Rachel Huskisson is a Chartered Librarian and a member of Engaging and Empowering School Libraries was recently asked to share a little about her role, workplace, areas she is working on, and what being nominated for the CILIP 125 has meant for her. I am grateful that she agreed to allow me to post her talk here... She hopes it inspires you to keep learning too...
I am the school librarian at a small independent school in the East Midlands and have been in the post since Sept 2020. Before this, I worked as a library assistant in a state school and have some experience working in public libraries too. The school has around 640 students on roll aged 3-18 and I am based in the senior school. Running the library was quite a step up for me but the students are amazing and I have a keen team of around 20 student helpers now.
Joining the school during Covid was a challenge. Just as I was beginning to find my feet, 4 months into the role, I was furloughed. On returning to school, the library had been closed for 6 months, so one of my first jobs was to get the space in order. Student well-being was also a priority and I worked hard to create a welcoming space for all, developing the diversity of the stock and relaxing slightly the silent study rules.
Coming out of this, feeling a little overwhelmed, I was keen to get some training to help me feel less of an imposter! I decided to get a mentor from the SLA. Lauren suggested I join CILIP and we chatted about the benefits of chartership in the future. The school I am in is high achieving and I could see the benefit of developing my information literacy skills. As I looked around for training, I came across the then-newly formed membership to Elizabeth Hutchinson’s training Engaging and Empowering School Libraries and signed up.
As I began my third academic year in post, I decided the time was right to embark on my Chartership. I had been seeking out CPD to do my job well and felt that it made sense to make it count towards something. I registered in January 2022 and achieved chartership this April 2023. I enjoyed the process, for both the confidence it gave me in my role and learning about the wider profession. It opened my eyes to see I had a place in this much bigger professional space.
Working in a school as a solo librarian, it’s common to feel isolated, we often fall into both support and teaching roles and don’t always get the appropriate support in-house. I've worked hard to build a network of support outside of school through online forums, getting involved in podcasts, and writing the occasional blogpost. I now help run the Library Lowdown, an X (formerly Twitter) spaces staff room started by Elizabeth. Each week it gives school librarians a chance to meet up and chat about their week. It's always great to hear about the varied things that are going on in schools where the library is at the heart of the school.
Through my Chartership, I started to develop an interest in inquiry-based learning and this is an area I would like to get more involved in at school. My long-term aim is to establish the library as a cross-curricular resource as well as develop links with the primary section of the school. This is not always easy, it does require a proactive approach but I remind myself that small steps in the right direction make this possible.
Outside of school, I am a committee member on the Great School Libraries campaign, and I enjoy this advocacy work. There are a lot of challenges in this sector and the inequalities are stark. I have had the opportunity through working in an independent school to access training, this just is not the case for many of my school librarian colleagues and it saddens me that I had to leave the state school sector to get the training I needed. I feel strongly that school librarians have a valuable part to play in the education sector and our young people deserve more than a postcode lottery as to whether they have access to a well-run, well-stocked library.
School Librarians, learning and Royal Charter
Being nominated for the CILIP 125 Royal Charter medal has meant a lot to me, it came at the end of a long, challenging term when I was feeling a little deflated and undervalued. Receiving news of the medal, validating the work I am doing, gave me a real boost. I went into the summer break with a few things on my mind. One question being, what is next for me?
I enjoyed the learning during chartership and missed it. Getting the medal encouraged me to look at MA courses in librarianship. I considered this before but always talked myself out of it. I still felt I had a lot to learn and that having this qualification could open up some more doors for me. I am at the end of my first semester at Sheffield doing the distance learning MA in Library and Information Services Management and loving it. It is early days and it’s been hard work but I have learnt so much already and I’m looking forward to the next module on leadership, strategy, and change.
So, that is what I am looking forward to in 2024. I am hopeful that the Great School Libraries campaign is moving things in the right direction, we are currently looking at what school librarians over the next 10 years will need to do their job well and how we can work to advocate for that in all education settings.
And who knows, with a general election coming up, I am hopeful for change. I am also looking forward to learning more about librarianship and information and the opportunities that might bring in the coming year.
If you want to know more about Elizabeth's membership you can find it here.