will enable all school library staff to explore what other people are working on and contribute their own resources and learning. Being able to sound out ideas amongst knowledgeable and supportive colleagues is important, and this platform will enable exactly that. We are proud to support this alongside SLG and Oakham School.”

Caroline Roche, Chair of CILIPSLG, adds, “Darryl has been involved with the CILIPSLG National Committee since 2008, the year he joined Oakham School, so we have seen FOSIL grow from a germ of an idea into this fully fledged website. Inquiry-based learning is needed more than ever in a world where ‘fake news’ comes from the very highest places, and  where our students need to learn how to evaluate everything they see and read.  Focusing learning on inquiry rather than on ‘spoon-feeding’ is a great leap forward in the practice of teaching and learning. CILIPSLG is proud to support this initiative alongside SLA and Oakham School.”

Furthermore, as information literacy is central to a number of literacies that enable effective inquiry, the support of the Information Literacy Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (ILG) adds a vital dimension to the work of the FOSIL Group. Says Dr Jane Secker, Chair of ILG and Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City, University of London, “We are delighted to support this development, which we see as an important step in more closely aligning the learning culture of school with the learning culture of university and the demands of living and working in the digital age. Evidence of the effectiveness of FOSIL in enabling inquiry learning can be found in the success of students from Oakham School in the TeenTech Awards, specifically the Research and Information Literacy Award (Years 7-11), which ILG sponsors, and the Best Research Project Award (Years 12-13). We are particularly pleased to see that the impressive resources being collaboratively developed by educators from classroom and library are being made freely available under Creative Commons, which will be of great benefit to the broader educational community.”

Please do visit www.fosil.org.uk to find out more about how you can join the conversation about inquiry learning and to learn more about how FOSIL can be used as a simple and logical way to guide students through the inquiry process.

“Students must be prepared for their future by becoming better inquirers, consumers and creators of information,” concludes David Harrow, Oakham’s Deputy Head (Academic). “They should have the skills and attributes to ask and answer questions for themselves. This is especially vital in today’s digital age, when students perceive that all the information they need is only one search away.  We hope that the FOSIL Group becomes an important source of information, and a go-to location for educators to converse, as well as to develop inquiry learning – not just in their schools, but for the betterment of the educational landscape.”

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Navigating the PKSB – Chartership information

For the past 18 months some of the Committee have been working away at a document which we feel will make the lives of everyone who is Chartering a lot easier.  Thanks to my fellow Mentors Sarah Pavey, Barbara Band and Lucy Chambers, we have put together this document which describes all of the ways that school librarians fit into the categories of the PKSB.  This should make it far easier for you to decide which categories apply to you and also give you some ideas and inspiration about what to write about in your submission.The document can be freely downloaded here.

Please feel free to contact me about any queries you may have on Chair.SLG@cilip.org.uk

Caroline Roche, Chair SLG

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Imaginative Library Displays – Lucy Chambers, MInfSci, MCLIP, Primary School Library Consultant; CILIP SLG National Committee co-Vice Chair

One of my most enjoyable tasks when I ran school libraries was creating displays. In one of the first primary school libraries I ran the library had an inhospitable layout: it was open plan with a full-width glass wall.  Anything I stuck to this fell off very quickly.  The shelving consisted of deep double-sided units on wheels, where books tended to disappear into the murky depths, making the library stock uninviting.  I placed books on bookstands but needed lively displays to showcase the range of interesting, inclusive and diverse books that the school’s generous budget funded. I had a display board in a corridor, but was not allowed to do my own displays.  These had to be done by someone who would stick to the rules: double-mounted A4 posters in straight lines.  They looked neat but were boring. Children were not encouraged to linger. I can’t see the point of displays that no one actually looks at and are very time-consuming to construct.

