Category Archives: School Libraries

#ReadWithPride

We were, like many librarians, concerned by the decision to cancel Simon James Green’s visit to John Fisher School. As we are eager to support the striking school staff, as well as LGBTQ staff and pupils in all schools, we feel it is time for librarians to set aside the stereotypical ‘shhh’ and make some noise!

To that end, we’d like to set up a social media buzz around LGBTQ young adult reading.

For Pride Month (June), we are creating a social media relay using the hashtag #ReadWithPride. Each school or library would post a photograph of a member of staff reading an LGBTQ young adult novel (we will coordinate to ensure a variety of titles), then ‘tag’ the next school so that a post goes out every working day in June.

Ideally, those depicted in the photograph would include a range of roles to show wider-spread engagement with LGBTQ fiction, some Heads, sport staff, or even school Pride Societies (GDPR permitting!) in order to really underline the institutional support, and that this is important for everyone. But of course, we’d love to feature librarians, too! We are also asking high profile LGBT authors to join in.

If you’d like to be involved in the relay, please fill out this form by 5pm on Monday 16 May:

And if you’d rather not be part of the formal relay but would like to support the project, please use the hashtag #ReadWithPride while posting Pride Month book recommendations and/or messages of support, ‘like’ or share the relay posts, etc. Some may choose to make explicit reference to recent events or use the #IStandWithSimon hashtag. Given that some schools may prefer not to take a formal stance, or the potential for doxing or trolling on social media, we have not included this but left it down to the individual. Please feel free to tweak the message as you wish.

We will be back in touch with the relay plan w/c 22/5. If you have any questions, please email Kate O’Connor at oconnork@dulwich.org.uk.

From Helen, Kate, Alice and Katie.

Censorship and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries

Interim Joint Position Statement

May 2022

This statement has been produced jointly by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the CILIP School Libraries Group (CILIP SLG) and the School Library Association (SLA). It is intended to provide clear guidance for school librarians, school leadership and Governors when considering issues relating to intellectual freedom and censorship.

As leadership organisations for School Libraries, we believe that:

i) Intellectual freedom – the freedom to read, to learn, to question and to access information – is central to a functioning democracy.

ii) It is a core role of libraries, librarians and other library staff to promote intellectual freedom on behalf of their users, to empower users to enact their information rights and to oppose censorship in all its forms – both tacit and explicit.

iii) School librarians and library staff are responsible for promoting and preserving intellectual freedom by working with school leadership and teaching colleagues to support children and young people in their development as informed and responsible citizens.

We affirm the principles set out in the AASL School Library Bill of Rights. Based on this, we assert that it is the responsibility of the school librarian or library staff to:

iv) Provide materials that will enrich and support the curriculum, taking into consideration the varied interests, abilities, and maturity levels of individual learners;

v) Provide materials that will stimulate growth in factual knowledge, literary appreciation, aesthetic values, and ethical standards;

vi) Provide a range of information resources which will enable pupils to make informed judgments in their daily life;

vii) Provide materials that illustrate and illuminate different views on controversial issues so that learners may develop under guidance the practice of critical reading and thinking;

viii) Provide materials representative of the many religious, ethnic, and cultural groups in our society and their contribution to our national heritage and identity;

ix) Place principle above personal opinion and reason above prejudice in the selection of materials of the highest quality in order to assure a comprehensive collection appropriate for the users of the library;

x) Actively oppose censorship for any purpose other than material that is proscribed by law, which risks the incitement of illegal acts or which constitutes ‘hate speech’ as defined by the Public Order Act 1986, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.

We recognise the significant challenges faced by school librarians in embedding these beliefs into their practice and will be working to provide further support in the coming months.

Jointly signed by Nick Poole, Caroline Roche and Alison Tarrant

Find out more about CILIP’s project to develop a new policy and supporting guidance on intellectual freedom for librarians, library workers and information professionals in all sectors.

Data Driven Librarianship

Join CILIP on 4th May at 12:30 for a new module in the Data Driven Librarianship course powered by Nielsen BookData, recognised by CILIP. In the Research Module Update, Nielsen BookData will provide a full year review of the UK book market’s 2021 performance, including a look at their library loans data and further insights from LibScan. Register now for free: https://www.cilip.org.uk/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1623059&group=

Librarians, discover how you can harness the power of data to understand your users and inform your decision making on buying and stock selection in this 3-part series run by the experts at Nielsen and recognised by CILIP. Session recordings as well as further reading materials, resources and exercises from our friends at Nielsen are available here so you can complete the series and earn a CILIP-recognised Certificate of Completion: www.cilip.org.uk/datadrivenlibrarianship

CILIP Conference 2022 Bursary Offer

CILIP SLG are delighted to be able to offer one full delegate place at this year’s CILIP Conference + Expo 2022, with one night’s free accommodation as a bursary place.

CILIP Conference + Expo

The CILIP Conference + Expo 2022 is taking place at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th July and is one of the largest and most eagerly anticipated events in the library and information sector. For the first time in three years, the event will be in person, and we will be taking advantage of all the benefits of meeting face-to-face. The sessions will encourage free-flowing conversations, collaborations with like-minded professionals, the sharing of ideas and experiences, as well as being packed with practical tips and inspiring presentations.

CILIP Conference + Expo brings together around 500 professionals from across the sector to share experiences, knowledge and expertise. The keynote speakers include Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Sayf Al Ashqar, and Vanessa Kisuule. The programme is being finalised but you can see an outline of the session content here. Keep up to date by following @CILIPConf22

CILIP SLG will have a stand in the Exhibition Hall, so please come and say hello, find out about our event schedule and see you can get involved with our projects.

CILIP SLG Bursary Offer

Our sponsored bursary offer is for:

  • 1 x complimentary full conference delegate place* with 1 nights’ accommodation at the Jury’s Inn for a member of CILIP Schools Libraries Group.

    * a full conference delegate place includes attendance at both days of the conference (Thursday and Friday), access to all sessions, refreshment breaks and lunches and ticket to drinks reception on July 7.  Travel to and from the Conference will not be included.

How to apply

To submit your application for the bursary place, the criteria is as follows:

  • We expect you to write a piece for our magazine, School Libraries in View (SLiV) about your conference experience of approximately 800-1000 words. SLiV will be published in October 2022, deadline for your copy will be August 31, 2022.
  • We expect you be active on social media, and you will be tweeting from the Conference, including @CILIPSLG in your tweets.  Please include your twitter name in your application.
  • Please send your application to Chair.slg@cilip.org.uk containing the following information:  Your name, name of your school, Your CILIP number, and why you feel that attending Conference will benefit you and your school. 

Applications to be received by Friday, April 22 2022.

We are particularly interested to receive applications from members who have never been to the CILIP Conference + Expo before, and who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to go.  This will be an excellent chance for Chartership candidates to enhance their applications.

Alternatively, Early Bird discounts are available until May 27, and you can book these directly on the cilipconference.org.uk website. Remember to log in to the CILIP website before booking so that it recognises your membership status and offers you the correct delegate rate.

Key Issues No. 10 – Diversity & Inclusion

Making diversity visible within the school library raises the profile of these students
and sends a message to the whole school community. Reading about diverse
characters increases empathy and understanding., and can be a starting point for
further conversations.

Our Key Issues series has reached its tenth edition focusing on Diversity and Inclusion in the School Library. Written by Barbara Band, an independent consultant and training, it features useful advice for anyone wishing to make sure that their school library reflects the needs of the whole school community.

Key Issues are little booklets are designed to be taster introductions to some of the important subjects you need to know as Library and Information 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.

All ten booklets are free to download from SLG Connect.

SLG Chartership Training Day and AGM

A reminder that our AGM takes place online on Saturday morning, February 19 at 9.00 am.

This will be followed by our first webinar of 2022, which is a free CPD event to support anyone working on their Chartership submissions. Learn from experienced mentors Barbara Band and Sarah Pavey, and expand your knowledge of another sector as we welcome the Metadata & Discovery Group (MDG) to discuss cataloguing and classification.

Timetable

AGM – 9.00-9.30am

Session 1 – 9.30-10.30am
The new PKSB and what it means for school libarians
with Barbara Band
(45 mins and questions)

Break – 10.30-10.45 (15 mins)

Session 2 – 10.45-11.45am
Reflective writing for your Chartership portfolio
with Sarah Pavey

Break – 11.45-12.00 (15 mins)

Session 3 – 12.00-1.00pm
Cataloguing and Classification
with the Metadata & Discovery Group (MDG)

Plenary/summation – 1.00-1.15pm

Book now https://www.cilip.org.uk/events/register.aspx?id=1582786

Pimp Your Library! Webinar, by Prity Shah

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:

  1. Genrification, showcasing a few libraries. 
  2. Inspired Library Layout and Seating.
  3. 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!

SLG Conference 2021 – Behind the Scenes, Charlotte Cole

This year was the first SLG virtual conference. After being postponed twice due to the pandemic, the decision was made for the conference to go ahead virtually, rather than postponing for a third time. As a newly joined committee member, I was excited to see what was involved in organising a conference. I had only been to one conference previously and that was also virtual due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The planning for the conference had been well under way before I had joined the committee, but I was involved in discussions from my first meeting. My initial thoughts when discussing the programme was of sheer amazement at just how much was going to be packed in to the three days and the diversity of the sessions that would be on offer. I was so impressed to see that there was something that would be useful for all librarians, whether they had been in the job for years or if they were completely new to the role. 

The conference was organised by the conference planning group which was headed by committee member Annie Everall, but it was something that the whole of the committee was involved in. As the date of the conference loomed closer, we were all given jobs and Annie held a meeting so that everyone was aware of what to expect over the weekend. I was given the task of hosting a session on Promoting reading in schools, with Matt Evans, Zoe Rowley and Mary Rose Grieve. I was really nervous about hosting this session as it isn’t something that I had done before, but I was also mindful of all of the hard work the committee had put in and I didn’t want to undo it all with an inadequate session. Annie was fantastic at giving me advice on the types of questions that I could ask and best practice on how to be prepared for the session. I took her advice on board making sure that I had typed my questions up before hand, printing them in large font making them easy for me to read without making it obvious to those watching.

A couple of days before the conference, a WhatsApp group was set up for the committee so that we could communicate with each other during the conference. This turned out to be such a valuable tool and a wonderful way to be able to share the highs and the lows of the weekend, as well as be able to send messages for help when the odd technical issue or last-minute panic occurred, without making an announcement on screen.

The conference tied in with 40 years of SLG and there were some fantastic sessions to mark the mile-stone birthday. .

Unfortunately, I was at work on the Friday and so could only dial in to the odd session here and there. SLG chair Caroline Roche opened proceedings welcoming everyone and introducing our first keynote speaker, Cressida Cowell. Cressida was so lively and full of enthusiasm for children’s reading and why it is so important to instil a love of reading at an early age. She also talked about her legacy project where she has asked government to invest £100m yearly in primary school libraries. It was very clear from this session to see exactly why Cressida is the children’s laureate. 

The evening session on the Friday was a wonderful event, hosted by the very excitable and funny SLG ambassador Philip Ardagh. During the evening various authors entertained us with singing and storytelling and it was a delight to be able to attend. At the end of the evening, we were played a song which Jo Cotterill, John Doughtery and Steve Cole had written especially for the evening about SLG. The song was fabulous and was a real ear worm. I found myself singing it well after the weekend was over. The tag line was SLG – Still Looking Good, which I think of every time I see the SLG acronym. (As I write this blog post almost three months later, my son has just peeked over my shoulder and gave me a rendition of the chorus!) – Look out for our launch of this fabulous video at the start of Libraries Week next month 😊

Saturday was another action-packed day full of publisher highlights, author slots and ideas of how to engage readers in the library. One of the seminars I attended was about Newsguard, an add on for search engines which rates the authenticity of websites. The idea is for students to be able to identify fake websites as it isn’t always obvious. Newsguard is available for free for school libraries, and I was sure to make the IT coordinator aware of this on my return to work.

Saturday afternoon was the time for me to host the seminar. As mentioned above, I was lucky to have such a great panel and I knew they would be able to answer the questions which I had emailed to them before the day. My biggest worry was that I would fumble and trip over my words and would let down the team or run out of things to say and to be faced with complete silence. After all the hard work and dedication that had been put in by the whole committee, this was something I was desperate to avoid. As Annie had advised, I had everything prepared in advance and when the breakout room was open, all eyes were on me to get the session going. I had performed in a number of ballet shows in my youth and I remembered the advice that my dance teacher had given me. Whatever happens, just keep smiling and chances are the only person that will be able to tell if you’ve made a mistake is you! So, with a big smile on my face, I thanked everyone for attending, introduced the panel and the session was underway. With only 1 small technical hitch which was resolved almost instantly, the time just flew by and there wasn’t enough time to ask all of the prepared questions. The session was a success. 

With the relief that the seminar was behind me, I looked forward to the evening session which was hosted by Nosy Crow publishers, as part of their ten-year birthday celebrations. This was another fantastic evening and as the conference was online, I was able to share it with my children. They particularly enjoyed helping Pamela Butchart to think of characters and events to create a very original and funny story. Nosy Crow also kindly sent out a goody bag to all delegates which had a copy of The Secret Detectives by Ella Risbriger, a 10th birthday postcard and a number 10 iced biscuit. 

Sunday was the third and final day of the conference. It began with a very interesting talk delivered by Dr Margaret Mega from Australia on School Librarians as Literacy Leaders. Dr Merga spoke about how librarians can demonstrate their value to colleagues and stakeholders, how they can support reading for pleasure and information and how to help shape a positive future for the children in their schools. Dr Merga has published a number of papers on school libraries,  some of them are available to read for free here researchgate.net/profile/Margaret-Merga-2.

For the seminar choice on Sunday, I chose to watch effective displays by Pauline Carr from the Alternative Display Company. Being new(ish) to the role in the library and not particularly creative, displays are something that I find a little daunting. I was really interested to see what I could learn from this session, especially as it was advertised as creative displays on a shoestring. Pauline and her husband were absolutely fantastic to watch, and making brilliant displays from everyday materials such as bin bags, brochures and bookmarks. Despite the duo being concerned about their technical know-how in providing their demo via zoom, the seminar was a triumph and one of the most popular choices to being re-visited by delegates.

The final session to close the conference was with the amazing Jason Reynolds, Chris Priestly and Danica Novgoradoff, discussing their partnership in Long Way Down, the 2019 Carnegie nominated book written by Jason. There was quite some debate beforehand on who would be the one to welcome Jason into the conference, but as Annie was the conference organiser the honour was quite rightly given to her. It was wonderful to listen to Jason talk so eloquently about his book and commenting that we need to make sure that we look after our boys, as the protagonist in the book needs someone to guide him through a very difficult time. It was interesting to hear the different approaches from Chris and Danica and how they worked with Jason. A very happy end to three brilliant yet tiring days. 

Library Life during and after Lockdown, Stephanie Rocchi

Now that we have passed the grim first anniversary of global national lockdowns (mine was spent in Italy) I wanted to think back to the impact of Covid-19 on our libraries, students and the generosity that was shown during that time.
If I have to read a student’s essay I prefer to have it as a hard copy. It’s not that I am a traditionalist, I just prefer not to read from a computer screen unless I have to. I have found that despite the many hours that young people spend on social media, ultimately they often prefer to borrow books from the library rather than use a digital copy or online resource. I find a reluctance from my students to have a dabble unless they are doing a class assignment specifically calling for the use of our subscriptions.
During the first lockdown in March 2020 I was inundated with offers of digital resources that were being supplied for free as goodwill gestures to help support teaching staff and students. Not to be cynical, some of these resembled free trials in the hope that subscriptions would be purchased when the free offers ended. With these digital resources came new passwords, an increase in emails and a sense of pressure to spread the word to my colleagues and students to make sure they didn’t miss out. There was also the need for us librarians to keep our roles alive. With the threat of furlough hovering over us some had to keep showing that we were still providing a service, albeit online and digital.
Librarian networks came together and we exchanged links and ideas that we could pass on to our students and help one another. The local network I belong to met weekly, something we never did in pre-Covid times. We became expert users of Zoom, Google Meet, Padlet, Parley and so on. We passed on much information, maybe too much to our students and colleagues. In the end I filtered out what was age appropriate for my students but could not spare the time to learn how to use everything. I asked myself if I should be increasing our digital resource budget and be less reliant on physical books but I know that we won’t be living this situation forever. In order to comfortably use digital online resources some sort of computer, tablet or smartphone is needed but of course these are not available to everyone. Just using the UK as an example, as of August 2020 9% of families did not have access to a computer (Vibert, 2020) making it difficult to access online school lessons let alone other digital resources. Children from such families were deemed vulnerable by the Department of
Education and allowed to attend school in person during the early 2021 lockdown in England (Quinn et al, 2021). The divide between those who have access to technology and those who do not, not just in the UK but throughout the world was made painfully evident this past year. Poor internet connections or lack of hardware saw many young people unable to avail of online teaching.
A year on from the first lockdowns schools are starting to reopen and with them our libraries. I think the old adage “you don’t miss something until it’s gone” is quite apt. The sporadic moments where we have been in school this past year have seen my students eager to be back in their library, studying, perusing or just coming to see me for a chat is something that a digital resource can never replace and nor would we want it to.

Quinn, B, et al (2021), Pupils without laptops can still go to school in England lockdown [online], Available at:
https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/jan/05/call-for-pupils-without-laptops-in-england-to-be-allowed-
into-schools-covid Accessed 15/03/21
Vibert, S (2020), Children without internet access during lockdown [online], Available at:
https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2020/08/18/children-without-internet-access-during-lockdown/
Accessed 10/03/21

How do we connect students to LGBT+ resources? , Verity Jones

In 2018 I undertook my Thesis as part of my Master’s in Library and Information Studies, focussing on LGBT+ provision in school libraries. The original focus and aim was to examine the LGBT+ provision in school libraries from the perspective of the librarian; to explore how far external/internal limitations affect LGBT+ provision; budget restrictions, external influences (parents/teachers/governors), the availability of age-appropriate resources and resources that covered all the identities within the spectrum. 

One area of research, which did not make it into the published article, was the area of ‘access vs promotion’. A topic looking at the methods used by librarians to put users in contact with LGBT+ resources or to make the pupil body aware of what was on offer. Unlike some of the other areas hindering LGBT+ provision, this area largely comes under the librarian’s sole care – the question of how to connect students to LGBT+ resources, if the librarian was lucky enough (considering the above limitations and more), to have any.

The research revealed several methods that librarians use to connect their LGBT+ resources with users. These methods are some of the many that are outlined in suggestions/guidance, for example, resources from non-profits – such as Educate and Celebrate or Stonewall, in professional organisation spheres such as CILIP and its groups – SLG or YLG, in other library groups – such as SLA and on more informal networks – such as SLN. 

Displays

Pros

  • Easy to do
  • Can incorporate a mix of resources, online, posters, books, links… 
  • Can disperse them throughout the year
  • Books can be included without any other signposting
  • Can double up with another theme to reduce the ‘stigma’ of picking a resource up
  • Can be in prominent locations or time slots in the year
  • Can often lead to inter-department crossover/curriculum tie in, in turn creating more opportunities for them to be displayed

Cons

  • Resources can often be tenuously linked to the topic, to crowbar them in
  • Displays are by nature temporary, so books without any other signposting cannot be found again
  • The theme it may double up with could be damaging or hold its own stigma (e.g. mental health week – the historical ties between Mental Health and the LGBT+ community have been largely negative)
  • May not be utilised by those less willing to ‘out’ themselves at school, due to the prominent location

Labelling: spine

Pros

  • Easy to do
  • Can signal a book very clearly (e.g. rainbow stickers on the spine)
  • Confidently ‘out’ users or those wanting an LGBT+ book can find these easily without having any contact with the librarian

