What does a school librarian do anyway? part 3

Non-Curricular Support

Large numbers of pupils use the library outside of class (it’s open to pupils before and after school, as well as, at break and lunch). In 2011 a single week in November clocked 1676 pupils through the door outside of class times. Regular numbers at break and lunch are around about the 70 to 90 mark.

I try and encourage pupils to have ownership of the library and, on top of trying to meet book requests or get their help to suggest resources and improvements, I have forty-five regular pupil helpers. Around thirty-five of them are in daily and are working on the SLA (School Library Association) Pupil Helper Scheme. I co-ordinate and support these pupils, many of whom found school a difficult place to fit in or are classed as MCMC pupils.

The library provides a place of safety and support for all it’s users. 86% of girls and 79% of boys said they liked the library in a survey I conducted during the 2009/2010 session. This is supported both by the numbers through the door and the annual increase in book issues.

Pupils and staff also enjoy the fortnightly displays. Often created by pupils or based on their suggestions, these displays vary in size and scale some being only in the library while others involve the whole school. Recently they have included International Talk like a Pirate Day (find the Pirate Reading and get a prize), World Book Day (Get Caught Reading in the library and win an Easter egg), Caravan Holiday Reads, Vampires, LGBT reads, and so on. The plan is to promote a range of books as well as encourage reading and literacy across the whole school at different points in the year.

To further promote books and reading I run a library blog which I use to post book pupil recommendations (usually written in teaching classes), my recommendations and other book and writing related inspirations and ideas. The aim is to provide an outside of school resource that offers inspiration and reading news at anytime. It would appear to be working so far this year (Jan – March 2011) 108 people have returned to visit the blog after initially being shown back in January or December.

A large portion of my term time is spent supporting and encouraging pupils to ask questions and seek information. This part of my role is hard to quantify and lacks handy statistics. I get a wide variety of queries, problems and challenges to deal with during a very short period of time. For instance on the 3rd of March 2011 over the course of lunch (45 minutes) I dealt with;

1) A pupil saying “That is so gay- but not in a homosexual way” – prompting a wee chat about how that didn’t make it less homophobic language.
2) Explaining how to ‘find & replace’ in Word to a S6 pupil.
3) I untied a pupil who had been tied into his backpack (apparently it was his request, though he admitted hadn’t thought through how to get out). Also spoke to the pupil who’d tied him in about the appropriateness of this.
4) Explained that a joke is only funny if everyone thinks so and at no point is hitting someone in the windpipe funny (this was also logged on the school’s referral system).
5) Sympathised with an S5 girl with a swollen knee (sent her to the PSA’s to get help).
6) Helped solve the mystery of why the kid with OCD had two fewer books on his shelf than on Monday (someone had taken them out).
7) Was concerned to hear one of the pupils could be pregnant and passed that information on to those who could help her. (Completed my hand written evidence after the bell went).
8 ) Discussed why Rangers and Celtic players should play by the SPL rules rather than feel they can just act anyway they want. Tried to explain flip side to the whole ‘it’s just what you do’ attitude.
9) Named 12 birds beginning with the letter P.
10) Discussed a range of topics with a range of other pupils including cute animals, Justin Bieber and the fact that it was World Book Day.
11) Caught 11 pupils reading and added them to the prize draw.
12) Introduced a new library monitor to the team.

There is no way to place a value on these interactions easily, though I do have anecdotal evidence of pupils improved behavior or social skills as a direct result of my investment.

What does a school librarian do anyway? part 2

In addition I support teaching staff and classes by;
• Collating and finding resources –often creating intranet or internet pages
• Running a library blog so pupils can get book ideas and share their reviews plus get homework help away from school
• Creating and maintaining GLOW pages
• Teaching, or supporting class teachers, one off research or study skill lessons
• Reinforcing ideas and methodology
• Help with CPD requests, bibliographic queries and sourcing materials
• Promote and support school events.
• Book talks and reader development
• Running debates in lessons or helping pupils with presentations.

Barack Obama said that;

“Libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information.”

Young people today have an increasingly difficult job to find relevant information in the amongst the bombardment of websites that a simple internet search provides. As a school librarian, helping pupils find and recognise reliable information is a key element of my role. To this end half of my work with S1 and S2 is spent on developing their study and research skills.

The other half of the time focuses on reading and books. Literacy is a key part of ACfE and I play a major role in encouraging pupils to read and making them aware of books that they might enjoy. For many the school library is their first experience of a library and my job is to make it easy to understand and to open their minds to the possibilities. Author Wil Wheaton commented that on being shown the library catalogue by his school librarian:

“…the library was transformed from a confusing and intimidating collection of books into a thousand different portals through time and space to fantastic worlds for me to explore.”

It is not enough to point them in the direction of the shelves, I have make suggestions, speak to individual pupils encourage them to try new books. I regularly do book talks in classes, blog reviews, a fortnightly display of books and a book of the week at the main desk.

For lessons run or supported by me I develop my own teaching materials or build on what the class teacher has (often this is simply an idea). It takes time to create, review, research and develop lessons and teaching materials. During term time I have no non-contact time as the library is only shut for my lunch during the school day (thirty minutes taken prior to the pupil lunch break). This means that much of this development has to be done during the school holidays.

