Things to do if your school library is closed, by Sarah Pavey


Send out reading lists for eg for AR levels, year groups or key stages with a precis of the chosen books and how they can be accessed online

Collate a series of video links of authors talking about their books

Create your own genre stickers

Create your own stickers for attaining reading levels

Create a story that can be read in parts and released to students via video or text

Create a downloadable pack of literary pairs eg Romeo & Juliet, Piglet and Pooh for a pelmanism game to play at home

Make a word search based on a fiction book (

Make a crossword based on a fiction book (

Hold a short story competition and publish the best in a self published ebook

Get students to send you reviews of books they have read and collate

Compile lists of books you would like to add to stock


Make guidance brochures for curriculum subjects 

Send out lists of free online databases to teachers and parents

Create reading lists for wider reading linking fiction reads to non fiction topics

Develop guides for enquiry based learning using models such as FOSIL, Big 6, 7 Pillars

Create a guide to help students understand critical literacy and academic writing

Set up a web quest for students (

Create a guide showing alternatives to powerpoint to present project results

Consider how digital literacy theories can be applied to projects and develop a guide

Investigate databases, organisations and websites/blogs that might support non fiction areas of the curriculum and compile lists

Create puzzles and quizzes to support non fiction curriculum areas


Create virtual posters using websites such as Glogster (

Plan displays for the future by researching the curriculum

Make QR codes with links to information (

Create infographics for subject areas (

Use to create giant posters

Explore #Poundlandpedagogy on Twitter for cheap display ideas

Have a go at some creative book folding through video tutorial or a book

Look for ideas and examples of how to make creative displays online


Tidy up your authority files

Add keywords and subject headings to more resources

Add URLs to resources including fiction

Add summaries to resources 

Create edocs to upload to your database

Add videos to your database

Make the home page of your catalogue more relevant

Add price data to your books

Add see also references to your references

Devise templates for reports

Tidy up your classifications / shelf marks

Create reading lists

Add reviews from students and official ones too


Create or update your Twitter account

Create or update your Facebook account

Create or update your Instagram account

Design a library logo

Create a library brochure for students

Create a library brochure for staff

Create a library brochure for parents

Preparation & CPD

Prepare/write your annual report

Read the Ofsted Inspection Guidelines & prepare any evidence you might need

Sign up for a MOOC (Massive open online course)

Finish or begin your portfolio for CILIP accreditation, membership, fellowship or revalidation

Complete an Adult Education and Training Level 3 (AET) online

Complete an online course offered by the School Library Association

Watch TED talks related to school libraries and education

Begin a distance learning degree or Level 3 qualification in librarianship, information or education

Read back copies of professional journals

Read books on professional development such as The Innovative School Librarian and primary or secondary guidelines for schools

Read some of the publications on practice available from the School Library Association

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Key Issues – Fosil Based Inquiry for School Librarians:An Introduction

SLG are proud to present the next leaflet in our series Key Issues. These little booklets are meant to be taster introductions to some important subjects you need to know as professionals. Written by members of the SLG Committee, they all give a short introduction to the subject, and further links if you want to know more. This particular leaflet deals with Fosil Based Inquiry and was written by Darryl Toerien.
We hope you find these guides informative and useful, and look out for more in the series coming soon!

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Great School Libraries Phase 2, By Caroline Roche, Chair of SLG and of Great School Libraries

After a packed two days of back to back meetings in half term – one Chairing Great School Libraries and one Chairing the School Libraries Group, I am writing to tell you about some exciting developments in the GSL Campaign, and how you can all help.

The Campaign has now launched Phase 2, after the successful Phase 1 which saw the ground breaking survey of school libraries. In Phase 2, we are looking at deepening our political involvement further. You will need to go to the Great School Libraries blog post to see this discussed in more detail, but we have one main and two secondary aims for the second half of this Campaign.

