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Behind the membership - A gentle encouraging hand on my back

Updated: May 5, 2023

Ruth Maloney, school librarian, is one of the founding members of Engaging and Empowering School Libraries, joining in the first cohort in January 2022. In this series of blogs looking behind the membership, Ruth shares the benefits of being a member.

I have been aware of Elizabeth and her work since I moved into school libraries. Having worked in a number of other library settings, primarily legal, I was aware that I needed to understand the specific issues related to schools, while researching, again and again Elizabeth came to the fore. As I became more familiar with the work of the FOSIL group I found myself being led back to Elizabeth and so when we began to have conversations about a membership scheme I realised that I needed to be involved.


The biggest benefit of my membership to Engaging and Empowering School Libraries is that it pushes me forward. A gentle encouraging hand on my back, stopping me from becoming bogged down in the day to day, keeping me looking around to see what is going on elsewhere. So, I thought I’d think back over where those hands have encouraged me into a new approach or to consider something new.


A gentle encouraging hand on my back

Inquiry learning – I have attended or watched several seminars about FOSIL (Framework Of Skills for Inquiry Learning) and the practicality of teaching Inquiry in school, finding these bring the theory to life. Attending live is ideal, as it gives me the opportunity to talk to others in the same position, but just taking time to think through one element of inquiry and how that might work for me has been hugely beneficial. Without this membership it would be much harder to find the time for this kind of thinking. I thrive when I am working collaboratively and one of the most difficult elements of my role is that I work alone, if I am not careful in isolation.

AI – Learning about this fascinating development, an opportunity that, as a school librarian, I want to grasp with both hands, has been a steep learning curve. Being part of Elizabeth’s membership has given me the opportunity to learn alongside her, but with input from people I wouldn’t otherwise have heard from. Once again this is something, that while I am very aware of AI and the issues it raises for school Librarians, time with the membership group and Elizabeth’s seminars has given me an opportunity to explore the subject in more depth.

Networking – If I am able to join Elizabeth’s courses in person, they are a great networking opportunity, a time to make connections with other Librarians and hear about their work and ideas. This used to be a rare pleasure, only really available at in-person training or conferences but the regularity and distance nature of the membership training allows this to reach into my library. I am also able to make connections with people that I might not otherwise feel I could approach. Being part of the membership feels like a ‘pass’ to make those links.

Current awareness – Having someone keeping an eye on current issues is invaluable, I know that not only will Elizabeth spot relevant issues, she will consider their implications and deliver training of her own or draw on someone else’s expertise. The issues that are addressed reach across the aspects of our roles – reading for pleasure, working with teachers and teaching skills.


I am of course a member of other professional organisations, ones that accredit my qualifications amongst others, and while there are no post nominals attached to Engaging and Empowering School Libraries I find this the most active and relevant of my professional memberships.


I strongly encourage others to join as there is more to be gained in larger numbers and we all need Elizabeth’s friendly push at times.


Find out more!

If you want to find out more about my membership please check out the 'About membership' page or contact me. I am always happy to chat about school libraries.

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