What is the role of a school librarian? Is it to issue books and run a library? Or is it to
support student learning whatever the circumstances?
With the announcement on March 18 th of the schools’ closure, members of the profession immediately took action both to collect and to disseminate useful links for e-learning.
However, this was not just about serving their own students. Up and down the country,
school librarians have been sharing online and remote learning resources for student use.And not just for secondary students, primary resources were also shared. They used the already established routes of the School Librarians’ Network (declaration of interest: I run this) and the Facebook groups Secondary School Librarians and Primary School Librarians. Twitter also played its part.
Initially, it was lists of links and resources that were shared. There swiftly followed requests, generally on the behalf of teachers, for free versions of books for students to read, though it was equally swiftly pointed out that there were copyright considerations. Authors were losing enough money with the cancellation of school visits, without losing royalties as well.
It is notable that authors and publishers were also rushing to the rescue of schools, with
special permissions for the use of books, as well as authors reading online.
Then librarians drew each other’s attention to the various commercial services offering free access during the lockdown. While obviously time limited, these offers have given librarians the opportunity to show teachers the wealth available online, at a time when students may have been more likely to take advantage of them and thus prove their value. SLG was able to collate these and post them.
This was swiftly followed by an article on this blog by Sarah Pavey giving ideas for things to do while the library is closed, which in turn was shared by an American colleague who then shared an American blog post on what librarians there were doing to support schools. Teachers were also asking for recommendations of e-resources to support their particular subjects, and once again the joint power of school librarians was able to help. Of course, this is nothing new, but with learning moving outside the school, it became more valuable to teachers. By the beginning of April librarians were sharing their own compilations of lists organised by subject, so that this mammoth task was not duplicated by every school librarian. Many thanks to Jane Hill and Dan Katz for sharing their amazing
And librarians were already beginning to share collated lists of resources. One of the first of these was Matt Imrie’s newsletter . The School Library Association was also curating resources, both book related & more general teaching/social tools and the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) reminded librarians of their poetry website:
Librarians also shared advice on running online book clubs for students, whether to allow the Carnegie Medal shadowing to take place, or more generally.
Meanwhile the Great School Libraries campaign started an “Ask the Librarian” page on their website. Please do look at this as you may be able to answer questions.
The e-services, both books and magazines, provided by public libraries received useful
publicity from school librarians, reminding all of us that these can be used by our students.
At the end of March ASCEL circulated a list of individual publisher guidelines for what they were allowing in terms of authors, teachers and librarians reading their books aloud, relieving a lot of worries over copyright infringement, at least for those publishers. Ideas for CPD to do while on lockdown began to circulate: webinars, MOOCs, OU courses, SLA, SLG.
The flood of information and ideas, which I have only touched upon, continued. And now librarians were putting together SWAYs, Wakelets and Padlets for their students, as well as the more traditional lists of resources, often learning new skills in order to do so. Good examples of the SWAYs being produced can be found here:
produced by Kristabelle Williams (my successor at
Addey & Stanhope School).
Finally, we have evidence that this is really beginning to pay off in terms of recognition
within schools. As Debra Perrin posted on Facebook: “I was surprised to be asked to
collaborate with our History department on their Dunkirk 80th topic. I realise this is
probably the norm for most of you but it hasn’t been in my school. However, since
lockdown, I’ve been creating online resources via Padlet, Wakelet and Smore and just sent them off to teachers. This is the first time they’ve not just said ‘thank you’ but they’ve asked me to do more. It’s a turning point in how the library and I as the librarian is seen. Chuffed to bits! Please feel free to add, share and keep this. I’d love to have more book recommendations.
Now as our minds turn to managing the return to school there are many questions that need to be asked and answered. SLG are running a webinar on Monday the 8th June that will hopefully help you plan a successful reopening of your library, hope to ‘see’ you there!