The Mixed Blessings of Book Donations

Following a heated discussion about book donations on Twitter over the new year, Barbara Band who is a School Library, Literacy and Reading Consultant and a retired school librarian with many years of experience behind her, wrote this piece for Heart about what do you do with inappropriate donations? and should you have a policy for donations at all?

School libraries need to be well-stocked with a wide range of resources for all ages and abilities. Not just fiction books but also non-fiction to support the curriculum, provide inspiration for students’ interests and exploration of whatever piques their curiosity. School libraries cater for very specific needs, some of these will be the same in every school but each with have its own peculiarities: the curriculum, the interests of students which can vary wildly – a town with a local ice hockey team is likely to have a large proportion of the student body interested in the sport and I’ve worked in schools where there was a huge interest in fishing yet none of my local colleagues reported the same – and every school librarian will have a wish list of specific titles; the next book in a series, a new publication by a popular author, something they’ve seen in a bookshop that will fit in well with the collection.
In a time of budget constraints stocking a school library that fits all these parameters can be hard to achieve so donations can be useful. However, I would often find that the donations turned out to be inappropriate, nevertheless I still said “yes” every time somebody said “I’m clearing out some books, would you like them”?
Why? Because you never know what gems you might find – after all, one day there may be a Harry Potter first edition that you could sell for vast sums (I wish!). But alongside that yes would be the caveat that the library had a stock selection policy* and that anything that wasn’t suitable would be offered to departments first and then given to charity. I never had a single person say they weren’t happy with that.
So how did I decide what to keep?
• The first assessment would be on the condition of the book or magazine. Was it in a reasonable state with no sticky substances or pages falling out? Was it damaged or defaced?

• Fiction – if it was a popular book then I would keep it for additional copies. If it was something that I didn’t think would be borrowed (for example, where I already had the book with a more up-to-date cover or it was by an author who was no longer read) then I would use it for the “reading boxes” that I stocked in every tutor group or put it in my regular book sale to raise funds for new stock. If the book was recent and “as new” I would consider it for a library competition prize.

• Non-fiction – these were assessed for relevance to the curriculum, accuracy and whether they were up-to-date. School librarians struggle to get others to understand that we constantly need to weed our stock. As librarians, our task is to help students find the information they need, to guide them to a book they may enjoy, and the ultimate aim is for students to become readers for pleasure and independent learners, finding what they want without our intervention. We cannot stand over every student and check what they have taken off the shelves – if a student does their homework using an out-of-date library book and gets it wrong, who is at fault? Facts change over time – we no longer have nine planets – and even recipe books have to be treated with caution. Older ones would not give guidance regarding unpasteurised products and pregnancy.

• Basically any book I added to the shelves from donations had to supplement or enhance what I already had. After that, any surplus fiction that I didn’t want I would pass to the English department for their classroom libraries although rather than dump piles of books on them, I’d catch staff when in the library and ask them to look through them.

• Likewise, if there were any books that I felt would be useful to the SEN department (fiction and non-fiction) then I would pass on these too.

• Non-fiction books would be distributed to relevant departments – again, I would remove anything that was horrendously out-of-date or in poor condition. Departmental libraries are different from the school library. Teachers are able to direct students towards particular chapters where the information is still relevant, for example, the section on gravity in a science encyclopaedia is unlikely to date whereas information about space travel would need to be checked.

• Some books, whilst not suitable for any of the above, could still be used – for papercrafts in the library, as backing paper for quotes, I’ve even used falling-apart graphic novels to create bookmarks (the Simpson’s ones were very popular!).

• The (hopefully) diminishing pile left would be taken to a charity shop – I know my local one collects books not suitable for sale and sells them for pulp so I feel that not only am I helping the charity but also the environment. However, there were always some books which wouldn’t even be suitable for this so those would be put directly into the recycle bin.
School libraries have limited space and each book needs to “earn its keep” on the shelves; keeping old and tatty books in case somebody might want to borrow them means no space for the new books. I’ve weeded sections before and been asked by students and staff whether I’ve bought more books – the old stuff hides the new! School libraries also rarely have store rooms so books that are removed usually have to be disposed of and we can’t stock a book on every single possible thing we may be asked for. Do continue to think about your school library when donating books but please don’t expect them to keep everything and maybe have a sort out of them first to save the librarian that trip to the charity shop?
* A stock selection policy should give the rationale for why stock is selected or rejected. A statement such as: “Resources are selected to ensure stock is of a high quality, current and appropriate. They form part of a balanced collection, providing cultural diversity, differing perspectives and viewpoints, without bias and stereotyping. Resources include a range of formats to support each subject as well as individual learning styles. Any donations will be considered in the same way.”

Barbara Band
School Library, Reading and Literacy Consultant

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: ehutchinson@library.gg

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.

Author Giveaway! – Cliff McNish

In one of those wonderful emails I sometimes get, author Cliff McNish contacted me with an amazing offer this week.  He wondered if I would like to offer all of you his six writing guides – for free!  These are the guides that are normally given to schools as a part of his author visit, but Cliff felt that in this time of shrinking budgets he would like to offer these out to everyone. Of course I said yes!

