All good things must come to an end – Heart is closing

From December 31st, 2020, Heart will be closed to new submissions, and will go into an archived state for a year or two.  This will give you time to download anything from the site which you have found useful over the ten years that Heart has been running.  When I first started Heart – 10 years ago! – in March 2010, with the first post in September of that year, not many people had their own blogs and places to showcase the amazing work that they were doing.  Now many school librarians have blogs, and are on Twitter, and you are all shouting about the fantastic things that our #greatschoollibraries are doing.  The time is now right for Heart to quietly bow out and hand the baton on to you.

Some of the highlights over the years have been our very first post, about the  School Libraries Commission Report which was published in September 2010.  It was followed by our reporting of a statement from the Education Minister Nick Gibb, saying that he believed every school should have a library – we are still waiting for that!  Our very first Christmas TV schedule from the wonderful Helen Smith from Eckington School came out in December 2010 – and is still going!  I am very honoured to have that post as the last one this site will host.  We reported on the launch of the wonderful Stan Lee Excelsior Award, again, still going 10 years later. And our mass lobby of Parliament was reported on here too, by Barbara Band, one of the organisers.  Plenty of other news and reports have taken place on Heart – from SLOTY announcements, Carnegie and Greenaway announcements, other Book Prizes, and more.

You should also have a look, using the categories tags at the side, at some useful articles to take note of and download.  I have chosen a few which I thought you might not want to miss.

Creating a Literary Tube Map

Using Minecraft in your schools

Marcus Alexander video – why spend money on your library?

Anime Club at Fort Pitt Grammar School

Taking InfoLit lessons into Google Classroom

Creating Zines at Fort Pitt Grammar School

Google Hacks from Lenny Dutton

Dewey Card Game from Matt Imrie

Designing a library layout with the help of students


And many, many more!  Also remember to look at the Evidence Base Tab to download any reports you may need, although you will also find some of these on the Great School Libraries site.

And finally, thank you so much for all the incredible contributors to Heart.  Every single person who has written something for the blog, or given me information like Book Award Winners has enhanced this blog.  This site was always for you and about you, and you have ensured that it reached all around the world.  Keep on shouting out about the wonderful things you all do.  Heart Facebook page will close, but Heart Twitter will change to my own personal account.  As this site is not longer paid for, some of the links are not working as well as they should, particularly embeds.  I have pointed you to articles that still work perfectly well though.

Love to each and every one of you – and thanks for everything! – Caroline







Christmas Reading Times 2020!

Christmas TV 2020 v2This has surely been the very best thing to come out of 2020 – and it is a post which is eagerly anticipated year after year.  Thanks as always to the huge effort that Helen Smith from Eckington School put into this.  Please remember to credit her when passing this on!


Click on this link to download the pdf version of this wonderful document.

Christmas TV 2020 v2

Running an online Book Club using Microsoft Teams

I thought I would share my own experience of running an online bookclub, with How To’s if you do it through Teams.  Would love to hear your experiences of using different mediums too.

All our HOD’s were challenged to use one of the tools from Office 365, and I chose to use Teams. I
ran the Trinity Book Award using Teams as I only had a few students who were keen readers, but
because they were part of other activities too, we couldn’t find any time to suit us. I set up Teams –
the students used it already with other teachers and so it wasn’t a new technology for them.
If you use Office 365 in your school, then you will be familiar with the dots in the top left which
launch the other applications Click on the dots to expand and choose Teams.


Right at the very bottom of the left hand pane is a little box which says Join or Create a Team. Click
in that, and choose Create a Team, and then the Anyone option if you are having random students
from different years and classes, which I did. Name your team and choose to keep it public or
private – your choice.  The Team should now appear down the left hand pane, alongside any others you belong to. Click on  the title of the Team to open up the reading and writing pane. You can add members to the Group  by clicking the three little dots next to your Group’s name on the left. 

This will give you a drop down menu of choices. Add Member will give you the choice of adding individuals or any email groups of students set up in Outlook by your school.
You are now ready for your first discussion. If you want to include everybody in the group in the
conversation – which you usually do – then put @ in front of the name of your team (@TSBA for
example) and it will include everyone in the conversation. If you don’t put @ then people will only
see if they choose to log in, with the @ they are all notified that a conversation is taking place.
You can also add lots of tabs with information on. See mine below:

As you can see, I  also connected to OneNote to have pages of  more information about each book.
The club ran well, with flurries of interest around certain books or times of year. It meant that
students could take part in their own time, which was often after school or in the evenings. It was so
successful that I also started a Team for Staff Book Club, which also runs well, especially for those
staff who cannot make the meetings.  For this year (2020) I will be having a monthly video meeting through Teams, as we cannot mix year groups, so this is the best solution.

