Tag Archives: CPD

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

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.


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

Why should I develop my skills?

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/bulletin-board-laptop-computer-3233641/

Continuing professional development (CPD) is a continuous engagement in learning and development activities that increase and improve your skills and knowledge. There are many reasons why people undertake CPD and it has several benefits; to individuals, to the organisations they work for and to their wider profession.

School librarians work within a constantly changing environment with new DfE initiatives introduced, educational research and reports published, a constant stream of possible new resources to consider, advances in technology, and an influx of new students (and staff) into the school each year. These mean that in order to stay up-to-date and provide a relevant service that meets the needs of the school community, CPD should be undertaken on a regular basis – as current knowledge and skills can quickly become out-of-date.

This can be difficult to do when you are managing a busy library. In an ideal world CPD would be provided in-house but training that happens in schools is often not particularly relevant to school librarians and there are barriers to attending external training, not least a lack of budget and the need for the library to remain open and staffed during the school day. However, a lack of support from the school should not mean that your CPD doesn’t happen. If you are in this situation then it’s important to be pro-active and take control of your CPD outside the school environment and there are lots of opportunities for librarians to do this, a few suggestions include:

  • A range of CPD opportunities on the CILIP website including an extensive webinar programme and eLearning resources, all free to members. Although these may not be aimed directly at school librarians, many are useful for developing generic skills.
  • CILIP members also have free access to online journals including Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA), ProQuest Library Science and SAGE journals. In addition, there are many online articles and blogs aimed at school librarians written by professionals working in the sector.
  • Research reports published by organisations such as the National Literacy Trust, The Reading Agency and BookTrust (to name but three) are accessible via their websites or you can sign up for e-newsletters .
  • Free online courses that can be undertaken in your own time are available via Future Learn and Open Learning. Again, these may not be specifically aimed at school librarians but will cover useful skills required such as digital skills and study techniques.
  • Informal learning can also take place via Facebook groups aimed at school librarians or Twitter chats that include a wider range of education staff.

But why should we use our own time for work-related CPD? Surely it is up to our employers to give us time off for this?

The idea of maintaining standards by CPD is not a new concept and many professional organisations require this of their members. The Association for Project Management require their Chartered members to undertake 35 hours of CPD per year; the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management require all members to do 20 hours CPD annually; and, whilst not mandatory, CILIP encourage professional registration members to complete 20 hours of CPD each year in order to revalidate.

Interestingly, although professional CPD brings benefits to the school by improving the service you deliver, enabling you to provide high quality provision that meets the needs and expectations of the school community, it also has numerous personal benefits:

  • It increases your confidence in your own skills and expertise. This impacts on job satisfaction, motivation and engagement resulting in a greater sense of wellbeing.
  • It exposes you to new ideas and best practice, and gives you access to experts in the profession.
  • It enables you to work in more efficient and effective ways, again impacting on job satisfaction but also allowing you to cope with change and deal with challenges thus reducing stress.
  • It helps you to recognise and fill gaps in your competencies and knowledge, giving you a sense of direction and helping you to reach possible future career goals.
  • It allows you to keep up-to-date with trends and advances that influence your work, keep pace with others in the profession, and shows a commitment to self-development and professionalism.

There is also another aspect of CPD that feeds into the wider profession. By maintaining your personal knowledge and standards, you are helping to develop the overall reputation and status of school librarianship. When we demonstrate to our school community that CPD is important enough to us to seek it out and undertake it in our own time, we are sending a message not just to the immediate people we work with but to a much wider circle. And this dedication to school librarianship can be used as an advocacy tool by our professional associations to deliver the message that school librarians are professionals and should have an appropriate status and pay to reflect this.

We all lead busy lives filled with both personal and work commitments but if we are serious about school librarianship as a profession then we should be committing ourselves to undertaking CPD, with or without support from our schools.

Barbara Band
School Library Consultant and Trainer

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!

Learning About Learning To Learn, Sarah Pavey

In the UK, few school librarians are also qualified teachers unlike many of our overseas colleagues. We may feel that “teaching” is not part of our remit since we are not formally employed to deliver lessons and neither do most of us receive appropriate remuneration to justify a deeper involvement. Yet we still need to liaise, and ideally collaborate, with our teaching colleagues and so it is helpful to understand a little of their language so that we can communicate effectively with them. We are not just talking information literacy here – differences might be made within reading lessons too. 

A common goal of all schools is to educate their students through instruction and learning. Teaching qualifications involve learning how to deliver lessons in a way that students will gain knowledge, and this is known as pedagogy. Many educational psychologists, since the advent of modern schooling, have debated the most effective methodologies for positive outcomes in this respect. The arguments about pedagogical approach and development rage on – just consider the constant changes to the inspection focus or the endorsement, withdrawal and re-endorsement of schemes such as phonics for learning to read, or the still popular but now generally discredited “learning styles” agenda. It is a bit of a minefield. 

Two fundamental theories are behaviourism and cognitivism. Let’s see how these might relate to our library objectives. 


This type of learning is based on the principle that we react and respond to our environment or external stimuli. The best-known examples of this are experiments conducted by Ivan Pavlov. He discovered that dogs could be trained to salivate if they thought they were about to be fed simply by ringing a bell after conditioning them to this response through reward and stimulus (McLeod, 2018). The theory of behaviourism was further developed by Burrhus Skinner, who showed the benefits of re-enforcement in retaining correct knowledge in the education process in a way that could be measured. In schools, Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour (1957) is exemplified by the teacher being very much in charge of the classroom and giving students information that they learn by rote and repetition. Behaviourists believe that by rewarding a ‘correct’ response the student will learn and be motivated to learn more. The danger with this approach is that some students may experience a negative response if they fail to reach the required score or feel overwhelmed by the task and these students may just ‘give up’ and opt out of the exercise. Within a behaviourist approach there is little scope for creativity or innovation – it is simply achieving targets usually set by the educator. Another argument against this approach is that the response effect may not be permanent – an analogy being cramming for a test. However, behaviourism has its place and it can be effective if used strategically, for example in a points-based reading scheme targeted at selected students.


Cognitive constructivist theory considers that humans do more than just react to an environmental stimulus. This learning approach aligns the human brain to a computer and suggests it is a process of acquiring, storing and retrieving information. Tasks are broken down into smaller subsets and at each stage compared with what is already known and then built on. Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development published in 1939 (Piaget, 1976) considered that in the classroom learning should be student centred and opportunities made for active discovery. He believed the role of the teacher was to facilitate learning, rather than to give direct tuition. Jerome Bruner (1960) developed this basic theory arguing that any child can be taught anything at any stage of development if it is presented properly. However, he noted that if the task was too hard then a student might become bored. He introduced the idea of scaffolding tasks by providing a limited structured framework between the student and educator and so allowing some freedom to explore within safe boundaries. Cognitivism is based on students using their short-term memory and working memory to embed what has been learnt into their long-term memory and to use their cognitive brain functions to pay attention, Cognitive brain functions include sensation, perception, attention, encoding and memory. A cognitive approach to learning embraces all these areas and is essentially what an exploratory project-based approach within a library or the self-selection of reading for pleasure material promotes. 

However, social constructivists, while endorsing cognitivism, say we cannot treat the way humans learn in the same way as programming a computer, there has to be a social interactive element too, even if it is just the presence of a more knowledgeable facilitator. In school libraries, enquiry-based information literacy models exemplify a social constructivist methodology because this encourages group learning by investigation under the guidance of the educator. The leading figure of this type of constructivism is Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (1978). His theories have influenced a trend in ‘reciprocal teaching’, which is used to improve students’ ability to learn from text. In this method, educators and students collaborate in learning and practising four key skills: summarising, questioning, clarifying and predicting. Over time the educator involvement becomes reduced. 

The differences between cognitive constructivism (favoured by Piaget) and social constructivism (Vygotsky) are simply explained by Taylor (2019). 

There are some issues voiced about cognitivism. Some critics feel it is ‘too unstructured’ and that it allows unbalanced interpretations of knowledge. Educators have felt it is a less rigorous way of teaching with uncertainty in what has been covered and understood (Liu and Matthews, 2005).

So now we have the dichotomy thrown up by the National Curriculum in England and the examination syllabi. Aside from primary/junior school year groups, Key Stage 3 and Extended Project options, most approaches to achieve good academic outcomes necessitate a behaviourist approach. However, a library is there to be explored and helps students discover for themselves, raising their self-esteem and lends itself to a more cognitive and constructivist pedagogy. There is a further dilemma in that the behaviourist points-based reading scheme endorsed by many schools, commercial or otherwise, is largely directed at Key Stage 3 which holds the main year groups still embracing constructivist project- based learning. This causes confusion for the teacher and the learner and much frustration for the librarian! 

Perhaps we need to be mindful of these approaches to learning when we collaborate with teaching staff and design our lessons accordingly. Maybe the active teaching in which our overseas colleagues indulge is not just about qualifications but also the pedagogical approach adopted by the curriculum in their countries. The English education system has been panned by PISA for being too focussed on rote learning (Schleicher, 2019) and now interestingly the COVID pandemic has pushed Scotland into considering a more cognitive and constructivist curriculum (OECD, 2021). We will await outcomes but meanwhile do not be too disheartened if liaising with all departments in your school seems hard work! Contemplate the pedagogical approach. 


Bruner, J. S. (1960) The Process of Education, Vintage Books.

Liu, C. H. and Matthews, R. (2005) Vygotsky’s Philosophy: Constructivism and its Criticisms Examined, International Education Journal, 6 (3), 386–99.

McLeod, S. A. (2018) Pavlov’s Dogs, www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html

OECD (2021) Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future, https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/bf624417-en/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/bf624417-en

Piaget, J. (1976) Piaget’s Theory. In Inhelder, B., Chipman, H. H. and Zwingmann, C. (eds), Piaget and His School, Springer, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-46323-5_2.

Schleicher, A. (2019) PISA 2018: Insights and Interpretations,https://www.oecd.org/pisa/PISA%202018%20Insights%20and%20Interpretations%20FINAL%20PDF.pdf

Skinner, B. F. (1957) Verbal Behavior, Appleton-Century-Crofts

Taylor, T. (2019) Piaget vs Vygotsky, https://educationlearningtoys.com/knowledge-base/piaget-vs-vygotsky  Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Harvard University Press

Resource Sharing During Lockdown, by Elizabeth Bentley

What is the role of a school librarian? Is it to issue books and run a library? Or is it to
support student learning whatever the circumstances?
With the announcement on March 18 th of the schools’ closure, members of the profession immediately took action both to collect and to disseminate useful links for e-learning.
However, this was not just about serving their own students. Up and down the country,
school librarians have been sharing online and remote learning resources for student use.And not just for secondary students, primary resources were also shared. They used the already established routes of the School Librarians’ Network (declaration of interest: I run this) and the Facebook groups Secondary School Librarians and Primary School Librarians. Twitter also played its part.
Initially, it was lists of links and resources that were shared. There swiftly followed requests, generally on the behalf of teachers, for free versions of books for students to read, though it was equally swiftly pointed out that there were copyright considerations. Authors were losing enough money with the cancellation of school visits, without losing royalties as well.
It is notable that authors and publishers were also rushing to the rescue of schools, with
special permissions for the use of books, as well as authors reading online.
Then librarians drew each other’s attention to the various commercial services offering free access during the lockdown. While obviously time limited, these offers have given librarians the opportunity to show teachers the wealth available online, at a time when students may have been more likely to take advantage of them and thus prove their value. SLG was able to collate these and post them.

This was swiftly followed by an article on this blog by Sarah Pavey giving ideas for things to do while the library is closed, which in turn was shared by an American colleague who then shared an American blog post on what librarians there were doing to support schools. Teachers were also asking for recommendations of e-resources to support their particular subjects, and once again the joint power of school librarians was able to help. Of course, this is nothing new, but with learning moving outside the school, it became more valuable to teachers. By the beginning of April librarians were sharing their own compilations of lists organised by subject, so that this mammoth task was not duplicated by every school librarian. Many thanks to Jane Hill and Dan Katz for sharing their amazing
And librarians were already beginning to share collated lists of resources. One of the first of these was Matt Imrie’s newsletter . The School Library Association was also curating resources, both book related & more general teaching/social tools and the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) reminded librarians of their poetry website:

