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The SLA blog contains news about the SLA and topical information of general interest to our members. The blog has been running since 2004. An RSS 2.0 feed and information about how to subscribe to the blog are available.

Older blog posts are still available, though archived, on the website, but please check the date at the top of the post to make sure the offer or information is likely to be valid.

Censorship and freedom of information survey (UK librarians only)

About 10 years ago, Sarah Mcnicol from Manchester Metropolitan University ran a survey about attitudes and practices towards censorship and freedom of information among school and children's librarians. A decade on, she is running another survey to identify any changes in attitudes or practices over this time.

If you work with young people (up to 19 years old) in a school/college, public library or schools' library service in the UK, she would be grateful if you could complete the survey which is available at:

The survey will remain open until the end of October and should take 10-15 minutes to complete. Please do forward the link to any colleagues you think may be interested. If you have any questions, please email

Many thanks for your help.


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Nurturing Readers from Early Years to KS3 Transition: Reading for Pleasure in Your School

This one-day conference takes place at the Bar Convent in central York on 20 November 2015.

This is a chance to hear some great speakers talk practically on topics that will help you support reading for pleasure in your school as pupils move from Primary and into Secondary school. Of use to head teachers, teachers, librarians and literacy co-ordinators in KS2 & KS3.

Book your place before 20th October to qualify for the Early Bird discount!

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Profile of Jane Spall SLYA finalist:

Jane Spall

Aith Junior High School (

Shetland Library Executive Manager Karen Fraser says:  “We have an integrated school and public library service in Shetland and our rural school libraries effectively function as the public library for young people, as well as meeting all the school needs. Jane has succeeded in keeping her library right at the heart of the school and of the community, through her sheer enthusiasm for her job.”

Aith Junior High School in Shetland has 182 students from nursery to 16 years old. The library is built out of a former gym and is divided into areas to serve all years.  It is used heavily at lunch - time and throughout the day by classes.  It is open on school days from 8.30 to 15.30. Jane sees all the students and also services six primary school libraries. These small rural schools cover a wide area including a remote island on Shetland’s west side. Jane helps maintain their libraries and arranges regular deliveries of project books and resources in consultation with staff at each school.

Jane is not a professional librarian but has been in her job for over 20 years and undertaken regular training and professional development. She networks with both school and library staff and so has kept up with a great deal of change both in Scottish education and in the work of libraries.

All Shetland’s junior high school libraries are run by the integrated public/school service, which employs Jane and provides her budget. With a shrinking book budget, the school and public libraries work together, constantly supplying each other with resources. Online information services such as Britannica, Know UK, Complete Issues and Oxford Online are subscribed to for the whole organisation and Jane uses these and promotes them to staff and students. Jane issues a remarkable 200 books per week in a school of only 180 students.

All classes in the school have timetabled periods and a boy with ASN  (Additional Support Needs) did work experience under a programme designed and supervised by Jane.  He has now gone on to do a placement at the public library following the success of his experience in Aith. In the Spring Term S2 have a research project in Science. Jane provides websites and resources and teaches information literacy skills for these classes, and in all other years. In S4 there is an optional study skills course and the whole cohort enrol for it.

At the beginning of each academic year Jane receives information about lessons and topic lists from all Departments and Primary Schools and then orders what is needed throughout the year.

Jane’s work plans have clearly defined outcomes. This means she describes the result she is working towards and success is measured by the real difference made. Projects are therefore clearly evaluated by results. Jane is proud that by the end of the primary school the children are all independent learners, so that all that is required is reinforcement of the skills in the secondary school; she believes that creative and fun activities encourage learning.

Jane actively promotes reading for pleasure. She asks children for suggestions, runs book fairs and arranged a book launch for local author Marsali Taylor. She also hosted a popular visit by Martin Brown, the ‘Horrible Histories’ illustrator. A board in the library displays responses to the question: “How does reading make you feel?” Answers range from ‘relaxed’, ‘calm’ and ‘happy’ to ‘excited’ and ‘amazing!’

Jane has designed a differentiated book review sheet, to extend AR (the Accelerated Reading programme), which is used in the Primary and promoted by the Principal teacher. A ‘story sacks’ project pairs S1 (age 12) with P1 (age 5) children - this project encourages problem solving through play, independent thinking and cross curricular literacy.  Jane collects evidence of her impact on reading through AR statistics and jointly evaluating projects with teachers. She knows the children and what they read and can promote this through their class visits.

