Saturday, 1 July 2017

7 skills you should be looking for in your school librarian #SLAYLG17

Having just returned from #SLAYLG17 conference where I presented a workshop on change management alongside school librarian Terri McCargar @liberryan, I was reminded of the diversity and expertise of school librarians, the need for us to help schools and teachers understand the benefits of working with us and the importance of our own advocacy. The list of our skills is vast but it still seems that many still have to fight too hard to get teachers to understand our role.

As far as I see it, the problem is that the skills of a school librarian have become so diverse and adaptable, at the point of need, that it is almost impossible to stand, one next to the other, and see the same thing. As schools do not understand the role, school librarians have had to find a way to demonstrate what they can do at every opportunity. If a teacher is interested in promoting literacy and the library the school librarian will focus on that, if the school wants to increase use of online resources they can also do that, if research skills are the focus they can do that, if a school is interested in communicating with others across the world a school librarian will be able to set this up too. There is no set of expectations or understanding of the role from school to school. It's not even a statutory obligation for English schools to have libraries and qualified librarians. If the role has become so diverse how do we explain what we do?

If you employ any other professional you know what their skill set is and what they are being employed to do but this, sadly, is not the same for school librarians and is maybe why many school still think that a school librarian is a keeper of books in a room. They employ 'school librarians' to issue and return the books, to keep the library tidy, buy new book and online resources and to keep control of the students during lunchtime and they would not dream of giving them a budget to manage. This is NOT a school librarian this is a library assistant, who quite rightly should be paid term time only and on a support staff/admin wage. School librarians agree that you do not need a professional qualification to do this job.

If a school needs a Maths or science teacher they would not employ a teaching assistant and a law firm would not employ an unqualified lawyer, likewise a qualified teacher or lawyer would not work for low pay. If you want to be able to employ the best, you have to pay the right wages.

A qualified librarian has a degree in information and library studies and many have gone on to masters level too. Continuing their professional development you will find many librarians are also chartered. This high level of academia is important in the role of school librarianship as the skill set to support teaching and learning is critical but is sadly wasted in many schools. In a recent report by the literacy trust they stated that "Evidence collected by Williams, Wavell and Morrison (2013) also shows that one of the elements of the library that contributes to the impact on learning is a qualified full-time librarian who is proactive and has managerial status" this can only happen if Head teachers and the senior management teams understand and supports the role of the school librarian.

So why is it so hard to understand what a school librarian can do? Teachers have many different skills but fundamentally their role is to teach the subject they specialise in. This is the same for librarians. Many have different areas of expertise but fundamentally they are there to teach information literacy and encourage reading for pleasure. Both of which will make a difference to academic attainment.

What should schools be looking for in a school librarian?

First and foremost you are looking for someone:-

1  who knows and understands their role within in the curriculum
2  who is happy to work alongside teachers in the classroom
3  who can help the school integrate information literacy into the curriculum
4  who can train teachers in information and digital literacy and support teaching and learning

Secondly you are looking for someone:-

5. who will inspire your students to read more
6. who has ideas to engage your students and make your school library a welcoming place to be
7. who can empower your students to become independent learners through reading for pleasure and information literacy

However, if schools want this they have to ensure that the school librarian is paid equivalent to full time teachers. That they are also supported and respected as a Head of Department with a departmental budget and in a ideal world have access to a library assistant to run the library on a day to day basis so that they can work alongside teachers and students within the classroom.

How to make sure your teachers know what the school librarian does?

   Make sure you and your SLT understand the role of the school librarian. Have you employed a professional or a library assistant?
   embed information literacy into your school curriculum policy
   ensure your school library is mentioned in your literacy policy, how are they supporting your curriculum goals?
   invite the school librarian into Head of Department meetings. If they do not know what is going on they will not be able to support the teachers or the students
   Ask the librarian to run training sessions on how to use the school library and it's resources for both teachers and students

There is so much more to do, to ensure that all students have access to good quality school libraries with qualified librarians.  By meeting and talking to so many passionate librarians with different skills at  #SLAYLG17 I am delighted to say that there is some brilliant collaborations going on out there and I am proud to be part of this profession.


Teravainen, A. and Clark, C. (2017). School Libraries A literature review of current provision and evidence of impact. [online] National Literacy Trust. Available at: [Accessed 1 Jul. 2017].

Williams, D., Wavell, C., & Morrison, K. (2013). Impact of school libraries on learning: Critical review of published evidence to inform the Scottish education community. Robert Gordon University. Retrieved from content/uploads/2015/05/SLIC_RGU_Impact_of_School_Libraries_2013.pdf

Monday, 12 June 2017

Talking referencing and plagiarism with teachers. From school and beyond.

