SLS-UK at IFLA 2019

Gillian Harris and Stella Thebridge at IFLA WLIC

For decades, IFLA WLIC has been the world’s most international library conference and this year was no exception. More than 3300 delegates from over 130 countries came to Athens — the cradle of democracy and the world’s first public library — as the floor was given to more than 500 speakers at over 250 open sessions, nearly 200 poster sessions and 30 lighting talks. Over 20 satellite meetings were held in the surrounding region and gave in-depth attention to a broad range of subjects. Eleven key sessions were live streamed, reaching thousands all across the globe.” (from the organisers of IFLA 2019)

I was lucky to attend for one day (Tues 27th August) with Gillian Harris, SLS Manager in Tower Hamlets, where we presented a paper on the work SLS-UK has been developing on a framework for evaluation called “Theory of Change”.

Ours was the fifth of six presentations in a 2-hour session entitled “Statistics in school libraries”, organised by the Schools Data section of IFLA, and, contrary to my assumption that we were there to make up the numbers, it turned out that our 6 papers had been chosen from a total of 22 submitted, so that was a nice surprise!

The paper will be published on IFLA’s website. Our presentation slides will go on to ASCEL’s site and we can link to the full article.

In due course we hope to publicise the full framework for SLS managers across the UK to access and use – it is just being revised at the moment. We are also considering how the framework might be made available to other countries if this is thought to be a good thing! The interest at IFLA was certainly there.


Gillian Harris (left) and Stella Thebridge, photographed by Annie Everall


SLS-UK are grateful for the financial support of ASCEL both in helping our group develop the framework, and also in paying our delegate fee for the day in Athens. We also had a good holiday around it too, although the heat was a challenge at time.


Stella Thebridge
Principal Librarian: schools and reading, Warwickshire Library Service


Staring into Space

ASCEL Guest Blog by Emily Drabble, head of Children’s Book Promotion and Prizes at BookTrust.

As the Summer Reading Challenge is on the horizon I am sure that everyone is planning events and activities to support this.

At the start of her tenure the Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child teamed up with teacher and artist Josey Scullard to create Staring into Space, a collection of resources to inspire children to think creatively. You can find all 6 resources plus a letter from Lauren on the official Laureate website

There are even more ideas on Lauren’s own website

Whist these 6 resources are about a different type of space to this year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme they are adaptable and can be linked to an outer space theme, for example why not make a miniature 3D solar system or rocket launch pad or introduce charcoal and create a rocket journey into space.

You can share the creations online using the hashtag #staringintospace

Have fun getting creative!

BookTrust run and manage the Waterstones Children’s Laureate.

Play & Learn: Essential Life Skills in West Somerset

Blog post by Christina Evans, Library Supervisor, Somerset Libraries

West Somerset is a beautiful place to live, with areas of natural beauty and picturesque beaches but it is also the lowest ranking district in England in terms of social mobility. As part of the government’s national plan to help address social mobility, West Somerset was identified as a key area for investment to try and help children and young people unlock their talent and develop their potential.

Play and Learn: Minehead Library

Play and Learn, held at Minehead Library, is a fortnightly digital skills event where young people can drop in and discover different digital skills. The sessions are staffed by engaged and enthusiastic library staff volunteers with a wide range of experience of technology from enthusiastic novices to tech wizards.

The sessions are for two hours and use a mixture of digital toys and tech such as 3D printing, Augmented Reality, Stop Animation, etc to help build digital skills. As well as using Osmo, an Educational games system for the iPad, which helps children and young people develop and learn new skills from coding, numeracy, drawing skills and creative confidence, spelling and critical thinking, and more.

The project has been fairly successful for the rural area with an average of around 8-10 children taking part at each session and has been particularly successful attracting children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds (with around 44% of participants receiving either Free School Meals or Pupil Premium).

WSomerset child digital coding

And the feedback from participants has been the most encouraging more engaged parents and children attending other activities such as Code Club or using loanable tech such as Microbits for projects. One parent commented that the sessions had helped “to really bring him [his son] out of his shell, he’s constantly working on projects and ideas at home.” And one of the children attending commented that “I loved bringing my ideas to life with the app and seeing how it worked.”

Some of the unexpected successes has been the development of other events and activities because of the project. Similar sessions have been arranged at other libraries in the local area with staff providing outreach activities. As well as digital skill days happening during the holiday period were young people have worked on digital projects alongside some of our volunteers and partners.

What we’ve learned:

  • Purchase a wide variety of tech, experiment and allow for play.
  • Engaged and enthusiastic staff are key to a project’s success.
  • Let young people decide their own programme of activity and what they want to do.
  • Let young people learn at their own pace but support it with staff/volunteers.
  • Use new or innovative bits of gaming technology such as Osmo to help develop and teach invaluable skills while making it fun.
  • Ensure staff are trained not only on the tech but how to engage with young people.
  • Make sure it’s fun both for staff and young people!

Contact Christina Evans, Relief Development Officer at Somerset Libraries ( for more information.

