School Librarians Network – our lifeline!

Do you belong to the internet group School Librarians Network yet?  If not, I really have to ask, why not?  SLN is a lifeline for school librarians everywhere.  Many of us are solo librarians, without anyone else to bounce ideas off, unlike teachers who have departmental colleagues to do that with.  Therefore many of us struggle on, inventing everything from scratch, creating everything and not having anyone to consult about problems that are solely library related.  Well, SLN is the answer to that!  Started by the inspirational Elizabeth Bentley more than 15 years ago – and I have certainly been a member for that long and it wasn’t new then – SLN was a Yahoo Group.  It is a safe place to bounce ideas around, ask Dewey queries, ask LMS questions, share problems and find a sympathetic ear, ask copyright questions and much, much more! SLN has a wealth of files that members can access, where generous librarians have shared displays, book lists and quizzes.  You need only to ask, and generally somebody else has done that and will share with you.

The reason why I am writing about this now – although it is always a good time to join SLN – is that Elizabeth has migrated the group from a Yahoo group to a Groups.io group instead.  This is a more reliable platform, and will give the group greater flexibility.  All of the files have been migrated too, so years of work has not been lost.  All current members were automatically migrated, but if you are reading this and are thinking that you need to belong to this inspirational community – and who wouldn’t! – then the joining details have changed.  Simply send an email to: SLN+subscribe@groups.io to join the community.  See you there!

Image courtesy of Britannica Image Quest.

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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

 

 

 

UKEd nomination for best Educational blog!

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I am proud to announce that Heart of the School has been nominated as one of the best Educational Blogs in 2016!  This is in UKEd Magazine, and the blog is featured alongside teacher’s blogs.  Thank you to everyone who has contributed stories to Heart – all your hard work has been acknowledged!  Please do keep your contributions coming in – everything from lessons you teach on information literacy to displays you put up.  It is really important to show the breadth of things that school librarians do – we don’t just stamp books, we have a vital role to play in educating children.  If you wish to read the UKEd magazine with the nomination in, then you can download it from here.  Thank you everyone – and keep it coming!  We passionately want to show that school librarians make a difference to every school!

Being Me – book resource pack around being different

SLG logoThe CILIP School Libraries Group have produced another excellent book pack, following on from the World War One resource pack.  This time the theme is ‘Being Me’, and it centres around difference and disability.  The books cover a wide range of subjects, with questions and exercises suitable for all reading groups.  Primary as well as secondary books are included, as well as poetry.  SLG members can download the pack for free from the CILIPSLG website here; non members (and members) can buy a beautifully produced pack at a very reasonable price. Details on the flyer here.  Please contact Sarah Masters   for more details.

School Library Camp, Midlands

For the second year running the Midlands will host a School Library Camp.
This year we have decamped (sorry!) to the north of the region and the 2015 event will be held at the University of Derby’s main campus at Keddleston Road.
More details about the location here:
We will be shamelessly using the same date as Darren’s Manchester event which is Saturday 11th July of course. Doors open 10:00 and we expect to be finished and wiping up cake crumbs by 3:00pm.
Click here for more information and to grab your free tickets:
At last year’s event we discussed all sorts of stuff from our policies towards noise to using Minecraft. What will you discuss this year? Pitch your ideas or see what others want to talk about here:
We look  forward to seeing you there!
Sonja, Karin and Carl – 2015 organisers.

 

School Librarians’ Network – an essential resource

A lot of readers will already know about the amazing email list called School Librarians’ Network (SLN).  In fact, most of the articles on Heart come from SLN members.  But for those of you who have not caught up with this amazing resource, this is how you join.  School Librarians’ Network is a Yahoo Group, and to join SLN you first have to have a Yahoo identity.  This is quick and easy – just ensure that you put that you are a school librarian, or if your job is of interest to us.  We have many authors on the list, for instance.  There are 1000+ of us on there so it is probably best that you use a different email to your school one, as there are a large volume of emails a day. (You can of course access all emails straight on the site).  SLN is a wonderful source of knowledge and wisdom – whatever you ask, someone, somewhere, has done it before and has great advice to offer.  We also have a huge files section, worth it’s weight in gold!  You won’t regret joining SLN, the brainchild of school librarian Elizabeth Bentley, who moderates the group. Simply send a blank email to :

sln-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

to access the group.  You will still need your Yahoo profile set up to access the files.  Hope to see you there!

Copyright Literacy Survey – please complete

Two colleagues from the University of Kent are conducting a UK wide survey on copyright, and they would very much like our help with this.  Dr Jane Secker writes: ‘This research is part of an international project originating in the National Library of Bulgaria and analyses have already taken place in Bulgaria, Croatia and Turkey (July – October 2013) and in France (January-March 2014). Further research is currently taking place in Finland, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Norway, Portugal, Romania and USA.  We are calling on all librarians, information professionals or those working in educational, cultural and scientific institutions within the UK to complete this survey before 31 December 2014.  In other countries the head of the library (rather than the copyright officer) has completed the survey, but we would welcome multiple responses from people at the same institution. Please do consider completing the survey yourself, but also help us to raise awareness of the survey in the sector more widely.

The survey comprises 27 multiple choice questions and should take no more than 15 minutes to complete. The research outputs are intended to assist institutions and policy makers in identifying strengths and weaknesses in the comprehension of and engagement with copyright issues in the UK. This of particular importance during the current period of copyright reform.’

Please complete the survey – it doesn’t take long and it will help give the bigger picture.  We all are really keen, after all, for copyright, especially on electronic resources, to be sorted out!

 

SLN – are you a member yet?

Most – though not all – of Heart’s readers know about SLN (School Librarian’s Network) and are members of this Yahoo Group.  Most of the work on Heart comes from members of SLN.  However, if you are a school librarian anywhere in the world, and you are not a member, you are missing out on a fantastic source of support and CPD.  The group was set up by Elizabeth Bentley, who is on the SLG Committee, more than 10 years ago.  The group runs as a completely free chatroom where we can exchange ideas, put those questions that only another librarian colleague can answer, and have the occasional moan!  The group also has a large collection of very useful files.    If you would like to join, create a Yahoo profile which includes the fact that you are a school librarian.  Then send a blank email to this address and Elizabeth will join you up.

sln-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

It is a closed group, but it doesn’t take too long for you to be approved.  Then you can join the most lively and informative online group of school librarians I have ever come across. You will still need your Yahoo Profile to access the files. See you there!