Sunday, 9 April 2017

Librarians and teachers - How to make an information literacy framework work for you.

What is an information literacy framework and why do schools need one?

An information literacy framework is the building block of skills that every student needs to become competent in todays world of information overload. It is the set of skills that ensures that every student becomes independent learners and critical thinkers. So why do we not already have one in every school? Is it a lack of understanding of what information literacy is? Is it because we think that Google can answer everything? Is it because we believe that all students can already do this? I truly have no idea, but over the last few years it has become apparent that although students are very competent at using technology their ability to research has not changed from the time that we only had books and if anything it has become worse.

Many school librarians are asked to run research lessons for various classes across many schools. This tends to look very similar whether it is a junior class or secondary class. We help them to think of keywords and to use the library catalogue to find books and curated websites. Depending on their age we may continue to show them how to use the other online resources that are available. This lesson seems to tick the box for many teachers, however, I would suspect that after this lesson the chances of students using the library catalogue or online resources in a lesson again is very slim.

In some schools that I have worked in I have been asked to show students as young as 7 and 8  to evaluate websites. This unrealistic expectation of what primary students should be able to do is difficult. The pressure teachers are under to ensure their students become independent is huge and the two seem to be linked. Many teachers seem to be under the impression that a research project is not good enough if their students only use the library and online resources and not the internet.  This is why an information literacy framework is so important.

SLS Guernsey use one that we call CWICER (Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express, Reflect), it was adapted from Empire States Information Fluency Continuum, New York by  Darry Toerien and with his help we have adapted to work for us here in Guernsey. What it has allowed us to do is have sensible conversation with teachers who ask for unrealistic research lessons. We are able to show them what their students should be able to do by the time they are that age and if they are not capable of that we can also show them the building blocks to get there.

As a librarian I am very happy to co-teach these lessons but like many school librarians it is not possible for me to be in every class that is doing a research project. I work towards up skilling teachers and students so that I can support other classes whilst they embed what I taught. A framework will ensure that this is happening. If it is embedded into the school curriculum headteachers will be aware of it and expect to see it being taught in lessons once they know I have been in a class.

It is also important in secondary schools that teachers know when these skills are being taught and allow students to use them in their lessons too. For instance, if a Geography teacher has worked with the librarian to use Brittanica in yr 7 then every subject that is running a research lesson across the school should be making sure their students are practicing using this resource within their lessons too. This is only possible if all the teachers know that this is happening and that teachers have an understanding of the resources themselves.

How to use an information literacy framework when it is not embedded in the curriculum 

Find an information literacy framework that you are comfortable with. Find time to know what it is all about, the more you talk about it the more confident you become in using it. Once you are happy that you understand what you are offering start using it with teachers who are already working with you.

Here's an example of how to use it. 

A year 3 teacher asks me to do a research lesson with their students and they really want an internet lesson. I would firstly show them the lessons that we offer, based on our framework, for year 3. You can find our primary lessons here. We have added learning objectives (LO) and success criteria (SC) so teachers can see how it fits into what they are teaching anyway.  Our main research lesson for year 3 looks like this :-

Lesson 2
Recognises that ‘I wonder’ questions can be answered by finding information
Selects and uses appropriate sources with guidance including books, on-line encyclopaedias and recommended on-line resources.
Students can give more than one example of somewhere they could find information to answer a question.
Students can select a useful source of information from the options given.
Students can, with guidance, find the answer to their question using their selected resource.

I would explain to the teacher that a lesson like this would support their students journey onto the internet as using quality resources is essential for good research. If students can learn to select these resources first before going to the internet their research will be much stronger.

By sharing and using your information literacy framework before it is embedded in the curriculum is really important. It will help you become confident in what you teach and how your framework works. Our students deserve the right to be taught how to do this properly and now is the time to show schools, headteachers and administrators how a school librarians skills set can be used effectively.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

How teacher - librarian collaboration can lead to 'higher order thinking' and 'growth mindset' in students.