Read Manchester

Post by Margaret Duff & Cheryl Pridgeon. Read Manchester Project Managers

The Read Manchester campaign was set up in 2016 by Manchester City Council, in partnership with the National Literacy Trust, with the aim of encouraging reading for pleasure across the city, for all ages and communities. It originated from colleagues in Education who felt that reading should be an activity that involved parents, carers and everyone in the city, and should also have the aim of improving the quality of life and mental wellbeing of people in the city.
The Read Manchester brand is an umbrella for existing reading activity in the city, and also generates new activity and partnerships. The brand also enables partners to badge their own activity. Libraries, Work and Skills, Education and Early Years all work closely together on the campaigns, and we are bringing Health into the partnership, working with health visitors to deliver the Bookstart message and develop a book ‘prescribing’ scheme.

Workshop at Central Library 3 - photo by David Oates (1)


Initiatives have included gifting books on the tram, creating a ‘Take 10’ campaign and supporting mental health by working with high schools to roll out the Shelf Help collection and train high school librarians.

Close partnerships have been forged with the Manchester Adult Education Service, Sure Start Children’s Centres, heads of literacy, colleges, universities and festivals, including the Manchester Children’s Book Festival and the Manchester Literature Festival. Read Manchester was the Learning Programme Partner on last year’s hugely successful Bee in the City public art trail. We hope to continue the growth of the campaign and develop further partnerships in 2019.

Stay, Play and Learn

Families playing parachute games in a library

Blog post by Jane Mason, Operations Manager (Stock & Reader Services) Oxfordshire BookStart Coordinator, Oxfordshire Libraries.

Blackbird Leys is buzzing with activity on a Thursday morning, Didcot on a Friday morning, soon to be followed by Littlemore and Woodstock with other libraries approaching the planning stage.

What is going on?

Stay, Play and Learn sessions are a new initiative for libraries and are encouraging families into the library to play, talk, read and sing with their children.

There are mums, grandmothers, dads, aunts and childminders, all with the same goal, which is to get children socialising, talking, and communicating. This means getting children school ready.

Because we are in a library most of the activities are based around communication, language and literacy. The families are encouraged to interact with their children.

Oxford family
Families at Stay, Play & Learn session

The volunteers who will be leading the sessions will model how to talk and play with children using the resources available. There is plenty of scope to develop concepts using books and toys.

It is lovely seeing children tipping all the toys over the floor and then choosing what to play with. (The parents always help clear up at the end of the session).

At Blackbird Leys the children particularly enjoy the large waffle blocks, the dolls house and small animals and the big wooden bus.

At Didcot they enjoy the foam building bricks, role play kitchen and the train track and cars.

Oxford baby

The sessions end with a rhymetime. Rhymes and songs are a fun way of helping children acquire language skills.

Recycled Racing Machines’ – Family Digital Making Sessions

Blog post by Kate Robinson, Juliet Kendall and Mark Sutcliffe. Oxfordshire.

Despite the rain and cold persisting throughout the spring school holidays, our libraries continued to offer warmth, light and fun for children and families. We took our “Recycled Racing Machines” workshop out to Berinsfield, Littlemore and Oxfordshire County Library and it was a ‘Sell Out’!

Each of the sessions became a hive of activity; from crafts, modelling, knitting and drawing, to designing, engineering, electric circuits and playing with ozobots.

OxfordRacingMachines families

As well as a good deal of problem-solving, creativity, team-work and ingenuity, families also had the opportunity to learn about batteries, wheels, knitting and crochet.

The emphasis was on having fun with their family in the library, but if people learnt something along the way – then even better!

OxfordRacingMachines group

Many thanks to all our partners, who we couldn’t have run the event without:

  • Val Knight and Viv Kadobinskj, from ‘Children, Education and Families’
  • Jane Barton and friends, from the Oxford Knitting and Crochet Guild
  • Orinoco, The Oxford Scrapstore – for their wonderful hoard of recycled textiles, scraps and plastics.

We hope to run more of these sessions in the future, in other locations, so do watch this space…..

OxfordRacingMachines Knitting

Sharing Our Journey to becoming Autism Friendly

The global network of libraries was highlighted recently when a Librarian from Korea contacted ASCEL to find out more about their innovative work developing Autism Friendly Libraries. 

Ham from the South Korean Library Service was working with a charitable organisation to establish Autism Friendly Libraries in South Korea when he picked up on the ground-breaking work led by ASCEL and Dimensions. 

Keen to understand the network in the UK and discover examples of good practice Ham visited Coventry Library Service to find out more about the approach that we had taken when we made the journey to becoming autism friendly 2 years ago. 

Here in Coventry we were thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome Ham and his colleagues to our city, and to share our story. It was great to have the chance to talk about our successes but also to touch on the issues we had encountered along the way. 

Talking via an interpreter did take a little while to get used to, but we were soon able to share our experiences and ideas. We really connected about the need to involve people with lived experience, and Ham and colleagues were particularly interested to learn about the network of support from ASCEL. 

From our point of view, it was fascinating to hear about the project that our visitors were embarking on. In South Korea the team were looking at establishing Libraries which would only provide services for Autism. For this reason, the integrated approach taken in the UK was an interesting concept to Ham’s team, and the visit provided different options for them to consider. 

Soon it was time to say goodbye to our visitors but everyone is excited to keep in touch as services continue to develop.

We can’t wait to hear more from Ham and his team very soon. 

Sorrelle Clements. Service Development Manager, Libraries and Information Services
Coventry City Council