Sunday, 31 December 2017

Finishing off 2017 looking back and facing forward.

I wasn't going to write again until the New Year but having just finished my last book of the year How to stop time by Matt Haig and done all the preparations for our New Years Eve party which doesn't start till 7pm, I find myself with a few hours to spare so here are my final thoughts of the year.

Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

Having met John McCarthy at the Practical Pedagogies conference in Toulouse in November 2016 my blogging and presenting journey really took off after he encouraged me to share what we had been talking about at the conference. I find that life is very much about the people you meet and the chances you take and this was one of them. I know that technically this is not a 2017 story but feel that this should be mentioned as my presenting and blogging journeys both started from that point in time.

Since then I have presented at 3 conferences in 2017, the British Isles Google Summit in Guernsey, CILIP SLA/YLG conference in Harrogate and the Back to School Google conference at the London headquarters. which I found both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I do however, feel that each time I present I learn something new about myself and am finding out about what does and doesn't work. Hopefully, each time I am creating something useful and better too. I have already signed up to speak at two conferences in 2018 so must not find it too scary after all.

My blog went from strength to strength this year finishing with a real high at the end of November with over 29,000 views for my post called Why do teachers need school librarians. I spent the year finding my voice for school libraries and learning how to make the most of social media. I have loved learning this new skill and it is something I will be  developing more in the coming year. I have been asked to guest blog and to write articles for professional magazines because of this blog. Opening doors I would never have believed was possible.

I have also been a mentor for a couple of years and this year decided it was time to refresh my mentor training at CILIP. During the day I began to think that I may have done enough over the last few years to do my Fellowship. I am the kind of person who, if told I can't do something, I am even more determined to do it. I asked the trainer if she thought I would be able to attempt it and instead of asking why I thought I could do it, I was asked if I had re-validated my Chartership. Admittedly I hadn't and was then told that unless I had had articles published or presented at conferences then I should not even consider it. I kept quite as this person had assumed something about me and made me feel like I had felt at school which I hate. I have actually done both these things and more so I came home and revalidated my Chartership and am now registered for Fellowship. This is something I will achieve in 2018.

So what have I learnt about myself this year? Everything I do for myself such as my blog, social media, writing articles or presenting at conferences I do because I love my job. No one pays me to do these extra things but as I enjoy what I do it does not feel like work and for that I am extremely grateful. I have also learnt that it is ok to push myself to do things I don't feel comfortable with. Speaking at conferences and blogging has helped me to continue learning, make connections, read more and really understand my own thoughts about school libraries and their impact on children and if someone says that I can't then I will do it.

This leads me to my final new thing for next year. I have set up a new online non-fiction book club for professional development for library staff #nonfbc, why, because I think we should all continue to read and learn and this will make me do it too. Lucas Maxwell wrote a blog about it which can be found here and I wrote a guest blog about it for Heart of the School which can be found here too.  If I expect the students and teachers I work with to keep learning I should be prepared to do this myself.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog this year. I will try and continue to write something once a month as this is what seems to work for me. I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year and whatever happens always keep reading and learning.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Why do teachers need school librarians? 5 questions to ask yourself.

How often have you walked passed your school library and never given a second thought to the person who works in that room? Or you notice that there are students in there reading books and working on the computers and think 'that's nice'. You may even encourage your students to go and choose a book occasionally and think that you are doing your bit.

What if someone suddenly said that your school library was closing and the room was going to become a gym. Would you really be upset by the loss of such a resources or would you secretly not be all that bothered? Do you ever think about the person who is working in there who is desperate to help you and your students? Do you ever wonder why that person is constantly trying to stop you in the corridor when you are busy? Do you understand the opportunities you are missing? 

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

You have the power in your hands to open your eyes to change. Is it time to take stock and think about what your school library means to you as a teacher? The school library is there for you as well as your students and are you missing out on something that may make your teaching life easier?

Ask yourself these questions:-
  1. When was the last time I went to the school library?
  2. When was the last time I talked to the school library staff about my curriculum?
  3. Do I know what the library staff can do for me and my students?
  4. When was the last time I looked at the resources for my subject or encouraged my students to do the same?
  5. Do I know what online resources are available for my subject?
If you don't know the answer to any or all of the above questions then I would encourage you to approach your library staff and start the conversation. Teaching was never meant to be something you do on your own and working with the library staff may just be the thing that is missing from your teaching.