I was inspired by Pauline Carr of the Alternative Display Company (www.alternativedisplaytraining.co.uk) whose workshop at a CILIP SLG conference ( CILIP SLG Conference Read All About It, Arlesford, 2016)gave practical and inexpensive tips for creating displays. All the delegates had a go, however under-confident at first.  We created displays about themes based on book titles, using commonly available mixed materials: scrunched up cellophane, tissue paper, scraps of material, small and large posters, boxes and more.  Pauline did wonderful things with ribbon and solid cardboard tubes.  We all made eye-catching displays, with some planning but minimal effort.  Pauline showed us how to create frames for our boards, how to use posters and book covers not just for information but also for effect and how to create simple 3D designs by manipulating posters. 

My tips for creating exciting displays with minimal time and cost:

  1. Set aside time to change displays regularly.  You could stagger this if you have many boards, so that you have a rolling display timetable. 
  2. Allocate different display boards in your library for different sections: eg non-fiction, fiction, other genres, library clubs
  3. Check school policies on displays.  Some schools may be strict about displays in corridors, but more lenient about those in the library
  4. Plan your display on paper first.  Sketch it out roughly, thinking about the effect you are aiming for.  Are you going to create a frame? What materials are you going to use?  What labelling will you make?
  5. Plan displays based on: promoting particular collections, celebrating dates in the annual reading calendar, school events, authors, book awards, library clubs, curriculum subjects, information skills and more. Knight has interesting ideas for displays and lessons based round themes
  6. Look online for ideas.  Pinterest is very useful, also many blogs.
  7. If you have pupil library assistants give them a board to create displays on
  8. Request a display board outside the library for promotional purposes, eg a corridor, the canteen, the main hall, the entrance hall: showcase what goes on in the library to all visitors
  9. Invest in a heavy duty staple-gun: you will need one to attach thick cardboard tubes or balsa wood. (Don’t let the pupils use it.)
  10. Provide scope for pupils to add their contributions; include pupils’ work, book reviews, art work
  11. Collect packaging material and textured materials such as bubble wrap, textiles, book packing paper etc.
  12. Use colourful cloth to cover a board rather than fiddly sheets of art paper
  13. Use scrunched up materials to create depth; cover them in art paper or cloth: blue for water, green for grass, black bin bags for space…be creative.
  14. Use layering techniques: a background board cloth or cover the whole board with several copies of the same overlapping large poster relevant to your theme; add a cardboard shelf or small book display stands; add captions and quotations, a title for your display. Use large letter shapes 
  15. Link boards using pictures on strings, bunting with messages, large paper arrows…be imaginative.
  16. Create frames of silhouette shapes, or photocopied pictures from the story, or bookmarks at jaunty angles: be creative.
  17. Use IT effects such as augmented reality scanning apps for linking static text to video reviews, for example. 
  18. Use menu holders for pictures on top of bays; raise the height of books displayed on bays by placing them on top of small boxes or piles of thick books
  19. Make use of artistic expertise available amongst other school staff or pupils

Some examples from my libraries

  Pupils selected favourite words read in books at a Readathon and wrote them and reasons for their choices on brick-shaped bits of paper to form a word wall

An eyecatching display about World Book Day books incorporating simple paper 3D effects

Book review ‘leaves’ covering a ‘tree’ made of newspaper papier-mâché. I awarded prizes for the best filled-in ‘leaves.’

A display of book covers about jobs for a primary school Careers Day, incorporating simple borders

Part of a history timeline from Ancient Greeks to the present day, including fashions (across the top), town life (middle) and general books (bottom). The yellow signs indicate the time period. The book display is also related.


Further reading/resources:

Knight, Fran et al. Successful Library Displays: Quick and Easy Library Displays to Promote Reading . 2009. Carel Press. 

 https://www.pinterest.co.uk/     Also see: Brown, Susan. Twenty rules for better book displays. Retrieved from: https://www.ebscohost.com/novelist/novelist-special/twenty-rules-for-better-book-displays

 Twinkl is good for resources: https://www.twinkl.co.uk

 See examples of some apps here: Amazing Apps for Primary Schools. (2016). Humphrey, Bev.  School Library Association.

