Author Archives: ferramoscab

Libraries and Leadership: understanding value with the CILIP Impact Toolkit

For my CILIP Leadership programme, I have been asked to use the first section of the CILIP Impact Toolkit which looks at understanding value so I have focused the task on determining the core purpose of my new school library.


What is the core purpose of a school library?

I have very recently starting a new job at a new school and that has given me the opportunity to really explore some of the tools in the Impact Toolkit.


My new school is planning a big library refurbishment for June 2017 so I have been asked to put together a detailed brief for the architect and design company which will take the project on. It is quite an exciting opportunity but I realised from the beginning that I would have to start thoroughly researching for this project as my experience includes only small refurbishments so far. Furthermore, the decision to hire a new library was driven by the early retirement of the previous librarian who had been at her post for twenty years and had run the library in a more old-fashioned way.


It was very clear that the refurbishment has created the perfect opportunity to also re-assess the whole service, starting from identifying our Core Purpose, namely the reason of being for a library. I have never come across the concept of core purpose before and it has been an extremely interesting process to research about this subject and realise how important it is to clarify what it is and how it relates to understanding the value of what we do and consequently communicating it to all our stakeholders.


The core purpose of our service is the fundamental reason why our library/service exists, it needs to stay unchanged during the years and it is distinct from the mission statement but also linked to it. I found that asking the right questions would focus the process in the right direction. Why we are unique within the school? What is the difference between the library and the English Department, for example? What are the activities and what is the service that we can provide and that nobody else can? In an information-rich world, why do we exist? All these questions underpin the most important one: why is it really worth supporting our library and keep investing in its development and the skills of the librarians?


I have been reading a number of articles and I have found that literature aimed at the business sector was particularly relevant and useful. I have also had the opportunity to contact a very experience librarian at another school which has a similar demographic and type of school: she also did an exercise similar to mine for the occasion of a big library re-structuring and try with her team to identify the core purpose of the libraries she was managing. At this stage, I was reassured by the fact that it is not as straightforward as one may think and it is definitely a process which requires a lot of analysis and critical-thinking of what we do and why we do it.


The last half-term gave me the opportunity to study our school for evaluative purposes and put together a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats): communicating the value of the expertise of our Library Team was identified as a top priority and conversely the way our most influencial stakeholders perceive the impact of our expertise as a possible major threat. In a school where every student has millions and millions of data of information in the palm of their hands, where a teacher can easily use a classroom to access information and where the library is just a well-sued space without a service to support this, our major threat in the future is fighting the obvious conclusion that you do not need two qualified librarians – with salaries to much- to run the space. Unfortunately, this is happening in many school libraries across the country and it is based on the fact that we are not effectively communicating to our stakeholders the difference between expertise (the librarian) and the space (the library).


So, what is our core purpose and how do we prepare for the battle ahead?

At the end, reading an article written by the Marketing Director of Sky help us going in the right direction by drawing our attention to the three pillars of this company: Content, Technology, Service. Everything that the Marketing Department creates must ultimately reverts back to these three pillars. Taking inspiration from this, an intense brainstorming session has resulted in our four pillars – one of my team members has pointed out that a four-pillared structure is sturdier than a three-pillared one!




Content: selection, access, teaching, promotion

Innovation: making everything easier, faster and smarter

Creativity: what we do ultimately aims to nurture the creative mind and the creation of new knowledge (the peak of Marlow’s pyramid)

Service: the needs of every individual in our school community are at the heart of our service


This is still an incomplete set because we are still discussing whether “learning” or “partnership” should also appear. However, having our four pillars clear in our minds at all times will have a multitude of benefits. Firstly, the library vision, mission statement and objectives will always refer and revert back to these, any evaluation process will be conducted through these four lenses and ensure that we are always consistent and focused. Most importantly, it will be easier in the future to keep our team motivated and confident in a time of big changes in the educational sector and communicate our impact more effectively to our school community.

How to write an alternative book review

Book review model of Regeneration by Pat Barker

What I liked

I like the fact that it explored a different aspect of the First World War to other books that I have read, and what happened to some of the soldiers who suffered from shell shock. Although the book mentions, quite vividly, the reasons why the soldiers were in the hospital, shocking stories of terrible things that had happened to them, it didn’t dwell on the fighting. I also liked the fact that real people and fiction were interwoven and Pat Barker obviously did a lot of research to write the book. The exploration of Siegfried Sassoon’s protest about the war and how they ‘dealt’ with him was very interesting.


