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

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 ( 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.     Also see: Brown, Susan. Twenty rules for better book displays. Retrieved from:

 Twinkl is good for resources:

 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 (

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:

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 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 or Alison Tarrant via e-mail at  or

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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 ‘’ 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:

    Banned Books. Available at

    The dangers of novel-reading. (2017). The Beeton Ideal. Available at:

    Dangers of Reading Books. (2011). Your Guide to Live. Available at:

    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

    The Challenge of Implementing Change

    During my spare time in my school library, I was recently perusing various blogs, pinterest, twitter, etc – looking for any new ideas, best practice and developments in the field which I should know about. One such blog that piqued my interest on this occasion, was “Day in the Life” by Caroline Roche[1] a section attached to her blog which allows various school library professionals to ruminate about a day of work for them. It was intriguing for me to note the variety in the days of each of these individuals – some of them jam-packed with teaching and instruction, others dominated by organisational and admin activities; some described library assistants, helpers, and senior management providing all-day assistance, others iterating the challenges of being the sole librarian in their school.

    I have found this variety of experience to be the subject of many conversations which I have been privy to, both online and while attending CPD events with other school librarians. Over my meagre four years as a school librarian this has been on my mind a lot, especially recently as I just applied for Chartership. I can vividly recall in my first year in this position in 2013, attending a couple of CPD events -one run by HMC and the other by SLG. I remember that I felt overwhelmed and, somewhat, a failure by how much these other librarians were doing in comparison with what I was doing in my library.

    Just to elucidate – my school library was purpose built in 2011 (before my time) – a secondary school library attached to the senior school of an independent school. This small, but elegant, library comprises two floors, over 15,000 books, and shelves which were custom-made, reaching from the floor to just inches below ceiling (indeed- the former Bursar told me that when he ordered these custom-made shelves, he had a moment of panic when it occurred to him that they might not actually fit into the new library which was currently being built… they did, but only by inches!). This school library, fitted with open-seating hosting around 40 pupils, and 13 soft brown chairs for reading, was created to provide an aura of academic rigour and quiet reading. The only computers in this library include the one at the Librarian’s desk, and two iPads which allow pupils to peruse the library catalogue. Classes were not permitted to come into the Library, since there was no special set apart “area” designed for classes, and, indeed it was impractical to host them and try to maintain a silent atmosphere for the numerous Sixth Formers who utilise this space throughout the day. Silence was key, and this was (and still is) strictly enforced all day.

    When I compared this with my library colleagues in other schools, I felt that I was failing miserably. Other colleagues described having classes coming in nearly all day long, holding library lessons in the library, teaching literacy skills on a fortnightly basis, pupils coming into the library to play games and socialize about books, and -sometimes- even hosting fun activities in their libraries, such as scavenger hunts and role playing games. At my library, on the other hand, these things were strictly prohibited, an imperative set by management, which was stressed before I even took the job. The library was to maintain its aura as an academic and reading safe-haven – in silence – at all times. While this strict tone did discourage me in the beginning – especially when I compared myself with other librarians – I did come to terms with it. In fact, I even began to appreciate and empathise with this position. Furthermore, I found ways to institute various initiatives which allows things to change…bit by bit.

    A few years ago, if another school librarian had asked me how I felt about the punctilious system at my library, I would have hung my head and admitted it was unchangeable, and that I yearned for a library more like theirs. Now, however, I admit candidly that if I were “in charge” I might do things differently, but I find myself more able to defend and empathize with their position. I think this is in part from my Chartership work, which has compelled me to investigate the school aims and vision, and evaluate how my school library meets these. It also is, in part, from coming to realize a few things. I thought I would share these, as I am certain that I am not the only school librarian who has had this struggle!

    1. “They” have preconceptions too

    While we, as school librarians, come to the “table” so-to-speak with our preconceptions of how a school library should run, what should be prioritised, and what are the best practices – we need to understand that a school management team also comes with their own preconceptions, some of which they have understood to also be best practice, learned from their own CPD sessions, colleagues, and formal training. Indeed, I began to realize that the SMT’s ideas about how the library was run, stemmed largely from their whole-school vision.

    2. Understand their position

     I’m not saying in the first point that we give up if our views conflict- far from it. Instead, we need to learn first to understand and empathise with their position. Identify why they have operated the way they have in the past, and how they feel about it. What did they feel was successful and why. After all, as a school, (especially independent schools), they have the prerogative to decide what message they want to send and advertise as a school – and, indeed, through their school’s library.

    In my case, I began to understand that my school wanted to send a message emphasising academic excellence and the pre-eminence of the book in learning – both things I also hold dear! I, therefore, began to empathise with the various rules they wished to continue to implement in the library.

    3. Change takes time

     And this is the key…Change takes time. One thing I have learned above all else, is that even though I may have ideas which would be brilliant – changes which would be “life-altering” for my library… change often needs to be given piecemeal, not in huge helpings. This may not be the case for every librarian; some very privileged librarians may arrive in their school with a SMT who simply hands them the directive to “make the library great at whatever cost.” This is brilliant, wonderful, and a dream-worthy situation…but not the norm, I expect. Instead, we are likely to arrive in libraries, as the top two points indicate, which already have a system, preconceived notions, and a vision for their library service. If you come into this situation with ideas on how things can change, then definitely do bring them to the table; but first – gauge the atmosphere. Are they likely to be open to the change you wish to present? If not, is there a way you can bring in this change in smaller doses over time?

