Tag Archives: schools

A Year In The Life Of A Committee Member.

Post written by Barbara Ferramosca

“What don’t we do?” This is the answer that I have recently given to a person enquiring about the work that we do at the CILIP School Libraries Group committee for London and the South East.

Writing this blog piece has been a very interesting exercise as it gave me the opportunity to take myself out of the usual flow of work and really take a look at what we have done, frankly, in awe and pride.

I am a solo librarian at an inner-London secondary school and, as many of you already know, this is a job that keeps you busy, busy, busy! I absolutely love my job and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything in the world: however, there was a moment a couple of years ago when I realised that I wanted a little bit more of a challenge. I felt that I reached a good point with my service, I had developed the skills to make it move forward but I also identified some big gaps that I could not fill within the remit of my school. Although I could confidently say that the importance of my work was recognised in my school, I was and still not officially considered a head of department: this was quite an important consideration in order to keep open future career prospects in higher managerial positions. So experience in leadership, project management and working as a team came at the top of my priorities.

Something had to be done but where to start?

Volunteering for the SLG Committee came at a colleague’s suggestion and I decided to give it a try, even if I was quite unsure whether I would be up for the job. I had not been in the profession for very long and had not even started my Chartership yet!  However, I knew that I had on my side boundless enthusiasm and a willingness to learn new skills and help so I went for it and never regretted the decision.

I am pleased to say that my perception of committee meetings as a place of reverence, where established library professionals meet in an atmosphere of authority has been smashed to smithereens since the first meeting. Committee work brings together experienced professionals who have been in the job for twenty years or more with people who have join librarianship only recently. Engaging in honest discussion with people of this calibre may have sounded daunting at one time, however in the last two years I have become much more confident in presenting arguments or points of view in a way that effectively contributes to a discussion and learn from others as well.

In this atmosphere of shared experience, going to committee meetings has become an invigorating process because ultimately we are all working towards the same goal and everybody contributes with their unique perspective of the profession.

So what do we do? In a nutshell, our objective is to create both formal and more informal opportunities for school librarians to meet, keep updated with the latest developments in the field and share good practice. Our big challenge is to give all our SLG members value for money by ensuring that our courses are affordable and of the highest standards of professionalism. Unlike some other training companies, we know how difficult it is for school librarians to be sent on CPD courses and we make it our priority to make it possible!

The mind boggles a little if I think about what we have achieved in the last year alone and what we have in programme for 2015. We have recently run a whole-day course on library services impact on education attainment and currently planning a new one for next June. Between a winter social event at the pub that we have in plan for January and our fantastic annual Libmeet unconference in April, every committee member is involved in the organisation of an event and learning new skills in the mix.

We are also spreading into blog-space, as you are currently reading. We are quite excited about this blog because we wanted to create an informal yet high-quality online venue where we can discuss current issues with other professionals. This is going to give fantastic new experience to the committee members who felt that they are still struggling with Social Media, myself included.

I am really looking forward to the year ahead: with such a great team to work with, I cannot but feel that 2015 will be our best year yet!

If you are interested in joining our committee, please contact our Secretary, Sue Ayling, at the following email: AylingSM@aol.com

 

Top Ten Graphic Novels For School Libraries.

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TEN GRAPHIC NOVELS (AND MANGA) FOR SCHOOLS!

The London and South East SLG recently hosted a fantastic event at Forbidden Planet and to accompany the event one of our committee members shared with us the top picks for graphic novels and manga for use in schools. Choosing GNs and Manga for schools is such a minefield and if you are not familiar with the genre it is very easy to end up with material of a type that does not fit the needs of your pupils.

You can download the PDF of this list below…

TEN GRAPHIC NOVELS

You might also find these links helpful…

Recommended Websites for Further Guidance
http://www.koyagi.com/Libguide.html :: manga in libraries
http://www.abcb.com/parents/ :: parents’ guide to anime
http://my.voyager.net/~sraiteri/graphicnovels.htm :: recommended graphic novels for libraries
http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/asl/guides/comics.html#Recommended :: more recommended graphic novels for libraries
http://ublib.buffalo.edu/lml/comics/pages/ :: comics especially for young adults
http://www.koyagi.com/teachers.html :: teachers’ companion to manga
http://lists.topica.com/lists/GNLIB-L/ :: graphic novel listserv for librarians, book industry professionals
http://www.noflyingnotights.com/index2.html :: reviews of graphic novels for youth, teens, and adults, maintained by librarians

Please feel free to add your top titles in the comments below, we’d love to see them!