Did you know that the school library:-
  • Can provide you with free resources for your subject that will relieve the pressure on your departmental budget and even your own pocket.
  • Can provide space for these resources in the library so that your classroom is not full of resources that you only need once a year.
  • Can provide resources on request - yes, if the budget is there they will buy books for you!
  • Can provide online resources that are subject specific. 
  • Can proved a space outside your classroom for you to teach. 
Did you know that the library staff can:-
  • teach research skills - referencing, plagiarism etc.
  • teach digital literacy - online research, digital tools, Google searching
  • teach digital citizenship - social media, online collaboration etc.
  • connect you with other educators, schools and professionals around the world
  • support and train you in using new online tools
If you need more ideas, don't just take my word for it there are many school library staff out there willing to share ideas with you. Take a look at these amazing blogs 

Read research rest repeat  by Kathleen Curry Smith
Library Media Talk  by Stony Evans
Library Stuff by Barbara Band
Heart of the School  by Caroline Roche

Over the last few years I have noticed that teachers are being encouraged more and more to use technology within the classroom. There are those that have moved into this world comfortably, who can use Google responsibly and understand how to navigate it well, demonstrating to their students the skill needed to do this properly. Teachers who are comfortable in this digital world are also happy to connect their students through hangouts and online digital tools like flipgrid and padlet but there are so many more that are not. 

Are you a teacher reading this that has never heard of flipgrid or padlet? Does the thought of having another class from across the world talk to your students fill you with dread? Are you unsure how to teach your students how to access academic resources? Would you like more books in your classroom? Would you like support? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then next time you walk by your school library don't pass walk in and say hello.

Monday, 16 October 2017

In house professional development for teachers. Start with your school library.

We all assume that teachers know and understand the value of school libraries. We would hope that they encourage their students to check out books, use the online resources and credit what they find. Although there are many teachers that do, there are also an equal many that don't. We regularly talk about advocacy in the librarian world, how we should be out there reminding teachers about the support they can get from the school librarian but there is only so much one school librarian can do in a school to encourage use. In many schools this advocacy is through talking to teachers individually which can be very time consuming. 

I recently took part in a twitter chat about teachers Professional Development (PD) and the question was  "What professional development should teachers have to assure we are eliminating the achievement gap? #satchat" and my response was this:- 

All teachers should know and understand how their school library and librarian can support teaching and learning. Do you? #satchat

How can we achieve this? Once a year the school librarian should be asked to provide compulsory PD to all teaching staff to:-

·       Remind and inform teachers, who do use the library, about new resources and lessons available
·       Inform new teachers to the school about what the school library provides and to let them know  about the collaborative teaching available.

If this happens student attainment will increase. How do I know this? There have been several studies about this, this one especially is worth reading.  

Williams, D; Wavell, C; Morrison, K (2013) SCHOOL LIBRARIES on LEARNING. Robert Gordon University Institute for Management, Governance & Society (IMaGeS)

Teachers can't use something they don't know about so it is up to the senior leadership team to ensure that a resource they are paying for gets used to it’s full advantage. Not all teachers feel comfortable with using the school library catalogue or online resources and that is where the school librarian can support them and their students in the classroom.

Collaborative teaching with the school librarian can lead to impressive student learning, we just need to make sure that teachers know how to start the conversation with the school librarian and to open the doors of their classroom to extra resources and support and PD is the perfect starting point.

School's Library Service in Guernsey recently ran a whole inset day on raising accademic attainment through your school library. Read about it here.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

School librarians helping children become independent learners with parental support.

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

As a parent I have always been able to help my children find good sources of information in order to do their homework. How do I know where to find the best information? Do I have some inside knowledge that most parents don't? Yes! How? I am a librarian...

I have long believed that if parents knew about the resources available from their school library to support their children's homework they would be relieved and happy. They would be able to guide them to use these good tools without worrying about quality or reliability. Many of our resources go unused for two reasons, firstly, many teachers and students do not know about these resources, how easy they are to use and reference and secondly, parents don't know they exist.

I spend a lot of my time talking to teachers about using online reosurces and offering support in the classroom, however, I am beginning to understand the importance of engaging with the parents. By offering support to the parents they in turn can support their children.

