Monday, 25 September 2017

Thing 2: Running UK primary school libraries

It’s a while since I have written for my own blog, although I do contribute regularly to other professional blogs and write articles, news items and contribute to specialist publications from time to time.  I need to find my voice.  What are my concerns?  What needs saying? I also then need to write regularly, as the latest Rudai 23 course says.  I will try and start afresh….
Running primary school libraries
As a primary school librarian in London, I aim to provide excellent libraries that are well-stocked and well managed, to run promotional events and support pupils and school staff in their information and literacy needs. Somehow, primary and prep schools tend to fall under the radar: many UK reports about libraries concentrate on secondary schools, presumably because most of them employ librarians, whether qualified or not. Although primary means ‘first’ we are often made to feel ‘second’ (-best.) Professionally qualified librarians are rare in UK primary schools (why?), libraries are rare in UK primary schools (why?) but they should be central to developing literacy and information learning skills.  Sometimes it feels as if we are competing against levelled reading schemes, but we should be working hand in hand.  (A future blog post?) But it’s no good just moaning.  This is a chance to do something about it.
Where shall I start? 
The day job
My day job hours are unusual for librarians (but quite normal for other education specialists), in that I run four school libraries from half a day to one day a week each.  I work in a team of primary school librarians for Tower Hamlets Schools Library Services, a subscription service.  Have a look at our website for details of our many activities and support networks, as well as details of our library resources.
Strategic management is key
It’s all about communication within the schools so I can ensure the existence of regular library promotions.  (What I call promotion covers most activities beyond basic library administration, ie clubs, displays, shadowing book awards, Reading Year events etc.)
I need a regular budget. I need to behave like a responsible manager and I need to gain the trust of senior staff as a professional. I need support from SLS colleagues and SLS resources.  I need to be able to find out what support the school needs and provide it in the form of expertise and resources. 
It’s hard running a library on half a day or even one day a week, so I prioritise my work and plan long term.  I don’t let myself get bogged down in shelving and tidying or adding new children to the database (even though I do these things every week.)  I generate and analyse tasks into four sections (slightly tongue-in-cheek): Ignore, Delay, Delegate or In-tray.  Within my In-tray I have Important, Middling Important and Slow Cook activities.  In my working session I aim for a third of my time doing library admin/tidying, a third on day-to-day management and a third on planning/analysis. I aim to offer something for every sector of the school community over the academic year: young children, older children, staff, governors, families, children in transition from primary to secondary school, wider communities.  Some initiatives involve several sectors, others are specific.  I base them on reading celebrations through the year. I meet regularly with senior staff. I may get an hour or two a week of Teaching Assistant (TA)  or volunteer parent help.  This usually waxes and wanes. Teachers or TAs deal with classes in the library for their weekly timetable slot, usually not on the day I am in.  If I am in when a class comes in I showcase books to them, teach information skills and help them choose suitable books.
I also advise staff on curriculum resources, both information books and fiction.  To get involved with this takes time, communication, advertising my willingness to help and being pro-active: see what’s going on in the school, what the current priorities are, what wider education priorities are and offer support to the right person in the form of a workable project.
Independent learning
I encourage independent use of the library by staff and pupils.  If things don’t work out, for example, staff complain that the library is always a mess, I give them pointers and suggest solutions: training up pupils to shelve daily for example, instructions for using the computer system on the noticeboard, contacts for troubleshooting, using a message book etc.   I train volunteers and TAs in better use of the library and resources and information skills.  
Reports, reports, reports
I offer regular feedback in the form of termly reports to the Head and senior staff, including data analysis (borrowing figures, use of library by particular groups, eg Gifted and Talented, Pupil Premium children) and pre/post evaluation of projects.
Time management
It’s not all achievable in 3.5 or even 7 hours a week.  I write emails, long term plans and term reports in my own time and read librarianship and education literature and professional social media to come up with ideas too, but I can often use these for more than one school.  Life gets complicated when I have SLS meetings to attend, but they are invaluable for sharing ideas and catching up on my colleagues’ activities.