Cliff is the author of the chilling novel for teenagers Breathe, and the fantasy Doomspell trilogy, as well as books for younger children.  You can see the books he has written, and learn more about his school visits on his website here.

The six guides are entitled The 4 Basic Stories, Five Easy Steps to Creating a Great Story, Creating great Heroes/Heroines in your stories, Creating Great Villains in Your Stories How to Write a Fantasy Story and How to Write a Ghost Story.

I hope that you find these really helpful to your school.  Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or go to his website to find out more.

 

 

Dear Justine Greening – please save our school libraries!

Today a missive has been fired in the battle to try and halt the fast rate at which school libraries are closing.  With school budgets increasingly squeezed, it is very often that school librarians find they are suffering.  ‘Best’ case scenario is that the school library finds that it has no operating budget, and so pupils are left without access to the latest and best children’s books, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal books.  Worst case, the library is closed, or they make the librarian redundant and let the ‘library’ stumble on as a room full of books.  For of course, as we all know, a room full of books doesn’t become a library until and unless it has a skilled practitioner at the helm.  And a budget!

Former school librarian, author, and past CILIP President Dawn Finch had had enough.  After one particularly poignant tweet she decided to contact Nick Poole, the CEO of CILIP, and together they drafted a letter to Justine Greening.  As Chair of CILIP’s School Libraries Group I was also contacted, and was very proud to be a signatory to the letter.  At about five yesterday there were about 20 signatures.  Just before he went into a meeting Nick Poole tweeted that he wondered if any more authors would like to join in and sign.  When he turned his phone on after the meeting. Nick said ‘twitter had melted!‘ By the time the letter was published this morning, there were 150 signatures.  But authors have continued to tweet their support, and so the list of those who support school libraries is growing. The Bookseller also wrote a great piece in support of the cause.

The letter has now been sent to Justine Greening, and you can read the full text of it here.  There is so much more to add – as others have pointed out, we haven’t even touched on the role that librarians play in digital literacy yet, or in wellbeing.  But first things first!

There is also a hashtag going around called #schoollibrariesmatter. Please tweet using this hashtag.  Follow @NickPoole1 @dawnafinch and @CILIPSLG to retweet all the wonderful replies.  Let’s give this legs!

Finally, for a piece of work connected to this, Nick Poole has asked me to collect data around the running costs of STATE school libraries.  Please could you add your data to this Google Document. It is completely anonymous – all we want is Salary+budget  and County.  If more than one librarian included in that salary please indicate, and if zero budget please indicate too.

Thank you all!

 

Poetry kites at John Lyon School

As the theme of this year’s National Poetry Day was Freedom, Librarian Rita Halsey wrote to share the activity she set up in her school.   She says: ‘We celebrated National Poetry Day on Thursday 28 September, with a lunchtime event in the Library. As the theme was Freedom we used kite templates for our budding poets’ compositions, enticing them in with a tasty selection of cakes, sweets and biscuits.’

 

Her Marketing Department tweeted about the event, and it generated a lot of interest – as it would, being such an unusual event! National Poetry Day twitter account was very enthusiastic, as you can see.

Twitter is such a good medium for reaching people – anything you want Heart to retweet, just copy me in on @HeartOTSchool and I will do so.

Bear Hunt Summer Reading Challenge

Librarian Rosie Pike from Bishop’s Stortford College wrote to me about the wonderful Summer Reading Challenge she ran.  It attracted 25 entries from pupils between years 3 and 6. She writes:

‘It was based on We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and there were 8 different challenges to complete. Photos of the work have been displayed in the library since the beginning of the term.Photo diaries of travelling bears have seen them captured  in places as far afield as the top of Ben Nevis, theatre shows in London, Lanzarote, and an unknown journey which looks remarkably like being back at school!  Equally impressive are the many different versions of the Michael Rosen poem, which see them going on a ghost hunt, a person hunt or a hare hunt. All of the pupils were awarded a certificate and prize.’

 

School Librarian of the Year 2017

 

The School Library Association’s most prestigious Award, honouring the best school librarian that year, from a very highly qualified shortlist, is Lucas Maxwell from Glenthorn Hight School in Sutton.

There is a sense of fun in Lucas’s library. From timed Lego competitions to interactive and engaging library lessons. Lucas adds a playfulness and light touch to the library that the students overwhelmingly respond to. The contribution that the library makes to the school is felt well outside of its walls. Staff speak glowingly of how Lucas has enriched their teaching and enthused the whole school about reading for pleasure. Tricia Adams, Director of the SLA, said: ‘‘Lucas is a worthy winner and shows that school libraries are successful champions of both books and technology. His library is obviously fun to be in and his ‘Poem in my Pocket’ initiative and ‘Open Mic’ nights make the library a much-loved centre in his school”

The two other school librarians on the Honour List are: Mairéad Duggan – Mount Carmel Secondary School, Dublin and Shelagh Toonen – Elgin Academy, Moray All bring a passion and enthusiasm to their work that is thoroughly deserving of recognition by this award. To read the profiles of all the librarians on the Honour List visit the SLA website at: www.sla.org.uk The work of all the librarians on the Honour List, including the overall winner of School Librarian of the Year 2017, was celebrated at a ceremony held on Monday 9th October 2017 at The Hive, Worcester.