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Learning to predict the future by inventing it – TeenTech Awards

The surest way to predict the future is to invent it, a maxim attributed to Alan Kay while at Xerox PARC, who did as much as any to invent the future of computing.

So how does one go about inventing the future?

Somewhat paradoxically, the answer is rooted in the past.

Jacques Ellul said that history is the consequence of ideas, which means that the future, which will become the past, is also the consequence of ideas.

Now, not all ideas are good ideas, and even good ideas are not equally so, so we need to begin as we mean to go on, and the TeenTech Awards has proven to be a good vehicle for developing good ideas, and then making them better.

It starts with a question: Do you have an idea for making the world a better place? Because TeenTech aims to help young people understand their true potential and the real opportunities available in the contemporary STEM workplace, the idea must involve some combination of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. How this STEM requirement is dealt with is, for me, the first strength of the Awards – as the cyberpunk authors so forcefully heralded in the 80s, we live in a science fictional world, although it is not yet evenly distributed, so some combination of STEM in its broadest sense touches everything, and so anything is potentially an entry-point to the Awards.

The need to test if the idea is good, and then to develop good ideas to make them better is the second strength of the Awards, and  the point at which librarians have a real contribution to make to both the process of inquiry and the resources to support inquiry.  At Oakham School, where I run the Awards as an activity, this is also a rare opportunity for students from Year 7 to Year 13 to experience an open inquiry, in which neither the direction of the inquiry nor its outcome are predetermined.

The third strength of the Awards is that students are only required to develop their idea as far as they can, which for some will be into a fully functioning prototype, while for others it might simply be more or less sketched out on paper. This presents a very low barrier to entry with a high ceiling, and minimal running costs beyond my time.

The fourth strength of the Awards is the need to submit the entry in the form of  formal report, which is similar to an Extended Essay or EPQ, and provides students with a substantial opportunity to develop their academic writing.

I entered the Awards for the first time in 2016, for two main reasons: firstly, as an opportunity for students to stretch themselves through open inquiry; secondly, as an opportunity to test the robustness of our approach to learning through inquiry (FOSIL), specifically in the Research and Information Literacy Award for Years 7-11. Not only have we achieved remarkable success in the Research and Information Literacy Award (winning in 2016 and 2017, and being a finalist in 2018), and recently also the Best Research Project Award for Years 12-13 (wining in 2018), but we have achieved remarkable successes within other Awards as well. Further to this, I have been nominated for the Teacher of the Year Award for three years in a row, which is a significant opportunity, both at the Final and the Awards Ceremony, to highlight the integral role of information literacy and the librarian within an inquiry-based approach to learning, and, as a direct consequence of extraordinary success in the Awards, to challenge unhelpful stereotypes of the librarian.

As HRH The Duke of York is the Patron of the Awards, category winners receive their Awards during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

This year I travelled down with Holly, who won the Best Research Project award in 2018 for her inquiry into the causes of the underrepresentation of women in computer science.

This is a very special and memorable occasion for all involved, but unfortunately the link to the official photographs from the Ceremony has not yet been released.

However, the short video clip (5m09s) of the 2018 Awards Final at the Royal Society in London gives a flavour of what the TeenTech Awards is all about.If you would like to know more about the TeenTech Awards, or how I run the Awards at Oakham, please do contact me (dt@oakham.rutland.sch.uk).

Darryl Toerien. Librarian , Oakham School


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Screenshot 2019-03-05 12.29.53

School libraries aren’t statutory, and in the UK no one knows how many there are, or if they are staffed or funded. The Great School Libraries campaign is a three-year campaign which aims to change this – collecting data about school libraries as well as working towards securing school library funding; producing a national framework for school libraries and recognition of school libraries within Ofsted.