As I said, communication, strategic management and planning are key, as well as confidence, a sense of humour and a long term vision for the school library's place in the centre of school life.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Report on Cilip Conference, 2nd – 3rd July 2015, Liverpool

Liverpool Central Library

SLG Stand at CILIP Conference, Liverpool,  July 2015

I was very fortunate to be awarded an SLG bursary to attend the conference, which was the first CILIP conference I had been to.  The agreement was that in between talks an SLG colleague and I would run the SLG stand along with other CILIP Special Interest Groups.  You can find most of the presentations on the CILIP website

The conference consisted of the exhibition, fringe events, social events, keynote talks and seminars. I found the range of talks, particularly the keynote speakers, very exciting.  When you are bogged down in the details of your working days, some less fascinating than others,  it is interesting to hear about the bigger picture and the range of people’s roles. I talked to people from several countries and different sectors: Australia, the USA, Nigeria, university librarians, researchers, PhD students, public librarians, medical librarians, we all had issues in common whatever the sector.  I asked a question in one talk and someone came and talked to me afterwards about how she was researching that very topic. Great networking opportunities, both in talks and beyond.  The drinks reception in the Liverpool Museum was fun, I enjoyed the virtually private viewing of their exhibition about Liverpool Docks through the centuries.  We also popped in to the Liverpool Central Library, even more stunning than the new Birmingham one.
Stands ranged from data storage companies, to Better World Books, to online resources.  There was a stand for the Fringe events, a CILIP stand and some of the SIGs. Interesting to see what freebies other SIGs give out: headphones, pens, notebooks, screen cleaners…
The best stand for me was the Ideas Box: a sort of mobile library packed into metal crates including books and IT equipment, plus training on the ground….provides “crucial support in education and child protection.”
The project is funded by the Bill Gates Foundation and is sold to charities and governments for use in for example refugee camps.  A great idea to supply education and opportunity in a box at the same time as life-saving equipment.
Most of the other stands were of no great interest to me as a primary school librarian and looking through the delegate list there were very few school librarians there, or even people from SLSs.
There were four strands: Information Management, Information Literacy, Demonstrating Value and Digital Futures each strand interspersed with keynote speakers for all to attend.
Keynote speakers were all very inspiring :
David Lankes, Professor of New Librarianship at Syracuse University: An Action Plan for World Domination Through Librarianship was a great introductory morale-booster:
Action Plan: 1. First conquer your own demons.  2. Control the narrative.  3. Get invited by being present.  4. Never neutral: add value
I liked his definition of libraries: ….”stewarded by librarians and dedicated to knowledge creation…librarians are now access points to collections. …“libraries are collections of books…the mediator is the librarian”…
ie It’s not the availability of libraries but of librarians, as facilitators, that is important. “Books are not knowledge…books spark knowledge…librarians are educators.”  He said: “Libraries are buildings.  Librarians are not buildings!”  Put the librarian back into the discussion.
This is what we need to communicate to our Heads.  
A stand -in whose name I didn’t catch for Stuart Hamilton, Deputy Secretary General, IFLA on Libraries, Development and the Bigger Picture.  This was about international advocacy work on libraries post 2015, ie UN targets.  The Lyon Declaration to be published in Jan 2016.  He went through various goals and talked about the role of librarians, which may not be recognised as essential. Puts the case for librarians to work in partnership with other organisations.
Eg 16.10 Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
For more info see these websites:  for IFLA trends reports on technology, economics and education
Open government Partnership
This talk was very much the bigger picture but interesting to think about, even if at our level we may feel helpless.

Barbara Schack, Director of Development, Libraries Without Borders: Innovative approaches in access to information, education and culture for vulnerable populations: the Ideas Box.  This was a most inspiring talk and film.  See description above in the Exhibition section.   50 million people displaced.  Average stay in a refugee camp is 17 years.  A medical centre is transported to such places; the Ideas Box, powered by solar energy, has video cameras, tablet comps, books etc help create a vibrant community, encourage creativity, develop imagination and aspirations.  Used as a mobile tool to promote public libraries, and after-school clubs for migrant populations.  Brilliant scheme.  Not cheap.