Continue reading
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Postponement of the SLG Conference

As you will know the Coronavirus is at the forefront of many minds at the moment and you may be aware that the Kents Hill Conference Centre where the SLG conference is due to be held was requisitioned by the Government and has had the 120 people from the last plane evacuated from Wuhan placed in quarantine there. Although none of them tested positive at the time so the risk was very low, we had a number of people who had booked or were thinking of booking, express their concerns about attending because of this, as well as comments from some exhibitors and speakers. At the time we also didn’t know what impact it might have on Kents Hill if someone tested positive during the quarantine period so the potential impact on the SLG conference was potentially very high.

At our recent SLG committee meeting, we discussed this in some depth and felt that although the risk was low, safety was our biggest priority and we needed to recognise the concerns of all those who might be attending as delegates, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. We have therefore made the decision to postpone the SLG conference until later in the year.  We are provisionally looking at the weekend of October 16th – 18th but are waiting for the Conference Centre to confirm that all the requirements we have for our conference can be met that weekend and we will confirm those dates as soon as the Conference Centre confirms.  As it happens we have since been notified that none of the quarantined people at Kents Hill came down with the virus and all have been released from quarantine and the conference centre is to be thoroughly deep cleaned  and re-open for business soon, but having made the decision and started to notify people, we feel postponing until later in the year is the best option for us. Bookings for the new dates will open as soon as the new dates are confirmed. If you have already booked, please let Karen Usher know if you would like your booking transferred to the new dates, once they are confirmed. If you have any questions or queries please contact Annie Everall (Sponsorship, Speakers, Exhibition)  or Karen Usher (Delegate Bookings)  Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause you

Caroline Roche & Annie Everall

Chair, SLG & Conference & Training Manager, SLG

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Children’s Mental Health Week, Bev Humphrey

Next week is Children’s Mental Health Week (, a week that stresses the importance of children & young people’s mental health, and the theme this year is ‘Find Your Brave’. There are some excellent resources available to download for both primary and secondary schools on the website but I thought I’d suggest some books that fit the theme. 

Picture books 

Ruby’s Worry. Tom Percival – this is a lovely story about how Ruby learns to deal with her anxiety and realises that everyone has their own worries. Bloomsbury have some fun resources you can download to use with Ruby’s Worry here:

Black Dog, Levi Pensfold – allows children to explore their fears in a safe comforting way. There are great ideas for using the book here:

Julian is a Mermaid, Jessica Love – such a warm fun story about being brave enough to be yourself and express your individuality. Walker Books classroom resources here:

Middle Grade

I Go Quiet, David Ouimet – a picture book for older children that explores what it feels like to be an introvert in a noisy world. Gorgeous, poignant pictures and sparing but perfect text.

Wildspark, Vashti Hardy – The young female protagonist in this magical book is struggling to deal with her grief over the loss of her brother but she is definitely brave and strong. Resources available on the author’s website

Because of You, Eve Ainsworth – this one has an important message about standing up to online bullies – in the right way. Published by Barrington Stoke so a short read but a very strong one.


Letting Go, Cat Clarke – Fast paced adventure story about climbing a mountain both literally and figuratively. Powerful themes of dealing with depression and grief and building self confidence and independence. 

The Boy in the Black Suit, Jason Reynolds – both the main character and the girl he makes friends with are struggling with their own mental demons but manage to help each other see hope for the future.

Rowan the Strange, Julia Hearn – not a new book by any means but a story that has always stayed with me and that I think deserves to be more widely read. In wartime England Rowan who is suffering from mental health difficulties is sent to a lunatic asylum in Kent where he is treated with Electric Shock Therapy.

Positively Teenage etc, Nicola Morgan – there’s no one I trust more when talking about teen mental health than Nicola and all of her books would be a valuable read for students. Good resources on her website too :

Hopefully promotion and events of this special week will encourage young people who are having difficulties to seek help and to realise that they are not alone. Our libraries can provide a safe haven for struggling children and teenagers and if we have more books that mirror their feelings what a wonderful comfort that could be.

