Great School Libraries campaign enters its second phase, by @Elizabethutch

The Great School Libraries campaign was launched in September 2018. In the past 18 months, we have created a website and a social media presence but more importantly, we ran a national survey to find out how many schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland not only have school libraries but paid staff running them. The findings were not surprising to those of us who work with school libraries, but it was good to have evidence-based on research. Key findings include

9 in 10 schools in England that participated in the research have access to designated library space, falling to 67% in Wales and 57% in Northern Ireland, however;

Schools with a higher proportion of children on free school meals are more than twice as likely not to have access to a designated library space;

Employment terms for librarians and library staff fall below national standards, with low pay and little investment in professional development and training.

The full report can be found here

We are now heading into our second phase which allows us to be more focused. Our main aim is to work collaboratively with representatives from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to lobby the UK government to adopt the Vibrant Libraries, Thriving Schools document was launched in Scotland last year. It has a powerful message for headteachers and would allow us to engage with senior leaders in education helping them to understand the role of the school librarian beyond the person who looks after the physical collection. We hope that having a collective voice and document will help us move forward in supporting schools and school librarians throughout the country.

We agreed to endorse the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) school library guidelines. Giving us a definition of a great school library that is recognised internationally with over 50 years of research behind it. Which is:

“The school library provides information and ideas that are fundamental to functioning successfully in today’s information and knowledge-based society. The school library equips students with life-long learning skills and develops the imagination, enabling them to live as responsible citizens.”

We have two further secondary aims.

1. Inquiry as an Approach to Learning – Although there are many frameworks available the Great School Libraries campaign has decided to endorse FOSIL (Framework Of Skills for Inquiry Learning). This also allows us to link with the IFLA guidelines, keeping us in line with the main aim. By endorsing this one framework we hope to provide school librarians with resources and training to enable them to become confident in supporting their teachers throughout the curriculum. For more information read our blog here

2. Mental Health, Wellbeing and the School Library – “The role of the school librarian is multifaceted by nature; librarians have contact with the whole school community, providing resources and information to meet students’ needs. In many schools, the library is the “bolt hole” and “safe space” for students suffering from poor mental health. Therefore it makes sense that in order to provide relevant resources and appropriate support, the librarian should have knowledge of mental ill-health, its effects and impact on individuals, and strategies that will enable them to help these young people”. (Barbara Band). For more information read our blog here

The Great School Libraries website includes case studies and blogs alongside links to research all demonstrating what can be achieved through the expertise of the school librarian. We hope you will go to our website to find out more.

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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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