Shami Chakrabati on liberty and human rights.  A fantastic speaker.  Some people came to the conference mainly to hear this speech.
“Technology moves apace, ethical debate lags behind.”

Will Moy, Director, Full Fact: Factchecking the election: about factchecking politicians’ utterrances around the election, checking and correcting vague statistics.  Interesting talk.

Erwin James, author, columnist for The Guardian, ex-con: A good book can change the way you think about life: about how educating himself through his prison library helped him turn his life around.  A genuine from the heart speaker.  Mentioned my favourite charity GiveABook, which funds books for prisoners as well as its school work. The book was Prisoners of Honour: The Dreyfus Affair by David L. Lewis.

The seminars
I concentrated on the Demonstrating Value stream interspersed with a few Digital Futures talks, partly because I wanted to experience the venue, which was in the courtroom!  The other venues were pretty good too, if you like Victorian ornate marble and grand sweeping staircases. 

One of the more inspiring talks was by Carolynn Rankin, Leeds Beckett University and Sue Reynolds, RMIT University on How to demonstrate the value of your library:
Talked about the importance of keeping evidence throughout a project.  If you have received a grant for a project or finance from some source, need to demonstrate its value or you may not get your grant renewed.  One of those talks suitable for any library context
Some tips: start with the end first: What do we want to achieve, not what are we going to do?
Cited a new British Standard: ISO 16439:2014 How to measure impact and value.
Discussed why we should measure impact: strategic planning, quality management, determining impact over time, comparison with similar libraries, promotion of librarian’s role and value to stakeholders, inform political decisions.
Decide on the priorities of the moment.
Measure output eg number of books borrowed, user satisfaction
Impact: difference or change in an individual or group from before
Value: the importance of this to stakeholders.
Some reports on economic value of libraries:
Arts Council England 2014: Evidence of the economic contribution of libraries
Alma: UK 2011: Economic impact toolkit for archives, libraries and museums
Also Markless, S and Streatfield, D: Measuring the impact of your library, London, Facet 63
Can also measure the social value of a service: Rooney-Browne 2011 diagram
Use a literature review to demonstrate longer term impact of libraries.
Also talked about some of the difficulties of gathering this kind of data: eg subjective nature

A more pragmatic approach was outlined by Mary Dunne, trying to justify expanding a library for the Health Research Board.   Wanted to show the value of librarians to the community. Asked questions: Why we need professional librarians in and out of libraries?  What does the community value? What can we offer that our competitors don’t?  They came up with statements and backed them up with evidence.  Used stakeholder’s language/jargon.  Her powerpoint:

A London project was Director, Stellar Libraries Andy Ryan’s City Read London: different groups all read one book (this year crime thriller Rivers of London by Ben Abramowicz.  My interest in this talk as primary school librarian: 2016 plan to start Young City Read for Year 5 children in conjunction with National Literacy Trust and CLPE.  At search for funding stage.  Local level high profile events based on the book.  Ran City Read with public libraries and London boroughs.  Linked with Quick Reads project.    Aims: to create community cohesion and to create opportunities to promote libraries.  4700 people took part in a previous project.  Added value: partnerships with publishers and cultural organisations; generated £1.5K income; media profiles of partnerships etc.  She has an evaluation team: count people who go to events; case studies. Excellent video.

Elizabeth Oddy and Ann Middleton talked about setting up a short-term pop-up library at Newcastle University.  They ran a campaign to get it using student council, who came up with lively promotional material and persuaded academics to find an unused premises.  Advertised on website etc. Similar logos to other university libraries on the campus.  Won CILIP Marketing Excellence Award 2014.