 

 

The Beating Heart of the School – a London & SE SLG course

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On Friday 14th November 2014, SLG London and South East committee hosted a training course to attempt to deal with some of the issues facing school librarians. This event was inspired by issues raised in the APPG document published in May 2014; The Beating Heart of the School. This is a summary of the key elements of the course.

Post written by Dawn Finch

The Beating Heart document has highlighted both the need for a professional librarian in schools, and the need of schools to have a more enlightened view of what exactly a school librarian does. Sadly it seems from their findings that in schools there is still a very archaic view of the abilities of school librarians, and this can hinder how much they are able to be part of the higher level or management structure of the school. Ultimately this can have a directly negative effect on pupil progress, and is essentially a misuse of valuable resources.

In the course we discussed how a successful and ‘outstanding’ school library is such an integral part of the school that its influence reaches far beyond its walls. It simply is not possible to be a “Beating Heart” if the pump does not have the strength to reach every limb! So how do we break out beyond our walls? We have all done every event and reading initiative we can think of, and taken part in every scheme and promotion we can – but most of us are still finding it hard to keep a high profile, and to increase the number of our loyal users.

One of the most successful strategies for creating extended loyalty for the school library is to engage in certain branding activities; make a logo, create a theme, decide what image you want to represent for your library and be persistent and consistent with your promotion of the library. Our aim should be that as soon as anyone sees our logo, they should have an instant understanding of what we represent, and of what a library can do for them. Branding is recognition in a heartbeat, and recognition creates loyalty. What we are looking to do is create a feeling, an emotion, and ultimately loyalty.

On the day we also looked at the issues surrounding digital literacy. The days of ICT skills in schools has passed, and school librarians are now at the front-line of the teaching of digital literacy. We live in a world of cyber-crime and cyber-bullying and our children’s best defence of this is knowledge and understanding. We cannot expect our children to protect themselves online, or to behave well, if we do not model good behaviour in schools. To this end we need to be using social media and blogging just as they do, but to use it to show young people how it should be done.

There are many arguments against the use of social media in schools but, as Ofsted are increasingly saying, it will soon not be possible for schools to achieve an outstanding rating if they fall behind in digital literacy. The fact remains that some of the finest resources available for researchers are now in blog form. To deny use of blogs and blogging in schools is to deny access to some of the most accurate first-hand resources available. This denial will also act as a kind of exclusion policy exposing the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in the classroom.  If we do not allow our pupils access to blogs for information and research, we are simply encouraging unreliable wiki-research and creating a two-tier system of work.

As an example, let’s look at the landing of Philae on Comet 67P. Pupils researching this historic event can read Wikipedia, or newspaper reports, but how much better is it to access the blog of the European Space Agency and subscribe to their updates?

How about if your pupils are studying fashion? During London Fashion Week they might be able to find a newspaper report about the week, or even some smaller articles on the official site. How much better would it be to follow the accredited blog of a young designer as they go through the process for the first time?

Then we should take into account the fabulous resources that we have at our fingertips to protect our own service. How would we have access to articles like this one by Phillip Ardagh about the importance of libraries if we did not access blogs? We are not even touching on the importance of Twitter and other social media as a vital communication tool, but needless to say it is all part of the same move towards a digitally literate society.

The issue of cyber-bulling and trolling is at the top of many schools’ agendas, and is often an excuse used to prevent access to social media sites. This can lead to failings in how children perceive social-media, and failings in how schools deal with cyber-bullying issues. The children that I have supported through these issues still complain that school doesn’t “believe it’s real.” Pupils often complain that adults (including teachers) still insist that the hurt felt from online insults and persecution is not real. They are often still told that they should “get over it” or “forget it” or “ignore it.”  It is very real, and the key to preventing it is to first accept the reality of it. The “sticks and stones” line is dated and insulting. If you hit me with a stick, I’ll heal. If you cut me down with savage words I may carry those scars for the rest of my life. Embracing the hurt is the first step to preventing it from happening, and the first step towards stopping your pupils from behaving in this way themselves. The next step is using social media in lessons and as an educational tool.

We, as school librarians, have a duty to provide what our pupils need, and that is information in any form and format. We should do this by using social media in both our communication methods, and in our service to our young learners. By staying at the cutting edge, and using every tool at our disposal, we will future-proof our service whilst providing what our pupils need to fully progress as both informed learners, and socially well-adjusted adults.