The whole community knows her and she is welcomed by all – although she does not live in Aith herself. She will be opening part of the library to the local community in October - there is already a section of stock offering materials for parents. Jane describes her drive to work as one of the many highlights of the job: “It is 15 miles of single track roads, winding up and down hills, dodging many sheep - but it’s beautiful. Stunning scenery both summer and winter.”

Jane’s vision is to have a bigger learning suite with more scanners, printers, computers and tablets, more new stock, magazines and to expand the parents’ section. She would like a craft club and that would be a start!

Michael Spence, Head Teacher says:  “Jane is at the heart of the school and has an infectious enthusiasm for books and the development of literacy. She uses her role to support and inspire all the pupils in the school and we all have our fingers crossed for her success at the awards ceremony in October.”

Pupils say:  “No one at school thinks that reading is uncool!”

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inspiration award citations

Inspiration LogoThe judges' citations for the five finalists in the SLA School Library Inspiration Award 2015 are now available to read online - take a look at these wonderful examples of design, usage and promoting reading for pleasure:

The winner will be announced at our School Libraries Celebration Day on Monday 5 October 2015.

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FREE Catalyst posters for school libraries!!

CatalystTHE CATALYST by Helena Coggan is a brilliant YA fantasy novel written by a phenomenally talented young author who is still a teenager herself – she wrote the first draft at the age of 13 and has now just turned 16. The paperback is out today (24th September) and the sequel, THE REACTION, is coming in hardback and ebook in February.

Rose Elmsworth has a secret. For eighteen years, the world has been divided into the magically Gifted and the non-magical Ashkind, but Rose's identity is far more dangerous. At fifteen, she has earned herself a place alongside her father in the Department, a brutal law-enforcement organisation run by the Gifted to control the Ashkind. But now an old enemy is threatening to start a catastrophic war, and Rose faces a challenging test of her loyalties. How much does she really know about her father's past? How far is the Department willing to go to keep the peace? And, if the time comes, will Rose choose to protect her secret, or the people she loves?

If you would like some free promotional posters please sign up here :

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Job Vacancies: Electronic Resources Librarian - Radley College, Oxfordshire

Have you recently graduated and are looking for the next step in your professional life?  We have a wonderful opportunity to work in the school’s excellent library.

The Library

The library is staffed by a team of two full-time qualified librarians, assisted by two part-time Assistant Librarians who are working towards ACLIP accreditation and two part-time Library Assistants. Candidates for this full-time post will be encouraged to hold, or work towards, CILIP chartership.

The Library contains resources in all formats suitable for all ages and interests. We encourage the use of any resource if it can be used to push pupils beyond the existing boundaries of their intellectual or cultural education.  In addition to the specified duties of each post, all members of the department are expected to assist with any task at any time.  There is much encouragement to learn new skills and to develop or innovate aspects of the Library.

The Person

  • Flexible, innovative, able to work harmoniously with a lively team
  • Enjoyment and understanding of working with young people, particularly boys
  •  Able to communicate with users who see themselves as part of a large family
  • Desire to deliver strong customer service provision

Salary and working hours

£22,000 per annum for c40 hours per week, c33 weeks per year.  There is a flexible timetable to cover the Library’s weekday opening hours of 8.00 am to 7.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm.  The post-holder will be required to work one weekday evening each week until 10.00 pm, and two Sundays per term from 1.00 to 6.00 pm.  Other evening work may be required to provide cover if necessary.  All library staff participate in this rota and it is essential that the post-holder be flexible to ensure the smooth working of the team.

Holidays include the normal school holidays for Radley (approximately 17 weeks per annum), although the post-holder will be expected to work for up to two days at the start and end of each term.  

Radley College is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and applicants must be willing to undergo child protection screening appropriate to the post, including checks with past employers and the Disclosure and Barring Service.A Disclosure, at the enhanced level, will be requested from the successful applicant but a criminal record will not necessarily be a bar to obtaining this position.  He/she will also be required to produce original evidence of qualifications.