It is about ensuring that all children receive the benefits a school library can provide. To watch a video about the impact of a school library click here.

For more information about the campaign, or to sign up as a supporter, visit: http://greatschoollibraries.edublogs.org/

We are conducting a sector-wide survey of primary and secondary schools to better understand the level of provision of both learning resources and staff responsible for them. As you know, there is currently no definitive information on how schools are resourced – something we want to change. We would appreciate your help in gathering this information to provide a clearer picture of the situation and would be grateful if you could complete a short questionnaire.

Your responses will be treated in the strictest confidence and BMG Research, who are conducting the survey on our behalf, abides by the Market Research Society Code of Conduct at all times.

The survey will be sent to schools shortly and will be open between Monday 25th February to Friday 29th March. If you want to make sure this survey has been completed on behalf of your school please do get in touch with Jamie Lawson, Research Executive at BMG Research, via e-mail at Jamie.Lawson@bmgresearch.co.uk. Alternatively, you can contact him via phone at 0121 333 6006.

If you are interested in finding out more information about the Great School Libraries Campaign, please contact Caroline Roche Chair.SLG@cilip.org.uk or Alison Tarrant via e-mail at Chair.SLG@cilip.org.uk  or info@sla.org.uk

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Three quick tools for research

I recently gave a ‘whistle stop’ training session to all of the year 12 pupils at our school, and this was followed by in-depth sessions to some of our HPQ and EPQ pupils at the end of last term. It was encouraging to see how enthusiastic pupils were after this training, as they had clearly learned a few new tricks to aid their research. Best of all, each of these tools is FREE! I thought I would share them with all of you, in case you are considering doing some training soon in this area; and, of course, if you have any tips/tools you have encouraged pupils to use, please do let me know in the comments below!

TOOL 1: Use Google Codes

As all information specialists know, Google is renowned for quantity of information, but this does not mean everything in the search list if relevant to what you need. However, we know it is often the first port of call for research of pupils. Thankfully, Google has various ‘codes’ which can be used to sift through all of the results, here are a handful of them:

Search for an EXACT Phrase

Use quotes to search for an exact word or set of words. Only use this if you require a very precise phrase; it will narrow all of the results to only include that exact expression.

Screenshot 2018-10-18 18.35.55

Exclude a word

Add a dash (-) before a word to exclude it from all search results. 

Screenshot 2018-10-18 18.40.07

Search within a domain

Add ‘site: ’ & a website for results from a particular website using the following: 

Screenshot 2018-10-18 18.43.29

Search within a domain ending

This can also be used to search websites with a particular web address ending, such as those of universities. UK universities end in ‘.ac.uk’ and USA universities end in ‘.edu’ – try searching these to find results which are more likely to be high quality.

TOOL 2: Use Google Scholar 

Pupils are far more likely to find quality resources here; even if you do not hold subscriptions to the journals in the results or own the books, there are still some nifty tricks you can teach them to employ…

Use ‘Cited By’: Use this feature by searching for a book or an article you have already found helpful by typing the exact title. Underneath the result, you will see it says ‘cited by… #’ Click on this to see what other published works have cited the same book or article – this will likely show related works as well as demonstrate the progression of the research literature…

Screenshot 2018-10-18 18.46.04

As noted, some of these will not be accessible, since unless you own the book or subscribe to the database, you won’t be able to view it! However, these results often show a lot of books…and with books, there is another trick you can try…

If pupils find a book that looks helpful, tell them to click on it and open in Google Books. They should then search for various keywords in the left-hand search bar to see whether they can view the paragraphs they need. Even whilst completing my MA Dissertation I often found this little feature to provide the exact paragraphs I was seeking!

Screenshot 78

Also: Use Google Codes while searching Google Scholar

As noted earlier, you can search for results only published by universities by searching within that domain ending. Do the same on Google Scholar, since you will frequently find universities do publish dissertations, open access journal articles, or sections of books which are freely available online. 

