School librarians helping children become independent learners with parental support by @elizabethutch


As a parent, I have always been able to help my children find good sources of information in order to do their homework. How do I know where to find the best information? Do I have some inside knowledge that most parents don’t? Yes! How? I am a librarian…

I have long believed that if parents knew about the resources available from their school library to support their children’s homework they would be relieved and happy. They would be able to guide them to use these good tools without worrying about quality or reliability. Many of our resources go unused for two reasons, firstly, many teachers and students do not know about these resources, how easy they are to use and reference and secondly, parents don’t know they exist.

I spend a lot of my time talking to teachers about using online resources and offering support in the classroom, however, I am beginning to understand the importance of engaging with the parents. By offering support to the parents they, in turn, can support their children.

Parent workshops

The other evening we were invited to present a parent workshop in one of our secondary schools to inform parents about the online resources available from their school library. We are very lucky to be able to offer books, ebooks, Britannica online and many online resources. The idea was to inform parents about where their children could find the best information to do their homework.

Many parents are happy for their children to do a Google search because they do not know where else to go for the information. These parents were brought up before the internet was freely available, where most of the answers came from books from the library or, if you were lucky enough, from a home set of encyclopaedias. There was never any worry about safety or being caught for plagiarism, The chances of the teacher having the same book, that you had copied the answer from, was very unlikely and at least you had to read it in order to copy it down. There was no ‘copy and pasting’ in those days.

We guided the parents to access the online library catalogue, talking to them about how their children could access the books. Telling them that if the homework was not for the next day they could help their children to find a book and get them to go to school the following day and borrow it. We talked about how to reference a book and why this was necessary. We showed them how to access the websites linked to the catalogue and talked about why they were better quality because they had been curated by the school librarian. We then showed them Britannica Online and explained how to find articles, pictures, videos and more websites. We talked to them about the importance of using citation tool and giving credit and how easy it was to do this using Britannica and our other online resources. We showed them how easy it was to access our ebook collection and finally gave them the opportunity to use all of these resources on their own phones or handheld devices.

One parent asked about restricting their child’s independence by guiding them to these resources. This gave me the opportunity to explain that independence was not about searching the internet it was about being able to know where to look for the best information to answer their question. Getting lost and bogged down by a Google search was not independence but being able to find quality information quickly was independence at its best.

  • What did they say?
  • Why have we not been told about this before now?
  • Why are more parents not here listening to this?
  • Can we take a leaflet to share with other parents?
  • Why do we need to work more closely with parents?
  • School libraries can provide the safe searching that parents are looking for but are unaware exists.
  • School libraries can provide resources that are of good quality and age specific.
  • School libraries can provide support to parents looking to help their children.

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About Elizabethutch 10 Articles
Elizabeth Hutchinson is a Chartered Librarian and Fellow of CILIP. She worked for the Guernsey Schools’ Library Service from 2003 and was appointed Head of Service in 2014. She is now a trainer and Adviser for school libraries and an advocate for FOSIL- Inquiry-based Learning. She was awarded the BEM for services to libraries in 2020, is an international speaker, blogger and author of a number of published articles. She is the founder of an online CPD forum for school library staff and teachers called #LibraryStaffLoveLearning.

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