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Good reading we bring, to you and your kin!, by Annie Everall

Christmas is fast approaching so If you are still looking for last minute presents or ideas for keeping children occupied over the festive period, here are a few children’s non-fiction, young adult books that might fit the bill plus some adult titles that you might enjoy.
How to Draw Nativity
Written and Illustrated by Steve Smallman
Lion Hudson £8.99
ISBN: 978-1781283455
A series of clear, step by step visual instructions, show how to draw different nativity
characters so that by the end, a child will have created a complete nativity. The book
includes a sketch pad and the nativity story itself. I had a go and produced some very
passable pictures. A great gift for a child who loves to draw (7+)

Unbelievable Football
Written by Matt Oldfield
Illustrated by Ollie Mann
Wren & Rook £6.99
ISBN: 978-1526362445
A fascinating compilation of true stories about the game of football. It includes well known stories like the Christmas Day truce when German and English soldiers stopped fighting and shared Christmas and a game of football to lesser known stories like the goalie who saved two crucial goals with a broken neck. Divided into six story sections, each contains a Weird and Wonderful story and there is a good references section to enable children to explore each story further. (9+)

A Giant Dose of Gross
Written by Andy Seed, I
llustrated by Claire Almon,
QED Publishing. ISBN: 978-0711243507
A follow on from The Clue is in the Poo, this time the king of fun and disgusting facts looks at some of nature’s most disgusting creatures. From puking vultures and farting goats to stinky opossums who pretend to be dead, this title includes disgusting but enlightening facts exploring each animal’s unusual skills and how they use them to survive.

It has been a very strong year for Young Adult fiction and here are just a couple that I’ve really enjoyed.
That Asian Kid
Written by Savita Kalhan
Troika ISBN: 978-1909991972
What do you do if you witness your favourite teacher kissing and in a compromising position with the teacher that you dislike the most and the one you think treats you unfairly and gives you really low marks because of racism. Fifteen-year-old Jeevan films it and then facesthe dilemma – should he post it on social media even though to get Mrs Greaves in trouble might also get Mr Green in trouble too. A fantastic read, which shines a light on the impact of social media, makes some thought provoking points about racism, has a great cast of characters and is both humorous and cranks up the tension. For ages 14+

I will not be erased
Written by gal-dem
Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406386370
An incredibly powerful collection of essays, reflecting the stories of women of colour
growing up in a world that made them feel erased. Written by members of gal-dem, an
award winning online and print magazine, created by and for women and non-binary people of colour, this book reflects some of their stories. Featuring fourteen stories about identity, sexuality, family, love and power, each is written from that authors perspective of looking back, reflecting and writing to her younger teenage self, offering an adult perspective on life then and now and the journey in between. The essays are re-assuring, powerful, emotional..
Some of the themes covered are hard hitting e.g. drug taking, virginity, sex and sexuality but they are very relevant to all young people. The book begins with a letter from two of gal-dem editors explaining that the book was written because it’s one they wishes they could have read when they were growing up and struggling to cope with their erasure from books, film, TV and the world they lived in, while dealing with the racism and sexism they were exposed to and experiencing. An interesting biography of the contributors is featured at the back along with a useful help and information section. I found this to be a thought provoking, challenging and inspirational read. Its subject matter is at times quite hard hitting but it has significant place and relevance for today’s young people. For age 14+

