School Libraries Group organised a hugely educational and insightful webinar on 25 October 2021 called Pimp Your Library. The morning was opened by welcoming speaker Kevin Hennah to talk to us about Maintaining Relevant School Libraries.
Kevin Hennah has over 20 years of Library/Retail experience to coach businesses to increase sales and customer numbers through merchandising strategy, innovative use of space and sales. Challenging traditional ideas, Kevin has carried out approximately 2000 onsite consultations at libraries internationally and helped many achieve a significant increase in loans by creating what he refers to as the ‘post-Internet library’ – a level playing ground between print and online resources.
Kevin’s opening slide read “Change is inevitable, however maintaining relevance is your choice” and he went on to introduce some very interesting ideas including:
- Genrification, showcasing a few libraries.
- Inspired Library Layout and Seating.
- Low-budget Library Makeovers
Genrification in simple terms can be described by keeping collections together and not being too strict about Dewey. It involves grouping a collection of stand-alone fiction/non-fiction collections curated to our library needs and driven by curriculum. He taught us about creating cleverly merchandisable shelving spaces and the importance of weeding our stock to relevance. Shelves can be portable and can be broken up to create a flexible learning space e.g. Arts and Expression can be further divided into subject headers like Design, Woodcraft, etc. You can used interesting sign labels like Jaws, Paws, Claws instead of Animals for factual books and one can use signs with graphics in the fiction lounge e.g. a sign for Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Classics and so on and Kevin shared ideas on how to create 3-dimensional signage. He showed us how little things can make such a difference like My Story, Do you Dare, Funny Faves, which can be used within fiction. Eye-catching signage should be used at external entrance of library.
Kevin emphasised that the use of laminated paper card signs was outdated and not environmentally friendly and should be replaced with up-to-date trends like putting the product at the end of aisles, using series holders made out of clear perspex to show covers, use of more front facing covers for retail visual merchandising which can be fused with retro library furniture. He gave us ideas of decorating windows with cut outs and the possiblility of marketing the room as a difference space e.g calling it The Cube.
As Kevin says: ‘The foundation of keeping any business relevant is identifying and nurturing a Point Of Difference’
A healthy print collection is without doubt a unique point of difference for libraries – but we cannot do what we have always done and expect to maintain stats. It’s critical that we develop innovative visual merchandising strategies for the physical collection – and that means at least ‘massaging’ Dewey!
If you want to modernise a school library, I would thoroughly recommend looking at some of Kevin’s suggestions and attending a workshop to maintain relevance. His twitter handle is @Kevin_Hennah.
Following Kevin’s interesting seminar, we had a very moving account of how Sue Bussey, who is part of the School Libraries Group Committee, started her own library from scratch and how she developed the entire space to grow into a successful buzzing library at Derby High School. Over 25 years ago, Sue had the immensely hard task of designing an empty room, stocking it and staying relevant over the years to turn the school library into an effective LRC. Sue explained the challenges of dealing with contractors, SLT, external planners and how the students all became a part of the wonderful library it is today. Sue has a wealth of professional experience within schools and remains a very active contributor to Great School Libraries Campaign.
Next, there was an introduction to a library management system run by PSP, called Infinity Library Management System. This is a cloud-based system allowing access to resources whilst on the move. The system can be tailored to each school’s branding and Nick Hunt mentioned the use of LibPaths, a personal record of your search journeys.
Another provider of LMS called Libresoft demonstrated their cataloguing system. Andrew Woods said their company had over 1000 schools subscribing and the demo he gave of the system was interesting.
Following the commercial companies, we were treated to a personal experience of a library rescue by Charlotte Cole. Charlotte is a new member of the School Libraries Group and works as a library coordinator in a large secondary school. Her school library was flooded with a burst of overhead pipes during the summer and the library had to be evacuated with all the stock removed and housed in a separate area. Charlotte has had first-hand experience of rescuing all the resources and is now trying to get the library back to normal by distributing the book trays to classes for the new school pupils to get some access to library books. The role of a librarian is the custodian of the resources and Charlotte has tried her best to mitigate the loss and damage to her library.
The webinar continued with a company showcasing E-books and audio books platform called Wheelers. E-platform helps you build an inspiring digital library. Wheelers product provides access to both school and public libraries you belong to. One can download the app and students can read on their mobiles and other devices, a particularly useful tool when the libraries were not accessible during the pandemic. Digital and audio books are a great accompaniment to your existing library collection and are useful for readers who have dyslexia, sight problems, and students who enjoy audio books.
An entertaining and informative recorded session on Effective Displays from Pauline Carr followed, so many eyeopening , easy to do but wow display ideas , I think most delegates were scribbling notes madly all through it!
The next supplier to showcase their products was a design company specialising in library design and furniture called FG Design Ltd. They are a leading manufacturer and supplier of library shelving and furniture. Julian Glover is their design consultant and viewers got to see their recent projects showing bespoke library designs in various settings.
One of the most useful takeaway’s from this webinar for me personally was a presentation by Barbara Band on how to Pimp Your Library on a Budget. Barbara is actively involved with the library profession and is a library and literacy consultant amongst many other accolades she holds. For libraries run on a shoestring budget, Barbara told us there are various free resources available from Carel Press, SLA, GSL, Booklife, Canva, etc. She emphasised the importance of following school librarians on twitter, authors, teachers, educationalists, and publishers to pick up hints and tips about free supplies. Some active tweeters Barbara recommend you follow are @lucasjmaxwell, @tompalmerauthor, ,@OpenUni_rfp and publishers like Hatchette, Macmillan Childrens’, etc.
Display ideas can be gleaned from Pinterest, the Holocaust Memorial Day website, and linking up to the whole school curriculum and themes. Grants can be obtained from various organisations like The Siobhan Dowd Trust, Foyles Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, local supermarkets, etc. It can be useful to browse charity shops for books, create or share wishlists with PTA/Staff/Parents, ask for donations, browse FB Marketplace, Little Free Libraries and take advantage of other sources of CPD like Open University courses. Barbara summarised her presentation by reassuring librarians that there are plenty of freebies to be gained from the right networking and researching the GSL website and School Libraries Group under CILIP.
Finally, in the last session of the webinar the audience was treated to poetry readings from Joseph Coehlo, Rachel Rooney, Adisa and Laura Mucha. These four amazing poets entertained and moved us with thoughtful and beautiful readings from their poems. What a wonderful end to a very educational, inspirational, and thought-provoking webinar! Thank you to the organizers and contributors!