    I have found this to be pivotal to the change in my library which I am proud to have been able to effect. In my school library, I began to generate initiatives which respected the general rules of the library, but were still engaging, fun, and promoted enthusiasm for the library. I thought of ways which we could initiate small changes without causing disruption to the overall atmosphere – such as allowing classes to come in briefly to select books, holding competitions and events which could be completed without noise/chaos, giving briefings on information literacy held in classrooms/computer rooms adjacent to the Library – I also began a pupil committee who assisted me with choosing books, which met in the Library once per term.

    So please do not be discouraged if you find yourself unable to create your ideal library in a heart-beat. It takes time, patience, and understanding. Afterall, change is often a drizzle, not a hurricane.

    By Angela Platt, Librarian and Archivist

    1. ‘A Day in the Life’:
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    Health Information Week – join in!

    Many organisations across different sectors are collaborating for Health Information Week (HIW) (3-9thJuly 2017). This campaign aims to improve accessibility of high quality health information for the public as well as building on local partnerships between information providers and improving health literacy.

    How can you get involved? You could put up a health information display in your school or find out what is happening locally – you could have a stand at a health event being organised near you or offer internet searching tutorials. Many more ideas are listed here and you can ask for local contacts. Please let know what you are planning so that your display or event can be added to the diary and promoted. You can also promote the HIW campaign to staff and students via newsletters and social media (#HIW2017)

    For more information and to access HIW resources: or contact:

    The Twitter campaign has started and can be followed via #HIW2017; there is also a thunderclap which anyone is encouraged to support (it just means that an automated HIW tweet will be sent at once from every twitter account that signs up before 3rd July). Support the HIW

    It would be great to have some school libraries joining with this – as it is end of term and almost the summer holidays, perhaps some health information promotion about travel health, sun care and mental health resources like Mood Boosting books etc for reading over the holiday?

    Do consider joining in with this – contact your local NHS librarian for any leaflets that you may want for your own school display.

    Posted in Information, School Libraries | Leave a comment

    Eltham event – part two!

    SLG Regional Event.  Saturday 18th March 2017.  Held at Eltham College, London.

    Due to popular demand Eltham College was the impressive venue once again for one of the SLG Regional Events.  Having offered the same programme back in October and being highly oversubscribed, Caroline Roche, Librarian and Chair of the SLG, decided to organise a second chance to access the programme. She  offered a highly informative programme of speakers and topics where school librarians could meet and share good practice.

    Caroline opened the proceedings with the SLG News update as Chair.  Being one of the strongest advocates of not only schools having libraries but those libraries having a dedicated librarian, her passion for these issues was clear to all.  It soon became very apparent that the others in the room collectively felt the same way.

    The presentation ‘Using technology for teaching and learning’, also delivered by Caroline, was extremely well received. Many tools were showcased including Diigo, Animoto and MySimpleShow gave us the information and confidence to go and try these in our own setting. Whilst Caroline readily admitted some of the things she demonstrated were far from new, they still have a place within the sector to aid both staff and students.

    Our next speaker was Maggie Thomas, Librarian at Bacon’s College in South London.  Maggie spoke to us of her experience in ‘Rebuilding the library presence.’ This was a very personal story of how Maggie reorganised and rejuvenated her library space so the pupils and herself benefited enormously, however we could all identify with some aspects that we as school librarians face on a daily basis. Maggie now runs a highly successful library and is constantly evaluating the service she offers.

    Then came Murder by the Book’. Alex Gillespie of Box Clever Education demonstrated how we could all hold a murder in the library…hypothetically of course!  We entered the library to find the outline of a body and a series of clues laid out for us to solve the mystery. Well…….what a competitive lot we are!  Clues were gathered quickly and the red herrings were identified.  The big reveal was after lunch so we retired for some well-earned refreshments.

    During lunch there was time to catch up with colleagues we may not have seen for a while or indeed meet new ones! There was a definite buzz in the room as the morning’s activities were discussed as well as sharing success stories of our libraries. After lunch the murderer was identified although I am not going to disclose who that is…….you never know who reads this!

    Matt Imrie, Librarian at Farringtons School, was next on stage and he gave a fascinating talk on Library freeconomics – or getting free stuff for your library.’ With budgets being an emotive topic, we were all keen to see how we can still bring new resources into school with the investment of our time rather than our money!  Needless to say I am sure we will all be entering lots of competitions because as Matt so rightly said ‘You have to be in it to win it!’

    Our final presentation of the day was by Rowena Seabrook, Human Rights Education Manager at Amnesty International UK‘Using fiction to highlight human rights issues.’, led us to work together in small groups looking at human rights and how we can promote them in our school through our literary choices. Using a variety of resources, we touched upon many of the challenges facing different people today.  This as you can imagine triggered a lot of discussion and debate. This presentation was very timely given the publication of the CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist and this too was broached by Rowena as some of the content of some titles is very sensitive and needs careful thought before lending to some students.

    The day ended with lots of email addresses exchanged and the promise of keeping in touch.  I am sure I speak for all of the delegates when I say a huge Thank You to Caroline not only for hosting such a rewarding day but also for her tireless energy in the promotion of both school libraries and of course school librarians!

    By Julie Angel.  Assistant Librarian, Eltham College


    Posted in Advocacy, CPD, Leadership, Libraries, Regional Training Days, School Libraries, Training and CPD | Leave a comment