Every day I hear teachers talk about about new teaching theories. The two that I want to talk about today are 'growth mindset' and 'higher order thinking' as they link perfectly with information literacy.
Teachers are constantly dealing with changes in the curriculum and I regularly hear it being said that some of these new ideas are not new they are just packaged under a different name. If teachers have been doing this for year the pressure to produce something amazing is high. However this does not always mean that it needs to be all singing all dancing, sometimes just doing it right and understand the link yourselves can be enough. I thought I would use this blog post to remind teachers how librarians can help with both of these theories through looking at a senario that many teachers come across regularly.

Example: Research topic on the Tudors.

Version 1 - teacher works alone - little potential for 'higher order thinking' or 'growth mindset'

  • Teacher has found some useful books which are shared within the classroom. Most of these are the teachers own resources, some have been taken from the school library. 
  • Teacher spends hours looking for appropriate websites which are shared and given to the students via a file or on j2e (a new platform for getting the 'to the learning quicker')
  • Students are told they are doing a project on Tudors and have to produce a powerpoint, poster or leaflet. They are also expected to present what they find. 
  • Teacher books the laptops for a research lesson.
  • Students research Tudors through the linked file of websites. 
  • Students make notes by copying directly from the books or websites. Although, they are told not to copy and to write in their own words.
  • Students are then allowed to search the internet to find more information. More copying is then done.
  • The powerpoint has all the information on each slide so during the presentation they read every word from each slide.  There is no referencing. 
  • The poster allows a little more presentation skills as it is harder to read from but still every word is read out and again no referencing. 
  • The leaflet is also unreferenced and is put on the classroom wall. 
Learning outcomes

Students find out more about the Tudors through copying from resources provided by teacher. Can cut and paste pictures from Google and can produce a powerpoint, poster or leaflet.

The teacher is unable to check where the information came from due to no referencing. A real problem if a good piece of work is handed in and the teacher now wants to share it on social media. No higher order thinking has been done as all the informant has been given to them. No evaluation of websites has been done as no referencing is needed.

Version 2 teacher collaborates with librarian with higher order thinking and growth mindset. 

  • Teacher and librarian plan topic together. 
  • Librarian makes sure there are good books in the school library and searches for websites to add to the library catalogue saving the teacher time. 
  • Teacher shares the websites that he/she has already found and they too are added to the library catalogue. 
  • Students are told they are doing a project on Tudors and have to produce a powerpoint, poster or leaflet. They are also expected to present what they find. 
  • Librarian and teachers co-teach the importance of keywords and research questions. 
  • Librarian demonstrates how students can find books and websites from the library catalogue.
  • Students use these skills to find books and useful websites. (higher order thinking)
  • Students are expected to read - no note taking is allowed at this stage. 
  • librarian demonstrates other online academic resources available such as Britannica online.
  • Librarian supports a lesson on note taking and referencing. 
  • Librarian and teacher demonstrate how powerpoint is used in a presentations (importance of pictures and information in the notes and not on the slides) including a lesson on presentation skills. 
  • Reminder that referencing is expected.
  • presentations are given peer feedback and references are checked. 
  • students - how can I improve next time? (growth mindset)
  • Here is a case study of such a lesson
Learning outcomes
  • Growth mindset
  • higher order thinking
Students independently find out more about the Tudors. They are able to independently find information which is age appropriate and focused on answering the question rather than a broad topic. All academic resources are used and referenced. All written in the students own words, no copy and pasting.

If a good piece of work has been handed in it can be shared on social media because the correct referencing has been done. A great example of best practice.

The reason this is important

The benefits to working with the librarian is that the students are able to start higher order thinking. They begin to understand that research is not a quick process but if it is done well it can be really interesting and they will learn something. They learn and understand the importance of referencing and giving credit.

Teacher also benefit from this process as they are now skilled in how to use the school library catalogue, academic resources and they too understand how and why referencing is important for future lessons.

If you want to read more I wrote a previous blog on digital literacy that link with this. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Teachers: How important is academic honesty? Essential for digital literacy.