TOOL 3: Use Zotero

You may be surprised to hear me recommending this bibliographic software to pupils at secondary-school level…however, it can never be too early to help them organise their research and they will likely be encouraged to use this, or something like at, at the university level. Zotero allows users to

  • Keep track of and easily generate citations for all of their references in a plethora of citation styles
  • Arrange their references according to folders and sub-folders – which will enable them to see which areas of their research are still weak
  • Add notes/summaries of the reading directly to the references, which can then be printed in reports (through the desktop version)
  • Users with the desktop version can install a widget into MS Word which allows them to add in-text citations as they are writing their essays!
  • Best of all – it’s free to use up to 300MB of storage (just as a reference – I currently have 180 references with attached notes saved, and am only using 0.4 percent of my storage.

Screenshot final

Angela Platt, BA, MSc, MA, MCLIP

Librarian and Archivist
Ibstock Place School


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Older Teens Library Engagement

You may recall last Autumn a survey was disseminated, which many of you completed, about engaging older pupils in your Library. I was pleased to have such a high volume of respondents – 39 – during the October and November months. A plethora of interesting and helpful answers were accumulated due to this survey, and I’d like to share them with you here.

Firstly, as any good researcher must do, I must note the shortcomings in this survey. Those of you who completed the survey will recall questions which covered the number of resources borrowed by various ages/year groups in your libraries. I had to bin this question as I realised this question was deficient in a major way – I did not ask for the proportion of books borrowed to the number of pupils in the class. Therefore, I had some respondents detailing over 1000 books borrowed per month for year 7, and others commenting they only noted 20 per month. This seems like a significant difference, but with no knowledge of how many year 7 pupils were in each of these schools, the data is worthless.

Now to the data itself. Nearly all of the respondents classified themselves as school librarians, with the exception of one consultant. It was amusing to note the variation of job titles which this produced – some of which are especially creative and appropriate! To me, they suggest that a school librarian is far more than someone who circulates books (I especially like the ‘Reading Champion’ title).

Also interesting to note was the fact that respondents reported fiction and nonfiction print materials had, by far, the highest circulation levels. Despite the conspiracy theories that e-books were going to replace print books which began less than a decade ago – evidence suggests this will not come to pass!

Finally, the main point of this survey was to address widespread difficulties with engaging older pupils, particularly as they enter into the exam years. I had mixed feelings in realising most of the respondents share my problem – finding it is especially difficult to convince them to continue reading for pleasure when they get to this stage. On one hand, I’m glad I’m not alone; on the other, I was hoping someone might provide a magical solution I hadn’t yet encountered!

Despite the fact that most respondents empathise with my issue, a plethora of excellent suggestions were offered. These suggestions for greater engagement tended to fall into three categories:

  • Engaging older pupils by providing a space in which they can do revision and ask questions
  • Supporting pupils in their exams and university endeavours with resources which supplement their aspirations (which can certainly count as reading-for-pleasure in my book. As a doctoral student, I often justify my own personal ‘reading-for-pleasure by finding non-academic books in my subject (sometimes fiction!) which will enhance my knowledge, but aren’t supplementary to my ‘curriculum’ so-to-speak.
  • By providing reprieve from exam and university preparation by offering events and activities which offer a brief distraction.
    Please find below the data for this survey, and thank you greatly for all of you who participated in this survey! If any of you have any ‘magical solutions’ to this issue, please do drop us a comment at the bottom of this post.

    What events/initiatives have you found particularly helpful in engaging older teens with your Library?