Course delivered by Dawn Finch

Literacy and school library consultant, writer of children’s fiction and non-fiction books.

www.dawnfinch.com

Footnote; we will be revisiting elements of this course in much greater details, including supporting EPQs, in our April LibMeet as well as our Summer 2015 training courses. Follow this blog for more information. If you are a CILIP member you can log in and see our events posted here.

All of our events are open to both CILIP members and non-members, but if you are a member the cost of events will be lower.



Documents referred to on this training course can be downloaded by using the links below;

The Beating Heart of the School – APPG report on school librarieshttp://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/advocacy-campaigns-awards/advocacy-campaigns/libraries-all-party-parliamentary-group/beating

Moving English Forward – Ofsted

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/moving-english-forward

National Curriculum for English (2014/2015)  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study

 

 

A Trip To A Forbidden Planet

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It is notoriously difficult to choose graphic novels for school libraries and so On Wednesday, 22 October, CILIP’s School Libraries Group for London and the Southeast met at Forbidden Planet (https://forbiddenplanet.com) As you may know (or may not if you’ve been living in the Batcave) Forbidden Planet is the world’s largest and best-known science fiction, fantasy and cult entertainment retailer, and the largest UK stockist of the latest comics and graphic novels. What they don’t know about the genre isn’t worth knowing.
The event was well attended by around twenty school librarians and paraprofessionals, who were able to spend the evening browsing across the many genres available at the store, get advice from the extremely knowledgeable staff and then purchase at a discount. At the end of the night the store’s Deputy Manager, Lou Ryrie, gave the librarians in attendance a talk about what manga and graphic novels were appropriate for school-aged children and made other suggestions for ideas of books that could be purchased that evening, such as Batman Year One, Maus, Case Closed and Full Metal Alchemist.
Of course it finished with everyone having tea, coffee and biscuits and exchanging contact information, etc. What would a school librarian event be without chat and biscuits!?

Forbidden Planet gives a 10% discount to all libraries. If you are interested in ordering from them, please contact Lou at manager2.london@forbiddenplanet.com, for advice and purchasing. Forbidden Planet will take a purchase order and then when payment is received will deliver to libraries free of charge. Drop them a line for advice too, they really know their stuff and can guide you through the graphic minefield!

We will be compiling some lists based on the night, so watch this space for that info, and for news of other events.

Image credit to http://paperzip.co.uk/classroom/banners-posters/batman-returns-books

Post contributed by Amanda Ball

BETT 2015

A lot of our members have found the BETT (the British Educational Training and Technology tradeshow) incredibly useful, and tickets are now available for 2015. The event is held at the ExCell in London’s Docklands from 21st – 24th January 2015

The organisers describe the event as…

Bett is the world’s leading technology event that brings together innovation and inspiration to the education sector. The event attracts +35,000 professionals within the industry and has been celebrated for over 30 years. 

There’s no better place to meet your peers and discover latest technologies than Bett 2015. 

Register for 2015 and: 

  • Be first to see inspirational new solutions and launches
  • Learn what 2015 has in store with unmissable seminars
  • Network, share your ideas and keep up to date with the industry
  • Gain insights through inspirational speakers in workshops and seminars”

The event also hosts the School Leaders Summit which is described as…

The education space is one which is constantly evolving, and every school in the UK is thinking about how it can deal with these changes. From the new Ofsted framework and shifts in assessment to the National Curriculum and academy conversion, the goal posts are shifting and it can be impossible to keep up. School management teams are finding themselves faced with a fluctuating environment they are under pressure to adapt to and prepare for – the School Leaders Summit aims to provide guidance and insight to help deal with these issues. 

Read more: http://www.bettshow.com/Content/School-Leaders-Summit-Guidance-in-school-leadership#ixzz3G2C5nSsb

Read more about the event here: http://www.bettshow.com/Content/Why-visit-Bett-2015/#ixzz3G2Bryx5Y

Register to visit the event here. BETT Registration.

Preparing a Reading For Pleasure policy

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In March 2012 Ofsted published the document Moving English Forward. This document was designed to tackle the problem of low and falling literacy levels in the UK and, for the first time, it mentions the need for a specific Reading For Enjoyment/Pleasure policy (see Moving English Forward, paras 65 – 71, pages 29-31) and we have seen evidence of these expectations on many Ofsted inspection reports since then. Mention of the presence of such a policy, or the lack of one, has been featuring on the front page of many returned reports since November 2012 when the new inspection framework was implemented.