Being open all the time also means that there is often little or no preparation time between classes which means I need to be more organised than others and rely heavily on time in the school holidays to complete tasks or claim back lost time. I have also been known to miss out on lunch to accommodate teaching classes (usually at least once a week) and there is an understanding that this time can be taken in-lieu during the school holidays.

Even when there are no teaching classes in the library there are usually a collection of S6 pupils or individual pupils sent to me for a range of reasons. Although mostly self-sufficient I find there are a regular range of queries from these pupils that I try and help them with. I’m also involved in helping with careers advice, particularly in offering help and guidance to S6 pupils involved with UCAS applications and helping with personal statements.

What does a school librarian do anyway? part 1

With school library services being cut, school librarian hours being trimmed back and possibly even removed entirely there is a growing concern with explaining to a wider audience what we do and the value of it. So my local fellow school librarians have decided to start with us all writing a description of what we do. Mine is a bit epic so I’m going to spread it over a four posts.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

The school library is more than just books – it is at the heart of the school. As the librarian I support the whole school, try to inspire a love of reading, and help pupils learn key information literacy and study skills that will help them throughout their lives.

“The role of school librarians in the secondary sector cannot be underestimated. Their understanding of different learning styles and collaboration with teaching colleagues enables them to act as a bridge between young people, teachers, information and the curriculum. Their potential contribution towards meeting the National Priorities for Education is therefore considerable.”
– HMIe in ‘Libraries Supporting Learners’

Supporting the Curriculum

In the 2009-2010 session 806 classes used the library from 15 different departments. This number has been growing steadily since I started in 2005 and I am expecting the 2010 -2011 session to be the busiest yet.

As a librarian I teach a combination of reader development and information and study skills lessons which can be divided into:

• 3 lessons for every S5 pupil as part of Study Skills covering bibliographies, plagiarism, note taking (for study, research and lectures) and website quality.

• 4 with every S5 pupil through English to encourage them to read and improve their literacy and discursive essay research.

• A weekly hour long lesson with the S1 autistic class where we look at using the library, book ideas and basic information literacy.

• Fortnightly lesson with S1 English classes on how to use the library, book ideas and basic study skills.

• S2 English classes come once every three weeks to develop their reading and library and research skills.

• 3 lessons with every S2 French class this year so they could develop their awareness of Paris and using books to find information.

• 1 lesson with every S2 PSE class to explain the careers library and help support subject choice.

I have strong cross-curricular links not only working with multiple departments on work but also many of the themes, ideas and examples link with the work done elsewhere in school. For example my key S1 project – “Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb” – covers mores more than 18 outcomes in A Curriculum for Excellence (ACfE). As might be expected most of these are in Literacy but it also includes technology and English outcomes and has links to the RMPS curriculum.

World Book Day and the day that was

World Book Day is/was today. It’s an exciting date in the librarian calendar that, this year, almost skipped by without notice in my library and school. Why? Well because I didn’t shout it from the roof tops and encourage (force) staff and pupils to join in.  There are a few different reasons but I think the main one is the staff all seem really busy. Seriously busy not just walking around with a pile of papers busy but actually run off feet busy. This is because the exams loom for the senior school and there are only 6 teaching weeks left! It may in part be because for the first year ever we had a week off in February.

I know, why would a week off be an issue? Well usually Feb is all about the build  for WBD, getting staff and pupils on side, but this year February seemed to end much quicker than I expected (plus my S6 promotion helpers were distracted by prelims before the holiday). Plus for the past few years the World Book Day joy has been over shadowed by the Maths department and their desire to celebrate ‘World Maths Day’ which has been the day before, after and same recently. The whole department get the kids playing online games and even more annoying it lasts 48 hours not a mere 24 as any normal day would (I regularly joke that you think mathematicians would know how long a day is – to which they reply” yes but it’s a day around the world so the sun rises in one place….”). It’s hard to compete with international online gaming even if it is maths games.

Anyway in the end I opted for subtle and I’m running a ‘get caught reading’ promotion all month.  You get seen reading a book in the library at break or lunch and you are in the draw for that week’s Easter egg (Cadbury’s of course). It seems to be working well and it has led to some surprising pupils being seen reading. There was also a paper quiz but that was unsuccessful possibly too hard but ultimately few seemed interested at all.

In short World Book Day for me at least was low on books. What it has had is drama. One of the S6 boys and I were having a chat about my role. We agreed that my spending time chatting and sharing information with the young people was important and being a friendly face was needed. We also agreed that while he was living proof that it can be positive (since he’s gone from banned to helping out) actually measuring this is an issue. So here are some highlights of my pupil interactions today:

1) Overheard  “That is so gay- but not in a homosexual way” – prompting a  wee chat about how that didn’t make it less homophobic language.

2) Explaining how to ‘find & replace’ in Word so a S6 pupil could change his best friends advanced Higher Geography project so that China/ Chinese was replaced with Cheese. The ‘cheese one child policy’ and the’ pregnant cheese mother’ had him (and I admit me) giggling far too much.