Parent workshops

The other evening we were invited to present a parent workshop in one of our secondary schools to inform parents about the online resources available from their school library. We are very lucky to be able to offer books, ebooks, Britannica on-line and many online resources. The idea was to inform parents about where their children could find the best information to do their homework.

Many parents are happy for their children to do a Google search because they do not know where else to go for the information. These parents were brought up before the internet was freely available, where most of the answers came from books from the library or, if you were lucky enough,  from a home set of encyclopaedias. There was never any worry about safety or being caught for plagiarism, The chances of the teacher having the same book, that you had copied the answer from, was very unlikely and at least you had to read it in order to copy it down. There was no 'copy and pasting' in those days.

We guided the parents to access the online library catalogue, talking to them about how their children could access the books. Telling them that if the homework was not for the next day they could help their children to find a book and get them to go to school the following day and borrow it. We talked about how to reference a book and why this was necessary. We showed them how to access the websites linked to the catalogue and talked about why they were better quality because they had been curated by the school librarian.  We then showed them Britannica Online and explained how to find articles, pictures, videos and more websites. We talked to them about the importance of using citation tool and giving credit and how easy it was to do this using Britannica and our other online resources. We showed them how easy it was to access our ebook collection and finally gave them the opportunity to use all of these resources on their own phones or hand held devices.

One parent asked about restricting their child's independence by guiding them to these resources. This gave me the opportunity to explain that independence was not about searching the internet it was about being able to know where to look for the best information to answer their question. Getting lost and bogged down by a Google search was not independence but being able to find quality information quickly was independence at its best.

What did they say?
  • Why have we not been told about this before now? 
  • Why are more parents not here listening to this? 
  • Can we take a leaflet to share with other parents? 
Why do we need to work more closely with parents?
  • School libraries can provide the safe searching that parents are looking for but are unaware exists. 
  • School libraries can provide resources that are of good quality and age specific. 
  • School libraries can provide support to parents looking to help their children. 

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Teachers, 6 ways the school librarian can empower you to do it yourself!

A recent twitter conversation with @julielindsay made me really think about how I advocate about what school librarians do. Julie questioned whether my statement about 'what school librarians can 'do' for teachers' should not be 'doing it for them' but to empower them to do it themselves made me think about what I have been saying about a school librarians role in schools.

After thinking about this I still do feel that an important part of a school librarians role is  'doing' things for the teacher, and as a information professional it is part of our role. As I have said before, if a librarian can save teachers time by finding and supplying the best resources for a topic they are about to teach then we are doing a good job. This is better than teachers using books that have been int their classrooms for years or them spending hours Googling to find decent websites. I also agree with Julie, however,  that empowering teachers to be digitally fluent and connected is equally important and this is why advocacy for school librarians is important because we do that too.

New teachers induction day 

I recently attended a new teachers induction day alongside Ellie, one of our SLS librarians. Schools' Library Service (SLS) were asked to attend as a support service and were delighted to be able to to chat to new teachers about how our service supports teaching and teachers.  Many teachers had heard of SLS's having come from the UK and were expecting the book loans but were surprised when we started telling them about the support we provide within the classroom. This is where advocacy is essential because our role is also to 'empower the teachers to be digitally fluent and connected' through co-teaching in the classroom. We were able to talk to teachers about the support we give in:-

  1. lessons, on using online resources, focusing on the importance of a keyword search. 
  2. using current digital tools such as Padlet and Flipgrid within the classroom. We create the platform find a connecting school and help support it during the lesson. 
  3. collaborations by finding and linking classrooms across the world.
  4. bringing the outside world into the classroom thought Google hangouts, be that specialist on volcanoes or people talking about their own culture.
  5. engaging ways to encourage reading, literacy and information literacy i.e breakout
  6. book awards etc.

All of this empowers the teachers to do this themselves. Many teachers do not have the time to do much of this when it all seems so scary and new to them. Our role allows them to try these things with support. We show them how to find connections, what new digital tools to use, how to set up the  platforms and when they are ready, they do it themselves. 

So do I do it for them? Yes but only when they need me to...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

4 ways the school librarian can save teachers time and help support independent learners

Independent learners

What makes an Independent learner?

    The ability to understand which resource is going to help you find the best quality information and being able to use research skills to locate it.

    Knowing and understanding the importance of referencing, copyright and giving credit.