Further information, including an application form, can be found on the College’s website

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Chris Routh: School Librarian of the Year finalist

Chris Routh

Leighton Park School -

“Chris facilitates lifelong learning ensuring the students have the tools they need to empower them: her impact is felt everywhere within the school.”
--- Karen Gracie-Langrick, Deputy Head, Academic Studies and IB Co-ordinator.

Leighton Park School is a Quaker independent school in Reading with 440 day and boarding students aged 11 to 18.

The library is housed in the Old School building, and is approached by a sweeping, double staircase up to an elegant oval landing lit from above by an oval skylight. The extensive accommodation in six rooms includes soft seating, low and high tables and Chris has also introduced an iPad bar. This is popular and heavily used by students. The library is well represented online with links to reading lists and online resources. It is open daily from 8.50 am to 5.30 pm – and Saturday morning for Sixth Form boarders.

Chris has worked at the school since September 2003 and during that time she has been able to ensure that the extremely well stocked library is kept up to date and relevant to the needs of staff and students. A number of newspapers and periodicals are taken along with a wide selection of magazines both for academic subjects and leisure reading and, as might be anticipated given the heritage of the school, a collection of books on Quakerism. Databases include Britannica Online, JSTOR, ODNB and The Day, which Chris reports as having had a huge increase in usage, possibly because of its availability on the iPads. Last year a Comic Club met in the library, resulting in an increase in demand for graphic novels and comics. The students involved are now participating in the Stan Lee Excelsior Award, reviewing and rating graphic novels and manga.

Years 7, 8 and 9 have a fortnightly lesson for quiet reading. There are also weekly ‘Approaches to Learning’ lessons, which give pupils grounding for independent learning, for Years 7 and 8. The library is widely used by different departments including, History and Politics, PE, Psychology, Science and Theory of Knowledge. Chris supports teachers in delivering lessons and finding resources. She teaches information and study skills and a basic course is followed by a mini-project. All year groups and new staff get library inductions.

In 2014, to commemorate one hundred years since the outbreak of World War I, Chris devised a project focusing on Quakers in the war and conscientious objection. She managed to persuade Reading Museum to lend the school some of the panels from an exhibition they curated on Reading during the war, which she supplemented with artefacts hired from the museum loan service. She tirelessly researched eight individuals, most of whom were connected with the school, to provide information for the students of Years 7-11 to work on. The project, ‘A Matter of Conscience’, culminated in an entire day in which the whole school put lessons to one side to learn and think about life during the Great War. This summer Chris created a photographic record of the project and published a book, on a limited print run. She gave a copy to the library at Friends House in London who had also helped her with research.

Chris also devised a book crossing project as part of the school’s celebration of the 125th anniversary of its opening. The money raised from sponsorship by the whole school community was donated to The Book Bus charity which was founded by Old Leightonian and publisher, Tom Maschler.

Chris runs a huge number of reading promotion projects including four different book clubs; an annual book festival; Book Buzz for Year 7; Berkshire Book Award for Year 8; Greenaway and Carnegie Medals for Years 7, 8 and 9 and has attracted Gillian Cross to become the school’s Patron of Reading. For World Book Day and Harry Potter Night she has organised book themed lunches and quizzes. In 2014 she launched the 'Writing for Teenagers Conference', which was attended by local schools. 2016 sees the third of these conferences and will involve the whole of Year 9.

Chris is a qualified librarian; line managed by a Deputy Head, and is a Head of Department. In her own time Chris is also on the Executive Committee of the Federation of Children's Book Groups and a committee member of the local Children's Book Group/branch called Getting Reading Reading.

She believes a quiet atmosphere, with plenty of small areas helps to encourage learning. However, she also likes to create a real buzz around reading and books in the library. The Head of English, at the time of the visit by the judging panel, said that Chris is a real go to person, who ensures everything she organises is completely appropriate to what is being taught.

Chris hopes to continue to support the development of teaching and learning and literacy across the curriculum; and would like to help establish a storytelling area and pop-up library in the grounds. Her vision is to facilitate more events for the local community that would cover costs and reach a wider audience.

Nigel Williams, Head commented that her dedication to all aspects of the school was huge. “She is not just a librarian, but a real ambassador for the school.”

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Trio of remarkable school librarians to be honoured

New article just out in SecEd: Trio of remarkable school librarians to be honoured in national awards. Emma Lee Potter speaks to three inspirational professionals ahead of the School Librarian of the Year Award presentation in October.

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