This year the ASCEL conference theme was Diversity, Empathy and Well-being and I decided to do a lightning talk which covered Well-being and Empathy for school librarians. This is how it went…

So what is #LibraryStaffLoveLearning? The simple truth is it was a way to get myself reading more non-fiction books, articles, blogs and listening to webinars, podcasts, TED talks for my own CPD. It allowed me to keep track of what I was reading or listened to and it made me critically evaluate and extend my own learning. 

Ok so why bother to tell you all about this? You see I decided to not only do this for myself but realised it might be useful to others too. I felt that I could not be the only librarian out there that wanted to do this and saw that there was a gap in online, cheap CPD for school library staff. School librarians have a big job to do in empowering students and teachers to navigate their way through the world of information and it is essential that we keep up to date too. Not every school librarian is able to get away from work or has the budget to attend conferences and I wanted to create a space that allowed discussion and learning which supported well-being for librarians by helping them feel less isolated in their role through an online platform for discussion, whilst also helping them to understand and empathise with teachers through what we read. 

I started in January 2018 as my new year’s resolution after tweeting about it and having a good response. I had no idea how I was going to do this but having put it out there I felt I had to at least give it a go. 

My first idea was to run a chat at a specific time on Padlet and on twitter by providing suggested reading and then creating the questions. What I had not appreciated was that there were librarians in different time zones that also wanted to join in. This made the idea even more exciting as it was now possible to learn from other librarians from across the world but a specific time and place just would not work. 

I gave up on twitter and stayed focused on Padlet. For those of you who don’t know what this is it is a platform where you can share content and comment on it. It originally seemed to fit my needs but I soon realised that I would have to pay for extra space and it was not easy to see all the discussions at the same time. So I evolved again…

After almost 2 years of trial and error, I not only realised that I had the perfect platform on my own website but I now have a clear vision of what is on offer. 

Every month there will be a discussion on something small so, for instance, November’s discussion is a TED talk that I found about communication and our own behaviour which I agree does not obviously link to school libraries but we always find a way and learn something. I let people know the selected item, early the month before to give them time to listen, watch or read it. I then try and post the questions up in the first week of the month. I find that others are more likely to join in if I have a go at answering the questions myself so when you look you will generally see my questions and my own answers. I like to do this for my own learning and like to lead by example which is why I started it anyway. I worry less these days about others joining in because this is for me after all. However, I must be honest and say that I do get excited when I see comments coming in and I have been involved in some really interesting discussion over the last 2 years. 

Next year I am being more strategic about the book choices and have decided that once every three months I will make a book suggestion, which we will discuss in March, June, September and December. I have found books the hardest thing to get school librarians involved with as they are a bigger time commitment and there is a cost involved. A lot of the professional books can cost £60+ and I completely understand that this is a lot of money to most of us. I did start trying to find cheaper books and this has worked but sometimes it is just good to read the more expensive ones. I often say that it is worth asking the budget holder to allow you to buy these books for your own CPD and point out it is much cheaper than the conference you recently asked about. 

I am excited to tell you that the SLA has decided to support my online forum by offering book loans from their CPD library to line up with my book suggestions. If anyone is an SLA member they should check it out. 

The old discussions always stay open where you can read anything that has been posted. However to join in and comment you do need to sign up to my website which allows me to make sure that everyone is genuine. I have enjoyed creating this forum and look forward to many more school library discussion in the future. 

To find out more please visit my website and join when you can. https://www.elizabethahutchinson.com/schoollibrariescpd

Elizabeth Hutchinson, Independent Trainer and Adviser, School Libraries


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 https://www.booktrust.org.uk/staringintospace

There are even more ideas on Lauren’s own website www.staringintospace.me

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 (cyevans@somerset.gov.uk) 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