Many teachers believe that if a student can find the answer via Google they have an independent learner. This is not independence; this is just the ability to type the question into Google. If this is the tool that teachers want their students to use then they need to be prepared to make them reference what they find and find time to check those references.  As many teachers do not have time to do this it re-enforces the idea that Google is the best way to find information quickly without looking at the quality of the resource. It does not ensure that students are evaluating or thinking critically about what they find. If students know that teachers are not going to check where the information came from why would they spend time on referencing or researching properly?

Independent learners start by connecting and wondering about the topic they are researching. They come up with keywords and create a question so when they sit in front of their chosen online resource they know what they are looking for. Research is not about finding the right answer but about collecting information to help you come to a conclusion.  Critical thinking has a huge part to play in independent research and is different from ‘finding the answer’.

Why does this happen? A teacher once said to me that they felt that the students knew more than they did when searching online and they did not feel it was right to stop their students ‘Googling’. I had to remind them that it wasn’t the case of stopping them using Google but it was important to use Google properly through good research skills. Google is only as useful as the persons research skills. Independence is not about speed but understanding the tools and having the skills to navigate them. Independent research skills is not about getting the students to the learning faster it is about knowing how to find the information in the first place.

School librarian’s curators of information and collaborators

Photo by on Unsplash

One of our roles as information professionals, is to curate physical and online resources that not only are age appropriate but also good quality. In order to access these tools, research skills are needed and school librarians are able to support teachers in helping students to access them. This is not about making it harder to find the information it is about ensuring that the building blocks are put in place so when they leave school they understand the difference between using Google to find the time of their flight and doing an in-depth piece of research for work or university.

Another role is using digital literacy to help make connections. Over the last year I have regularly use my social media skills, as Jennifer Casa-Todd says “to connect educators to educators who I think might work collaboratively together” (2017 p24) which has lead to some wonderful international connections. These connections have enhanced teaching and learning and have enabled me to help teachers use digital technology and support research skills in the process.

Our collaborations

This year we have been able to use and share both Padlet and Flipgrid with our teachers. Not only up skilling them in using these tools but demonstrating how they can be used within the classroom setting. One of my schools used both these tools to engage students in a literacy project reading the book Wonder by Raquel J. Palacio. The students were able to share their thoughts about the book with each other but also learn about the students on the other side of the world. Another group who were reading The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence were delighted when at the end we connected with her via padlet and were sending her questions and getting answers real time! It was fabulous and I was very grateful to Caroline for doing this. The students came up with some amazing questions too. This supported the curriculum in writing, communication, digital literacy, critical thinking and empathy.

Collaboration saves time and impacts student attainment!

In a literature review by the National Literacy Trust they state that “School libraries have been found to impact pupils’ general academic attainment, reading and writing skills, plus wider learning skills” (Teravainen and Clark, 2017 p3) and if this is the case it is important that teachers and librarians work together often.

The main challenge, regularly cited by teachers, is time. It is therefore important that teachers understand the positive impact that collaborating with a school librarian can have on themselves and their students and this will take some time but the benefits will far outweigh the initial input.

What can the librarian do for teachers?

  1.  Find quality physical and online resources for your topic (teachers no longer have to spend hours on Google trying to find something suitable)
  2. Co-teach in the classroom and demonstrate how to access the online resources (teachers do not have to learn how to navigate these resources beforehand
  3. Help find the right educators to collaborate with (which teacher has time to do this?)
  4. Learn the digital tools and then demonstrate their use in the classroom (allowing the teacher to learn about these tools within the lesson)
As the relationship between teacher and librarian grows the time the teacher needs to put in will be seen as a benefit rather than a problem due to the other opportunities that the librarian will bring to the partnership.

Creating independent learners is not something that happens overnight. The building blocks need to be embedded all they way through primary and secondary school. With the support of the school librarian not only can the student’s benefit but the teachers will too.


Casa-Todd, J. (2017). Social LEADia. San Diego: Dave Burgess Consulting Inc.

Teravainen, A. and Clark, C. (2017). School libraries: A literature review of current provision and evidence of impact. [online] London: The National Literacy Trust, p.3. Available at: [Accessed 20 Jul. 2017].

Saturday, 1 July 2017

7 skills you should be looking for in your school librarian #SLAYLG17

Having just returned from #SLAYLG17 conference where I presented a workshop on change management alongside school librarian Terri McCargar @liberryan, I was reminded of the diversity and expertise of school librarians, the need for us to help schools and teachers understand the benefits of working with us and the importance of our own advocacy. The list of our skills is vast but it still seems that many still have to fight too hard to get teachers to understand our role.

