Some thoughts from a school librarian in lockdown

Rebecca Jones is Head of Library & Learning Enrichment at Malvern St James School and is Schools Representative for the Information Literacy group.

Rebecca Jones, School Representative

Working within the online systems available in schools, be that Google Classroom or Teams, for example, has highlighted to me the importance of visibility and destination within these constructs. The systems are designed to create specific boxes for classes and groups and this structure can be difficult for the school library to find the spaces within which to operate. For ideas about how to adapt, I have found school librarian groups to be a useful resource. Sharing experiences, questions and possible solutions can provide a great starting point and posts show that school librarians are facing similar questions of how to operate most effectively. For me, this has meant building my own page within the shared whole school Team that points towards key library destinations such as the catalogue, ebooks and subscriptions, as well as asking to be invited into specific Teams. How pupils and staff use the system is evolving so I know that how I work will also need to evolve.

During lockdowns, sharing as a school librarian community is something that I have found has provided me with ideas and solutions that have emerged from different contexts. Online group meets have also provided the important interaction, both the Secondary School Librarians Facebook group and a school librarians group run by Elizabeth Hutchison have provided welcome discussion opportunities.  

I have also realised that school librarians are facing some of the same challenges during ‘virtual’ school that they do during ‘actual’ school when it comes to information literacy. For now, projects may have been put on hold and conversations delayed by the changing situation, but the offer of working with staff to deliver skills is still a key message. I am continuing to adapt current projects to deliver including an independent learning project, sketch notes and EPQ using Class Notebook within online lessons. The increased use of electronic resources can provide an opportunity to enable access and also offer support with their use but it requires resilience from the school librarian to deliver key messages to the online message boards, groups and posts so that they are seen.

Identifying a skills framework that you think could work in your setting can provide an excellent foundation upon which to pitch lessons, projects and skills identification. The FOSIL website has some templates that can be adapted and shared with staff. Looking beneath the FOSIL inquiry based learning construct to the original skills continuum may be more useful to School librarians who do not work in an IB school, as separate competencies are identified which may lead to individual lesson plans. The continuum document shows how the progression of skills have been mapped by year group and can provide a useful guide as to what skills to work on within different year groups.  

One result of lockdown maybe the rethinking and reshaping of education; the RSA are in the early stages of setting up research into schools, inclusivity and re-imagining the system (Londesborough, M (2021) Post Covid-19 schooling, RSA Journal Issue 3, p42-43). This is a perfect opportunity to promote the need for change and the potential of school libraries, and enabling the school librarian as part of this new innovative and creative approach to thinking and learning.

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