Talk to teachers about plagiarism and referencing and they begin to glaze over. Talk to them about the cut and paste culture or about taking photos from the internet and you begin to have a conversation.

Photo taken by Elizabeth Hutchinson
The photo above is one I took about a month ago and put it on Instagram. Am I proud of it? Yes, Do I want others to see it? yes. Does that mean that I would be happy for someone to take and use it without my permission? No. A teacher said to me recently that if anyone chose to share a picture online then they should not be surprised or upset if it was taken and used by someone else. This created a really interesting conversation but also highlighted that there is a problem. As teachers encourage their students to share more online the need for them to truly understand the issues of copyright and the need to reference becomes clearer.

Teachers get extremely frustrated when they know a child has not done the research for their project and just cut and pasted from one of the top three websites found on Google.  I then explain how I can help.
  • I  support and co-teach in their classroom. 
  • I demonstrate tools to up-skill themselves and their students.
  •  I save them time by finding quality resources for their students to use. 
This is when the conversation begins to get easier and interesting. Referencing is an essential building block to this which begins with quality resources.  Once your students have the right building blocks in place good quality research is then produced.

Collaborating with the school librarian enables you to start this journey. 

Teachers and librarians working together to make a difference 

School librarians can collaborate with teachers to enhanse research skills through :-

  1. Using the library catalogue to teach keyword searching. This is an important skill which will help students find good books and websites that have been curated by the librarian. (teachers do not need to spend hours looking for quality websites) 
  2. Demonstrating how to find the academic sources such as Britannica and History Reference Centre.
  3. Teaching how to give credit and reference using tools such as Easybib which is attached to Google Docs. 
  4. Teaching copyright and helping students find pictures that they can legally use for assignments. 

How does referencing help?

Teachers want good quality research from their students but unless they teach referencing they will never be able to check where the information comes from. Just having the right information regurgitated is not research and children as young as 5 can be taught to copy and paste so where is the skill in that.

One of the easiest skills to teach is knowing where to find the best sources quickly. This is an important part of independent learning skills. Just because they know where to go to find the information does not make them less independent it makes them more! Students need to be guided to choosing academic sources by being taught how to find and access them. Using the school library as a source of information is a great start too.

In order to encourage students to reference properly teachers need to learn the tricks to help make this quick and easy.

How do teachers ensure that their students are using these academic sources?
  • By learning the tools to make referencing quicker e.g. Easy Bib, and tools in Word,
  • By demonstrating best practice through citing their own sources when producing handouts or presentations.
  • By making sure that students know how to find good resources by working with the school librarian.
  • By making sure students know how to evaluate websites and use appropriate search engines. Take a look of this list of academic search engines to make research easier and faster.
  • By making sure students know how to reference - the school librarian can help here too. 
  • Checking references and awarding marks for good referencing. 
If students are never asked to reference anything how does the teacher know where the information came from?  I've had a teacher state that as they know the answer and their students have got it correct it doesn't matter where the information came from! My message to this teachers is that it's not your job to pass on the knowledge but the skills as well. Students need to understand that finding the information from a quality resource is important to the teacher too. If not why would they bother?

Another said - it takes too long to get students to reference and it spoils the fun of research! My response is this - What if this student produces a piece of work that you are so proud of that you want to share it as an example across the internet?  You are only showing your inability to teach and understand the importance of referencing. Nothing should be shared by your students without referencing, why, because it is illegal and you as a teacher are condoning it.

Beyond school, whether it is onto university or to work referencing is important.

Universities are beginning to notice the lack of ability of students coming from schools, especially those doing A'levels, realising that there is a real lack of research and information literacy skills.  Some universities, like Birmingham, are even running outreach programmes to teach these skills to students before they arrive at university. Although it is good that universities are trying to do something about this it does make me think that if teachers were working with school librarians these skills could and should be taught in school.

Even at work good research is important. Only the other day I was talking to a man who worked in IT support. He told me "my job is not knowing how to fix everything but knowing how to find the answer through research". This is where the world of work is going and we need to send our students out into the world with the right tools not just exam results.

Finally, if you really like my photo and you have read this far you may share it. With credit of course :)

Monday, 29 May 2017

Librarians and a teacher presenting at the British Isles Google Summit rocking Edtech and collaboration

Last weekend Angela Etheredge, Stony Evans and myself presented at the British Isles Google Summit held in Guernsey. Two librarians and a teacher working together. Why is this worth blogging about?