What I did not like

There wasn’t anything in particular that I didn’t like about the actual book but didn’t like some of the attitudes of the army hierarchy towards the soldiers in the hospital and their “return to the front”. But that was how it was at the time, a time with very different attitudes to ours today. It must have been difficult to decide who is genuinely suffering but I also empathise with those who just wanted to escape the horrors of the war.


What surprised me

Near the end of the book William Rivers, the psychiatrist, visits another hospital and witnesses the medical treatment given to a mute patient. In comparison to Rivers’ treatment of his patients it seemed barbaric, virtually torture. I was surprised that this sort of treatment occurred, but it was interesting to see the different approaches of the two doctors.


What I learned

The different ways post-traumatic stress disorder manifests itself in the people suffering from it. Although I was aware of shell shock and some of the effects on the people with it, the book really brought home to me just how terrible and devastating it can be and how difficult it was to treat the soldiers with it. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to confirm a soldier’s recovery knowing they would be sent back to the front. All too often we think about the men who were killed but not so much about the terrible and often long lasting effects the war had on those who fought.


What I wished would have happened

For something nice to happen in the life of the main character William Rivers. He was so busy with his patients he didn’t seem to have much time for a life of his own and consequently had health issues of his own.

SLG National Conference – Making the most of World Book Day and other national reading initiatives

Amanda Ball an myself have recently lead a seminar on how to run a successful World Book Day and other reading initiatives. During the session we explored the value in participating in an established National event but we also highlighted some of the most common challenges, some useful tools for evaluation and analysis after an event and finally we discussed practical solutions based on successful case-studies.

You can find below a copy of the presentation used during  the seminar as well and some of the handouts.

Making the Most Of World Book Day and

Evaluation tool – SWOT analysis

Library Ideas for Awareness Days and Reading initiatives calendar

Carnegie 2016: Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

It’s something of a cliché to start a review like this, but among writers of fiction for children and “young adults”, Marcus Sedgwick is genuinely unique. His cold, oddly distant tone gave his early novels a distinctive feel even as they used essentially familiar story-structures, but his recent work has moved even further away from convention, embracing the kind of abstract, non-linear styles that are rarely found in fiction aimed at a younger audience.

Ghosts Of Heaven is similar to his own Midwinterblood in structure, being composed of distinct stories linked by a single theme, but the connection here is looser and more deliberately abstract. A short, non-fiction introduction in Sedgwick’s own voice gives a brief explanation of the events following the big-bang, describing the formation of our solar system as describing a spiral pattern. Sedgwick then introduces four short stories linked by the spiral theme, explaining that they can be read in any combination in order to create different effects.

The stories themselves cover different times and themes, and are as confident and engagingly awkward as we’ve come to expect from Sedgewick. A narrative poem about a young girl from a pre-historic tribe making a discovery with profound future implications; another girl much later is accused of witchcraft by a village who fears and envies her; a psychiatrist starts a new job in a very unusual hospital in the early twentieth century; much later, the only conscious passenger on a faster-than-light colony ship carries out the slowest murder investigation in history. As with Midwinter Blood, recurring themes link the stories, but whereas in the earlier book a large number of themes are used to array a mostly linear narrative, here things are more abstract – the symbolism is pared down to mostly just the constantly-repeating motif of the spiral, a pattern mirrored in the lack of straight narrative story.

The techniques Sedgewick uses here will be familiar to readers of less narrativist fiction, but are still quite unusual within the “young adult” market – the closest points of comparison being Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Alan Moore’s notoriously reader-unfriendly Voice Of The Fire, hardly references one normally comes across in fiction aimed at younger readers. Within the stories themselves there are some surprises too – the pure science fiction of the final story is unlike anything Sedgewick has put his name to previously, while the psychiatrist’s tale gets closer to capturing the genuine spirit of HP Lovecraft than most “adult” horror fiction with that intent manages. It’s not surprising that the weakest individual story – that of the witch – is also the most conventional and familiar, though its recurrence in the other stories goes some way to redeeming that.

