Saturday, 27 January 2018

New online book club for school library staff - What next?

Running an online book club

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Well, it has been and gone. Our first attempt to create some professional development for school library staff. After a sudden and inexplicably impulsive suggestion that I wanted to set up an online book club I found myself having to put my money where my mouth was. Too many of my twitter friends thought it was a great idea so I had to find a way to make it work. 

My plan, well I didn't really have a plan, and to be honest I still don't! Was to create a platform for book suggestions and provide an area for discussion. I have joined in several twitter chats and felt that this was something that I could do but also wanted to provide a platform for those who don't use social media. This was why Padlet was chosen. I was not sure whether to post the link open to all or keep it for those that asked for it and have currently decided to keep it closed.  I may be wrong but this feels like a little like signing up for it which gives it a little more status. If you want to join in after reading this, either email me at or follow me on twitter @elizabethutch. Be aware that I don't automatically follow back so you will need to post a message to me saying that you want to join. At that point, I will follow you and give you the link to the Padlet. 

The first discussion took place on the 23rd January both on the Padlet and on twitter. We had chosen to read Reading by Right by Joy Court. After 2 hours of moderating I was shattered. I did learn a lot from the experience and will be making changes to the next one. I have also had some very useful feedback too that will be taken into consideration too. 

My thoughts on the first discussion 

  • I need to consider my focus for my questions. Am I wanting to engage in school library discussion or more about the book? I think this was a little difficult with the first book Reading by Right by Joy Court as it had very specific chapters and it lent itself to linking what we do in practice. This meant that it was possible to join in the conversation even if you hadn't read the book. I don't think this will be the case with every book so will monitor as we work our way through the next few books. 
  • I had far too many questions. 10 in an hour does not lend itself to a good discussion. I was moving to the next question just as an interesting discussion was starting on Padlet. On Twitter, I did not have time to join in the discussion myself as I was too busy getting the next question ready. I felt that I could not change this once it had started because I had already posted a link to the questions out on Twitter. I could, however, have some reserve questions in future! (Thanks, Janet!)
  • I need to sit at a desk and not the kitchen table as I was aching after I had finished 2hrs of talking on the computer...
  • Is the Padlet the best platform for this discussion? We had to keep refreshing in order to see other peoples comments and it felt a little disjointed although I am not sure if there is a platform that would give us what we need. I don't intend to change it for now as it may be that we just need to get used to it. 
  • I also need to think about keeping a 'request only' link to the Padlet. I am not sure if it will get too big to have a proper discussion if too many people are involved. Will I have time to keep adding people? I think I will have to monitor to see how this goes. 
  • Twitter, this worked well but I just need fewer questions and maybe someone else moderating with me. One person to ping out the questions and another to respond to comment might work better. Looking for volunteers :)  
  • The books need to be reasonably priced, most of the time. I had not thought about this at all and chose the first one on book suggestions and votes. I don't want to be restricted by price all of the time as there will be some really useful books that we should be reading that will have a higher price. I will try to make sure that at least every other book is one everyone can afford to buy.
  • This is a very useful thing to do and there is a need for this kind of #PD for school library staff

Where next?

I am very pleased with the enthusiasm for this book club. I do feel that there is a need to continue it. I hope that everyone taking part will suggest books or if not at least vote for what they would like to read. I don't want to feel like I am making all the decisions and so far that is not the case. 

If you have any feedback on the last discussion or any suggestions please feel free to comment below. This is very much our book club and I will try, as best I can, to make it worthwhile for everyone taking part. 

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Advocacy for school libraries. How we can take responsibility

After the success of my post in November 2017 Why do teachers need school librarians? 5 questions to ask yourself. Where over 29000 people viewed it I began to worry about how I could ever match that again. I think I have come to the conclusion that I can't! I just have to write about what I feel passionate about and let the world decide if it is interesting enough to read and share so here goes.


(Photo by alexander milo on Unsplash)
Today I want to talk about advocacy for school libraries, it may seem an impossible mountain to climb but I do feel that we all have a responsibility to engage with it one way or another. It is not about shouting about how great we are, it is not about demanding that teachers work with us, it is not even about increasing our loan figures. It is all about our students and this is the only reason that advocacy is important. Our students deserve the right to have access to a good school library with a librarian to support them, they deserve the right to understand how to access good quality information and they deserve the right to have access to fiction that will enhance their literacy and learning. Without the support of the teachers and senior leadership teams in schools these rights are undermined and one of our roles as school librarians is to make sure that teachers know and understand what we can do. 

Ok, I hear you say, that is easier said than done. I agree the thought of sticking your head above the parapet is frightening, you are one librarian in amongst a whole school of teachers. Who are you to be telling the teaching staff what to do? I thought I would share some of my ideas for advocacy this year in the hopes that it may inspire you to try at least some of it.