This was primarily a teachers event, it was about how to use all things Google from Docs to slides and Forms to Classroom so where did a school librarian fit into this? I have been using Google tools for a while now and personally wanted to know more about Google classroom.  More importantly though it was important for me, as a librarian, to attend this teachers conference as it would help me highlight the teaching side of my role. I have written about this in previous posts.

After applying for a place a  few weeks later I recieved an email from Lucy Witham arrived saying that there was only one local speaker signed up and if you felt you had something to share then you should apply for a speakers place. I realised once again that I had a chance to talk to teachers about what school librarians do so I decided to apply. Deciding what I would share was easy.

Which Google product have I used within a classroom setting in collaboration with a teacher?

This was easy! A year ago I helped Angela Etheredge, a teacher at St Annes in Alderney, connect her students via Google hangouts with students in Arkansas. We played mystery hangout with their students and were amazed at the impact that it had on everyone. I also had something else up my sleeve. About 6 months ago, Stony Evan, the librarian in Arkansas, asked me if I would be willing to join him via hangout at a conference he was presenting. I agreed and I joined his session to talk about our collaboration via hangout, so it was time for him to return the favour.  I submitted my idea and was accepted.

How did Angela join in?

At this point it was just Stony and myself until I went to run the inset training at St Anne's. During the day I shared a little about the hangout with Arkansas with all the teachers and as I talked Angela joined in.  I realised that to have a teacher join me in my session at the Google Summit would practically demonstrate how important and necessary teacher librarian collaboration is. So we had our team.

Creating our presentation.

As Stony was in Arkansas, Angela was in Alderney and I was in Guernsey there was no way we were going to be able to sit in the same room and talk about our presentation so we decided to create a Google Slide and work on it collaboratively, we also talked by Google hangout too. I did not realise it at the time but by using a shared Google slide and hangout we were actually doing what they were going to tell us about at the conference.

At the conference

We were not presenting until Saturday afternoon due to the time difference between Arkansas and the UK so we were not able to get this out of the way quickly. After sitting through some brilliant workshops by Ben Rouse, Matt Smith, Bogdan Copil and Jon Neale I was beginning to worry that our presentation was so different that it may not be good enough. Every other workshop was full of ideas and we were planning to share only one. Angela was very calm which helped but I still wasn't sure. I wanted to check out the technical side of our presentation but was unable to do this until just before our slot and that worried me too.

Our session

Time for worrying was over. A quick connection to Stony was tested and we were ready to go. We had a small group of teachers and I would have been happy to present to them but as we started talking more arrived which was great.  The presentation can be found here.

After all my worrying our presentation went really well with one attendee tweeting that it was the best session of the day! Funnily enough I had not realised that as we started Anglea got really worried when she saw who was arriving.  They were IT specialists from the College of Further Education and she did not think that we could show them something that they did not already know. However, that was not the case and our icing on the cake was our demonstration of how easy it was to connect with Stony in America. Having him in the room with us really went down well. People liked the practical application of our session, admitting that we were novices at this but were prepared to try it inspired our attendees to try it themselves.  By giving a clear demonstration of how it worked for us, even though we were clearly not experts, was well received.

Angela and I were on such a high after our session. It worked! We demonstrated something that not everyone is using and we were also able to show how the collaboration between the librarian and the teacher can lead to greater student learning. One local teacher came up and said he was really jealous  of us, when we asked why he said, because we had been brave enough to put ourselves forward to present and he wished he had taken the opportunity too.

Why is it important that you put yourself forward? 

In order for schools and teachers to understand what librarians do we must  talk to them about it. Whether that is in the school staff room or presenting at a teacher training day or even being brave enough to present at a conference. Unless we talk and demonstrate how we can support student learning, some teachers and schools will never know what they are missing out on.

Finally, one teacher asked me how we could help him to connect his students. If this is all we achieved that day this was enough. Helping one teacher to understand the impact that working with the school library can have on his students then we did a good job. You never know where this may lead. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Inset training - How librarians can support teaching and learning.

This blog was written as part of the #futureReadyLibs #blogchallenge which can be found here. I agreed to write about professional development and hopefully have demonstrated how we did this by providing training for our teachers in their inset day. Enhancing their skills through using the school library and its online resources and demonstrating how information literacy linked with the curriculum.                                                                                                                                                                                    #FutureReadyLibs #bloggingchallenge
10-week #FutureReadyLibs #blog challenge, where librarians are invited to reflect upon the different cogs of the Future Ready Librarians Framework. Please join in on the conversations by posting your own blog responses and by joining the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group, where a new weekly blog .