  • EPQ sessions/ assistance offered by the Librarian to find useful resources
  • Emailing /creating displays of relevant non-fiction to their curriculum and exam subjects
  • Tutors and Senior Management who support reading-for-pleasure
  • Offering the only shared space at lunchtime which can be used for pupils to talk about books with friends
  • Holding non-library related events, clubs, etc – in the library
  • Fewer rules
  • Activities and lessons which take place in the Library based on revision (homework, classes in the Library, etc.)
  • N/A – no initiatives since their focus is exams
  • School Library Inductions
  • Library research skills sessions – plagiarism, referencing, etc
  • Teachers bring classes into the Library
  • Working with teachers to create and disseminate useful reading lists
  • Older students working with younger students to promote reading-for-pleasure (will encourage their own reading)
  • Teachers consulting with the Librarian to acquire books which can be recommended as supplemental reading (or homework) for pupils in his/her class.
  • Holding high stock of books about current issues and displaying them
  • Authors/guest speaker visits
  • The only reason exam years engage in the Library is when the English department encourage it.
  • GCSE and Sixth Form reading lists
  • Holding a silent policy to ensure a calm and relaxing space to study
  • Promote must-read non-fiction to year 12 pupils a month before they start university applications.
  • Holding a considerable stock of the books which are on the Oxford and Cambridge lists
  • Hosting special events – ‘Harry Potter Night’, etc…
    How do you measure the success of these events/initiatives?

  • Qualitative data – making note of interactions with individual pupils, compliments received from staff on initiatives, etc.
  • Borrowing statistics
  • Surveys/questionnaires
  • Footfall data
  • Improvement in grades from habitual readers
    Additional Comments:
    The most frequent comment notes the significant reading drop off after year 9 and 10 as a considerable problem. It is difficult to tackle, but easier to engage them on even a minimal level when the support of teaching staff and management is present.

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    The dangers of reading Fiction


    Blog post by Angela Platt, Librarian, Ibstock Place School

    The term ‘reading for pleasure’ most widely refers to voluntary reading conducted independently.  According to the National Literacy Trust, it is summed as “reading that we do of our own free will, anticipating the satisfaction that we will get from the act of reading. It also refers to reading that, having begun at someone else’s request, we continue because we are interested in it”. Reading in this category most frequently refers to novels and stories which encourage empathy, creativity and vocabulary. It should be noted that reading for pleasure should not omit voluntary, independent reading of non-fiction, which can improve skills and instruct readers on subjects in which they are specifically interested outside of the classroom setting. However, as mentioned, this is most typically associated with the reading of fiction.

    The early dangers of reading-for-pleasure

    Although there are swathes of information regarding the benefits of reading fiction in our current day-and-age, especially via public and school libraries, this was not always the case! Indeed, when the novel took off in the late 18th – early 19th century, it was abhorred considerably by numerous members of the public. This was especially the case amongst proponents of evangelicalism, which was widespread in this era. They themselves did publish their own novels, but these were offered as a moral alternative to secular fiction – a religious counterpart which offered tangible moral imperatives interwoven within their text. This included works such as Hannah More’s Coelebs, a story about a young man who seeks a devout Christian wife after the death of his father.

    Opposition to this type of secular leisurely entertainment was not unusual; indeed, Puritans in the 17th century had condemned theatre-going amongst their congregations, due to their beliefs in its invitation to and promotion of immoral behavior. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, novel reading was also opposed on moral grounds. Said one contributor to the Dundee Evening Telegraph in the late Victorian age:

    “In the days of my youth, fiction was regarded a very dangerous reading, especially for young people. The novel and the theatre were placed on the same level. Both were of the devil, and consequently both were to be shunned.”

    It was believed that novels promoted immoral behaviour. They portrayed immoral behavior in an attractive light, and caused readers to fall prey to their repugnant grip. Furthermore, novels tended to portray unrealistic versions of life, which could at the very least leave readers feeling discontented with their current lot in life. In 1864 a Dundee newspaper published a comment from the Archbishop of York which demonstrates the widespread disgust with this ‘vice’:

    “[Novel reading] cascades people into useless outcomes, obsesses them with unnecessary passions, while providing a distorted view of life”

    Additionally, novel reading was also believed to be frivolous and time-wasting. It was believed that women especially tended to fall prey to its clutches, and this resulted in the neglect of their domestic responsibilities. Numerous stories of domestic despair can be found which allude to a root cause of ‘novel reading.’ (some of which can be found here). Indeed, at a meeting in the Phoenix Lodge in the early 20th century a group of members decided that one of the greatest contributing causes to disruption and dissolution of families was ‘novel reading among women.’

