I can't believe it is 3 years since I started on this new path to make a difference in the school library world. That might sound pretentious and reading it written down I suppose it does, so let me explain more. My master's dissertation was about collaboration between school librarians and teachers and the barriers to them working together. Although I didn't realise it at the time it has led me down the path I now travel.
What I came to learn in doing that research was that it wasn't because teachers were uninterested in what school librarians can do or didn't want their support. It was mainly about a lack of understanding of the role of the school librarian. Many teachers assumed that the school library was about literacy and the English department, many thought the role was to 'run the library' and others just thought the library was not for them and could not see any link with what they were doing.
It made me realise that although providing training for school librarians was important, training for teachers needed to be part of my business too. Therefore the difference I am trying to make in the school library world is to open the library up to teachers across the whole curriculum and help them realise the value the school librarian can bring to raising literacy levels and academic attainment in every subject.
Working for myself
I am not the only one to ever venture out on my own, I know, but the learning journey I have been on has been immense and certainly not what I was expecting. I saw myself as a trainer and adviser but it is so much more than that. It surprised me to learn recently that I am an entrepreneur or even an infopreneur and a business owner, as I had not really thought about what I do in those terms before. I have certainly had to deal with a lot more than just providing training. In order to do what I do I have to create a business plan, (I am still working on this and it changes regularly), learn all about marketing and pricing structures, look at how to engage my customers and put myself out there.
This has meant rolling my sleeves up and getting stuck in and I have learnt to worry less about what others think about me. If I don't talk about what I do and why it is important no one else will. Social media is my friend, my audio and video skills are improving and providing lots of free stuff is essential. I have learnt to make connections with others and am learning how to work beyond the safety of the library world. We are our own biggest advocates and a great bunch of people, but I have learned it is more important to bang the drum in the education world in order to bring change. I am slowly getting braver in this role.
Back in 2019, the idea was to provide face-to-face training for school librarians. I believed that if I inspired them to want to work with teachers more it would help with engagement, and although it has in some cases, I have learnt that unless schools and teachers are open to engagement, life for school librarians will remain challenging.
My training went online during the pandemic which allowed me to hone my online training skills and open my training to teachers as well as school librarians. However, my name was known in the library world and not in the teaching world so most attendees were school librarians. This needed thinking about but before I could, everyone went back to school and things changed again. During this time demand for professional development became scarce and I had to work out how to adapt again. In came my new membership and marketing strategy.
Membership, my new route
Knowing and understanding that there was still a need for professional development for school librarians and also wanting to reach out to teachers I realised that I had to provide something different. Recognising that cost and time were big factors led to the launch of my new membership called Engaging and Empowering school libraries. The idea was to still provide training but offer it over the year for a small subscription of £95. Members were able to pay for the year and either attend the training sessions live or listen to the recording and join a discussion via an online forum. I wanted to provide the opportunity for community as well as learning.
This worked well and I have a growing number of members. However, they are all school librarians. My marketing strategy needed to change so I decided to set up a new membership in September for teachers and schools. It was important to bring them together so my school membership was launched with a 2 for the price of 3 offer. 2 teachers could join for £190 and their school librarian could join for free and I am delighted to say that I have a small but growing number of schools joining. I had learnt that in order for teachers and schools to understand that this is for them I had to market to them... This is why my business plan is constantly changing. I adapt as I learn.
Who knows what the future will bring? I am learning to be able to explain what I do in a more professional way. Ask me what I do these days I will explain the value I bring to your school. I help raise literacy levels and academic attainment through your school library and the curriculum. I have moved on from telling you what I do as I now understand that this will come later. See my marketing skills have improved!
I see that my membership will open opportunities to work with individual schools and SLTs, helping teachers and school librarians understand how to work together for the benefit of their students. Saving schools both money and time.
And beyond that, I have no idea... the wonderful thing about working for yourself is that I can adapt and change as opportunities arise. I have no idea who may contact me or not, but one thing I can say for sure is that I will never give up trying to make a difference in the field of school librarianship as it is what I love and where my passion lies.
The big question is how are you moving your school library forward? How are you supporting your school librarian in effecting change in literacy and academic attainment? If you don't have a plan get in touch and we can work one out together.
If you are interested in knowing more please or just fancy a chat, don't hesitate to contact me.
More information about my membership information can be found here.