School libraries are essential to our children’s education. School libraries increase our children’s academic attainment. Thankfully you don’t have to take me at my word as there are plenty of studies saying just that. We regularly hear about the more children read fiction the better they will do at school and recent research from the UCL Institute of Education confirms this. “Young people who read fiction have significantly stronger reading skills than their peers who do not” https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2018/oct/fact-or-fiction-novels-come-top-reading-skills
The wonderful thing about school libraries is that we have another string to our bow. We can also support and teach inquiry-based learning which also impacts student learning. Dorothy Williams et al have carried out numerous studies into this. If you want the evidence then read this http://keithcurrylance.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WilliamsWavellTLfeb2014.pdf
We are constantly hearing of schools removing their librarians in order to save money but across the country, there are, thankfully, still some very hard working passionate school librarians all wanting to do their best for their students and teachers. They work in schools whose budgets are being pushed to the limit and they are still finding ways to support their schools on a shoestring. Often alone fighting for their place in the school and the curriculum but it is time to stop doing this all on our own. Time to stop fighting our own corner. Time to come together and support each other regardless of past disagreements.
We come in all shapes and sizes. The biggest elephant in the room is qualifications, to have to not to have. Well, let me put this one to bed immediately. We have so much more to worry about! If you are a school librarian with no qualification at all or a school librarian with a degree but not a library one, or a school librarian with every qualification under the sun it really does not matter. We all believe that our schools need someone in their school library. We all know that students will do better in school with us than without us. This is not about us it is about our student’s futures. How can we fight between ourselves at a time like this?
We are stronger together! We have a clear opportunity to stand together and say that our students are important and we need to be in schools to support them. The aims of this campaign are threefold. Let me remind you of what they are:-
To secure school library funding
There are many school librarians who don’t know how they are going to continue supporting their students with the poor resources they currently have. Like any other department in school, they should know what money they are getting from the school budget. We are not saying how much, we know school budgets are tight, are just saying that as a department it does need some of the school budget to do the job it is there for. If we can raise awareness of the importance of school libraries to our Headteachers and the need for a budget to function properly our ability to support their students through literacy and independent learning greatly increases.
If your budget is good then you also need to join this conversation in showing what you are achieving with it. How is it impacting your students and teachers? We need your voices too!
To produce a national framework for school libraries
A national framework will not change your role dramatically if you don’t want it to. It is not a magic wand that will make schools instantly recognise the amazing work that school librarians do and start making demands of you. If a framework were produced it would work as a guideline for best practice, a path to something better for everyone in the future. No longer would we be struggling to put into words why school libraries and librarians are important. This document would highlight all the possibilities and opportunities that come from school libraries. You could use it to say look what we are already doing or look at what we could be doing. We want our students to have equal opportunities and this framework will support that.
Recognition of school libraries within the Ofsted framework
Schools don’t like Ofsted inspections. No school wants them but this is how they have been told they will be judged on their quality. How often has one of our schools been inspected and the school library is never mentioned? What does this say to the parents reading the inspection report or to the school who get outstanding? This worrying trend re-enforces the national lack of understanding of the role the school library has within teaching and learning. In ensuring that Ofsted recognises the work the school librarian plays in supporting independent learning, schools would be encouraged to look at what is happening within their libraries more. If you have a great library and are proud of what you do then this is your chance to shine. This is just going to help you tell everyone what a great job you do. If you feel you would need a little help, there are lots of school librarians out there that could and would support you.
What can you do now?
Talk positively about our campaign, talk to your teachers and schools about it. If you are not sure how then ask, we are more than happy to help! We are still looking for case studies to help build a picture of best practice throughout the country. We are going to release a brand new website in September along with the results of the questionnaire and would love to share your stories about what is going on in your school libraries. If a case study is just a step too far then send us a blog instead.
Please remember we are doing this for our students. Together we are stronger! Our children deserve great school libraries.
By Elizabeth Hutchinson, Head of Learning and Development, Guille-Allès, Guernsey.
Walker, R. (2018, October 17). Fact or Fiction, Novels Come Top for Reading Skills. Retrieved June 19, 2019, from UCL Institute of Education: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2018/oct/fact-or-fiction-novels-come-top-reading-skills
Williams, D., Wavell, C., & K, M. (2013, October ). Retrieved June 19, 2019, from Impact of School Libraries on Learning: http://keithcurrylance.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WilliamsWavellTLfeb2014.pdf