AGM and Training Day, The Power Of Us: The Many Roles of School Librarians

CILIP School Libraries Group will be holding a training day and AGM on Friday 18th October at CILIP HQ in London.

Programme outline:

09.15   Coffee and Registration

09.45   Welcome and Housekeeping – Caroline Roche, Chair SLG

09.50   Librarians and Great School Libraries

  • Caroline Roche #GSL campaign
  • Ros Harding, Kings School Chester & School Librarian of the Year 2019

10.20   Librarians as Reading Promoters

  • Lucas Maxwell, Glenthorne School London

10.50   Coffee break

11.20   SLG AGM plus CILIP update from Jo Cornish, Head of Sector Development, CILIP

12.00   Librarians as Teachers and Information Skills Developers

  • Elizabeth Hutchinson, Independent Trainer and Adviser for School Libraries 

12.30   Meet Macmillan Children’s Books Author Hilary Mckay

             Hilary will be talking about her writing and her Costa Award winning novel The Skylarks War

13.00   Lunch and Book Signing

14.00   Librarians as Creators and Developers

  • Rhiannon Salvin Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award winner 2019, Firth Park Academy, Sheffield
  • Alison Edwards, School Librarian, Firth Park Academy

14.30   Librarians as Authors: Meet the Harper Collins Children’s Author and ex school librarian Anna James

             Anna, will be talking about her Pages and Co books and the new title Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales

15.00   Tea and Book Signing

15.30   Librarians Reaching Out Across the World

  • Darryl Toerien, Head of Library and Archives, Oakham School
  • Annie Everall, Director Authors Aloud UK

16.00   Summary of the Day – Caroline Roche

16.15   Close of Day

Macmillan Children’s Books and Harper Collins Children’s Books will have a display of their new books for delegates to look at.

All delegates will receive a goodie bag of proofs and publicity materials.

A bookshop will be provided by Rosemary Hill Books

Booking Information

Bookings now have to be made directly though the CILIP YM system

To book a place, please follow the link:

Costs:  CILIP Members £50 + VAT, Non Members £65 + VAT

Closing date for bookings: Friday 11th October

For enquiries please contact:

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Reflecting On Your Role As Librarian – Time To Change?, Sarah Pavey

Schools run within a safety structure of rules and regulations many of which have been in place for decades. This provides continuity for the ever changing personnel within the community. But seldom are these edicts challenged or adapted because to do so entails the bravery of stepping out of your comfort zone and sticking your head above the parapet. So the school adds to regulations and hence workload but rarely reflects and takes away what is no longer necessary. As librarians we are often in danger of picking up the tasks no-one else wants to do because, as natural organisers, we can present as if we are able to add more to our day or maybe it is because there is no-one else for people to delegate to. We run the risk of being overworked and stressed and the jobs that maybe we should be concentrating on fall by the wayside. This can impact severely on our perceived role. Time to change! 

What we need in place to effect change

There are certain things that we need in place if we are going to be able to reflect effectively on our role, reduce our stress levels and make more impact. 

  • A job description which reflects what we actually do
  • A mission statement for the library stating our aims and objectives and outcomes
  • One year and five year development plans

When constructing these important documents we need to make sure that they fit with the aims and targets of the school. It is worth looking at the way the school presents itself to the wider world on their website and also reading the recommendations of the latest Ofsted report and seeing how the library can contribute. 

Within this blog, however, I will be concentrating on the importance of re-evaluating your role through your job description. 

How accurate is your job description?

When was the last time you read your job description? For many of us it might be when we were first appointed to our job. For others things may have been added sneakily without any consultation. Do you know which version of your job description is held on file or which version your line manager has? Job descriptions should be reviewed at least once a year and more often when changes take place and more demands are placed upon you. Any changes, no matter who suggests them, need to be mutually agreed. 

Because librarians are organised people by trade, we tend to be good at multitasking and fitting in extra tasks in response to change. This can give the impression that we have time to spare to others so it is important to make what we do explicit. Getting a new book shelf ready for the non specialist may seem a simple and quick task whereas we know it can take some time with cataloguing, classification, and labelling let alone the financial recording and selection. It is amazing what we manage to fit into our limited time and we need to demonstrate this skill to others in the school community. Enter the lists…….

Surprise yourself by writing down EVERYTHING that you do during the school year. If possible add a rough estimate of the time you spend on the task. Don’t forget to add your breaks that you are entitled to as well – this is very important for your wellbeing as will be discussed later. Now select which tasks are most important to you and which tasks you feel are not really your responsibility. 

Using your job description to effect change

The Pareto Principle of workloads states that

“80% of our work time contributes to only 20% of the results.”

Therefore if we concentrate on the most crucial 20% of our workload, i.e. the tasks with the highest priority then our overall performance will still be strong but it will take less time.

How do we identify these tasks? You might think you know, but a common pitfall is that we hide behind tasks that keep us occupied and which are comforting because they do not challenge us and we avoid some of the jobs we really need to do. Try fitting the tasks you do into the following grid.

How does this reflect your contribution to the school’s aims and objectives? It is now worth taking this to your line manager and asking them how they see your priorities. Do they differ? Having this information on paper allows for a non emotional discussion that is task orientated rather than personal – the discussion revolves around getting the job done in the most efficient way using your skills and identifying any training needs you may have. 

A similar approach might be used when thinking about longer term planning. You might devise a grid covering what you do now (tasks and time allowance), what you will need to do in the next year, and what you would need to add in to develop the library and its services in the future. Similarly this can initiate a discussion about prioritisation and help remove tasks that are no longer necessary for you to do. 

Following this type of approach questions may be raised by your line manager such as “why do you have to do this?” and it gives you the opportunity to explain the impact it has on teaching and learning and consequence if it is not done.  It might also raise issues about whether it is the right task for you to be doing or whether it is really someone else’s responsibility – this is certainly the case with some administrative jobs that can be quite time consuming but actually could be done by someone other than the librarian giving you more time to devote to your specific role. 

Workload and stress

As librarians we like to present as the ultimate service but if we are not careful we can become overloaded because we do not like to say no. In part this may be a fear of rejection of our library service in the long term but actually being more assertive can help others see the value in what we do. The problem is when we feel under pressure and stressed it can make us try and work harder, skipping breaks, working unpaid extra hours just to demonstrate how superhuman we are. When we add in our domestic commitments too it becomes impossible and we run around in circles achieving less and pleasing no-one. Eventually something has to give. Short term stress can be beneficial and enhance creativity and productivity but when it becomes long term and routine it has a profound effect on our physical and mental health. 

Stress can be caused by a number of issues but the three main triggers are:

  • time
  • demands
  • change

Using the job description exercise we can help combat all of these potentially inflammatory areas and lessen our risk of stress. We can organise our tasks more efficiently so we only spend time on what we actually need to do to support the school community. The demands put upon us cause stress when either we feel we do not have enough knowledge to complete them or when we feel the job is beneath our capabilities. The exercise will highlight training needs or will make apparent to the line manager that the job might be more suited to someone else in terms of efficiency. The exercise also helps plan for change in terms of what tasks might need to be prioritized and given more time in the future. 

In conclusion

Reflecting on your job description is worth a bit of time as it may give you new impetus for your role within the school and re-energise you as well as reducing your stress levels. In a blog post we can only touch upon some of these important areas but you might wish to look at my Working Smarter online course. The new edition of the Innovative School Librarian also includes a chapter on “becoming integral to teaching and learning” which demonstrates how important it is that our role fits in with the wider aims of the school community rather than our own personal wish list. 

Sarah Pavey, MSc FCLIP

@Sarahinthelib, SP4IL


Chapman, A. (2017) Pareto’s principle Available at: 

Markless, S. et al (2016) The innovative school librarian 2nd Edition London: Facet

Pavey, S. (2019) Working Smarter Online Course. Available at: 

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Hampshire School Library Service Book Awards, Jill Florence

Hampshire SLS run four book awards each year, a picture book award for Year 1, an information book award for Year 4, an illustrated book award for Year 5 and one for year 8.

The senior Hampshire Book Award (HBA) is voted on by Year 8 students across the whole of Hampshire and this year we had 39 secondary schools taking part.

Librarians, teachers, year 9 students and SLS staff nominated possible titles for the longlist from paperback books published between September 2017 and August 2018. The shortlisting panel of secondary school librarians and SLS staff met to decide the 6 titles to go onto the shortlist.  

The Hampshire Book Award supports the KS3 English curriculum, promotes the enjoyment of reading and gives enthusiastic readers the opportunity to shine in their chosen field of interest in the same way as other students are encouraged in their aspirations in sport, music or drama. The event was open to all secondary schools who would be SLS subscribers in the summer of 2019. A minimum of 10/maximum of 12 year 8 students make up a school’s panel of judges.