3) I untied a pupil who had been tied into his backpack (apparently it was his request, though he admited  hadn’t thought through how to get out).

4) Explained that a joke is only funny if everyone thinks so and at no point is hitting someone in the windpipe funny.

5) Listened as a S5 girl with a swollen knee cried on my shoulder at the pain (I really hope she’s going to A&E tonight I did suggest doctors back on Tuesday when the tears started) – NB: the shoulder is metaphorical at no point did I touch said child or see her knee.

6) Helped solve the mystery of why the kid with OCD had two fewer books on his shelf than on Monday (someone had taken them out).

7) Was concerned to hear one of the pupils could be pregnant and passed that on to those who could help her (more worried to hear the potential father was one of the few kids I’ve banned).

8 ) Discussed why Rangers and Celtic players should play by the SPL rules rather than feel they can just act anyway they want. Tried to explain flip side to the whole ‘it’s just what you do’ attitude.

9) Sympathised with a pupil who’d burned himself while saving his jotter from exploding milk (next tonight ‘when science experiments go bad’)  and laughed far too much when one of the girls made a jaw dropping comment and then hurriedly explained that she meant to think not say that.

10) Discussed a range of topics with a range of other pupils including cute animals, Justin Bieber and the fact that it was World Book Day but none of them knew.

Now how can I quantify that into a statistic?

Crafty Goodness

The snow day continues so a chance to do some craft albeit all for Senior Section Lone fun. First to be done is the penguin for Lones. This was a kit from Crafty Little Bugs so it was easy and quick to do.

From bits to penguin in about five minutes.

Second on the list was the Lone Christmas tree decoration swap.  I bought some wooden decorations from Tesco.

Then I carefully traced around the decoration onto the left over Centenary wrapping paper. Then cut it out – one for each side.

Finally I added a Centenary sticker to the decoration.

So now each of the girls will get a wee centenary reminder for their tree. I think that’s a nice reminder of a wonderful year.

What is a Bear Bahoochie?

What is a Bear Bahoochie?

Bahoochie is Scots for bottom, bum or backside. Pronounced ba-hook-ee, it is used in a friendly manner, often with children. Since Scots is a spoken language there are different spellings of bahoochie including bahookie and behouchie.

Bahoochie was chosen as the spelling because “Animal ABC; a Scots alphabet by Susan Rennie” has B for ‘birlin bears wi big bahoochies’. If you are wondering, this means twirling bears with big bottoms.

Shrink Plastic fun

jigsaw For a Senior Section craft I was making a charm bracelet using Shrink Plastic.

I had some spare so I decided to make myself a pair of jigsaw earrings to wear at Capital Jig in October.

I used 2mm link chain. I picture makes them look much darker than they really are – I used crayola metalic pens to colour in the jigsaw peices.

Guiding History

I just read “The Story of The Girl Guides in Scotland: 1908 -2000” by Elizabeth Robertson.

It’s easy to read, interesting and informative though a tad erratic in it’s inclusion policy.  My favourite facts were:

The girl pictured here is Allison Cargill who was the first girl in Scotland to attempt Girl Scouting. She joined in with a local Scout troop and her and her friends called themselves the Cuckoo Patrol.

Senior Section first appeared in 1916 in Scotland (known as Senior Guides).

Lones in Scotland first appeared in 1919 (though apart from a couple of camp references and a couple of Queen’s Guides little mention is made).

The original cooks badge required you to either skin and cook a rabbit or pluck, truss and cook a chicken.

The first Scottish Commissioner (known at the time as Deputy Chief Commissioner) was Loelia Buchan-Hepburn – she was 19 when she took on the role.


5 minute necklace

I made this necklace as a kit to go out in the Lones newsletter. It was so fast to do I thought I’d share.

You’ll need: adhesive transfer sheet, acrylic pendant, jump ring and cord.


Remove the protective plastic covers from the acrylic pendant.

Get the adhesive sheet (Herma Transfer Adhesive Sheet) and remove the backing paper. Press the pendant onto the glue dots.

Carefully re-lift the pendant – it is now evenly covered in glue dots (which are easily visible).

Position the pendant over the paper image you wish to use and press down evenly.

Carefully trim off excess paper (you might find using a craft knife makes this easier and neater).

Pierce a hole carefully through the paper inline with the one in the pendant.

Thread a jump ring through and close (you’ll need pliers for this bit).

Thread a cord through the jump ring and wear.


NB: To improve the life span of your pendant carefully apply clear nail varnish or PVA to the back of your picture.

Day of the Dead – Shrink Plastic Sugar Skulls

I did this for my Senior Section girls as part of the activities for the Mexican festival of Day of the Dead.

1. Draw your skull on the rough side of Shrink plastic using pens. This keyring used a 1/4 A4 sheet (the earrings an 1/8th). Beware the colour get darker once it shrinks.

2. Once your happy trim the skull (doesn’t have to be exact 3mm or less edging is fine). Punch a hole in the top for the keyring to go once it’s shrunk.

3. Place the skull in an electric oven (150ºC) on a flat baking tray, drawing side down and heat for 1-4 minutes until it goes flat. Allow to cool and add your keyring, earring or phone charm.