To help school librarians engage with the process of implementing this policy in their schools, CILIP SLG ran a course dealing with both the document Moving English Forward, and policy preparation. Barbara Ferramosca lead a workshop on writing a Reading for Pleasure policy on this day and it proved most informative and useful.

My guest post today is written by Barbara, school librarian at Lilian Baylis Technology School in London – a school that was rated by Ofsted as “an outstanding school in all aspects” after their inspection under the new framework early in 2013.

If you have any questions about this post, please comment and they will be forwarded to Barbara.

 Preparing a Reading for Pleasure Policy

 

Every school must provide a School Reading for Pleasure Policy during an Ofsted inspection: it is a simple fact that has huge consequences for our profession and a huge potential that we cannot afford to miss.

Promoting a reading for enjoyment ethos is our field of expertise and it would not surprise me if a member of your School Leadership Team had already frantically accosted you with the question: “What are we doing to promote reading for pleasure in this school?”.  If they have not, you must take the initiative and write the policy: if you present it to them, they will probably be just grateful that it is something they do not need to think about anymore, a box ticked in their inspection checklist!

During our workshop, discussions lead to some very important points to consider in preparation for an inspection.

Find endorsement for your policy

The policy is a public document, an official school policy and it is at the heart of what you do: it explains your library commitment and beliefs in nurturing a genuine lifelong interest in reading in all your students. It does it by clearly acknowledging  the widest possible definition of the term “reading for pleasure”  and by involving different stakeholders that will give weight to the document. If it is a document whose principles are agreed upon by students, governors, members of staff and parents, it will become an important  reference document for your service.

It always sounds a daunting task to write a policy, especially if you have never written one before and it could become quite challenging and time-consuming to try to get all of these stakeholders involved. However, if time is of the essence, make sure to involve at least your students as a matter of priority.

Ensure that students are on your side

There is the possibility that Ofsted inspectors will not come and visit the library or speak to you . Your reading for pleasure policy is but a way to show what the library is doing because there is another more powerful voice that you can use to make sure that your message comes across loud and clear to them. Inspectors will speak to your students in several occasions and you must make sure that they will speak highly of the library and the impact that has on their attitude towards reading. Let them be your ambassadors. As a result of this, our advice was not to fret and spend a lot of time trying to put together a complicated and long policy but keep it simple, short and to the point.

What should a reading for pleasure policy include?

The Teachers’ organisation has some very useful guidance on how to draft a comprehensive policy. They specify that a school Reading for Pleasure Policy or Statement could include the following:

