Library Insights -A Day in the Life of an SLS Manager

SLS boxes of books ready for delivery

My day starts early as I like to be at my desk by about 7.30am to go through my long list of emails, which seem to multiply like ants overnight. There are several from school librarians and teachers around the country via requesting information on suitable Library Management Systems. SLS-UK and schools library services around the country don’t endorse a particular system so I send out details of different options for the schools to make their own choice. Cost and simplicity usually determine which system primary schools will choose “something that we can use for issuing and returning books”. Secondary schools usually want a more sophisticated option with more functionality but also a robust product that has a good help desk they can easily access when they have problems.

I have received an email from a school we support with Pergamon LMS. They have just moved to the cloud-base version. The English coordinator wants me to print the class barcodes. Because access is now through a URL link I can do this work remotely from my desk in the office. I also tidied up their readers, removing students who had left. My team and I will also be able to catalogue the boxes of new books they have waiting to be added from our office and add teachers to the list of borrowers.

Next week we are hosting an author event with Onjali Rauf, whose book, The Boy at the Back of the Class won our 2019 Redbridge Children’s Book Award. Because we have at least eleven schools and around 280 students wanting to attend, we’ve booked the local theatre for the morning. I send out booking forms, information and book-buying sheets for the teachers to fill in. This means we can prepare the books in advance, include post-it-notes of names so hopefully the book signing goes more efficiently and students aren’t disappointed.,h_325,al_c,lg_1/8d6dfb_4172d2ecc6124421894c2cba78a4a8c5~mv2.png

Several topic loan requests have been sent in to the SLS inbox from teachers who didn’t manage to submit them at the end of term or who have found they urgently need a particular class set. I select the books requested along with story sacks, photo packs and multi-media. My trusty team issue and box the loans ready for our library drivers to deliver.

A teacher from one of the nearby High Schools calls to arrange a visit. He wants to borrow a couple of our Suitcases of History on World War 2 for an open evening. The school doesn’t subscribe but we agree a price. The suitcases are taken downstairs and loaded into his car and he has promised they will be returned next week.

At four in the afternoon I’m due to do a webinar with a company in New York. They have a wonderful extension for chrome, firefox and IE called Newguard, which is a free tool for assessing online sources and teaching fake news. It uses a simple traffic light system to rate each website. The company wants to make the documentation more UK friendly. Before lunch, I do a last minute check-through of my comments and make sure the headphones and microphone are working on my desktop.

A school in a neighbouring borough has sent in a request via our SLS-UK website to do the SLS-UK School Library Award. The aims of the award are to:

  • To accredit school libraries through a straightforward and cost-effective self-assessment process that is robust and equitable across the UK
  • To recognise the work of library staff especially in designated library posts
  • To highlight the work of school libraries and their staff in raising the educational achievement of children and young people
  • To raise awareness of good school library provision in school communities and the profession locally and nationally.

I send the librarian the relevant details and an application form and explain that it is an easy self-evaluation process that shouldn’t be too time consuming or difficult to complete. It would be good if more schools went through the process as it is an excellent tool for evaluating the school library to, either shout to the school SMT about how amazing the school library and school librarian are, or to use in a case for requesting more budget, help and recognition.

The afternoon’s conversation with Newsguard goes well, despite IT letting me down. I don’t think our internet connection was up to a Webinar and we ended up working through the document via conference call. But all parties were happy with the outcome.

Grabbing a quick cup of tea I change metaphorical hats from SLS manager to public librarian as on Tuesday evenings, I facilitate a creative writing group for adults in the SLS showroom. I’ve been doing this for about 12 years now and have a lovely group of diverse attendees who have fascinating stories and poems to tell about their lives and love having a quiet, safe space to express themselves on paper and in conversation.

My day is finally over, the computer and lights are turned off and I leave to catch my bus home.

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Why Schools’ Library Service’s are more important now than ever.

This article was originally published in the Information Professional in September 2019.

A lady touching a high tech screen.

SLS’s supporting our children into the future.

Looking back over my previous articles for the Information Professional I realised I have mainly focused on school libraries, however, having spent the last 16 years working for our local Schools’ Library Service in Guernsey and only 2 of those years in a private girls school as their school librarian, why has my focus not been more on SLS’s?

I think it’s because our focus is on helping our local schools integrate our SLS librarians across the curriculum whilst also looking after their libraries too.  If it’s working well our SLS Librarians become the School Librarian support our schools need and I then I can talk about what we do in that context. What I never explain is how this can happen when we are only in some of our schools half a day a week? 

Whilst the SLS librarians are the face of our service through providing support and advice in running a school library as well as teaching independent inquiry skills and run activities to enhance reading for pleasure. Our central team behind the scenes is providing the network of support which enables our SLS Librarians to achieve as much as they do. I thought it was time to tell you why the Schools’ Library Service is so important.  

Our Centre team curates, buys, processes, selects and arranges deliveries of all the stock that eventually arrives in schools. From our personally selected project boxes to our annual fiction loans that put books into school libraries and then into children’s hands is a core part of our service. We provide book club sets, audiobooks, ebooks and online resources such as Q-Files and History reference Center to name just a few. These resources enable our SLS librarian to teach in the classrooms knowing that the tools they need are already at the schools ready to use. 

Beyond our book loans, we are always looking at how our service is moving forward in line with our schools’ needs. With this in mind, we bring authors over for book week and take them out to the schools. In collaboration with Guille-Allès Public library, we bring school children in for craft and stories twice a year and can see over 1000 children in a fortnight. We put on many events throughout the year including World Book Day Quizzes, events for Carnegie and Greenaway book awards and Non-Fiction November. We do this because we believe that children should be encouraged to use every resource available to them and the public library is an important part of that.  

We are also aware that we need to keep our offers fresh so have introduced a reading for pleasure scheme called Reading Roadmap (thanks to Islington SLS), access to a tool called Fiction Express to support reading and a Channel Island Children’s Book Award too. We keep up to date with new technology, like Flipgrid and Padlet and learn how to use it to support learning. The SLS librarians are able to use all of these resources to encourage schools to work with them for the benefit of their students. 

This is just a tiny snapshot of what we do at SLS Guernsey,  other SLS’s across the UK provide different services too as we believe in making sure the SLS is there for the local population and provide for its individual needs. 

In my opinion Schools’ Library Services are the quiet champions of school libraries. Working in very difficult times where budgets that are closing school libraries are putting pressure on SLS subscriptions too. SLS’s provide cost-effective support that can be tailored to each individual schools needs, local books awards, the school library award and more. So if you have a school library or not, maybe it is time to look again at what is on offer from your local SLS. Take a look at the national website to find out who can support you. 

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash



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When Two SLS Managers Presented a Paper at the IFLA Conference

“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. 

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.

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 times! Stella Thebridge (Warwickshire SLS)

Gillian Harris (left) and Stella Thebridge, photographed by Annie Everall just after the session.
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Recommended Book

Inspire ELS thoroughly enjoyed this compelling adventure story for key stage 3. William & Judy travel across Europe, to Sweden, in search of Judy’s missing Dad & discover what the mysterious object William found in tree roots when a storm had knocked it down. @scholasticuk Gripping stuff! (Inspire ELS)

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