Teachers, do you use information ethically when creating resources for teaching? Do you know when it is ok to take pictures from the internet? Do you know if you are breaking copyright laws? Copyright is a complex subject and here is a guide to what you can and can't do within a school setting. Just because it is ok to use resources for educational purposes, it is an individuals right not a shared right of the school and it is time to understand that as teachers you should be demonstrating best practice at all times. Do you reference all your sources whenever you produce something for school? If not where can this lead and why is this a problem? 

Primary and secondary school students do not create original work. Writing it in their own words is not original.  

Many teachers talk to their students about the importance of giving credit for where they find their information but never expect a reference list. This is a real lack of understanding about information and where is comes from. The information we find has been written by someone else and is not original. This is especially true if you are expecting your students to find the answer to a question or to write a piece of research. This is what research is. Finding the answer and referencing where you got it from. No student is going to write something original when researching because this is not what you are asking them to do. Part of the learning process is understanding that we must give credit for what we find. 

If we don't expect a reference how can you, as teachers, work out where the information is coming from? Why do we need to worry about this? As a teacher if you know they have found the correct answer does it matter where they got it from? Yes it does! Most students go to one website. They may very well get the right answer each time without thinking about the source they are using because they want their homework done quickly. Fake News is huge at the moment and without asking for a reference how do you know if they have chosen a good source?  At least if they had a list of sources teachers would be able to have a conversation about the websites used. Teachers are currently working blind and seem to be happy as long as the right answer is given. It is not something that is a concern but it should be. 

Sharing students work beyond school without references.

In todays world it is common to share students work on our school websites or on social media.  If nothing is referenced we are breaking copyright laws and here is where the problems lie. 

Imagine this. One of your students has produced a wonderful piece of work and you want to use it as a wonderful example of learning outcomes. It is well written, got some great pictures and all the information is correct. You decide to share it on the school newsletter and on twitter as an example of best practice. If none of it is referenced then this is not best practice this is embedding that it is alright to break copyright laws.

Research skills are really important in todays world. It's not just about finding the right information but also about making sure it is true, if there is a bias and knowing who wrote it. If teachers insist on allowing their students to use Google as a research tool they must understand the importance of ensuring that their students give credit for what they find and use. Academic honesty and teaching for integrity is going to become more important with the advancement of digital literacies and teachers need to understand their role in ensuring that our students are taught this correctly. 

It is not alright to take pictures and information and not say where they got it from just because their work is only going to hang on the wall of the classroom. there are so many tools today that make this easy. Free pictures like the ones on this blog are available from places like so there is no need to just take from Google images. It is a case of teaching it the right way. Just as it would not be alright for anyone of your students to steal someone's sweets, just because no-one will find out does not make it right. As digital competencies become part of the curriculum it is essential that teachers understand why this is important and know how to teach it. We are giving our students skills for life not just for one assignment. It is important that our students learn about the subject that is being taught but it is just as important to make sure they are given the skills and understand the ethical way to do this too. Many people are writing about this, however, I recently read a blog post by Alison Miller on Developing digital learners which also talks about the importance of digital competencies and gives some great idea of how to use it in the classroom which is worth reading. 

Are you confident about teaching referencing? Your school librarian can help.

The excuses that this takes too long or that it will spoil the enjoyment,  just do not add up. Maybe teachers are not confident at teaching or checking references or maybe they are remembering when they had to reference when they were at university and it did take forever. This is just not the case now. Both Word and Google doc have a built in reference generator which is easy and simple to use. 

Your school librarian will be happy to help teach this but here is an easy guide to how it works on Google docs:-

  • Find the Easybib add on. 

  • Click on EasyBib Bibliography Creator and this box will appear to the right of you document.

  • As you find sources you add them to the generator to the right and it creates the Bibliography. From books to websites they are all there. Once the document is finished click on the red box 'add bibliography to doc and it appears at the bottom of the page. 