Advocacy Ideas

Staff meetings

Like you, I have always felt frustrated that I know that I can make a difference to a teachers job if they allowed me to work with them. The problem is getting them to give you enough time in their very busy day for you to explain. The only way I have found that works is to ask the Headteacher to give you a staff meeting slot at least once a year. It doesn't really matter when, so if you ask now and you can't have a slot until September then at least you know it is booked in. Before you approach the Head make sure that you know what you are offering. Do you want staff to know about all the resources you have? Do you have new resources that you want to share? Have you worked with a teacher in a innovative way that you think would inspire other teachers to work with you? It may be an opportunity to share what you would like to happen or to show what other schools are doing that you could do too. Here are a couple of blogs that I follow that give some great ideas for innovative teaching:

Read. Research. Rest. Repeat by Kathleen Currie Smith
Heart of the school by Caroline Roche

Also take a look at my account here which has lots of ideas for school librarians

Have all my staff meetings gone well, no! You should not give up though as the more you do the better you get at it. Even if you manage to get one teacher to understand what you do and start working with you then that is a win. Sometimes I feel that all I do is talk but that is ok. Advocacy is about talking and sharing what we do. It will generate interest eventually!

Social Media

Next, make sure that your social media is working for you. Have a library twitter,  Facebook page , Instagram account, or whatever tool you like the best, to show what you are up to in the library. You may not be collaboratively teaching yet, but posting new resources and book groups is a good place to start. If your senior management team are not keen on you having one for the library show them some good examples of what other school library twitter and Facebook accounts look like. Here are some worth following:-

Canon Slade Library
La Mare de Carteret High School Library
Worle School LRC

St Sampsons High School Library
What a difference a school library can make

If they still are not keen then ask them to post on the school accounts on your behalf. If you keep pestering them with all the good stuff you are doing it raises awareness but it may also lead to them saying you can have your own because they don't have time to post everything you want :)


This is a perfect advocacy tool either for yourself or your school library. It is a place where you can write about what is happening in your library and critically evaluate what you are doing. How can you make it better, is it worth sharing so that others can learn? Don't use it to vent your anger but put it to good use. Saying that there are many times when I have written a blog post in anger and spent a week re-writing so that I could understand, learn and share how to improve the situation. It does not always work and those are the posts that stay forever as a draft. Sometimes you just need to get something off your chest! Great library blogs:-

The Library Voice By Shannon Millar
The Daring Librarian by Gwyneth A. Jones

Here is a list of other library blogs to follow. You are now spoilt for choice :)

Podcast interviews

I am not suggesting that you start up your own podcast, although if that is your thing then go for it. Rather look out for educational podcasts and offer an interview suggestion about school libraries. I did one recently with Lucy Parsons whose podcast is about what makes a good school. I really felt that you should not be talking about good schools without talking about the school library so I offered to be interviewed and you can listen here I have plans to work with Martine Ellis on her podcast The teaching space, as she is asking for volunteers to be interviewed. This is a great way to share our passion for what we do. Take every opportunity within a teachers environment to share the benefits of
school librarians.


How often have you sat at a conference and thought, I could do that? or that they are not saying anything that I am not doing already? Then this is the time to push yourself forward and start sharing what you are doing. I agreed to talk at the SLAYLG conference last year and then I blogged about it. Here is the link to my write up. Once you are more comfortable with talking to other librarians about what you are doing then the advocacy kicks in. How about presenting at a teachers conference? How else are our teachers going to learn about what we do if the library is not represented at the conferences they attend. I went to the Practical Pedagogies conference in Toulouse to present at a teachers conference about using the school library across the curriculum and as scary as it seems I am off to BETT on Thursday this week to do a 20min presentation about how school librarians can support teachers. Honestly if I can do it anyone can! I do not have magic powers I am just passionate about getting our message out. 

Writing articles

This is our opportunity to advocate what we do big time! As much as it is important that we share best practice with our fellow librarians it is also important that we are writing where teachers are reading. Have you something important to share then two places you should consider publishing is edutopia and ukedchat as both are widely read by teachers. I usually share something I have already written on my blog for ukedchat so that I don't have to write more and it is a great way to share. Here is one I wrote about about the importance of parents in independent learning.  You can find the same piece here on my own blog. 

Hopefully some of these ideas for advocacy will inspire you to try some of this yourself. Please write in the comments and share what you are doing. 

I just want to take this opportunity to share with you some good news I have had. I have been asked to write a regular column for CILIP Information Professional magazine about school libraries. The first one should be in the March edition so please watch out for it and let me know what you think. I am always happy for ideas to write about. 

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 past 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...