Making changes

St Anne's school library in Alderney has undergone some big changes in the last few months. Schools’ Library Service (SLS) supports this school from a distance as we are in Guernsey which is a short flight away. This means that we only visit twice a term. On one of our visits, last year, we discussed how we could support the school library and help create a space that was well used by both students and teachers. We agreed to weed and renew the resources and gave them some ideas to move the library around to suit the needs of the school. It was lovely to go back a few months later and see how they had been empowered to change it again.

Creating opportunities

This led to conversations about the importance of information literacy and how it can support and encourage students to use the school library to become independent learners. Exciting discussions have been had about embedding information literacy into the curriculum, meaning that the school library, its staff, SLS and teachers will become a hub of teaching and learning for the students of St Anne’s.

Will you run our inset day?

Early last month Martin Winward, headteacher at St Anne's, and I were chatting about how we could ensure the changes in their school library could continue to have an impact on students and teachers. We both agreed that after the initial excitement and interest in the changes, it was important that we found a way to continue engagement. Martin asked me if I was willing to run an inset training day about information literacy and the school library because it was apparent that unless we had teachers on board, who understood what we were trying to do, nothing was going to change. We needed to share out vision.  I jumped at the chance, how often does the librarian get the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of the school library and librarians to teaching and learning. This was especially important as the new Guernsey curriculum is due to be implemented in September.  It is very much skills based curriculum and this is what information literacy is all about. it was perfect opportunity to talk to teachers about how we can support them and have an impact on student learning.

Martin sent me an outline of the areas he wanted us to cover. Improvements in the school library, Information literacy and the framework, resources and tools to support learning and examples of best practice. We also wanted to demonstrate how this all fitted in with Educations ‘big picture’. After a couple of conference calls I started to create my presentation and shared it with Martin and Wendy, deputy head.  Luckily for me, Wales is currently creating a new curriculum and have decided to incorporate information literacy into it so I was able to incorporate their slides into my presentation. It was important for me to make sure that the day was full of information but hands on too so I made sure it  included :-

  • Innovative games/ideas that they could use in their own lessons
  • Google Hangouts
  • How social media can have an impact

Inset training day

I felt It was important to start the day by demonstrate that this training and message was not just coming from me. That schools all across the world are using their school libraries successfully alongside the internet and that the two can and should work together, it is not about one or the other, it is both. It was also important for me to show that there are many school librarians out there doing inspiring things and working with teachers so I started with a demonstration of how social media was important to me and my own personal learning. I explained that I had sent a message out to my followers on twitter asking the following:-

I had some wonderful responses which I shared with the teachers but the one that I finished with was this one. A brilliant message!

I then moved onto information literacy and how the framework SLS are currently using links and supports the new Guernsey curriculum. We were able to show how the framework and SLS staff can support students to becoming independent learners through using the school library. We demonstrated how we could support and train teachers to use the school library in an innovative way, opening their eyes to the countless possibilities of using resources that were already in their school and just waiting to be used. All at no extra cost to the school and with full support and training included.


We played Kahoot an online quiz that you can create yourself. We wanted to demonstrate how easy it was to create a quiz but also use it for our own purposes. Our quiz made sure teachers knew about the support available from SLS and how to use the school library. It caused some great discussions especially around the thorny issue of using pictures without credit. We will be following up with some guidelines on this for teachers.

We had planned to play breakoutEdu after break but we began to realise that we needed to help the teachers understand what was available from the school library and how to access it otherwise they would not be able to play the game so we spent some time showing them how to find their way around the resources that we provide, how to access and use their ebook collection and their school library catalogue. We explained that they needed this information to play the next game.


Julia created our breakout game for this inset day. Breakout is based on a gameshow in America where contestants had to break out of a locked room. As it is not appropriate to lock students into a room this game has been adapted by school libraries, especially in America, to challenge students to unlock a box, using clues.   Ours was set up to ensure that teachers used the school library in order to work out the clues but teachers can use this game for their own subjects too.  They had to work as a team in order to get into the box in under 30 mins. It was great to see how fully engaged all the teachers were.

The box is in the middle of the teachers!

They managed to breakout in 23 mins...

Photo's by Martin Winward
Google Hangouts

I am very lucky to had made some very strong connections with librarians from twitter, so we decided to invite a couple to our inset day through Google hangouts. It was important to demonstrate how easy it was to connect with others around the world but also to help them understand how other school librarians support teachers in their schools. We invited Stony Evans a library Media Specialist at Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas and Caroline Roche , a school librarian at Eltham College, South East London to give a 15 min presentation about how they collaborated with their teachers. Both gave really interesting presentations and shared lots of idea with us. We were very grateful for their time and enthusiasm in sharing their best practice with us.

