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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