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: https://www.elizabethahutchinson.com/blog

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

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Announcing the launch of the FOSIL Group!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Navigating the PKSB – Chartership information

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

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

Caroline Roche, Chair SLG

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

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

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

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

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

Some examples from my libraries

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

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

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

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

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


Further reading/resources:

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

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

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

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

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Learning to predict the future by inventing it – TeenTech Awards

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

So how does one go about inventing the future?

Somewhat paradoxically, the answer is rooted in the past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl Toerien. Librarian , Oakham School


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Screenshot 2019-03-05 12.29.53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Three quick tools for research

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

TOOL 1: Use Google Codes

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

Search for an EXACT Phrase

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

Screenshot 2018-10-18 18.35.55

Exclude a word

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

Screenshot 2018-10-18 18.40.07

Search within a domain

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

Screenshot 2018-10-18 18.43.29

Search within a domain ending

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

TOOL 2: Use Google Scholar 

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

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

Screenshot 2018-10-18 18.46.04

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

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

Screenshot 78

Also: Use Google Codes while searching Google Scholar

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

TOOL 3: Use Zotero

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

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

Screenshot final

Angela Platt, BA, MSc, MA, MCLIP

Librarian and Archivist
Ibstock Place School


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