This does not take long to learn and is essential for our students to understand academic honesty and teachers need to expect it. It should not make any difference whether our headteachers or policy makers are not asking for this. We all know what is right, this is simple to do and teach and teachers should be leading by example.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Advocacy for school librarians - Training and Personal Learning Networks PLN

Helping teachers set up their own Personal Learning Network (PLN)

As a librarian I am never sure what I am going to be asked to do next. My own skill set is broad and this being the case I am able to do many things which includes training. Recently, after a conversation with a teacher about Personal Learning Neworks (PLN) I realised that my own skills in setting up my  PLN enabled me to support this teacher and potentially support him to train other teachers in his school.  Is this an important part of my job? Absolutely, teaching and sharing my own best practice,  enabling and inspiring teachers to find the information they need themselves is essential. If  I can work alongside teachers to enhance their learning it allows me to talk to them about their students learning too. Raising my profile and skills set helps me to raise awareness for the school library. I can't be in every classroom but I can teach and up skill the teachers which is very definitely my role.

My own personal learning journey. 

It started in 2009,  I had qualified as a librarian in 2003 and after chartering in 2008 it was time to take responsibility for my own development and learning rather than having to do it because I was studying. My own reading, at the time, started and stopped with the CILIP Update magazine but I needed more and really had no idea where to look.

My decision to use social media for personal learning was for two main reasons. Firstly, I had children who were wanting to use Facebook and twitter and at the time I felt that I did not know enough about these resources. Rather than saying no you can't because they scare me, I realised it would be better to find out about social media and how it worked. Secondly, I was aware of the potential for using social media for more than following your favourite pop star and was interested in finding out if I could use them for work. I was particularly keen to know enough about social media so that I would be able to talk to students about it.

In the beginning I decided to use Facebook for friends and family and twitter for work only. This has changed overtime and my Facebook has expanded to special interest groups to share knowledge too. Twitter has enabled me to learn more and connect with people around the world that I would never have been able to otherwise. Some of the most exciting things that I have done in the last year has been because of Twitter. Trips to Toulouse to present about using school libraries across the curriculum, talking to librarians in Arkansas via Google Hangouts and  requests for articles all have come from my PLN on twitter.

So how did I start? I set up an account, worked out how to follow a few librarians and teachers and then I lurked. I read the threads that came through and have to admit that not much of it made any sense. Hashtags and @ and bad English was what it seemed to be all about. I was not sure how this would help me but then I became aware that some of the people I followed were sharing articles that were very useful and because of this I began to read more.  The idea that other professional have read something and thinks it is worth sharing is very powerful. I then became braver and began to retweet and share articles that I found interesting. Finally I took the plunge and sent out my first tweet. It makes me smile when I read it now as I can't stand anyone who writes about that they are about to do.  I do think there may have been a little sarcasm in my first tweet. I had to start somewhere and this was what I chose to write:-

I used the discover twitter to find this. I admit I did get a little distracted by putting in some of my twitter friends in and laughing at their first tweets. Nearly all are as bad as mine :)

I slowly  began to understand how powerful this tool was. I began focusing on the group of librarians and teachers I was following and started making decisions about unfollowing those who were tweeting rubbish. I did not have time to waste so my focus has always been quality. If someone is not useful to my goal I unfollow. This leaves me with a quality group of people who I have learnt so much from. They share their best practice with me, answer questions that I could not answer myself and through this I began to grow in confidence. It gives me a place to share my ideas and enables me to learn about new teaching practices and help me grow as a professional. My PLN is essential to my role as a librarian which enables me to learn and discover more every day.

Where can I start?

If you are looking where to start here are a few suggestions from my social media friends.

PLN on Pinterest

Twitter tools

Twitter for teachers

Education chats on twitter

Educational hashtags

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Headteachers/Principals -5 easy steps to full integration of your school library and librarian

The Role Of The School Librarian In Teaching And Learning

They are essential for the information world of today and tomorrow

The full article can be found on edCurcuit 

How can the Head Teacher/Principal effect change?
Find out if you have employed a qualified librarian or not. If you do, make sure you are supporting them to do the job you have employed them to do.
  • Question your teachers about how they have included the school library and the librarian into their teaching.
  • Expect to see the school library and librarian in their lesson planning.
  • Embed information literacy at policy level with the help of the school librarian.
  • Make the school librarian head of a department.
  • Make sure the school librarian attends meetings regarding teaching and learning.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Teachers - digital literacy and school librarians. Innovation at it's best!