And what about us? – the adults, the parents, the librarians who want to curl up at some point over Christmas with a glass of something, a mince pie and a good book. Most of my adult reading is non-fiction and I’m particularly interested in American history and politics, criminology and biography as well as crime fiction. Here are a few of the adult books that I’ve enjoyed – just in case there are any kindred spirits out there with similar tastes to me.
Reading and Rebellion An Anthology of Radical Writing for Children 1900 – 1960
Edited by Kimberley Reynolds, Jane Rosen, Michael Rosen
Oxford University Press ISBN: 978-0198806189
It’s always fascinating to look at children’s literature from different perspectives, seeking and gaining new understanding, especially when edited by three authors with excellent pedigree and a preface by Polly Toynbee. This is exactly what Reading & Rebellion offers. It’s an anthology that brings together writings reflecting left wing radical perspectives from 1900 – 1960. It includes extracts from children’s fiction, non-fiction, plays, cartoons, poetry, newspaper pieces and Russian storybooks in translation, exploring how they shaped the authors themselves and other children who read them. Each of the fourteen thematic sections and individual pieces has an introduction, setting its context and history and bringing the extracts to life. Each extract is interesting on its own but looked at as a whole, they give a picture of the impact that children’s literature can have on culture and its potential influence on child readers. A thoughtful, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable book, to be dipped in and out of and returned to many times. It could be a valuable tool to spark discussions with young people, particularly as our world feels like it is moving further and further to the right, with ever increasing speed. It definitely makes readers want to go back and re-read with fresh eyes, books by writers such as Geoffrey Trease and Eleanor Farjeon.

A Year at the Circus: Inside Trump’s White House
Written by Jon Soppel
BBC Books ISBN: 978-1785944376
Jon Soppel is the BBC North America Editor and I loved his first book If Only They Didn’t Speak English. In this new book he takes the reader inside Trump’s West Wing and explores the impact that Trump’s presidency is having. It is a brilliant look at the chaos, subterfuge, relationship breakdowns that takes place on what seems like an almost daily basis. I couldn’t put it down.
Corrupt Bodies
Written by Peter Everett and Kris Hollington
Icon Books ISBN: 978-1785785528
Peter Everett used to be the Mortuary Superintendent at Southwark, the busiest mortuary in the country. This is his story of life in the London death industry. In his time there he dealt with over 1,200 deaths, 400 of which were murders and some very high profile ones such as the Stockwell Strangler murders. He also performed the post mortems for a number of notorious East End gangster’s and Hitler’s confidant Albert Speer. An absolutely fascinating look at this subject – gruesome, mind boggling – I was hooked from page 1.

Librarian’s Night Before Christmas
By David Davis
Illustrated by Jim Harris
Pelican Books ISBN: 978-1 589803367
My all time favourite Christmas book is Twas the Night Before Christmas. Every year I buy a new version of it and on Christmas Eve, I read it to my husband. One of my favourite versions is the one illustrated by Christian Birmingham and published by Harper Collins but no longer in print. I also love The Librarian’s Christmas and I re-read my copy every Christmas and I still enjoy it even though it also makes me sad to think we are experiencing these things more and more in our libraries. It’s a story in rhyme, telling how due to low staffing and reducing budgets, a librarian must spend her Christmas Eve, stocking shelves at her library which is in desperate need of refurbishment. After the strain of a long night that has left her feeling “like Bob Cratchet in A Christmas Carol”, she is so happy to see Santa and his elves coming to her rescue in their red book mobile. The illustrations are superb and I love the closing lines which Santa makes as he takes off again in his book mobile “Nick boomed from his book van – do one more good deed. Have a real Merry Christmas – teach someone to read”

So enjoy what time you manage to get for reading over these holidays, I hope Santa brings you some great reading material and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Annie Everall
Authors Aloud UK

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Middle Grade books for reading alone & reading with confidence. Annie Everall

I think this has been a bit of a mixed year for fiction for children starting to read alone and for those growing in reading confidence who are looking for more substantial stories. There’s been some very strong titles at the older end but still too few good quality titles for children starting to read alone. If you are looking for books to buy as gifts or just to share with children, here are a few of my favourites. 

Red Riding Hood 

Retold by Beatrix Potter

Ilustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Warne £12.99 ISBN: 978-0241376539

This is the first time that Beatrix Potter’s retelling of this classic tale has been published as an illustrated picture book.  It is a darker version of the story as it more faithfully reflects Charles Perrault’s original tale with its ending. Helen Oxenbury has woven her illustrative magic on the story to produce a deliciously dark version that children of 7+ and adults will love. 

North Child 

Written by Edith Patou

Usborne £7.99 ISBN: 978-1474958585

I was delighted to see this novel come back into print this year. I loved it when I first read it back in 2003 and re-reading it, it has certainly stood the test of time.  It is an adaptation of the old Norwegian folk tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” Rose is destined to travel far from home on a dangerous journey. The magic of the northern lands is brought to life as Rose’ journey to her destiny unfolds. With a cast of truly magical characters, a story that grips you from the first page and one that is timeless, inspiring and hugely exciting. A must for all fantasy fans aged 9+


Written by Jamie Littler

Puffin £7.99 ISBN: 978-0241355220

Ash has never fitted in at the stronghold. His Pathfinder parents left when he was a child and he doesn’t know if they are alive. When a sleigh called Frostheart arrives at his isolated land, pursued by lethal Leviathans, Ash is revealed as a Song Weaver. Thus begins his challenge to find out the true meaning of his powers and an adventure of a lifetime. Wonderfully atmospheric, the story captures the reader and hooks you until the end. A great one for fantasy fans aged 8+ and the sequel is coming in Spring 2020

Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror

Written by Natasha Farrant

Illustrated by Lydia Corry

Usborne   £12.99  

ISBN: 978-1788541152

An enchantress throws her magic mirror into our universe and it reflects the stories of eight bold, adventurous and empowered princesses who dare to be different. A fantastic collection of feminist princess tales blending the modern and traditional for ages 8+. Super storytelling, strong role models and powerful messages that it’s okay to be yourself. Loved it!  

Cloud Boy

Written by Marcia Williams

Walker Books  £6.99 978-1406381214

Harry Christmas and Angie moon live next door to each other. They’ve been friends and ‘almost twins’ since they were born two days apart. They are partners in everything – sweet eating, treehouse building and cloud spotting. When Harry starts getting very bad headaches that won’t go away and a visit to the hospital ultimately indicates a serious and life limiting illness, the bonds of friendship are tested to the limit, because it is when things are falling apart that they need their friendship the most. Interwoven with what is happening to Harry, is the second story, that of Angie’s Grandma Gertie and her late husband Grandpa Jimmy. They met as children while both were in Changi Jail during the second world war. We learn of Gertie’s experiences there, in helping to make the Changi Quilt in a series of letters she wrote to her kitten which she reads aloud to Harry and Angie as his illness progresses. The two stories interweave seamlessly and it is through understanding what Grandma Gertie went through that Harry and Angie are helped to deal with what is happening now. This element of the story is based on the memories of Olga Morris and the story of the real Changi Quilt and the book contains information on this at the back. Harry is also obsessed with cloud spotting and the fascinating wealth of information on this also enhances the story. An absolutely beautiful piece of writing, this is an honest, painful and sympathetic portrayal of children and families dealing with terminal illness, grief and loss. Written in diary format it draws the reader in from the first page and doesn’t let go. Even though it is dealing with such sadness, it never becomes mawkish and strength, love, hope and legacy are its underpinning messages. An excellent read and an enjoyable, poignant yet uplifting story. I came away from reading the book with a desire to read more about the Changi Quilt and to try to find a way to see the real thing as well as a growing curiosity about clouds. I’ve been finding myself looking at them all the time trying to see if I can recognise them and using the section on them at the back of the book to help. Books that try to weave information into a fiction story often don’t work successfully and it is a testament to Marcia Williams skills as a writer that in this book she has absolutely nailed it! I loved it.

As I said at the start of this blog post, there is still a shortage of high quality books for children just starting to read alone. I do feel that sometimes books in series aimed at helping children master the basics of reading and then grow in confidence for reading alone, can be less than stimulating. The books in the Bloomsbury Young Readers series by Bloomsbury Education however, refute that theory with every title. The series as a whole is structured as you might expect a reading scheme to be in colour bands of turquoise, purple, gold, white and green with specific page lengths, word counts and linked to phonic phases. However what sets them apart and what I really liked about all the titles that I read are they are all great stories, written by excellent children’s authors like Julia Donaldson, Jenny McLachlan, Emma Shevah Abie Longstaff, Narinder Dhami and Chitra Soundar, among others. The stories are simple, accessible and enjoyable. Each is really well illustrated with bright colourful illustrations. Each contains a Tips for Grown Ups and a Fun Time activity page designed to encourage further exploration but these books can all be enjoyed just as great stories – the best way to encourage children to read. These are just a few examples of the titles.

Cave Girl

Written by Abie Longstaff

Illustrated by Shane Crampton

Bloomsbury Education   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1472962768

After trying hard to get just the right present for her Mum, Aggie’s plans seem as if they are going to be ruined by a wild boar but as mum shows her, the best presents come from surprises.

It’s too Scary

Written by Adam & Charlotte Guillain

Illustrated by Sharon Davey

Bloomsbury Education   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1472962546

Jun is scared of everything and he certainly doesn’t want to go on the scary rides at the fair. Can his sister Lin help him overcome his fears and enjoy the rides

Manju’s Magic Wishes

Written by Chitra Soundar

Illustrated by Veronica Montoya

Bloomsbury Education   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1472959713

Manju wants to get her mum a present and when she finds a magic lamp she is sure she can get something great. Unfortunately the genie has other ideas.

Hello Baby Mo

Written by Emma Shevah

Illustrated by Katie Saunders

Bloomsbury Education   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1472963468

Adam wanted a baby brother. Instead he ends up with a sister who does nothing but cry and get his parents attention. Is he ever going to learn to like her?

My next blog will focus on some of my favourite factual books. Happy reading and sharing stories.

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Festive gift suggestions – picture books, by Annie Everall

I LOVE Christmas – I always have done!. I love everything about it – the twinkly lights that brighten up our dark wintry streets, the tasty treats that fill our shops and homes, the festive decorations, the Christmas stockings and the peace and goodwill that comes from remembering the true meaning of Christmas. I especially love buying or making gifts for the children and adults in my large extended family. As you would expect, I particularly like choosing books to give them as gifts. I’m delighted to be writing the Christmas blog for SLG and over the next few weeks running up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite children’s books and Christmassy reads. Hope you enjoy sharing them with the children in your life or letting Santa know that they would be great gifts for your children 😉  I’m going to start with a few of the many picture books that have delighted me this year.

Leah’s Star, Written by Margaret Bateson-Hill, Ilustrated by Karin Littlewood

Alanna Max  £12.99 ISBN: 978-19087825

A wonderful re-telling of the Nativity Story, told from the perspective of Leah, the Innkeepers daughter, when Mary gives birth to Jesus in her dad’s stable. The text and stunning illustrations work so perfectly together they manage to make the Christmas story speak to each reader on a very personal level.

The Crayons’ Christmas, Written by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Harper Collins £14.99 ISBN: 978-0008180362

I’ve so enjoyed the previous Crayons titles and the Crayon’s homage to Christmas certainly doesn’t disappoint. Like the other titles, this is full of fun and humour as Duncan and his crayons prepare for Christmas. This interactive book contains letters, ornaments, a poster and even a pop-up Christmas tree. A definite must for Christmas stockings!

The Most Wonderful Gift, Written by Mark Sperring, Illustrated by Lucy Fleming

Little Tiger £11.99 ISBN: 978-1788813822

One snowy Christmas morning, Bear and Esme find a wrapped gift under the tree – but it isn’t for either of them. They set off on a snowy, wintry, icy, windy, journey to take it to the rightful owner only to discover they have delivered the greatest gift of all. A wonderful tale about friendship and caring for others and which highlights the true meaning of Christmas. Beautifully illustrated, this is a joy to read alone and to share.

The Snow Dragon, Written by: Abi Elphinstone, Illustrated by: Fiona Woodcock

Simon & Schuster £6.99  ISBN: 978-1471172465

The orphanage where Phoebe and her dog Herb live is a miserable, gloomy, place. It bans daydreaming, and has cancelled Christmas. One enchanting, snowy night, Phoebe meets the Snow Dragon and embarks on a magical adventure. Could it lead to her Miracle Day, when she finds a forever family who will take her away from the orphanage? A wonderful read, breath-taking illustrations, it’s a book to own, to savour and one which will become a family Christmas classic.

Think Big, Written by Kes Gray, Illustrated by Nathan Reed

Hodder   £6.99  ISBN: 978-1444942132

Humpty Dumpty is sitting on his wall, thinking about what he wants to be. When he says he wants to be a boiled egg, all his nursery rhyme friends who are sitting on the wall with him, tell him he should aim higher and that if he believes in himself he can achieve anything and they give him lots of ideas, but how will his future turn out? A brilliant new picture book from Kes Gray aimed at 5 to 7-year olds. Full of fun, irresistible humour, with a wonderful tongue in cheek twist at the end that I didn’t see coming but had me laughing out loud. I love the underpinning message to child readers, that of aiming high, believing in yourself, and doing what you want to do, which is a very powerful one. Bold, bright illustrations add humour to the text bringing an additional vibrancy to the story. Really enjoyed it and can see this becoming a firm favourite with children and adults alike.

The Shortest Day, Written by Susan Cooper, Illustrated by Carson Ellis

Walker  £12.99  ISBN: 978-1406389265

Susan Cooper’s extraordinarily beautiful poem celebrating the Winter Solstice is further brought to life through the stunning, atmospheric illustrations of Carson Ellis. The feel of winter, the joy of the Yuletide season and the hope for a bright new year – just wonderful!

My next blog will focus on some of my favourite middle grade books. Happy reading and sharing stories.

Annie Everall, Director, Authors Aloud UK

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Yes YOU can, YOU can do it!!! , by Amanda Deaville

How many times a day do we say this to our students? Numerous times as we encourage and cajole them to have a go and do their best. But how many times do we say this to ourselves? Probably never! Instead we battle on feeling undervalued, misunderstood, put upon, weary, despondent, isolated and for some, invisible.

As school librarians, it can often seem that we are pre-conditioned to think that we can’t do it, particularly as repeated requests for support, resources and funding can seem to fall on deaf ears as more urgent needs are addressed. Our brilliant ideas and inspirational new initiatives sometimes fail to get off the ground, lacking crucial support whether from students, staff or even SLT. I could go on but that only serves to compound the negativity already being felt. Instead let’s focus on the unique role and position that you have in your school that can really benefit all. Rise above the niggles, the perceived lack of support, the negativity and make sure you use your skills. YOU can do it.

So how, I hear you ask, when you’re so weary and fed-up with the continual struggle to be heard and to be noticed?