Cons

  • Signposts to anyone what the book is, those not ‘out’ may not pick up this book for fear of association, those not LGBT+ at all may fear the association too
  • At what ‘level’ of representation do you sticker, e.g. a secondary character is LGBT+ but the protagonists are not?
  • LGBT+ is a broad spectrum and one sticker can lead to a Lesbian user spending time looking through Gay fiction, even if they are looking for specific representation
  • Non-LGBT+ pupils/staff may not pick up these books as they are being ‘targeted’ at one group, they may not see these resources as for them

Book Lists

Pros

  • Can be specific with titling e.g. Lesbian Fiction/Trans MTF (male to female) fiction
  • Can include a variety of titles in one space without any other signifiers e.g. spine labels, stickers
  • Can potentially access without having to go through librarian/staff

Cons

  • They cannot be exhaustive 
  • Censorship can play a part e.g. what is seen as age appropriate or contains other heavy themes e.g. suicide/self harm
  • At what ‘level’ of representation do you include a book on a LGBT+ booklist, e.g. the protagonists parent is LGBT+ but the protagonist is not?
    • Booklists with only secondary or stereotypical or tokenistic representation can do more harm than good
  • The booklist can be very small, if you do not have many resources, again doing more damage than good to that user’s sense of worth

Reference Interviews

Pros

  • You may have good knowledge (if you have the resources) of your stock, so can suggest suitable and tailored suggestions
  • You may be able to filter out resources that would not apply e.g. not books about Transgender protagonist if the user is Lesbian and would like to read Lesbian fiction
  • You can suggest more resources in the moment, e.g. if they have already read the author or series

Cons

  • Relies on the user to approach the librarian 
  • Allyship is hard to project (it takes active work on the librarians’ part) for a user to feel comfortable approaching them
  • These interviews may not offer the level of privacy that a user may want or expect, you may be overheard
  • If the topic is on an area library staff are less aware of, it can highlight a lack of knowledge e.g. Non-Binary or Genderfluid topics

LMS (Library Management System) Labelling: search terminology and keywording 

Pros 

  • A private method so users can search at their own pace
  • Terminology can be specific and tailored e.g. Lesbian Fiction or Trans FTM (female to male) fiction
  • LMS often allow booklist or keyword searching, allowing access to more resources from an initial search

Cons

  • Requires users to be very aware of how to use the LMS to search
  • Requires access to a device in order to search, how private are these if communal?
  • Can use out-dated terminology and do more harm than good, e.g. Homosexual/transvestite (sometimes due to imported data from other locations)
  • Users may not know that their search history is private or that this terminology exists to search for
  • It can be time consuming to instigate 
  • Choosing what books to include e.g. gay secondary character

Solution

I think a mixed method approach to access and promotion of LGBT+ provision is necessary in all school libraries. It allows for the comparative pros and cons to balance one another out, leading to a more inclusive library that connects more users to LGBT+ resources.   

Although LGBT+ provision has universally improved, it is not enough to rest on these laurels but rather to push toward even more inclusive practice. It is important to remember Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as a protected characteristic, can remain a hidden minority, with no collection of this data at a school level (like is done for some disability/racial background). The onus remains on the LGBT+ person to identify themselves to those in authority. The one ‘out’ pupil will not necessarily be the only one, so catering and tailoring your service to those less likely to approach you will benefit everyone (including other minorities). This minority first approach will in turn benefit the majority group, who can also access these resources without them being segregated. 

It is entirely possible, within any restrictions placed on us, to allow access and promotion using at least two of the methods mentioned in this piece, minimising the risk to and onus on the end user. 

A few questions I suggest asking yourself about LGBT+ provision:

  • Can they access the materials without having to interact with you (or library staff)?
  • Can they access them at any time, or only when others/yourself is around?
  • Are you using the methods you use now, for your ease or for your users’ ease?
  • Have you thought about any negative implications of the methods you use? (e.g. mental health week being the only time LGBT+ resources appear)
  • Do you buy these resources with only one subset of your users in mind? Why? 
  • If you rely on students coming to you, how do you make it abundantly clear you are an ally (a safe person)? 

Verity Jones is a school librarian at Fettes College, Edinburgh. She has worked as a school librarian in the private and state sectors, in co-educational and single-sex, day and boarding school, and received her MA in Library and Information Science from University College London (UCL).