I am very excited about the opportunities digital literacy is creating for every school librarian. At last we are able to demonstrate how we can work alongside teachers with our skill set being used to it’s best advantage. Together we can create independent learners who can find great resources and improving academic attainment. 

When I think about digital literacy I can’t think of it in isolation without the overarching skill of information literacy. Schools and teachers, however, seem to have decided that digital literacy is the overarching skill for all subjects so where does information literacy fit into this?Does it matter whether we call it information literacy or digital literacy? Let's find out how they differ. 

As good librarians do,  I went looking for a definition for digital literacy 

“Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”

Then the definiton for information literacy 

“Information literacy is a crucial skill in the pursuit of knowledge. It involves recognizing when information is needed and being able to efficiently locate, accurately evaluate, effectively use, and clearly communicate information in various formats.”

Interestingly there are many similarities between the two, if teachers feel more comfortable with the term digital literacy than information literacy, I am beginning to realise that the terminology is not as important as the skills it ensures the students learn. As long as find, evaluate and use information is in there and teachers understand the need for research skills it works for me. Both literacies demonstrate the essential role a librarian is required to play.  

School librarians supporting digital literacy

I have recently been asked to support schools trying to increase their use of digital across the school curriculum. Just this week I was sent a document from Northern Ireland that schools are using as a guide for this. It is an old document as it gives examples of CD ROMS but the overview is fairly good so it just needs new examples fitted in. I am being given permission and the opportunity to demonstrate how library professionals can enhance teaching of research and wanted to share how schools and teachers can use the expertise of the school librarian to support digital literacy.

Digital literacy is not

  • ·      Being able to type a question into Google and get an answer.
  • ·      Being able to cut and paste into your homework
  • ·      Steal information and pass it off as your own
A colleague I was talking to recently put it perfectly when he said ‘none of this is about how good they are at using tech. It’s about selecting good quality resources. Yet within education the importance is being put on the tech and not on the resources found.  

Going back to the Northern Ireland document level 5 is high end year 6 = 11 year olds the overarching skill was to:-

Research, select, edit, use and evaluate assets from a range of digital sources

The suggestion attached was the following.

    Research internet sites of their own choice to find and select information, images, movie and audio files to support the production of a short film about their local area.

How does this explain to the teacher how to teach this? It is making an assumption that these skills have already been taught but if teachers are not confident of these skills themselves how can they be really taught and assessed. I would like to challenge many of the teachers I know, to find and use their school library catalogue within a lesson to find good resources. I would bet that many of them would struggle at finding the library catalogue in the first place. 

Collaboration essential.

At Schools’ Library Service we have spent the last couple of years creating lessons that demonstrate progression to this stage. Our lesson and session cover all lessons from year 1 to year 13. Here is a case study for the type of lessons that we would cover for a year 6 group. It includes selecting good quality information from the library and online, note taking and referencing. The teacher was so pleased with these set of lessons that I have been asked to repeat it again this year. This only worked because the teacher gave me some time to plan this with her. 

Why are school librarians so important to digital literacy?

School librarians are constantly sharing and keeping up to date with new resources something that teachers don't have time to do themselves. My own PLN (Personal Learning Network) is constantly sharing good practice and resources. A perfect example of this recently is I found out about Infotopia which was recommended by my network, which is a search engine that I was not aware of for children. It is created by librarians and finds websites at the appropriate level. This is a brilliant resource on two levels. One, it is now something that I will teach in a class where I am being asked to teach website evaluation and it is also something I will use myself when I am searching for appropriate websites to add to our school library catalogues.

At every level I am able to collate good resources for my teachers, I am able to teach in the classroom to show how to access our online resources and I can also teach referencing and plagiarism. Along with all of the basic research skills I am also making connections around the world to ensure that I include innovative ideas within my teaching too. 