  1. SEEK HELP – it’s not a sign of failure; it’s a sign that you want the situation to change; that you’re prepared to do something about it. You’re going to be pro-active. So where can you get this help? From a colleague, a member of staff – who can emphathise with your situation. If there’s no-one within school, then seek help from your nearest School Library Service. They’re there to help so use them. They offer advice, training and support and will often act as a ‘critical friend’ so you can talk in confidence, vent your frustrations with someone who will understand what you are experiencing. They’ll put you in touch with librarians in other schools – so get talking, get networking, share issues and concerns – a problem shared is a problem halved. Even better, start sharing ideas – there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. It will enable you to begin to see things in a different light, even from a different perspective. Make use of your professional memberships, e.g. the CILIP School Libraries Group – Committee members can help here. We’re all seasoned and experienced practitioners who are more than happy to help – so make that first step and ask.
  1. IDENTIFY key staff who would/could be supportive. They may not be who you think at first! In one of my schools it was the Site Manager who was my main ally. You’ll need to emphathise and understand what other staff are up against too. Many spend more than enough hours already trying to keep their heads above water, never mind taking time to get involved in another event in the Library. So what can you do?
  1. WORK COLLABORATIVELY – work together on a project that is mutually beneficial. Talk, exchange ideas, inspire, get involved and work as equal partners. Yet that little voice will be saying ‘I can’t do that! I’m not up to it; I’m not a teacher so I can’t possibly teach!’ But yes YOU can. Work together, be prepared to learn, be guided, bring your unique skills and insights into play and have a go. You’ll need to practise but you’ll soon start to feel more confident, start to enjoy working with others and learn from your mistakes. So prepare to change and accept the challenge. Be prepared to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. It may be you have identified some gaps in your skill set so start to explore what training is available and be pro-active in learning new skills.
  1. KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND YOUR WEAKNESSES – don’t set yourself up for failure. Know your skills and use them. We can’t all be good at everything so don’t try to be. Identify and recognise your strengths, build and capitalise on them. Put them to good use. Don’t waste time and precious energy on something that you know will be a struggle. Team up with a colleague who has complimentary skills and work on the project together. 
  1. BE REALISTIC – this is something that all of us can forget to do. Start small, walk before you run and enjoy every little success, no matter how inconsequential it may seem. Go for quick wins, things that can make an instant difference. Build on them and gain confidence, gain new skills. But don’t expect to change everything overnight as it won’t. Be prepared to put in the effort; chip away at it as it will take time but your endeavours will be rewarded. You’re in for the long haul but be clear, from the start, about the outcomes and the benefits that will result from your work and commitment.
  1. LEARN TO SAY NO – it’s hard but you’ll be thankful that you’ve learned this particular skill. Don’t be everyone’s doormat! Is your job description up-to-date and does it actually reflect the job you are doing? It may sound silly but you’d be surprised at how many don’t. Does it set clear boundaries for your role or do you need to set them? If you’re not sure, then note down all that you do each day for one week – every task, no matter how small or mundane, some of which you won’t even be aware that you are doing! From this you will be able to identify what you’re spending your time on, whether intentionally or by default and it will highlight where your energy is being used well or unnecessarily. Use it to set priorities and focus on the key areas outlined in your Library Development Plan which in turn should echo the School Improvement Plan. (More of this in a future blog.) There will be tasks that you are doing simply because they’ve always been done but are they actually needed? So learn to say no. Accept that you can’t be all things to all people – so stop trying and stop being hard on yourself.
  1. CHALLENGE the perceived norm of the ‘librarian’ in your school. Stand up and make YOUR voice heard but try not to complain to anyone that will listen – hard I know at times –as this only helps to exacerbate the negativity that you are feeling and confirm people’s perceptions. Instead push the positive, display, model the benefits of working collaboratively with colleagues – that’s what they will remember next time you ask them to get involved. This doesn’t mean that you are a push-over and will help with every little request; no, you need to be ensuring that before accepting the task, you are checking if it is one of your priorities, one of your developmental areas and will it benefit your role and that of the Library.

So are you prepared to smile, rise above, and tackle the task ahead? Are you going to be realistic and learn to say NO? Do you know your skill set; know where you can make a difference and above all, be open to a new challenge? So have a go, take the risk, learn from your mistakes, think what you would do differently next time and try again. The biggest risk, by far, is not to take the risk and do nothing at all.

So remember the difference we, as school librarians, can make. YOU can and DO make a difference. Apply these words to yourself, not just to your students. YOU can do it, yes YOU can!

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New Key Issues

SLG are proud to present the next two leaflets in our new series Key Issues. These little booklets are meant to be taster introductions to some important subjects you need to know as professionals. Written by members of the SLG Committee, they all give a short introduction to the subject, and further links if you want to know more. These two leaflets deal with Instagram in the School Library written by Bev Humphrey and Schools Library Services written by Amanda Deaville, Jill Florence and Elizabeth Hutchinson.
We hope you find these informative and useful, and look out for more in the series coming soon!

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