Hope this helps you set up your own if you use Teams. How are you using online tools to keep bookclubs alive?

Reading Well for children and young people

In these strange, lockdown days of COVID-19, there is a lot of worry, and rightly so, about young people’s mental health.  The Reading Agency have this covered!  They have lists of books on their Reading Well website.

You will find a Reading Well for Children booklist, Reading well for young people and other reading well booklists that would be a great starting point for talking to young people about how they are feeling.  In the Resources tab you will find handy displays for plasma screens, infographics, posters, assemblies, and much more.  I recommend visiting the site and using the resources as a way of preparing your students to cope with what they – and all of us – have been through during lockdown.


School Library Conference in Zimbabwe

Hosea Tokwe from Zimbabwe is well known to members of the mailing group SLN.  He runs a School Library month and Conference in Zimbabwe every year, and members of SLN help to fund this financially every year.  Hosea asks no money from the delegates, which is where we come in.  This year he has sent me a great report from this year’s work, which I have posted below.  Thanks to Hosea and his work, school libraries are being valued in Zimbabwe.  This is a great example of cross sector work, as Hosea is a University Librarian with a heart for school libraries.  Enjoy the article!

To contribute towards this Conference next year, please contact Elizabeth Bentley ( who will be only too pleased to help.

[embeddoc url=”” download=”none” viewer=”google” ]

Using Microsoft Sway to raise the profile of the library

School Librarian Barbara Ferramosca tells us about her initiative in using Microsoft Sway to promote her library in King’s College School.

My library has recently started to use the Microsoft app Sway as a way to promote our books and library resources with great success: as a Librarian I have always felt that our OPAC/Library Management System or the VLE used in school were not quite the right tools for the job and we needed to find something more in keeping with the times. Sway is the answer that I was looking for.

The app Sway is Microsoft’s response to the popularity of Prezi and it is part of our school Office 365 package. It is basically a more fun and visually appealing version of PowerPoint. It is very user-friendly too because it requires little training to create something that looks professional and bring together different types of media in one platform.

Here are some examples of our Sways:

These Sways display without any problems on all types of phones too: the text and images automatically adapt to the size of the mobile phone screens.

What did we want to achieve?

Marketing and Raising the profile of the library. Sway can be easily embedded on Facebook and on Twitter: I have always wanted to use social media to promote new books and our recommendations but I have never been able to do so because I found that running a library account was very time-consuming and I could never quite ascertain the impact of my efforts towards lending figures, for example. Now we send our weekly Sways to the school marketing team so that I can use the school social media channels instead: a quick survey with our students has reassured me that students tend to follow the school Twitter account anyway for more practical reasons (i.e. info about sport fixtures, music or drama events, etc.) so this was a guaranteed way to reach them. Using the school account has another benefit too: it raises the profile of our library and we can also regularly highlight our expertise to the school community (including SMT), our parents and other possible stakeholders such as governors, ex-pupils and the general public. Finally, on a more practical level, we are helping the school marketing team who are really grateful as they sometimes struggle to find materials or information to publish on social media.

Promotion. Sway is a brilliant tool to promote the library books in a new and more exciting way because it is a very visual tool for a very visual generation. The following are just some examples of what we have been able to do:

– Booklists with book covers, quick blurbs and hyperlinks to Amazon. We quickly discounted hyperlinks to our library OPAC for these reasons: students are already familiar with Amazon and use it much more often than our library catalogue; they can read the book reviews about the book and even the beginning of the book before making the decision to borrow the book. It just works.

– Students like to discover what their peers/friends like to read so now I am finally able to add these peer-recommendations or the top ten books of the week for example. Beforehand, I used to display these recommendations on displays or on the library shelves but it always felt like a lot of work for a small audience overall. I have given my pupil librarians the task of creating book reviews in podcast form so we will be adding these soon: it will be another way to integrate peer-recommendations into our newsletter.

– I finally have a way  to add video book trailers from Youtube or even podcasts – I have never found a way to use them until now. A lot of publishers produce trailers for new books and they can be extremely successful at catching the attention of a reader. The feedback from the students has been extremely positive – they REALLY like the trailers.

There are so many other possibilities that we have not yet fully explored: in our first Sway, we created galleries of students’ artwork based on their summer reading. It is worth exploring this app to see how it can work for your library.