    Novels, as demonstrated, were considered ‘dangerous’ by a significant amount of 18th and 19th century contemporaries, and these suspicions continued until well into the 20th century. While now novel reading is considered part and parcel of overall well-being, it was not so in its initial phase. What about today though, is novel reading still considered a ‘danger’ in some sects of society?

    Novel reading in our age

    One blog, in a tongue and cheek manner, lists a number of dangers which reading for pleasure can elicit. Here are four of the given reasons:

    1.      Books are filled with razor-sharp paper that can easily cut you.

    2.      Reading can fill your mind with dangerous ideas. At least, some governments and organisations think so.

    3.      Becoming engrossed in a book may distract you from feeding yourself, leading you to starve to death.

    4.      Reading books helps keep librarians employed, a secretive group that may or may not be trying to dominate the world…

    Although humorous, these claims do bear some remnants of truth. The third point recalls the fears in the 18th and 19th century that novels cause idleness. The most salient point, however, for ourselves may be the second point – which recalls to our minds instances where particular books have been censored or ‘banned’ from particular institutions or countries due to political and/or religious objections. Indeed ‘banned books’ have been a frequent cause for consternation in bookstores and libraries for decades; a number of publications which received this label can be found here.

    Banning books is a demonstrable effect of the belief that books, or at least some books can be considered dangerous. Undoubtedly, this is a trickle-effect of the beliefs held by our Georgian and Victorian ancestors. Indeed, there are two reasons for which reading novels, even contentious ones, can be dangerous in a beneficial way:

    1.      They inspire empathy

    2.      They challenge us to think differently.

    Reading for pleasure can indeed be ‘dangerous’ since it challenges us to consider new perspectives, perhaps even ones which we have not previously encountered. Given our diverse and global world, these can be especially helpful in developing a well-rounded character in social and professional environments. However, just for the sake of clarity,  I feel I should indicate what promoting ‘dangerous’ reading does not indicate:

    1.      It does not equal agreeing with everything you read.

    2.      It does not mean you must change your religion, political views, or ideologies to reach congruence with what you have read.

    What ‘dangerous’ reading does indicate is the possibility of greater understanding of diversity. In our day and age, this is a salient issue. In truth, we have so much information bogging us down that many people have begun to ultimately form opinions with emotions rather than weighing of evidence. This is not a political piece which argues for/against this trend – undoubtedly there is a place for both emotions and rationalism. However, if post-modernism has taught us anything in this ‘biased’ world we must concede that it is probably impossible to separate our emotions from our rationalism – and reading novels aids us in this. It allows us to understand how people in other cultures and communities view the world. It also allows us to understand why people within our own larger communities might approach the same problems and issues in a vastly different manner.

    Select bibliography and further reading:

    Clark, C. and Rumbold, K. (2006). Reading for Pleasure a research overview. [online] Available at: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk.

    Banned Books. Available at www.banned-books.org.uk

    The dangers of novel-reading. (2017). The Beeton Ideal. Available at: www.thebeetonideal.wordpress.com

    Dangers of Reading Books. (2011). Your Guide to Live. Available at: http://www.yourguidetolive.com/article.php?a=dangersofreading

    Mandal, A. (2015). Evangelical Fiction in Garside, P. and O’Brien, K. English and British Fiction 1750-1820. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 260.

    Pearson, J. (1999). Women’s Reading in Britain, 1750-1835: a dangerous recreation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 197.

    Posted in Reading for Pleasure, School Libraries | 2 Comments