Stony, talking to us at 7am in the morning!  

Photo by Stony Evans


The day ended by giving teachers the opportunity to feedback on what we had covered during our inset day and to decide how they would include any of this in next term's lessons. Several teachers commented on trying to use the Kahoot and Hangout within a lesson. There was also a lot of feedback on using the SLS website more and asking for support.

“I feel more confident to take a more immersive approach to topic work. I will utilise the SLS website and will liaise more closely with them.”

"Loved the cross curricular approach / opportunities…. MORE / MORE / MORE PLEASE" 

We look forward to supporting St Anne's more in the future. We are very grateful for this opportunity and for your enthusiasm throughout the day.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Librarians and teachers - How to make an information literacy framework work for you.

What is an information literacy framework and why do schools need one?

An information literacy framework is the building block of skills that every student needs to become competent in todays world of information overload. It is the set of skills that ensures that every student becomes independent learners and critical thinkers. So why do we not already have one in every school? Is it a lack of understanding of what information literacy is? Is it because we think that Google can answer everything? Is it because we believe that all students can already do this? I truly have no idea, but over the last few years it has become apparent that although students are very competent at using technology their ability to research has not changed from the time that we only had books and if anything it has become worse.

Many school librarians are asked to run research lessons for various classes across many schools. This tends to look very similar whether it is a junior class or secondary class. We help them to think of keywords and to use the library catalogue to find books and curated websites. Depending on their age we may continue to show them how to use the other online resources that are available. This lesson seems to tick the box for many teachers, however, I would suspect that after this lesson the chances of students using the library catalogue or online resources in a lesson again is very slim.

In some schools that I have worked in I have been asked to show students as young as 7 and 8  to evaluate websites. This unrealistic expectation of what primary students should be able to do is difficult. The pressure teachers are under to ensure their students become independent is huge and the two seem to be linked. Many teachers seem to be under the impression that a research project is not good enough if their students only use the library and online resources and not the internet.  This is why an information literacy framework is so important.

SLS Guernsey use one that we call CWICER (Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express, Reflect), it was adapted from Empire States Information Fluency Continuum, New York by  Darry Toerien and with his help we have adapted to work for us here in Guernsey. What it has allowed us to do is have sensible conversation with teachers who ask for unrealistic research lessons. We are able to show them what their students should be able to do by the time they are that age and if they are not capable of that we can also show them the building blocks to get there.

As a librarian I am very happy to co-teach these lessons but like many school librarians it is not possible for me to be in every class that is doing a research project. I work towards up skilling teachers and students so that I can support other classes whilst they embed what I taught. A framework will ensure that this is happening. If it is embedded into the school curriculum headteachers will be aware of it and expect to see it being taught in lessons once they know I have been in a class.

It is also important in secondary schools that teachers know when these skills are being taught and allow students to use them in their lessons too. For instance, if a Geography teacher has worked with the librarian to use Brittanica in yr 7 then every subject that is running a research lesson across the school should be making sure their students are practicing using this resource within their lessons too. This is only possible if all the teachers know that this is happening and that teachers have an understanding of the resources themselves.

How to use an information literacy framework when it is not embedded in the curriculum 

Find an information literacy framework that you are comfortable with. Find time to know what it is all about, the more you talk about it the more confident you become in using it. Once you are happy that you understand what you are offering start using it with teachers who are already working with you.

Here's an example of how to use it. 

A year 3 teacher asks me to do a research lesson with their students and they really want an internet lesson. I would firstly show them the lessons that we offer, based on our framework, for year 3. You can find our primary lessons here. We have added learning objectives (LO) and success criteria (SC) so teachers can see how it fits into what they are teaching anyway.  Our main research lesson for year 3 looks like this :-

Lesson 2
Recognises that ‘I wonder’ questions can be answered by finding information
Selects and uses appropriate sources with guidance including books, on-line encyclopaedias and recommended on-line resources.
Students can give more than one example of somewhere they could find information to answer a question.
Students can select a useful source of information from the options given.
Students can, with guidance, find the answer to their question using their selected resource.

I would explain to the teacher that a lesson like this would support their students journey onto the internet as using quality resources is essential for good research. If students can learn to select these resources first before going to the internet their research will be much stronger.

By sharing and using your information literacy framework before it is embedded in the curriculum is really important. It will help you become confident in what you teach and how your framework works. Our students deserve the right to be taught how to do this properly and now is the time to show schools, headteachers and administrators how a school librarians skills set can be used effectively.