The unorthodox structure of Ghosts Of Heaven will no doubt put off some younger readers, and some of those who stick with it will be frustrated by the lack of clear narrative or fixed conclusion, but more confident or precocious readers may well find that Sedgwick has given them access to a style of fiction not usually available to younger readers. A genuinely distinctive release from an author who continues to be one of the most interesting in his field’.

How do you make a good case for your library?

We all have been there and experienced it: the utter frustration at seen a proposal for change or development turned down by your line-manager or the Headteacher. I have been at the receiving end of many refusals before I realised that something had to change in the way I was preparing my presentation. So the big question was: how can I be more persuasive next time? How can I sway the key stakeholders on my side?

This is how my personal campaign began…

In my research for a better way to change management, I have come across a number of useful resources that have made me see my problems from a different point of view or given me practical tips that I could apply in my workplace.

The first resource that has opened my eyes to other alternatives is definitely the book “The Library Marketing Toolkit” by Ned Potter (Facet Publishing). There is a fantastic website which acts as a companion to this book and which I urge to visit and explore: .

Proactive vs reactive.

The chapter that has absolutely revolutionised the way I think about tackling any obstacles in my way is the “Marketing and People” one: full of tips and case studies, it really made me realise how the ability to influence people had to become my constant priority, use the the power of Word of Mouth as well as regularly reaching and outreaching. Our colleagues as well as other stakeholders in our service, big or small, can become our champions in our campaign for change. They can assist you in establishing your professional reputation and they will probably be your biggest supporters in pushing your agenda. What I really learnt in applying these priorities is that you need to constantly nourish your support network and not seek to create one just when you most need it: this will probably not come organically and support may arrive too late!

Battle Plan.

When preparing to make a change or submit a proposal for a major re-development, one model is highly recommended to ensure that you are successful: the 5 case model. The five elements of this model ensure that you are really prepared for your upcoming battle: I find it easier to see every element as an extra arrow to my bow. This model includes: The Strategic Case, The Economic case, The Financial Case, The Commercial Case, The Management Case.

If all these elements are carefully considered, investigated and analysed, you not only considerably increase your confidence in delivering your proposal but you also prepare solid grounds for your proposal to be accepted more easily.

The Strategic Case

What is the strategic context of you proposal, namely why do you want to make this change? How does this change fit within the existing structure of your organisation, including goals & strategies, existing practices and resources? Does the change that you are proposing allow the organisation to exploit new opportunities or respond to new threats?

Essential elements to be included:

  1. A clear description of what is proposed and its fit with the business strategy
  2. The key objectives to be met and benefits to be realised
  3. Key performance indicators for those objectives
  4. A resource overview

 The Economic Case

How does your proposal deliver value for money? How does your recommendation/proposal clearly provide a return on investment? How does the option that you are proposing deliver better that the other options considered?

Essential elements to be included:

  1. Critical assessment of the options considered, including cost-benefit analysis of each option: for example, a risk impact assessment of each option.
  2. A final recommendation based on a balance of cost, benefit and risk

 The Financial Case

How affordable is your proposal? How will it be funded and to what extent can your business/organisation afford it?

Essential elements to be included:

  1. Total cost of your proposal
  2. Impact upon cash flow
  3. Source of funding
  4. Possible considerations regarding the business affordability gap. If this is the case, considerations about borrowing additional finances and at what rate.
  5. Analysis of the split between revenue and capital expenditure

 The Commercial Case

What is the commercial viability of your proposal? How will you source and ensure a steady and secure supply of the commercial elements of your proposal?

Essential elements to be included:

  1. Identification and sources of the required internal and external resources
  2. How continuity of supply of those resources is to be maintained

 The Management Case

How will the proposal be project-managed to successful completion?

Essential elements to be included:

  1. Clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities
  2. Delivery plan, including contingency plan, progress reporting and evaluation procedures



Focus on advocacy and branding: how do I write like an expert?

Antique TypewriterWe all do it, we are expected to do it: that little article in the school newsletter, that blog post in the library website, that short report for our headteacher, that training feedback form for our line manager, etc. etc. etc.