  • a statement on who/what the policy is for;
  • a clear outline of the difference between the Reading for Pleasure policy and the school literacy policy: this is absolutely necessary and we cannot underestimate the importance of reiterating this difference, especially with the Leader Management Team of our school. Literacy is a direct effect of Reading for enjoyment and we must ensure that we make clear the difference between the two in the clearest terms possible.
  • a statement about the importance of using the widest definition of reading throughout the school. This could include newspapers, e-books, comics, etc. this is the point in your policy where you decide on your school’s definition of reading for pleasure. Ideally you want to use the widest definition possible and have it officially accepted in order to challenge any possible decisions that are made in the future that threaten our students’ right to choose what they want to read.
  • a statement on the value of reading for pleasure and how it links to wider academic, social and emotional development: you must use authoritative sources and use quotes from these sources in order to give clear evidence of its impact. We have attached a brief bibliography of studies that you may want to refer to or quote for this purpose
  • access and equalities issues in relation to reading for pleasure. This should include accessible formats as well as consideration of the content of the books made available for use by the children: your policy must clearly state a commitment of the library to provide different books and resources in different formats in order to meet the needs of your students (i.e audiobooks, dyslexia-friendly publications, ebooks, books in other languages, etc.). Firstly, there must be an official acknowledgement that students may prefer to access stories in formats other than the printing. This is also particularly important in terms of the financial impact of such a statement simply because books in different formats cost more than simple paperbacks!
  • the importance of the role of the teacher and other adults in school in relation to fostering a love of reading through a wide range of activities: this is the point in your policy when you acknowledge the importance of using role models in the school to support your message and that every single member of staff is responsible for reinforcing a positive attitude towards reading for enjoyment. This is what the inspectors will look for and now is probably a good time to get your Headteacher on board with this idea!
  • links to planning for reading for pleasure across the curriculum for both the whole school and individual classes: after writing all the above, make sure to mention, maybe a series of bullet points, what the library is doing in order to give some concrete examples. As mentioned before, you can decide whether you want to write all the initiatives that you manage in detail. Discussions during the workshop lean towards writing brief descriptions rathen than complex and detailed ones.
  • information about the practical ways in which home-school links can support the school policy: links with parents and how to empower them them to support their children is on the checklist of every inspection and we cannot miss to mention how the library contribute to this. Even if you just attend parents’ evenings or academic review days with a library stand and give posters out, include this in your policy!
  • a statement about the importance of the use of the school library and making links with the local public library;
  • a commitment by the school to ensuring that all pupils have regular access to the school library, properly staffed, including the consideration of free access at break, lunchtimes and before/after school: this may sound redundant however in many occasions we have heard of colleagues’ experiences where the library was used as classroom or as an occasional venue for school events that are not led by the librarian. It is important not leave out a clear commitment from your school part to ensure that students have the opportunity to visit your library on their own free will to browse or borrow a book.
  • a statement on the budget share for reading and library resources – it should be adequately funded on an annual basis, in line with other school budget areas: budget, budget, budget… in a quick show of hands exercise, it was pretty clear that the majority of the librarians attending our course felt that the library was underfunded. After a number of considerations, we felt that we had two big weapons in our arsenal to change this situation: firstly, your school’s FEAR of Ofsted. Secondly, the fact that reading is appearing more and more often in the FIRST page of many Ofsted school reports. We must turn this fear to our advantage by asking our school Leadership Management Team these simple questions: “How confident are you that students are happy with the resources available in the library? How confident are you that they will answer positively and enthusiastically about their attitudes towards reading and the initiatives led by the school? How confident are you that ALL students are aware of the importance of reading for pleasure to their future?” Now is the time to push the point that a library which is understaffed and underfunded will never achieve these goals. To make your point even more effective, do not hesitate to mention other schools’ reports where reading is mentioned: Adam Lancaster showed us a number of examples of reports of other schools in his area so his advice for us was to find these reports and use them!
  • implications for professional development and support: is the school ready to give you opportunity to lead staff insets regarding the latest children literature or on how to promote reading for pleasure in the classroom? Is the school ready to acknowledge that you need time to attend professional courses?
  • a commitment to evaluate the Reading for Pleasure policy. A reading for Pleasure policy should be reviewed ideally once every year.

 Brief bibliography of sources that you can quote

Clark, C. & Rumbold, K. (2006) Reading for Pleasure: A Research Overview. London: National Literacy Trust. Retrieved from http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/research/nlt_

research/271_reading_for_pleasure_a_research_overview

Clark, C. (2011). Setting the baseline: The National Literacy Trust’s first annual survey into reading – 2010. London: National Literacy Trust. Retrieved from

http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0001/0336/Omnibus_reading_2010.pdf

Cliff Hodges, G. (2010). Reasons for reading: Why literature matters. Literacy, 44(2),

60-68.

Cremin, Teresa (2007). Revisiting reading for pleasure: Delight, desire and diversity. In: Goouch, Kathy and Lambirth, Andrew eds. Understanding Phonics and the Teaching of Reading: A Critical Perspective. Berkshire, UK: McGraw Hill, pp. 166–190. Retrieved from: http://oro.open.ac.uk/12950/2/

 

** ESARD (2012) Research evidence on reading for pleasure. Retrieved from: http://www.eriding.net/resources/pri_improv/121004_pri_imp_reading_for_pleasure.pdf

 Hairrell, A., Edmonds, M., Vaughn, S., & Simmons, D. (2010). Independent Silent Reading for Struggling Readers: Pitfalls and Potential. In E. H. Hiebert, & D. Reutzel (Eds.), Revisiting Silent Reading (pp. 275-289). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

 National Endowment for the Arts. (2007). To read or not to read: A question of national consequence (Research Report #47). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.nea.gov/research/ToRead.pdf

 OECD (2002) Reading For Change Performance And Engagement Across Countries – Results From PISA 2000. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/43/54/33690904.pdf

 Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. (2013) Reading for pleasure puts children ahead in the classroom. London: IOE. Retrieved from: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/89938.html

 Twist, L., Schagen, I., & Hodgson, C. (2007). Readers and Reading: The National Report for England 2006 (PIRLS: Progress in International Reading Literacy Study). Slough: NFER. Available online: http://www.nfer.ac.uk/nfer/publications/PRN01/PRN01.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Moving English Forward – Ofsted, paperwork, policies and the school librarian

In 2012 Ofsted published the document – Moving English Forward. Their concept behind the document was to attempt to answer the question: how can attainment in English be raised in order to move English forward in schools? CILIP School Libraries Group for London and the South East felt that this was such a huge and complicated issue that it warranted a training day to help us understand what these new changes meant for school librarians.