These students are be expected to

  • attend the launch meeting of the shortlisted titles during the launch week of 18 March 2019
  • read ALL six novels on the shortlist by the end of June 2019
  • attend in-school discussion meetings 
  • participate in the voting process
  • be prepared to talk about the books on the shortlist with pupils from their own and other participating schools

There is always much excitement around the launch of the award and the enthusiasm of the students shows through as each shortlisted book is revealed along with a tempting summary of the novel outlined. Students are expected to be a book critic not just a reader. The winning book needs to be not only a great story but one that offers readers something extra- Enjoyment, Enrichment or Engagement.

Students meet in their school library once a week or once a fortnight over a period of 15 weeks to discuss the books, trying hard not to give away any plot lines or cliff hanger moments in any of the books.

This year’s shortlist included:

The Extinction Trials by S M Wilson

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Satellite by Nick Lake

Scarecrow by Danny Weston

Shell by Paula Rawsthorne

Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

The grand finale of the award took place on the morning of 3rd July with four simultaneous regional events where local schools came together to have a final discussion about each book and cast their vote for the winning title. Each regional event had at least 120 students attending. Votes were then counted at each event and phoned in to SLS HQ where the Digital Team put together the final PowerPoint and loaded it onto our Moodle for SLS Advisers to play to the waiting audience. The books which didn’t win were randomly removed from the screen one by one, to uproarious feet stamping and clapping as each book was discounted to reveal the overall winner! The students loved being at the event and finding out the winner of the HBA that morning.

The winner of the Hampshire Book Award 2019 is ……………Shell by Paula Rawsthorne. We are absolutely delighted that Paula will be coming to Winchester in October to be presented with a trophy and to give a talk to the students who took part and ultimately voted Shell as the winner.

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A (school) year in review – what has SLG been doing this year?, Caroline Roche

Now that the school year has drawn to an end, it is time to review what SLG has been doing for our members over the past year.

Great School Libraries Campaign (GSL) :We are working in partnership with the School Library Association (SLA) to oversee the Campaign. We are at the end of our first year of campaigning, and the GSL steering group will be meeting shortly to evaluate the first year, and where we go with the second. The first year was, of course, the year when we launched the questionnaire which was the end result of a couple of years hard work behind the scenes. The results are currently being analysed, and will be communicated to everyone some time in the autumn term.

Conference 2020: Planning is almost complete for our biennial Conference, and we hope to launch bookings and the programme early in the Autumn Term. We have secured the same venue as last time – Kents Hill Conference Centre in Milton Keynes. The Conference will take place from Friday 24 th – Sunday 26 th April. Like previous conferences it will be packed with keynotes and seminars which will satisfy your intellectual curiosity as well as give you great practical ideas to implement as soon as you get back to your schools. We will also have a good mix of authors – who would have known at last conference when we had Muhammad Khan, a new debut author, that he would be so successful with ‘I am Thunder’? In addition, next year marks 40 years of SLG, and we plan to celebrate that Conference, so do plan to be there if you can!

AGM and training day: On October 18 th , at CILIP HQ in London, we shall be holding our AGM, embedded in another great training day. Put the date in your diaries now, details will be released early next term. Again, we will give you the chance to meet a couple of authors and have some excellent training.

Book Packs: Our popular book packs are going to have another addition – Girl Power – which will be launched at the AGM. Details of how you can order any of these can be found here and your school can be invoiced. Some of the book packs from previous years have nearly sold out, so if you were putting off buying one – get yours now!

Regional Training days: these days are one of the ways that we bring benefits to you as members. So far this year we have held two training days – one in Lancaster in June, which has now become established as a yearly event, very well attended. Our vice chair Rosalind Buckland is responsible for building up a strong network and running this event. The second event took place at the Drill Hall Library in Chatham in July. This focussed on post-16 development, and featured Darryl Toerien talking about the FOSIL group and research skills, and Sarah
Pavey giving practical advice on how to apply research skills. This course has proved so popular that we are looking to run it again in the Autumn, at least once, as participants noted that for those of us running EPQ lessons, this was invaluable. One of the comments said “This was the most exciting professional presentation I have heard in a long time. This is the future of school librarianship for me.” If you would like us to run a course near you and can offer us a free venue, close to good transport links, please let me know.

ASCEL and NATE teacher Conferences: Through the GSL Campaign we have been
represented at both of these teacher conferences – the former is for Heads and Senior Leaders, and the latter for English teachers. At both, we highlighted libraries and what we can offer schools, and we had many favourable comments and made good contacts.