Librarians also shared advice on running online book clubs for students, whether to allow the Carnegie Medal shadowing to take place, or more generally.
Meanwhile the Great School Libraries campaign started an “Ask the Librarian” page on their website. Please do look at this as you may be able to answer questions.
The e-services, both books and magazines, provided by public libraries received useful
publicity from school librarians, reminding all of us that these can be used by our students.
At the end of March ASCEL circulated a list of individual publisher guidelines for what they were allowing in terms of authors, teachers and librarians reading their books aloud, relieving a lot of worries over copyright infringement, at least for those publishers. Ideas for CPD to do while on lockdown began to circulate: webinars, MOOCs, OU courses, SLA, SLG.
The flood of information and ideas, which I have only touched upon, continued. And now librarians were putting together SWAYs, Wakelets and Padlets for their students, as well as the more traditional lists of resources, often learning new skills in order to do so. Good examples of the SWAYs being produced can be found here:
produced by Kristabelle Williams (my successor at
Addey & Stanhope School).
Finally, we have evidence that this is really beginning to pay off in terms of recognition
within schools. As Debra Perrin posted on Facebook: “I was surprised to be asked to
collaborate with our History department on their Dunkirk 80th topic. I realise this is
probably the norm for most of you but it hasn’t been in my school. However, since
lockdown, I’ve been creating online resources via Padlet, Wakelet and Smore and just sent them off to teachers. This is the first time they’ve not just said ‘thank you’ but they’ve asked me to do more. It’s a turning point in how the library and I as the librarian is seen. Chuffed to bits! Please feel free to add, share and keep this. I’d love to have more book recommendations.

Now as our minds turn to managing the return to school there are many questions that need to be asked and answered. SLG are running a webinar on Monday the 8th June that will hopefully help you plan a successful reopening of your library, hope to ‘see’ you there!

Dunkirk 80th Anniversary Wakelet

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!

Key Issues – A Good Starting Point

SLG are proud to present the first three 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 three leaflets deal with Cataloguing and Classification written by Sarah Pavey, Using Twitter written by Caroline Roche and Impact Evaluation written by
Lucy Chambers. I hope you find these three useful, and look out for more in the series coming soon!

My Journey to Fellowship, Elizabeth Hutchinson

I was really honoured to be awarded my Fellowship this year after registering last August. When a colleague asked me how I had managed to do it so quickly I realised that she had misunderstood the process. I had taken less than a year to pull all my evidence together and write it up but I believe that my Fellowship journey had started right at the beginning of my career in libraries when I was only 16, over 34 years ago.

When I offered to write this article I thought that a reflective piece would be nicer for the reader and help me to evaluate the process of Fellowship. Just writing this last sentence made me smile realising that the learning and evaluation never ends. I now understand that Chartership and Fellowship are not just box ticking exercises but chances to look at your career, see where it has taken you and to help you navigate the opportunities ahead. 

Looking back over my journey into librarianship, I was not a very likely candidate to become a Fellow. I left school at 16 and began working at Newcastle Central Library as a library assistant. Immediately I felt at home; I loved working with the public, enjoyed the day-to-day running of the library and soon had opportunity to progress. Moving on to the Local Studies department, followed by a stint in a couple of local branch libraries, my path was clearly entrenched in the public library service. Fast-forward and a move to Guernsey gave me a brief interlude in hotels (definitely not for me) and then family life took hold with three children keeping me busy enough to not work for a while. 

Feeling it was time to go back to work I was lucky enough to get a part-time library assistant’s job in the Guille-Allèslibrary, the only public library in Guernsey, however, life took another turn on finding that, Nicholas, baby number 4, was on the way. Once again I was facing being a stay-at-home mum for another few years. Not that I really minded but I thought I had moved on from talking about babies so I was delighted, one day, to find an Aberystwyth University prospectus on the staffroom table. Inside was the opportunity to be at home but also study distance learning for a library qualification. I could not wait to start, was extremely nervous, but was ready for the challenge.   

2003 found me with four children under eight, a BSc in Library and Information Studies and a part-time professional post as a School Library Liaison Officer for Schools’ Library Service where my love of school libraries began. Our service provided professional librarian support for every school in Guernsey, Alderney and Herm. Our role was to support the day-to-day running of the school libraries as well as manage the resources and to support literacy. I loved the interaction with the children and as we worked mainly with the primary schools it was lovely to think up new ways to encourage reading for pleasure. We offered book awards, book challenges, competitions and author visits but I always had the feeling that we needed to do something more with information literacy and our secondary schools. 

After Chartering in 2008, I took a brief interlude into school librarianship, giving me the opportunity to work with secondary students. This was an interesting but somewhat frustrating job that gave me great insight into the barriers and difficulty of working in schools. Thankfully it did not last long and my journey was to take me back to Schools’ Library Service (SLS) where I have been ever since. Armed with new ideas and an ability to feel confident working with secondary students I focused on finding an Information Literacy framework that we could use at SLS. 

The Head of Service position came in 2014 with the stipulation that I had to have a Masters in Library and Information Management, which gave me another opportunity to study from home with Aberystwyth. Luckily for me I enjoy studying and my children, this time, were all doing homework or revision for exams themselves so we did our homework together. It was a tough but positive time. 

Fellowship at this stage was still not on the horizon. My new role gave me the opportunity to support information literacy in our schools, working on new ways to teach enquiry-based learning, collaborating more with teachers and co-teaching in the classroom. This led to running training sessions and culminated in providing a whole school Inset day about using the school library across the curriculum. An invitation to present at a teachers’ conference via twitter led me on a journey of learning. I realised that school librarians needed to speak at these conferences in order to help schools and teachers understand what we do. Little did I know, or even think about at the time, but these were significant contributions and substantial achievements, I did it because I wanted to help schools understand what school librarians do and nothing else.

Fellowship for me was not about how I was going to do this but actually realising that I had done it already. I truly believe that librarianship is a vocation and we are very lucky to live in a time when learning from others is so easy. Without my Personal Learning Network (PLN) I honestly do not believe that I would have achieved half as much as I have. The opportunities that have been given to me through blogging and social media could never have happened even 10 years ago. Who would of ever heard of Elizabeth Hutchinson the librarian from Guernsey? No one! Now though things are so different: through my connections on twitter I have presented at conferences and been encouraged to write articles which have subsequently been published. I’ve taken many of the opportunities that have come my way and although some of it is terrifying it has led me to being a Fellow of CILIP, something that I am very proud of. 

If I was not thinking about applying for Fellowship how did I end up doing it? I had been a Chartership mentor for a few years and decided that it would be a good idea to go on a refresher course. I had several mentees and wanted to make sure that what I was telling them was correct. The course not only covered the information for the mentor but we were also given a reminder of what the mentee was told and finally as a bonus, one of the assessors gave us pointers from her perspective too. I found it all very useful and as I sat there listening I began to realise that everything I had achieved in the last four years was more than enough to apply for my own Fellowship. Those feelings I had all those years ago when I realised I could get a library degree whilst being at home started to bubble up again. 

Starting the process 

After a conversation with the assessor I realised that my Fellowship journey was not going anywhere without re-validating my Chartership first. I am someone that has always voted for compulsory re-validation mainly because I am the kind of person who will do it if I have to rather than choose to do it. This is not because I don’t think it is important, but like all tasks like this one there always seems to be something else more important to do. Now I had to get on and get it done. 

I was ashamed and delighted to see how easy it was. There really is no excuse for not re-validating every two or three years. If you are keeping your CPD up to date on the VLE your job is half done already. 250 words on your professional and organisational journey and demonstrating that you are aware of libraries in the wider profession and you are finished. I would really encourage you to do this if you are a Chartered Member of CILIP, as it not only keeps you on track with CPD but also keeps you focused on your professional journey. 

Now that I had re-validation under my belt it was time to focus on my Fellowship. I found a wonderful mentor called Carol Webb, someone who was not only patient but also very encouraging and who I enjoyed talking to a lot. We talked via Skype and email and we have never met each other, I am sure we will one day. When I was finding the journey hard she kept me going and on track. We both liked the deadlines I set myself and although I did have to give myself a bit of slack at the end I did finish within a month of when I said I would.  

My plan was to look at the PKSB and decide which areas I could focus on. If I were to do it again I would look at the PKSB in a much more structured way by being very specific about the areas I chose. However, I was not really sure what I was supposed do with it at the beginning and if I am honest it felt like a huge task and a waste of time. Having completed the whole journey I feel that if I had understood the end process better I would have given the PKSB the time it really deserves. I think the message to only choose 6-8 areas is not highlighted enough and it all seems so huge. If you can narrow it right down it is a far more useful tool. This does not mean that if you change your mind or direction that you can’t update your PKSB, you can. Whilst I did feel that I struggled with this it has led me to being far more comfortable in supporting my Chartership mentees to use this tool effectively. 

I chose to gather all my evidence on an online tool that I could share with Carol. I used Padlet, which not only allows you to collect your evidence but also comment and share it. After a conversation with Carol she pointed out that I needed to start thinking about why I felt that this evidence was worthy of being on my board, in other words not to forget the ‘So what?’ I should also keep four areas in focus:

  • What was the achievement? 
  • What impact did it have? 
  • What was the outcome? 
  • What was my analysis of it? 

This was one of the most useful things she said to me as many ideas got onto my board but if I could not write anything about the four areas then I knew that they would not make the final cut. 

You may be surprised reading this far that I found writing about myself very hard; there is a huge difference between writing about your life and writing about your achievements. It all felt so, “I’m great look what I’ve done,” which was not good. I know that there is no other way to evaluate this process so I just had to get over myself and get on with it. 

Even though I only had 1000 words to write I started by writing my personal and organisational journey much like this. Starting to write is the hardest part and just getting something written down was good. As you can tell I am quite a chatty writer by nature and I knew that with so few words I would have to be succinct and several drafts later it began to take shape. I focused on my personal journey first and then once I was happy with that moved on to the other two criteria, each time trying to decide which pieces of evidence to include. This was really hard as I felt that every piece deserved a place. I kept in my mind what I had learnt on the mentor course: I needed to provide no more than 15 pieces of evidence and it should be able to be read within two hours. Much of my professional judgement needed to be evident in which pieces I chose. Many months were spent adding and taking pieces of evidence away. 

As with many tasks like this I got distracted so easily. I wasted a lot of time working out the best way to present it on the VLE long before it was finished. I was too keen to see how it would look that I sent ages uploading documents that I ended up not using in the end. I did need to learn how it worked but I should have just waited until I was ready and then sorted all of this out. 

Imposter syndrome 

I got to about a month before my own deadline and hit a real crisis point. I felt sure that my evidence was not good enough or that something was really lacking. Conversations with Carol led me to posting a question on twitter and luckily for me I found Maria Grant who had just been awarded her Fellowship. She kindly shared her portfolio with me on the CILIP VLE and seeing how she had set up hers gave me the boost I needed. Her area of librarianship is so different from mine that it was impossible for me to do exactly the same but after a few attempts I had taken her idea and made it my own. She had used PowerPoint slides and brought together several pieces of evidence on one slide, I chose to use Word, keeping everything to a single page if I could. I am really grateful to Maria for sharing her work as it made me stop rushing and remember that it was my deadline that was creating the pressure. I took a deep breath and started to select the evidence properly and a month later I was ready to submit. 

Having gone through the whole process there are definitely things that I would do differently if I were to do it again: 

  • I would be more careful with my PKSB
  • I would group my evidence in relation to each criterion to make it easier to find, although at the beginning it was not always obvious which criterion it would be in 
  • I would wait to upload my statement and evidence on the VLE until I was sure that I had everything I really needed 

You could say that all of this was part of the process and I suppose it was and everyone is going to have a slightly different journey. Being a Fellow is not a magic wand to something better. What it is for me is an understanding that I have achieved something good, I do have expertise in my area of librarianship and when I have my ‘impostor syndrome’ moments it helps me remember that I do know what I am talking about. 

Elizabeth Hutchinson is Head of Schools’ Library Service in Guernsey, a Chartered librarian and Fellow of CILIP. She came runner up in the 2016 LILAC Information Literacy Award, is an international presenter and writes regularly about how school librarians can make a difference as a published author and through her blog.

Twitter: @elizabethutch blog: https://www.elizabethahutchinson.com/blog

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