We invited Adam Lancaster (2012 School Librarian of the Year and literacy champion) to be our guest speaker to help shed some light on this issue and introduce us to the implementation of the document.  It was a fantastic and incredibly interesting day and I have taken the time to summarise the key points here, but there was so much in the day it was very difficult to encapsulate it all. I hope I have done the day justice.

We had as our starting point the new Ofsted inspection criteria and the latest government White Papers as well as Moving English Forward. The new Ofsted framework has been updated to take into account the falling and low literacy levels of young adults and children in our country.  The Ofsted inspection framework now makes specific mention of reading for pleasure, and of creating a specific reading for pleasure policy within schools. Ofsted inspectors will now be reading with children (with a particular focus on year 7 and 8 pupils of high and low ability) and are expecting pupils to be reading materials “deemed appropriate for their age.” (Ofsted quote) The biggest change in the framework is the push to ensure that literacy is interwoven with every single subject on the curriculum. Literacy should now be considered everyone’s business and not just an issue for the English department.

With that all in mind we welcomed Adam to CILIP HQ to help us understand what this all means for school librarians.

Firstly, Adam talked about Literacy in schools and the need for teachers to be preparing pupils in advance for all subjects that they will study. “Teachers talking to pupils about their research beforehand makes their work more purposeful” This all makes sense, and we know that a prepared pupil comes to the library with the tools that they need to help themselves. To support this Adam recommended the PLUS method of learning at these stages – Purpose, Location, Use, Self evaluation. The concept behind this is at the root of the guidelines for what makes outstanding teaching – the development of a pupil who is a successful independent learner.

We then talked about how we see ourselves as school librarians. In the discussion we saw ourselves as nurturers, supporters, facilitators, energisers, readers, presenters, event managers, organisers and general dogsbody! But it was clear that not many of us see ourselves primarily as educators. Adam discussed how we should raise our profile within the school and engage fully with the educational process.

“Know the game and play it!” Every school is different and has a different feel, it is vital for school librarians to know who can be helpful to you and why. It is also important to be reading all available policies and documents on the teaching of literacy. Be informed. Link what you do to what others in the school are doing, intermesh your work with theirs. This is not just about sticking with the English department – as we say, literacy is everyone’s business and it is important to work with other departments. Map your aims against the school’s policies – and be certain that you can always deliver, and over-deliver!

Something that came through very strongly was the need for school librarians to be more pro-active in their schools. “Don’t be, or be perceived to be a victim!” It is time for school librarians to take a stronger stance for what they can do, and to show what they are capable of. To do this the key is obviously to be fully informed about literacy issues, and about documents like Moving English Forward.

School librarians should know and be able to quickly identify low level readers and have a strategy to deal with them. They should also know how these pupils are being taught in class, and how they are being assessed. What is specifically being done by you to raise the reading levels of pupils? To know this it makes sense to understand the assessment process in school, and to feel comfortable using higher level linguistic and literary terms – just like a teacher.

It wouldn’t be a challenging talk without a bit of controversy, and Adam does believe that school librarians need to take on a role that is more intermeshed with the teaching of reading and literacy within the school and to change the way we see the school library. Librarian as teacher is a hot topic at the moment, particularly in these days of performance related pay. Personally I feel that the school library is part of an educational establishment and therefore needs to be part of a pupil’s education. I do feel that school librarians should see themselves as educators. There is an average of twenty five teaching hours a week in school, and every single moment should be getting something new into a child’s head. It is a tiny part of their lives – and I don’t feel that it is unrealistic for them to be learning for every bit of the time that we have them – including in the library.

That is not to say that these need to be lessons in the strict sense, as school librarians we are using our knowledge and passion to inspire and enthuse pupils about reading, and that’s still learning. We want them to enjoy reading and to form the habits for it so that they progress and always have reading in their lives. To do this we must understand the educational nature of progression, as well as still making it fun and enjoyable. We are school librarians, and thankfully the nature of our job is one of multitasking!