Interestingly, I recently came across a blog post that talks about innovative teaching which I feel links nicely with what I am trying to say. “Innovation is NOT synonymous with the word technology, but how we create and use technology can lead to innovative practices in many elements.” For example after a lesson on creating a good question I invited an expert into the classroom via Skype and the students were able to ask their questions directly. This lesson had such an amazing impact on the students who could see the impact of a good question that it inspired them to change their questions to better ones. The technology enabled the lesson to happen but it wasn’t the lesson itself.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Let's start at the very beginning: 3 simple steps to raising academic attainment through your school library

Ok, so I have created several posts recently about how Headteachers/Principals, teachers and librarians can work together in order to make a difference to academic attainment.  If we are to effect change I do believe it has to come from the top. There are, however, many teachers out there that have never worked alongside a school librarian and have no idea what we can do for them or their students and we need to find a way to change this ourselves too.  Which teacher would say no to free help and resources within their classrooms? Not many, I'm sure, so this has to be down to a lack of knowledge and understanding of what we do and this is where we can all do something. So whilst working towards change at the top, librarians need to find a way to start collaborating with those who never use the library and encouraging those who are already working with us to start sharing their best practice.

Why do some teachers not use the school library? 

I began to wonder why every teacher is not demanding to have a good school library with a qualified librarian? Is it because of their own experience or lack of school libraries as they grew up?  Did they ever get the opportunity to use their own school library as children and teenagers? It got me thinking about what I remember of my own school library experience. I do remember my middle school library well, both for choosing fiction and being taken to the library  to find books for research during classes, but once I got to secondary school my memories of the school library are non-existent.  I was very lucky, however, to have Jesmond public branch library that I was able to go to on a Saturday that supported the way I feel about libraries today. If I hadn't had that would I know how important libraries are?

Is this the missing link? Does our own experience of school libraries effect the way we use them as adults and teachers? It is even possible, for anyone going on to university, to use the library without ever having to go anywhere near the physical space or speak to the librarian. If you then go onto teacher training it is likely that your course does not even mentioned the school library or how you can access it. My two boys are both teachers and the only encouragement to use the school library has come from me and this is difficult with everything else they have to do to add this themselves.  It is understandable, therefore, that if a trainee teacher thinks that the school library is only about books and have never experienced the support and expertise of a school librarian why would they even think about collaborating with one. This then will effect how they encourage their students to use school library too.

Having said all of this I do believe that teachers need our support and want school libraries. One of my questions in my masters research was 'do you think the school library is important' and 100% answered yes. However, when asked if they use it themselves the number reduces dramatically. So where is it all going wrong? Life long learning come from the skill of information literacy and learning how to learn. If this is not embedded in our teachers how can they pass these skills onto their students? I recently found a study by Kasu and Demiralp where they concluded that teacher training programmes do not support teachers to up-skill life-long learning competencies (2016). If this is the case, how can teachers be expected support their own students when teaching. "Scheuch, Shouping and Gaston(2009) highlighted that even if pre-service teachers have the basic skills of the field they study, they still lack basic research and learning skills belonging to all disciplines"  (Kazu, H, Demiralp, D, 2016) and in my own experience I would agree. Teachers are so busy that they automatically go to Google themselves to find good resources for their students. They don't think to ask the librarian and they don't think to look in the school library and this has to change. 

How can we improve the relationship between teachers and librarians?

So what can we do about this? Apart from teacher training programmes seriously looking at how they should be working with school librarians we need to make it as easy as we can for teachers to access our skills and support  We need to encourage teachers to think about upskilling themselves and their students by using the library and librarian in their own schools and get them to understand what they are missing out on by not using their school libraries. The demand has to come from the teachers so let's enlighten them to what they could be achieving by using their school library. 

Teachers: your first steps on making a difference to your students academic attainment through using your school librarian.

Williams, D. Wavell, C. and Morrison, K., 2013. Impact of School Libraries on Learning. Aberdeen: Institute for Management, Governance & Society (IMaGeS), Robert Gordon University.

If you are a teacher reading this I have a couple of questions to ask...
  1. Do you know what resources are in your school library for your subject? 
  2. Are there books as well as online resources?
  3. Are they good enough for you to want your students to access them?

If you are sitting here honestly saying you don't know then I suggest that the next time you are in school you find out. Talk to your school librarian and see what is there. On a basic level school librarians are there to provide good quality academic resources and if you use them for that and nothing else what an amazing step forward. Many teachers struggle to find enough resources for their classrooms and some even buy there own but have never found the time to look at what is in their school library. Many teachers spend a lot of wasted time looking for websites that are suitable for their subject and putting them in a files for their students to access. Did you know that this is what a school librarian can do for you? Are you frustrated that when you ask your students to do some research that many of them cut and past from Wikipedia? We know this is what is happening but how can we support and teach good practice?

We all want our students to become independent learners and unfortunately the idea of independence has been swallowed by our ability to 'Google' the answer. Google does have a place in society but I would argue that being able to search with skill and find academic sources is far more important, especially when doing homework or studying.  We don't need to teach our students how to find answers to non-academic questions, they have been doing that since they were little. We do, however, need to teach them to:- 

  • know and understand what educational sources are 
  • be able to decide/choose where they will find the best answer quickly using those sources
  • access the information - using keywords
  • reference and give credit to where the information came from 
This is where your school librarian comes in. By knowing what books and online resources are in your school library it is possible to start guiding your students to better resources and giving them the skills to access them. This is not spoon feeding them! they still have to independently decide which source to use and actually be able to find the information from it.

Teachers: 3 simple steps to getting the most from your school library and librarian

Let's start with encouraging your students to use books for research. You as a teacher know that there are several great up to date books on your next topic in the library. How?
  1. You met with the school librarian the term before and together you selected and ordered the necessary books. (school librarians really want teachers to collaborate with ordering stock for the library, it should be based on the curriculum and if you change topic then the librarian needs to know) 
  2. These books have been added to the library catalogue with some keywords that you and the librarian have agreed on 
  3. They are now already sitting on your library shelves. 
You want your students to look at them but you want them to find them themselves. A really easy lesson is this:-

  1. Explained to your students about the new topic and what you want them to create. 
  2. Tell them that the information has to come from books only. 
  3. Invite your school librarian into your class to demonstrate how the school library catalogue works. 
  4. Together you will teach the importance of keywords and how your keywords can create a good question. 
  5. With the librarians support, your students need to use the keywords to find the books in the catalogue and write down the information they need: Author, Title and class number
  6. Take your students to the school library to find the books. Make sure that any books are borrowed correctly from the library. A good lesson in responsibility! 

Once the books are back in class remind them about their keywords and how to use the index to find what they need. You would be surprised at how many have forgotten how to use an index. Finally once they have found the book and the information that they want the librarian can also teach a lesson on note taking if needed.  Finally, the librarian can also teach them how to reference where they got the information from.

Ok so how does this process create independence?
  • Using books from your school library is independence! Just because you are guiding them to the books they still have to make a selection. It is their choice about which book to choose and which information to take from it.
  • This process has up-skilled the teacher and the students on how to use the library catalogue. This is a skill that needs to be used regularly and as you now know what resources are in your school library you can encourage them to borrow books for future topics. 
  • The librarian can also add websites to your library catalogue so future lessons could include books and websites from the same search making less work for the teacher. 
If your students can use your library catalogue, which is a database, they will find it easier to search online journals when they get to that stage. Academic resources can't be searched with a question so the skill of keyword searching is a very important start the independence journey.

If you have read this far you are obviously interested in what happens next. Caroline Roche is a school librarian at Etham college an independent school whose website Heart of the school is full of amazing ideas of teacher-librarian collaboration. Take a look and share it with your own school librarian to start the conversation. 

This all seems so straight forward to me. If every teacher and school librarian were only doing just the basic, school libraries would be thriving, students would be using great resources, teachers would be less busy and academic attainment would rise.  There is so much more too...


Azano, A. (2014). RURAL: The other neglected “R”: Making space for place in school libraries. Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 60.  

Kazu, H. & Demiralp, D. (2016). Faculty members’ views on the effectiveness of teacher training programs to upskill life-long learning competence. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 63, 205-224, 10.14689/ejer.2016.63.12 

Up-skill life-long learning competencies