Festival of Education: Nick Poole, the CEO of CILIP, spoke about Great School Libraries at this prestigious education event. Educational leaders and politicians go to the Festival, and he spoke to a full room, and made many good contacts for us. See his post on the blog here

In addition to all of this headline news, we are working on the next edition of SLIV (School Libraries in View) which will be out in the Autumn term, planning other Regional Days which will take place after Conference, writing articles for this blog and other publications, tweeting and Instagramming (did you take part in our extremely popular #slgmaybookchallenge? Look out for more of these to come! ) and developing our new Facebook page. If you do not follow us on any of our social media sites please do join the conversation! We are part of the team that runs the Pupil Library Assistant Awards, and we support one of our committee members – currently Darryl Toerien – to speak about school libraries at IFLA. We also speak at conferences – you may have caught vice-chairs Lucy Chambers and Rosalind Buckland speaking about our book packs at the recent SLA/YLG Conference.
All of this is achieved by volunteers who have extremely busy jobs and lives themselves, and I couldn’t be prouder to lead this team of professionals for another year.

If you ever want to email me, I would be happy to respond. This is my email address:

Have a very happy holiday, get lots of reading done, and look out for more blog posts in the summer and bookings and eNewsletters in the Autumn Term!

Caroline Roche, MA, MCLIP

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Parental Leave, Amanda Ball

Earlier this month MP Stella Creasy came out and highlighted the ridiculous lack of maternity cover for her public serving job. She has stated she has had to beg the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority for extra money to get in extra help to cover the service she provides, other parliaments in Europe have locum MP’s to cover for MP’s who are sick or who are on parental leave.
As someone who, over the last 6 months has had to try and organise what will happen to the service that I provide during my approaching parental leave I find myself sympathising in the extreme. I am fortunate that my school supports the library, recognises the service that the library provides has impact (through shared figures at line-manager meetings) and regards the school library as “a great place to be”, “a wonderful atmosphere”, “incredibly useful” and “a great resource for our
students”. So, how do you go about persuading your SLT to cover your job with the same level and ability as you? What arguments could you use for maternity or any other long term absence?
Think about these questions when talking to your line manager about a planned long term absence.

  1. What hours do you see the library being open during your absence?
  2. Which services and events would you like to see continued while away? Which ones have the most impact on the students? SLT can’t run everything you do but they and you don’t want all you have built to have collapsed when you come back.
  3. How much technical expertise is needed for each role? Knowledge of the stock and service is vital in some capacities but not in others.
  4. Which long-term or long embedded systems that you are in control of need to be temporarily passed on to someone who can maintain them?
  5. Is there any capacity for development of a library assistant’s role? With added CPD (even if provided by you)?
  6. To what extent are any services or events planned in advance? (I currently am working on a calendar of events, where I am planning out all the displays for the next year. Something I have never done but I am really enjoying!)

In order to help me answer all of the above I decided to make a spreadsheet based on the steps below.

  1. What are the key tasks that you perform day to day, week to week, term to term? Put that in a spreadsheet.
  2. Put next to each task the level of professional knowledge you need for each one
  3. What are the key events that you run during the year? How much work is involved?

My exploration doing this myself produced the spreadsheet below and I hope can be used as a base to show the many different tasks undertaken by library workers who are working in a professional capacity. Some people may not agree with the level of professional knowledge I have put down for things like cataloguing but I created it with a specific purpose that as much of the service to students be retained as possible during my absence.
The key in the spreadsheet also indicates the level of competency of my library assistant who predates me in role and is going to be very busy during my absence, I understand a lot of colleagues are solo workers and may be able to use a variation of this document to illustrate how a library assistant, even part time, can increase the service capacity of the library.

This exercise has been useful in that it gave me an overview of what exactly some schools are missing out on by not hiring a school librarian as a specific role. The events, the classes, the teaching, the clubs, the research help, the links within and without the school community all these things are missing when a school perceives the library as a “room with books in” rather than a service.
I hope that when come back from parental leave I will be able to step straight back into my role with very little disruption – which is what any teaching professional in similar circumstances, or indeed an MP, would also expect.

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Lewisham Book Awards Event, Elizabeth Bentley

 This year I was delighted to be invited to act as one of the judges at this event. While there are many local book awards around the country, the Lewisham event is perhaps rather different. 

The shortlist for the Lewisham Book Award is drawn up by the school librarians of the schools which take part (not all Lewisham schools, unfortunately). Over the years there have been different kinds of lists, sometimes just for Years 7 and 8, and sometimes with an additional list drawn up with the older students in mind.

 This year there were two lists. For Years 7 and 8 the titles chosen were: Rebound by Kwame Alexander; The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy; Boy Underwater by Adam Baron; Refugee by Alan Gratz; The Uncracked Code by Tamara MacFarlane.

For Year 9 the titles chosen were: Tender by Eve Ainsworth; I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan; Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw; Dear Martin by Nic Stone; This Mortal Coil by Emily Surada.