I also went to some talks on Digital Futures
One about MOOCs versus other small-scale online CPD opportunities in higher education: Helen Buckley Woods.  She said that MOOCs were good as general introductions and a system called FOLIO for very focussed learning: tailored in this case to specialist training. Not really relevant to me but quite interesting.
Andy Tattersall and Leo Appleton: University of the Arts, about harnessing social media for professional use.  Mainly talking about blogging, Twitter as an enquiry service, collaborating on research papers using Dropbox.  Some logistic problems: eg who answers enquiries via Twitter?  “It’s not what you know, but who you know and what they know as well.”  Using the altmetrics online to measure impact: huge potential audience, but altmetrics (alternative indicators) are not measurements of quality, just quantity.  Academics are interested in citations, so in media this is mentions in blogs, your own blog, other’s blogs, tweets and retweets, page views, in news reports etc. 

Investing in the knowledge bank: digital currency for all our digital futures: Virginia Power  on digital and other skills needed for future librarians: summary of her research studying librarian job titles.  Interesting. She has developed a skills matrix for UK and US.  Available from her by email. Talked about digital traffic librarians.  See   

Went to another talk about Dundee Library who’ve invested in 3-D Printers and make models with teenagers, specifically Minecraft models.  Loads of retraining necessary for the library staff.  Sounds expensive. Makerspaces: where librarians bring skilled people to libraries to make things together.

Finally, Jan Parry, CILIP President, launched CILIP’s Impact Toolkit to go with the free notebook available from their stand.  The Impact Toolkit is available on CILIP’s VLE to CILIP members only).  It includes techniques to help you reflect and collect evidence. All about proving value of you and your service: eg weekly emails showing how you have added value, creating evidence, ask to shadow others in the hierarchy, invite influential people to come and see the service, Secret Shoppers to look at your library, be objective about your library: eg use of space.
Some explanations here:

All together, the conference exceeded my expectations: talks were quite practical on the whole and the keynotes were thought-provoking about a wide range of subjects. I was impressed by the bravery of Erwin James and fascinated by the machinations of IFLA trying to include the librarian’s role in UN resolutions to develop international literacy strategies.  I find it interesting how global initiatives percolate down to lowly school librarians, because they will eventually, so therefore our possible role the other way in influencing others, via our customers and stakeholders.
What I gained from the CILIP conference
Impact evaluation
I took away the sense of the importance to us all of demonstrating value impact of our services. I was interested in the citations of books, as I read a fair amount of the literature and have not come across these titles.  We should study the new British Standard.  I gave this report to my team at the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service on our team training day and have subsequently written a simple format for an annual report demonstrating impact by using the statistics we all gather from our computer systems.  My format needs to be used from when you start a project, so that you bear in mind the results you would like to collect at the planning stage. Impact is certainly today’s buzzword, but not really a new concept.  Think SMART.  It all boils down to the fact that we have to keep justifying why schools should employ us to run their libraries, we need to prove what value we are to our schools, not take it as read.
IT developments: interesting to hear about the use of different technologies
Networking: fantastic to meet colleagues from all kinds of library all over the world, all with an interesting perspective on librarianship.
Feeling part of the librarianship world: all sectors have factors in common as well as different perspectives.  All can learn from each other.
I highly recommend attending this and other librarians’ conferences.  Weekend conferences are very good value for money with a wide range of events and exhibitors and contacts. 

Things 9, 10 , 11 and 12

I have read through Things 9 and 10 on videos and live streaming, but have not plucked up courage to actually make a video.  I will, I will...soon.  As for live streaming, I even looked at the video on Pintrest.  I managed to miss Rudai's Hangout back in August but have joined a librarians'  group that offers Twitter chats, so I have moved on a bit, honest.

Thing 11: Reflective Practice.  I have reflected on my demonstrably poor time management as far as completing this course is concerned.  I have very busy working days, don't we all.  I run the libraries of 4, soon to be 5, different primary schools, for half or one day a week, and then have half a day in the Schools Library Service Library.  When I am there, I have to give each school library my full attention.  I am very organised in my job, doing quite  bit of my planning using Reminders on my phone during my up to 1.5 hours each way commute to work.( and a fair amount of professional and other reading too.)  Still, I shouldn't make excuses, as I signed up to the course and I am interested in it and knew I would be undertaking it in my own time.  So I have written out a study plan based on my free days and aiming, as I am doing today, to complete several modules at a time. Thanks for the tips about blogging.  I have been thinking about the blog I really want to start, on the very under-represented world of the primary school librarian.  What approach shall I take?  Soapbox (could be boring and open to ridicule), Why Oh why posts (but I don't want to be on the defensive all the time), Major issues in the primary school library world (yes, maybe)....lists is the answer that came to me in a dream last night. It must mean something!