As far as I see it, the problem is that the skills of a school librarian have become so diverse and adaptable, at the point of need, that it is almost impossible to stand, one next to the other, and see the same thing. As schools do not understand the role, school librarians have had to find a way to demonstrate what they can do at every opportunity. If a teacher is interested in promoting literacy and the library the school librarian will focus on that, if the school wants to increase use of online resources they can also do that, if research skills are the focus they can do that, if a school is interested in communicating with others across the world a school librarian will be able to set this up too. There is no set of expectations or understanding of the role from school to school. It's not even a statutory obligation for English schools to have libraries and qualified librarians. If the role has become so diverse how do we explain what we do?

If you employ any other professional you know what their skill set is and what they are being employed to do but this, sadly, is not the same for school librarians and is maybe why many school still think that a school librarian is a keeper of books in a room. They employ 'school librarians' to issue and return the books, to keep the library tidy, buy new book and online resources and to keep control of the students during lunchtime and they would not dream of giving them a budget to manage. This is NOT a school librarian this is a library assistant, who quite rightly should be paid term time only and on a support staff/admin wage. School librarians agree that you do not need a professional qualification to do this job.

If a school needs a Maths or science teacher they would not employ a teaching assistant and a law firm would not employ an unqualified lawyer, likewise a qualified teacher or lawyer would not work for low pay. If you want to be able to employ the best, you have to pay the right wages.

A qualified librarian has a degree in information and library studies and many have gone on to masters level too. Continuing their professional development you will find many librarians are also chartered. This high level of academia is important in the role of school librarianship as the skill set to support teaching and learning is critical but is sadly wasted in many schools. In a recent report by the literacy trust they stated that "Evidence collected by Williams, Wavell and Morrison (2013) also shows that one of the elements of the library that contributes to the impact on learning is a qualified full-time librarian who is proactive and has managerial status" this can only happen if Head teachers and the senior management teams understand and supports the role of the school librarian.

So why is it so hard to understand what a school librarian can do? Teachers have many different skills but fundamentally their role is to teach the subject they specialise in. This is the same for librarians. Many have different areas of expertise but fundamentally they are there to teach information literacy and encourage reading for pleasure. Both of which will make a difference to academic attainment.

What should schools be looking for in a school librarian?

First and foremost you are looking for someone:-

1  who knows and understands their role within in the curriculum
2  who is happy to work alongside teachers in the classroom
3  who can help the school integrate information literacy into the curriculum
4  who can train teachers in information and digital literacy and support teaching and learning

Secondly you are looking for someone:-

5. who will inspire your students to read more
6. who has ideas to engage your students and make your school library a welcoming place to be
7. who can empower your students to become independent learners through reading for pleasure and information literacy

However, if schools want this they have to ensure that the school librarian is paid equivalent to full time teachers. That they are also supported and respected as a Head of Department with a departmental budget and in a ideal world have access to a library assistant to run the library on a day to day basis so that they can work alongside teachers and students within the classroom.

How to make sure your teachers know what the school librarian does?

   Make sure you and your SLT understand the role of the school librarian. Have you employed a professional or a library assistant?
   embed information literacy into your school curriculum policy
   ensure your school library is mentioned in your literacy policy, how are they supporting your curriculum goals?
   invite the school librarian into Head of Department meetings. If they do not know what is going on they will not be able to support the teachers or the students
   Ask the librarian to run training sessions on how to use the school library and it's resources for both teachers and students

There is so much more to do, to ensure that all students have access to good quality school libraries with qualified librarians.  By meeting and talking to so many passionate librarians with different skills at  #SLAYLG17 I am delighted to say that there is some brilliant collaborations going on out there and I am proud to be part of this profession.


Teravainen, A. and Clark, C. (2017). School Libraries A literature review of current provision and evidence of impact. [online] National Literacy Trust. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jul. 2017].

Williams, D., Wavell, C., & Morrison, K. (2013). Impact of school libraries on learning: Critical review of published evidence to inform the Scottish education community. Robert Gordon University. Retrieved from content/uploads/2015/05/SLIC_RGU_Impact_of_School_Libraries_2013.pdf