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ASCEL conference! Confession time!

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

I have a confession to make. Now that I am an Independent Adviser there is a cost to attending conferences and this is the first one that I have chosen to attend under my own steam. When deciding to attend this conference I would love to say that it was because of the programme, although very good I am ashamed to say that it was not my main reason.

I have to admit that it was because I would get the opportunity to meet up with a group of colleagues again that I had met a few years ago at a previous ASCEL conference. This group of North East women had made me feel extremely welcome as a newbie and as a Newcastle girl I had fitted into their group nicely. I checked with Chris Myhill that she was going and then booked my place.

It was fantastic to meet up with Chris, Rachel and Diane again but I got a lot more than friendship from this conference. It really pulled me up by the scruff of my neck, made me re-assess some of my thinking and I even felt that some of the speakers were speaking to me directly. I did tweet throughout the conference as it helps me remember important points so this post will contain some of this content too.

My highlights were:-

  • Alison David talking about reading for pleasure and the importance of giving children the opportunity to choose books for themselves.

  • Mark Freeman then spoke about Libraries Connected. I have to admit that being from a Schools Library Service I really have not kept up with what is going on here. As the time to revalidate my Fellowship looms next year I have made it my aim to look at public libraries for my wider professional context. I am looking forward to finding out more. Especially as I am interested in continued professional development.

  • Pat Sowa gave a very profound and moving presentation about mental health. This certainly made me think about my reaction to some of the young people I have come across. School Libraries are safe places for our young people to go to but we must be more aware of potential problems. We don't very often ask direct questions and sometime that may be the difference between life and death. This talk will live with me for a long time I'm sure.

Lightening talks, all of them were great but Chris Myhill's presentation stood out for me. She talked about the work done over the summer holidays in Gateshead with funding from the department of Education which to enable them to feed and provide activities to those children and families who would struggle over the holiday period. She highlighted the fact that many children on free school meals would go hungry over the holidays as their parents just could not afford to feed them. A fantastic project!

  • Anna-Sophie Harling talked about Newsguard and its fight against the spread of misinformation. They look closely at the news and give a traffic light system on different news reports. Really worth checking out especially as it is free for schools and libraries to use.

  • It was lovely to hear Jane Elson speak again after she visited Guernsey for our book week last year. I even managed to get to say hello! Her story telling is brilliant and she is not frighted to write about difficult issues. Children need to read stories that will help them talk about what is going on in their lives and Jane's books definitely open the door to this. Jane's talk was followed by Piers Henriques who told us about a wonderful charity called Nation Association for Children of Alcoholics. They are doing amazing work.

  • I was delighted to listen to and meet Elizabeth Wright, Paralympic medalist who I have been following on twitter for a while now. Her story was inspiring and simple... Self imposed boundaries can be broken! Breaking through those boundaries can change your life!... I felt this was a message for me :)

  • We then heard about the National Association for Hospital Education from Stephan Deadman. Another great service that impacts our most vulnerable children.

  • Justine Daniels followed this by telling us about Read for Good charity. Not only do they encourage children to read for pleasure but they also help children help others through the fund raising they do for children in hospital. My favourite quote from this talk is "Freedom to choose = the freedom to enjoy" We must allow our children time to enjoy reading...

  • Following on from the interesting panel talk about how books can heal divisions by Sufiya Ahmed, Savita Kalhan, Mel Darbon and Aimee Felone, a really interesting question was asked by Sarah Smith about diversity in non-fiction. It really made me realise that most non-fiction books have pictures of white men in them. Especially history books. This is something that I will be following up too.

I really came away from this conference with so much more than a catch up with old friends. I feel very energised and ready to take on my next challenge.

Thanks ASCEL for a fantastic learning opportunity!

87 views2 comments


Nov 12, 2019

Thanks for your comment Stella! I look forward to helping in whatever way I can! Thanks for sharing Pat's quote... It should of been my starting point :)


Unknown member
Nov 12, 2019

Elizabeth - so glad you came to conference and thanks for a full and honest summary of your thoughts. The presence from the North East was amazing and it is wonderful that people do make it from the furthest corners (you are probably the furthest-flung!).

I hope ASCEL can continue its journey with you as a partner as your wider perspectives will help us in a number of areas of our work over the coming year.

One of my favourite quotes was Pat Sowa's: "Libraries are the secret weapons of community cohesion" - that is true whatever community they serve and there is so much we can and should do across public and school libs particularly to embrace that an…

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