Thing 12: Conferences.  The first librarianship conference I attended was 2014's CILIP School Library Group's weekend in Alfreston.  I am on the School Libraries Group (SLG) National Committee and received a reduced rate in exchange for helping with its running.  It was inspirational and I am now a fan, so much so that I am on the organising committee for our 2016 conference (more details below).  I have been on many training days over the years, very practical worships on very practical subjects.  I also attend full day events run by CILIP Special Interest Groups or the School Library Association, usually going because I am interested in particular speakers and in networking, but then listening to other speakers on a whole range of subjects.  I come away with  contacts and feeling inspired by good practice. I find it telling that these events often occur at weekends, as many librarians think their schools will not give time off for CPD during the week, or they are one-man bands with no possible cover.  Teachers would never do this. Schools tend to hire supply cover for them.  Why is the librarian, who runs the hub of the school, so undervalued? (Perhaps Why oh why style will win in my blog after all?)
This year I received a bursary to attend the CILIP conference in Liverpool in July 2015.  The bursary was awarded by the SLG in exchange for running its stand in the exhibition, with other Special Interest Groups and covered the cost of the conference and one night's accommodation.  I paid for a second night in a hotel and my train fare.  It was well worth it.   Special Interest Groups may offer bursaries to their members.  Just look out for the info in their newsletters or in the CILIP Gazette.
I took notes in my special shorthand that only I can read.  I tend to remember things by how I lay them out on the page and this works for me.  Others were taking notes on tablets or laptops by typing or using a stylus and taking pics of slides.  A good idea. I will try this.  One day. I took detailed notes and wrote them up into reports for the SLG Committee and also to present to my colleagues in Tower Hamlets SLS at our annual training day.  The full report is in another blog for your delectation.
I networked a great deal, making an effort to talk to people around me and in the hotel.  I was interested in their roles and reasons for being there.
I haven't been to conferences before because I of the expense and also because I have been busy at weekends until recently.  However, having a bursary and reduced rates for the first one was a help.   I will try and attend at least one conference a year in future and continue to attend a variety of training days and workshops as and when.  I tried to go to as many talks as I could, to get the most out of the opportunity given to me and would do the same again next time.

CILIP SLG conference 2016: Sign up for the CILIP School Libraries Group’s conference in Alfeston, Derbyshire,  23rd to 24th April 2016.  The theme is ‘Read All About It! The Impact of Reading on Learning’.  Speakers confirmed so far: David Didau: What if everything you know about education is wrong”; Maria Nikolajeva from University of Cambridge: ‘Reading for Learning.  Cognitive Approaches to Children’s Literature.’  Seminars: Darren Flynn: Learning Commons; Darryl Toerien: Independent Learners.  More to be announced.  Put it in your diaries now!  More details at

Monday, 21 September 2015

Thing 6, 7 and 8

My intention was to spend more time on this course when term started, as I have changed my working hours and supposedly have 1.5 days off during the week.  In fact, this is the first week I have enjoyed the extra time off, so I am still a long way behind.  I have read through most of the sessions, some of which are very familiar to me already, some not so.  I am enjoying trying out the new apps and thinking how I could use them in my school libraries.  I like the step-by-step approach of the practical aspects of the course, which gives me confidence.  I know you can always find a video on Youtube to help out too, so usually do the course sessions on a laptop with iPad to hand.  I also am enjoying the Rudai Pintrest pages, full of useful leads.
I was very curious about other course participants' blogs so enjoyed reading some of them chosen randomly from the list.  I already read some librarians' blogs regularly on my newsfeed Pulse: blogs by Barbara Band, Dawn Finch, Caroline Roche, Phil Bradley and Anne Harding, the latter of which is excellent for summaries of recent educational research and relevant quotations that I use in reports.
I use podcasts from time to time, but can't see a reason to make one, though the children I work with are totally confident in this area and make podcasts for the school website.  I have also recommended that a work colleague makes some instructional ones, an area he is probably really good at.
I have experimented with Scoop It.  I like the layout and the way you set up searches but the results are rather random and life is too short to read everything, so I read it occasionally and add things even less.
I have a few Pintrest pages and have developed them a bit, even got a few followers, and I follow a few myself, but don't check it daily, so never really take its full potential on board.  It is another password to remember.
Still, it is interesting to have a reason to play around with recommended tools, which is what I am doing with Flipboard and Storify.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Things 4 and 5

Some progress...I have worked through Things 4 and 5.  Some familiar information, some not so familiar.  Interesting to play around with the Google tools.  I liked Google + and will bear it in mind when I find a proper purpose for it.  Hangouts is way out of my comfort zone, but I will try and register for the next Rudai one and give it a go.  Hangouts-on-Air looks good and I can see uses for that in the library.  I also liked Google Drive, which I had not played around with before and can see that is very useful as a collaborative tool.    I might well use Google Forms for surveys in the library and Google Drive as a collaboration tool.  On Thing 5 I had a closer look at Facebook and Twitter and signed up to some of the  suggested groups.   I usually read these on Pulse, but don't respond.  Most of the groups are very US-orientated, so maybe not particularly useful to me.  Ideas about displays and library design are always interesting though.  So, a bit more homework on Thing 5, then onto Thing 6.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Rudai23: Lesson 3: Your professional brand

It's taken me a couple of weeks, but I have now updated my Linked-In profile, linked with a few people, scanned their news, commented on someone's conversation, joined some Linked-In groups and scanned some colleagues' profiles.  I signed up to Linked-In years ago (in fact I found I had set up a blog, it was inspired by a day course run by Phil Bradley)  but found the links too random and have never kept up to date with it, but I will try harder now. I enjoyed looking at the analytics and liked the idea of not putting your job title as the profile byline.  It means that a variety of creatives want to befriend me: authors, librarians, publishers.. I value the tips from Rudai about profile privacy too and have adjusted the settings so that I don't receive emails but log in to see news.  I need to remember to check my Gmail account regularly to vet comments.  Apologies to my commenters that I was tardy about this.  Thanks for commenting.  I will return the favour.

I sign up to a many apps that I think will be useful and some of them are.  The problem is that I have to be selective and use the right app for the purpose.  I see that it would be useful for my web presence to send links left, right and centre.  I do this on Twitter, concentrating on professional events in my schools, carefully avoiding showing children's faces, as required by schools' privacy rules (yet they splash them all over their websites.)  I have decided not to do an About Me profile yet.

I have been thinking about my professional brand for a while, following a course run by CILIP SLG London and South East Branch earlier this year and a talk by Dawn Finch.  We need to give a consistent message, both within our libraries, to fellow professionals and in our wider web presence.  Some writers/bloggers are excellent at this: Alan Gibbons speaks from the heart and always makes comments that I respect. I participate in School Librarians' Network, a resource I find very useful. I like to give a primary school librarian's viewpoint whenever it is relevant.  It is a form of advocacy.
Talking of which, I wrote a 'Day in the Life of' about my day job on Heart of the School blog a while back, if anyone is interested:
The Heart of the School blog by Caroline Roche is a fantastic resource for school librarians and I read it regularly.   There are great profiles by other school librarians.

I am enjoying the course very much: the level of detail is very helpful to me, as are the links to infographics and Youtube videos.  
On to Lesson journey will speed up now!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Journey 2: Rudai23 Thing 3: Your professional brand

I set up my Linked-In account at the same time as my first blog in 2008, but never developed either of them.  Thanks to this course I have now added lots of information to the former, probably a good thing.  I need to put some links in, e.g. to these blogs, to my Twitter account, to articles.  I can see the importance of having a brand, people make judgements based on your online profile.  What has held me back previously is privacy concerns and time to keep it all up to date. I will have to make the time somehow. Other people do.