To participate, students can pick up the books from their school libraries or in the public library’s digital library, Overdrive.  

But whatever the titles or the lists, each year around May there has been the event, in which we have invited Year 7 and 8 students from the schools who have read all the books on their list to take part. The students are put into mixed teams from the various schools, and allocated one book from the list. They then create a presentation designed to sell their title to a bookshop. They are expected to have 4 slides as detailed below : to introduce themselves, to introduce the book, to explain how the cover and the blurb will help sell the book and the sales terms and incentives which they offer to the bookseller.

The Mission

Aim: To persuade the bookshop buyers to order 100 copies of your book.

Your Role: As members of the Publisher’s marketing team, you must create a presentation that outlines the best features of your book, for example, the cover, the blurb, the characters.

The buyers can only afford one book order but will it be yours?

Double Challenge: You are all being observed individually and as a team during the morning.  It is therefore essential that:

  1. When your book is revealed you quickly identify its positive points, and
  2. Ensure that everyone in the team has a task and is able to contribute.

Slide 1: The title of your book, the author and the names of your team members

Slide 2: No more than 5 bullet points to describe why the front cover and the blurb will attract readers to buy your book. Don’t forget to include the age range your book is aimed at.

Slide 3: Explain why your story stands out and will be popular with readers. Consider the setting, the characters, the hook or one particular event (no more than 4 bullet points).

Slide 4: The bookseller will be looking to buy 100 copies of your book for their stores. The cover price for your book is £6.99. What incentives and/or discounts could you offer to the bookseller to secure a sale?

 The students are assessed on their ability to collaborate and involve everyone in their group, which as they may have met for the first time that afternoon is in itself an achievement. The judges circulate among them and chat and then sit as a panel to listen to all the presentations – 11 this year. This year the judges included a publisher, an author (Adam Baron, author of one of the books), the host school’s deputy head and myself. We were able to put questions to the various teams.

Then while Adam entertained the teams, the rest of us went off, armed with his notes, and chose the winner. Inevitably this was far from easy. There were gold, silver and bronze medals, and then all the students were able to choose a book to take home with them, from a selection provided by the different schools.

 This has proved a very effective way of getting more value out of the Award, and I hope it will continue, alongside the more wide-ranging Lewisham Book Quiz which the school librarians run in March, based loosely on the KIdsLitQuiz, but with the librarians setting the questions appropriate to our students.

You can see a short film made at the Lewisham Book Awards here.

Nowadays, students do not vote for an overall winner of the Book Award – all the shortlisted books are effectively winners.

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#GreatSchoolLibraries at the Festival of Education, Nick Poole

I was delighted to speak at the 10th annual Festival of Education at Wellington College on behalf of the CILIP School Libraries Group and School Library Association’s #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign. 

If you’ve never been to #EducationFest before (it was my first time) I don’t think you can be properly prepared for the sheer scale of the event. I don’t have exact figures, but reports indicated that well over 1,000 teachers, Heads and representatives of educational charities and unions attended over the two days of the festival.

Looking very much like an upscale school fete, the event featured a ‘BBC Tent’, a makeshift studio and lots of organisations offering new ideas and solutions for teachers.

My talk was scheduled at the same time as the introduction of the new OfSTED Inspection Framework, so I was sceptical about getting an audience – but in fact I needn’t have worried. We had a good roomful of (mostly) teachers with some school librarians in attendance too.

For the talk, I set myself the task of “getting you excited about great school libraries (and librarians) and the difference they can make to your school, your students and you.” My main goal was to refresh the participant’s thinking about the role of school libraries and librarians  and particularly to get them to understand that, far from sitting passively in the library, modern school librarians are out there making themselves useful and being excellent colleagues for their teaching peers. 

It was really encouraging to see several participants re-evaluating their relationship (or lack thereof) with their school librarian. Most people had a library and a librarian in their school, but a couple also mentioned that they realised how much they were missing out on not having one – and even committed to going back and making the case for a professional librarian to their SLT!

I introduced the FOSIL methodology and Empathy Lab – both of which really helped the teachers in the room to see school librarians in a new light. It was also great to be able to back this up with lots of examples of brilliant innovative school librarians and the difference they were making in their schools.

All in all, it was a really positive experience and one I would definitely hope to repeat. We are going to approach the Association of Head Teachers about the possibility of bringing the #GreatSchoolLibraries message to their conference. But most of all, I hope it sparks some new ideas for teachers about how to work with their librarian. If it is useful, do take a look at the slides and use them with your own colleagues.

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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:

(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 – – 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 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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