I am a School Librarian, and I’m worth it!


 I am a School Librarian, and I’m worth it!

Joy Court on the merits of taking time to reflect on the great work that you do and advice on how to review the opportunities in your career.

“Now that the school year is in full flow, and the flush of inductions and introductions are over, it’s the perfect time for a bit of personal reflection upon opportunities in your own career. Attending the School Library Association Inspiration Award ceremony made me resolve to urge all school librarians to do more self-promotion. For if I were to make a general assumption about school librarians, it is that they are often single-handedly manning their library and are so busy that they rarely take time to stop, evaluate, record, and then shout about the good things they do!

To be a school librarian can be an isolated position, and as there is often no other library professional on site, who has the expertise to evaluate the work you do?

This is why bodies like CILIP and the School Library Association are so important. The Youth Libraries Group (YLG) and School Libraries Group (SLG) of CILIP and the SLA offer job-specific training, information, support, and self-evaluation tools.

I hasten to add that I am not just talking about professionally qualified librarians here, but everyone managing a library. Many people do not realise that they can be members of CILIP and have access to all the benefits of membership – including being able to nominate for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals. Join YLG and you can even become a judge!

If CILIP is more about your own personal development, then the SLA is all about supporting school library provision, and ideally every school should join. The benefits of SLA membership  are clear, purposeful and, importantly, not replicated anywhere else, and membership is available at a minimal cost, even in these tight budgetary times.

And, of course, the SLA is the home of those all-important awards, which is where I started this. The shortlisted libraries for the Inspiration Award all have one thing in common: a passionate and dedicated librarian at the heart of them. Although this is a library design award, we all know that a school investing in a new library or makeover will have behind it a librarian who has convinced senior management that libraries are a worthwhile investment.

Sound like you? The award is presented biennially, so you have plenty of time to get an application together if you have had a recent refurbishment or are in the process of planning one!

However, it is the School Librarian of the Year Award that is the beacon. The award receives proper media coverage and offers recognition and respect from your profession, alongside all-important recognition for the role in the wider community. Read all about 2017’s worthy winner, watch the ceremony video presentations, and see the honour list citations here. If you look at the section ‘How to nominate’, you can read some very useful guidance on what makes a successful application.

Reading through the case studies of this year’s nominees will hopefully have you thinking ‘I do that’ or ‘They should see what we do here!’, so do watch out for the call for nominations in 2018. While you may not feel comfortable nominating yourself, you can ensure that leadership is aware of the awards and of everything that is going on in your library.

I started this by saying how we are all so busy doing rather than telling, but capturing ‘evidence’ in the form of photographs, screenshots, work examples, surveys, questionnaires, competitions, news cuttings, and publicity materials, as well as more formal schemes of work, policies, and lesson plans should be second nature and, once in the habit, not very time consuming at all. A growing and developing library file, which is then immediately to hand to show visitors, Ofsted Inspectors, and management, provides invaluable evidence of the role of the library and is useful for your personal portfolio and CPD as well.

Should you be interested in helping your school put together a nomination for the 2018 awards, you can download some very useful guidance here.

(If you need help backing up your application to CILIP and the SLA, the National Literacy Trust have published a very useful compilation of evidence: School libraries: A literature review on current provision and evidence of impact (2017)).”


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