Library lessons. In our school, the English department is keen to bring their classes in the library for students to read or choose a new book. We found that sometimes students are lost when faced with so much choice around the library, especially the more reluctant readers. Creating regular Sways has provided a new format for these particular lessons. The week before October half-term, we invited all the Year 9 classes to the library and asked the students to go online (either on their phones or using our computers) and just browse/read/listen/watch our last two to three Sways. It was a success especially as the teacher made clear that they were expected to borrow a book by the end of the lesson. They responded well to the combination of clear expectation and also to the fact that they could freely explore. It did not feel prescriptive because they had so much choice. I am now treating each Sway with the same care and attention as I would every lesson: I try to think about the audience that I want to target and then add content appropriately.

Final considerations. Making our Sways on a weekly basis works for us for the reasons explained above. Overall, creating a weekly Sway can be very time-consuming so this is why I think that it is extremely important to use it in as many different ways as possible. The amount of effort invested into creating each Sway needs to strategically work in several different ways to make it worth it. However, as we all know, every school is its own micro-cosmos so what works for us may not necessarily be possible for another librarian. Sway is just a brilliant new tool in the Librarian’s arsenal to reach our school community in a different way.


The January Challenge from 64 Million artists

I asked this organisation to write a blog post about their initiative, because it sounded so wonderful, and I know a lot of you would love to take part in this!

‘Cultivating an open and accessible culture of learning? Encouraging creativity and collaboration? Developing dynamic spaces for staff and students to experiment and have fun together?

Have you heard about The January Challenge?

64 Million Artists believe everyone is creative, and when we use our creativity we can make positive change in our lives and the world around us. We think school libraries are amazing. And, as spaces of creativity and community, libraries make a very happy and inspiring home for The January Challenge.

Creativity is already in our lives, sometimes it just needs a little spark to wake it up or a quick reminder that it’s easy to access. That’s why in January, a month notorious for making us feel blue, we run The January Challenge – free and fun creative challenges every day for 31 days. The idea is simple. For each day in January we set a short creative challenge which only takes 5 to 10 minutes to complete. The challenge might be to write a poem about Mondays, to doodle to music, think your way around a problem or make something taller than you. It is a fun, quick and accessible way to get creative – and getting creative is good for you.

In 2019, over 15,000 people across the country took part. Over 95% of those surveyed said it had a positive impact on their wellbeing. Creative challenges took place in schools, hospitals, libraries, theatres, offices, community centres and homes across the country. We heard about flash mobs in school canteens, paper aeroplanes flying around libraries and friendships born online, and over a cuppa.

We have recently partnered with UCL Division of Psychology and Life Sciences to find out if our online creativity programmes really impacted symptoms of stress depression and anxiety and the overall wellbeing of our participants.

The research results found a ‘clinically meaningful’ increase in participants’ wellbeing and an overall decrease in symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Interview data also reflected that participants felt their well, supported and socially connected by taking part in simple creative activities online. Read the short report here.

Unlock the key to wellbeing in your school. Use The January Challenge to boost collaboration, connection and creativity for both staff and students. School libraries make an excellent ‘hub’ for Challenges – but they could also be used in staff meetings, tutor time, lunchtime clubs, in lessons! How could you use them in your school?

The January Challenge is free to take part in, and we offer optional extras to help you champion creativity across your whole school. Find all the information you need here, or get in touch at ‘


National Survey Results – Could do better!

School Librarians deliver their report card to Education Minister Nick Gibb.

Key findings include:

  • 9 in 10 schools in England that participated in the research have access to a designated library space, falling to 67% in Wales and 57% in Northern Ireland however;
  • Schools with a higher proportion of students on free school meals are more than twice as likely not to have access to a designated library space;
  • Employment terms for librarians and library staff fall below national standards, with low pay and little investment in professional development and training.

[embeddoc url=”” download=”all” viewer=”google” ]


Commenting on the publication of the research, Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP said: ” We welcome this landmark report as the first comprehensive picture of the state of play in our school libraries. On the one hand, it is a testament to the Head Teachers, Governors, Teachers and Librarians that value and promote the importance of school libraries for their learners and their schools. On the other hand the research paints a picture of inequality of access and opportunity and insecure employment that we cannot accept. The findings highlight the urgency of securing a national School Libraries Strategies and investment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, drawing on the example of Scotland.”

To find out more about the Great School Libraries Campaign, please visit their website: