Creating an online book club: professional development for school library staff

This is a guest blog post from Elizabeth Hutchinson (@Elizabethutch) If you wish to join in, please either contact her on Twitter or on this email:

Elizabeth Hutchinson is Head of Schools’ Library Service in Guernsey. She is a chartered librarian with special interests in school libraries.  This includes raising the profile of school libraries and qualified librarians through advocacy, promoting the importance of information literacy within the curriculum and working alongside teachers using technology to support independent learning for students. She was runner-up in LILAC 2016 information literacy award and is also an international speaker.

I have always felt that I do not read enough non-fiction for my own professional development. I regularly read the CILIP Update and The School librarian, which if I am honest, amounts to a quick flick through unless something really shouts out to me. I enjoyed reading non-fiction when I was studying for my degree and then my masters, and when I think about this I realised that it was because there was a purpose to it. Professional development is a journey and part of my journey was about understanding that I find reading non-fiction very difficult without a reason.

Social media changed my professional development journey when I began to understand how I could use it to support my own learning. No longer did I have to hunt out the information that would be useful for me. If I was following the right people they would be curating the useful articles and research that I needed for my role as a librarian. I have read far more because of these wonderful people who are so willing to share and encourage discussion.

However, I still had this niggling feeling that I should be reading non-fiction books but knowing what to read or finding the incentive was difficult for me. I have run a fiction book club with a group of my friends for over 5 years now. What I have learnt from this book group is that there are real benefits from letting others choose the books. I have read several that I would never have picked up on my own and I have enjoyed discussing the books I have not enjoyed as much as the ones that I have.

The moment to start a PD online book club came out of the blue. I had done no research. I did not know what platform I was going to use. I did not have a list of books and if I am honest I did not know I was going to do this until the moment I decided to respond to the last question on the first ever twitter chat for #ukslachat. “What is going to be your new years resolution? If you are making one” I posted this response without really thinking about it. “I would like to start a #PD non-fiction book club. Probably online. Anyone interested?” I immediately had 5 responses saying that if I did they would love to join in.

For those of you that don’t know me should know that I am the kind of person who is very spontaneous. I do have a lot of experience and knowledge of school library services and if I think something feels right I am the kind of person to give it a go and learn by my mistakes rather than spending hours weighing up the problems or consequences. This is why I then found myself trying to work out how I was going to make this book club happen.

A little planning and thought did have to go into the next bit and luckily I do have a good knowledge of twitter hashtags, padlet platforms and access to a lot of lovely librarians who wanted to join in. Once I realised that I would not have to come up with the list of books and the librarians were willing to share books that they wanted to read I knew that this could be done and the new online non-fiction book club (#nonfbc) was born.

I have created a page on padlet that anyone who messages me via Direct Message through twitter can have access to. I have tried to keep it small but maybe this is not manageable so will have to monitor this. There is also a twitter hashtag #nonfbc for comments. We chose the first book Reading by Right: Successful strategies to ensure every child can read to succeed on the 5th December and will chat about it on the 23rd January. I think I will be using both platforms for the discussion as not everyone is on twitter or in the same time zone. There will be a set time for each discussion but anyone can join in at a later time/date if they wish. I still need to think about questions for our discussion but that will happen as I read this first book. I think that is all I need to do for now so it is just a case of watching and learning as I go along.

If you would like to join in just get in touch and come along for the ride. It may not be perfect but hopefully we will all learn something on this journey.

Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash




Christmas TV 2017 – Books into Film

This is the most eagerly anticipated and read post every year!  The wonderful Helen Smith from Eckington School in Derbyshire produces a guide to Christmas TV every year, linking films to books.  A great opportunity to promote reading!  Helen provides this for free every year, and she allows free distribution.  However, please ensure that you acknowledge her as the author of this guide.  Also, Helen asks that if you enjoy this guide you consider donating to the page she has set up for the National Literacy Trust.