We all need to write for our job but are we doing it the right way?

Starting to post for this blog was really daunting at the beginning so I decided to ask a friend of mine for her top tips on how to make my posts interesting, useful and worth-reading.

These are the invaluable tips from Anne Wollenberg, award-winning freelance journalist and friend extraordinaire!

The audience comes first: I suggest having some questions you want each article to answer – whichever of these are appropriate to the situation… How did your event/initiative/course benefit the school? Why was it worth spending the money? What did you gain or learn from the activity? Why are you telling the reader about it? Who is your reader and what do they want to know? What matters to them? For example… do they want to know that you had a nice day out – or do they want to know why you spent their money, how they will benefit and how they will be affected? Don’t think about what you want to write but about what matters to the reader.

Always cover the basics: Make sure you cover who, what, where, when, why – and so what?

Keep your message consistent and clear: People should remember any one piece – whatever they are writing – may be the first or only article any individual reads about the organisation/library. What do you need to convey about how you operate, your priorities, your ethos, etc? Always bear in mind it may be someone’s first impression of you. Remind them of your brand messages. What are the aims of your library/service? How do you want to be perceived? What are you saying about yourselves? These are things to keep in mind when writing.

Keep your readership interested: Remember that your reader doesn’t really care about whether you had a nice day. They want to know why they should be interested in the day/event you had. It’s fine to say the day was fun or enjoyable (as it might encourage others to attend the next event) but say WHY. What did you do or learn that was enjoyable AND worthwhile?

Split it up a bit: 500-700 words is quite long and a daunting amount to write. And whatever the word length, always split your article up in different sections. It can include a certain number of words of body text (main article text) and then pick one or two or three of the following:

– Top three things you learned during the event/training course/initiative

– Action points: explain some of the ways in which you will implement what you learned, changes you will make, etc

– About the trainer/guest speaker. Who are they? What’s their job? What was it like to meet them?

– An interesting fact or point of discussion that was covered on the day

What NOT to include: what you had for lunch. Just, no!

Refugees and child migration: essential book titles

the refugee experience banner

Are you celebrating World Refugee Day this June ? Do not miss the opportunity to stock up your library with our fantastic book recommendations and prepare for this worldwide initiative.

Amanda Ball (Morpeth School) has kindly put together a fantastic booklist of her favourite titles which have a refugee-related theme: click Refugee and Displaced Person Reading List by Amanda Ball to view her booklist.

The UN Refuge Agency has also put together a very comprehensive book list for different reading ages: booklist here.

As part of the Trinity Schools Book Award, Librarian Cecile Mayanobe (Brighton College Senior School Library) has run a reading programme with a group of year 7 students on the novel ‘Alone on a Wide Wide Sea’ by Michael Morpurgo.

She has put together an informative and moving Alone on a Wide Wide Sea presentation which contextualises British forced child migration which is also the centre-theme of Morpurgo’s book. The presentation also includes various links to news articles and a link to the trailer for the film “Oranges and Sunshine”.

Cecile also recommends a visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood which is running a special exhibition from 24 October 2015 until 12 June 2016.

Exhibition – On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants

Exhibition overview: ‘An exhibition telling the heart-breaking true stories of Britain’s child migrants who were sent to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries between 1869 and 1970. These children were sent overseas by migration schemes, which were run by a partnership of charities, religious organisations and governments, and claimed to offer boys and girls the opportunity of a better life in Britain’s Empire overseas. Many migrants never saw their homes or their families again.”

Featuring detailed first-hand stories, photography and personal items which belonged to child migrants, as well as video and audio which recount this period of history.

The exhibition will explore the complex moral motivations to these schemes and share the work of the Child Migrants Trust, which has brought some comfort to former child migrants, by finding their families and reuniting them with surviving members’

Article’s contributors: Amanda Ball (Morpeth School) and Cecile Mayanobe (Brighton College Senior School Library) 

School Libraries Group National Conference

Read All About It!

The Impact of Reading on Learning


Sat, 23rd Apr 2016 – 9:45am to Sun, 24th Apr 2016 – 4:15pm

The School Libraries Group bi-annual conference.

Confirmed speakers so far include:

  • David Didau: “What if everything you know about education was wrong”
  • Karen Blakeman: Google Searching
  • Maria Nikolajeva, University of Cambridge: “Reading for Learning. Cognitive Approaches to Children’s Literature”

Seminars include:

  • Darren Flynn: Learning Commons, Dixons Allerton Academy;
  • CILIP Revalidation
  • Darryl Toerien on Independent Learners

For more information or to book, visit the following CILIP page:


What better way for a sociable bookworm to spend an afternoon?


The welcoming surroundings of the Grafton’s upper room were the perfect setting for the second SLG Café Littéraire. Authors, Librarians and Publishers shared enthusiasms and information over tea, coffee and some excellent cake.

The event was attended by 16 authors and a handful of publishers from Pea Green Boat Books and Usborne: Michele Simonsen – Sarah Sky –  Keren David –  Hilary Freeman  – Chitra Soundar – Larisa Villar Hauser –  Annette Smith –  Faye Bird  – Margaret Bateson-Hill  – Peter Bunzl  – Sally Kindberg  – Bridget Marzo –  Bybreen Samuels  – Jo Franklin 

From picture novel illustrators to YA writers, from well-established and loved names to first-time novelists, conversations quickly turned to the challenges of Children’s and YA literature that we are all facing.

Amongst all these discussions, some topics stood out for relevance and scope of interest across all reading ages: for example, illustration and visual literacy – how important it is to avoid the misconception that comics are a genre and not a separate medium of telling stories; a complex reading process is necessary to decipher them, such as inferring meaning, and linking text and picture. We spoke of the kind of stories we loved as children, and whether the same stories and styles of telling are still popular. Can books help our children to face the challenges of ubiquitous social media, or relieve the pressures that our very sexualised society can create? If writers want to engage with young people, is swearing necessary? One author found that putting ‘blast’ in a book for teenagers to avoid censure from their parents, just made her look out-of-touch and irrelevant.

Here are some interesting articles on these subjects:

Why teens in books can’t swear by James/Juno Dawson:

YA Books That Will Make You Swear Off Social Media Forever

“Clean Reads” List –  interesting booklist for the guidance given regarding “inappropriate” content. Food for thought.

Visual literacy: to comics or not to comics? Promoting literacy using comics

Learning To Read From Comics: Comics As Gateways To Literacy 

It was enormous fun – with serious intent – we were there to share and learn, and everyone had experience, insight or information to contribute.

In fact, our pleasant afternoon at the Grafton was almost exactly like the definition of ‘un Café Littéraire’ found in Wikipedia: a place to meet in order to talk about literature, exchange ideas, listen to book excerpts and take part in intellectual plays, all whilst enjoying coffee or another drink.* Although we did not include readings, I think that would be an excellent addition to the event, and if anyone is up for acting in an intellectual play – please let us know!

*Not that I use Wikipedia as a matter of course, but in some cases it is really rather good!

* [Un café littéraire est un lieu de réunion où l’on parle de littérature, échange des idées, écoute des extraits de livres lus par des comédiens, assiste à des spectacles érudits tout en dégustant un café, ou autre boisson.]

Penny Swan

[Librarian – The Grey Coat Hospital School ; Hon. Secretary CILIP SLG London & SE]

Café Littéraire – Saturday 23rd January 2016 – The Grafton Arms NW5

Recommended graphic novel titles for school libraries

Recommended graphic novels for school librariesOur fantastic visit to the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London has really given all participants an insight into the world of graphic novels and really interesting discussions about some of the pitfalls regarding content and appropriate audiences for different age groups.

The store manager, Lou Ryrie, who is also a huge advocate for school libraries has put together just for our event a list of recommended titles, with very detailed comments about age-suitability and useful warnings. You can now find the list below:

Recommended graphic novels for school libraries.

Another fantastic source of recommended manga and comics lists for children and Young Adult is the Comic Literacy Awareness organisation (CLAW):

You can contact Lou for any queries at the following email:

Stan Lee Excelsior Award

We would also would like to draw your attention to the Stan Lee Excelsior Award which is the only nationwide book award for graphic novels and manga. Kids aged 11-16 decide the winner out of a shortlist of eight titles by rating each book as they read it.

To discover more, visit the award website: