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End of year report: 6 ways to work with your school librarian.

Updated: Aug 22, 2018

With only just over a week to go to the end of yet another school year it's time to look back and write my annual report. This year has been transformational for myself and my team so instead of posting my annual report I wanted to share some of my highlights both personal and professional here.

Advocacy has been a big focus for me over the last few years and this year I can say that I have at last begun to see it's impact. Having spent many years focusing on literacy and reading I felt it was important to ensure my staff were using all their skills as information professionals and we began to highlight our role in teaching information literacy. This has meant encouraging teachers to work with us in ways that they have not considered before.

My team have spent the year

  1. Learning how to use online tools for collaboration, such as Flipgrid, Padlet and Google Hangouts (we plan to change these regularly to keep up to date).

  2. Focusing on our online resources making sure we were confident in using them and buying where we saw our gaps. We added Q-Files this year to our growing collection.

  3. Finding ways to use these tools to link with the new Guernsey curriculum.

  4. Making connections with librarians, teachers and other professionals around the world. Lucas Maxwell @lucasjmaxwell for instance is a fount of wonderful ideas.

  5. Creating lessons that support teaching information literacy whilst using these tools.

  6. Becoming confident in using social media to promote what we do.

We were then able to focus on what we were really offering our schools.

The Plan

Following on from our successful whole school inset day that we ran at St Annes in Alderney last year we were aware of the impact we had had. Our librarian responsible for that school was able to work more closely with teachers and students once they really understood what we were offering. We knew that we needed to find a way to encourage other schools to engage with us but the chances of being asked to run a whole school inset day for another school was unlikely. I decided that I would offer presentations at staff meetings but getting a foot in the door was the issue.

We had used our new lessons and international connections to work with individual teachers so I knew I had enough evidence of lessons and collaborations that had worked well. I just needed to find a way to link this with the new curriculum. I got hold of a copy of the new Guernsey curriculum and looking at the big picture I could clearly see how we could work effectively alongside our teachers.

The big picture curriculum: Joyous and purposeful learning

The main areas we could support were:-

  • Effective contributors

  • confident individual

  • successful learners

  • responsible citizens

  • reaching their individual potential

We could provide opportunities to:-

  • Learn outside the classroom

  • Out of school activities

We could teach:-

  • Critical thinking

  • Teamwork

  • Reflection

  • Independence

  • Resilience

Whilst providing opportunities to:-

  • Communicate

  • Become digitally empowered

Using this information I put together a Google slide showing what we had achieved in other schools whilst using words linked to the new curriculum. Armed with this information I contacted all the local headteachers asking for some time to talk to their teachers, suggesting maybe an hour at their inset day or part of a staff meeting. I used keywords from the curriculum to spike their interested and waited.

It started well with 2 schools agreeing to allow us to present at their inset days in September and the increased collaboration with teachers leading from these sessions was impressive. We had found the hook that these teachers needed. Our ability to link with the new curriculum, our skills with information literacy alongside our capability to help them connect with schools and experts around the world, opened doors to some wonderful collaborations within the classroom.

We have managed to present to almost half of our primary schools and each time we have seen an uptake of interest in what we do. To the extent that one of my librarians asked if I could not do another one at one of his schools because he just did not have time to do anything more! My librarians have always been busy but to be this busy with lessons was quite incredible.

Our continued journey with literacy and reading.

Whilst we have been focusing on information literacy we have not let literacy fall behind either. We have had two big projects this year, one of which was trialling Fiction Express. This online tool helps to engage reluctant readers and has provided us with an opportunity to engage with children and students in a way that previously would not have been considered. We have seen an increase in literacy because of these sessions which shows that the link between literacy tools and librarians can make a difference.

These sessions have opened the door to our teachers understanding our role with invites to run assemblies around book talks, being asked to run book related competitions and to create book displays. Once again I realise that we are not going to have time to do all of this in the few hours a week that we are at each school but it gives me hope that school librarians are indeed really needed and respected by our schools.

Our Channel Islands Children's Book Award launched in July. We have been working closely with Jersey Library to ensure that we could run such an award. The saying 'together we are better' certainly rings true after many years of talking about wanting to do this we are now actually doing it. We have launched with the transition year groups yr 5, 6 and 7 as we felt that the book awards we currently follow missed this group, we have chosen to launch now in the hopes that we encourage children between the ages of 9-12 to read over the summer. We will have to wait and see how it goes but we are very much looking forward to using it to spike interest in reading for pleasure and from it going from strength to strength.

My plan for the future

Looking back over our year and picking out the highlights I am very proud of my team who regularly step up to the many challenges we face. As you can probably read we are almost running to our maximum and we need to look at ways that we can continue our work without being able to be in every classroom. Training is the obvious way forward and after this year I do believe that teachers and senior leaders are beginning to understand that we have an expertise that they need but are not quiet ready to let us in. Emails offering training regularly get ignored but I am working on ways to use the right vocabulary to get them interested. I've seen this work but feel that school think that having had us in once is enough and do not understand that this is just the beginning. I need to find ways of encouraging them to want to book us regularly. I have run a few training courses this year and started working more closely with the education department's IT trainer. We have found a common ground in what we teach, this hopefully will help us move forward in a positive way.

Does it always work?

Absolutely not. This year was exceptional but did not happen out of the blue. It was an accumulation of learning, understanding and advocacy over many years and without these none of this would happen. Do I expect it all to continue next year? Some of it will but as teachers and senior leaders constantly change we have to talk some more and in some cases start all over again. My plan is to constantly knock on the door of the people at the top to ensure that there is an understanding of what we do. Schools need to be pushed our way when our expertise is needed and we need as many people as possible to understand the skills we provide.

Do I get disheartened?

Yes of course, alongside the constant pressure to prove that we are a service that is value for money, we have to make sure schools, teachers and senior leaders understand what we do before we can even start to do our jobs. This can be hugely frustrating but also allows us to talk about what we do all of the time, which I actually enjoy. Luckily does not take much to keep me motivated, I can get a really excited when I have talked myself into a classroom and the teacher says to me 'I wish I had been taught this at school' as this reminds me why our skills are important. I smiled the other day when an email came in from a school which suggested that someone somewhere knows what we do and recommended that they speak to us about referencing and critical thinking. For me this is all it takes to get me back on track and I am already planning my tactics for next year. (2016, April). Education Department. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from States of Guernsey (The big picture curriculum):

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