A bit more controversy…. Dewey (brace yourselves) does not always suit your pupils, and so be prepared to arrange your library to suit your pupils. Ok, now this one raises a lot of eyebrows and is a detailed issue that I will cover in a longer post later. I’ll just say that I have seen Adam’s shelving scheme in action at another school and it really does work. He has rearranged the stock according to termly requirements and the demands of the curriculum. The books do still have their spine labels, but are split into a number of parallel arrangements around the library. Pupils can come in and quickly work out where the books that they need are, and take them out. Simple. Adam’s argument for this is that we should be teaching pupils that when they enter a library they should first be aware that the room has an organisation system, and next they look at the plan to see how it is arranged.

As I say, it’s a contentious issue and one that I will give more space to in a longer blog post – but I warn you in advance, you’ll be looking at Dewey very differently after!

And on to Ofsted inspections. I know how frustrating it is for librarians to work flat out and then, when the inspectors come, they don’t even step in the library…. Adam says they shouldn’t have to! Now, this sounds like more controversy, but hear me out, it makes perfect sense and is a bit revelatory. A fully integrated and successful school library is evident from the moment the inspector walks in the building. The positive impact of the library should be evident in the building and in the teaching and it should show. The library will be referenced in teaching and in the very fabric of the building – in posters, displays, but also in the written work that the children generate. Before the inspectors come they will have researched the school and the library should be on the website so they can take a look at the space there, but they have a very limited amount of time inside the building and a visit to the library will not always be top on their lists. If you are doing it all right and the library is a vital part of the school, and an essential cog in the machine of their education, it will show in every classroom they enter.

Almost all schools now would claim to have a whole school reading ethos – but do they really? Are pupils actually reading for pleasure and can this be seen in every classroom and in every teacher? Does the school genuinely and actively embrace reading or is it lip-service? We need ALL teachers from every subject to be actively demonstrating their enthusiasm and love for books and reading in every classroom and every lesson.

So, summing up the key points of Adam’s talk…

As school librarians we need to prioritise – are we spending time on things that will have a positive impact on learning? That is why we are there after all. This is an educational establishment, not a public library and so our priorities should be different.

Show the impact of your actions – has it made a difference? We need to ensure that everything that we do links into teaching and learning. Make it enjoyable! When a child says “I don’t like reading” what they are actually saying is “I don’t like the process that I’ve been put through in the pursuit of reading success.” Is it all working? Are we having a positive impact on the reading in our school? Would your reading ideas work better than those currently in place?

Be informed about literacy teaching. You are part of this process and therefore you should understand fully how the pupils are taught and assessed. Stay on top of government and Ofsted changes and reform, read the White Papers. We have opted to work in an educational environment and that should have an impact on how we do our jobs. Being informed means that you are talking the educational language that the children are accustomed to, and it makes it easier to find things that they will enjoy and yet still be considered part of their reading progression. We need to use everything we can to set up reading habits that they will carry for life.

Use individual teachers. We have a tendency to assume that the SLT are going to be the ones that will help us to implement policies and library related engagement, but why are we doing that? I for one was sagely nodding at the “get the SLT on board” comment  from others – but I was wrong!  Adam is on the SLT and knows how hard it is to get teachers to take on a scheme that they are not fully engaged with. At a grassroots level the only schemes that really work in schools are the ones that the teachers like and support. If you want something done it is far better to show individual teachers how it can benefit them and have them support your ideas up the chain. Work your way up the chain, not down, and you’ll have better success than yet another policy or idea mooted out by the SLT to resistant teachers. Understand the politics, remember, know the game and play it!

And one of the most important points – don’t be precious! You have to be prepared to separate what you think is best for the library, from what might be best for the educational needs of the pupils in your school. It’s not personal, and it’s not about you, it’s about what is best for the educational needs of these pupils.

The most important point though – believe in the importance of what you do! What we do as school librarians is incredibly important. We are giving these young people the ultimate transferable skill to vastly improve the quality of their lives – reading.

 

Footnote – the afternoon of this day was spent on library policy documents, Reading for Pleasure policies, and evidence gathering and these will be covered in separate blog posts so please follow this blog for further info, and on twitter follow @dawnafinch or use #slgtraining.

To find out more about Adam Lancaster please visit his website and follow him on twitter @dusty_jacket