Alison reflects on 2019; sharing the many highlights from a busy year in the SLA office
Apologies that this blog is a little late, I had plenty of ideas whirling around in my head, but I was finding it hard to pick one. Eileen Armstrong suggested I did a round up of the year’s highlights, and I think it’s a brilliant suggestion, so here we go. A whistle stop tour of the past years ‘best bits’!
The thing that got the most headlines - literally- was the Great School Libraries report. This was the culmination of a years work by some incredibly passionate and dedicated people and showed some really important things about school libraries and the provision they offer. Having school libraries covered in the national press was a significant moment, and this has caught a lot of people’s attention, which is something we can all build on.
The SLA also launched our #proudlibraryprovision campaign to encourage schools to mention school libraries on their website. This campaign aims to counteract the invisibility of school libraries within education, and ensure that schools are being transparent about the provision they offer; parents and prospective staff should be able to accurately judge the support offered from a schools website, and schools which have school libraries should be rightly proud of it.
One of the big developments for the SLA is the extent to which we are now working in partnership with various organisations. Being new to leadership of the sector meant I had to build many of these relationships from scratch, but I think this has been one of the most successful elements of the past year. We have hugely beneficial partners in Peters, Hachette, Macmillan,and most of the school focused library management systems suppliers. We have new and developing partnerships with BounceTogether, Parliament Week, Achievement for All, Egmont, NACE, Lexplore, One Education, Empathy Lab and many more. This means we are getting more information from a wider range of sources; giving us a fuller picture of the sector and helping our offer reach a wider audience; something which is important to our current strategy.
We have continued with the things we are known for: producing an amazing quarterly journal; publishing practical guides and providing training. Last year saw us create three publications, as well as an additional members only publication; and one which has just slipped into 2020.
We have run training across the UK, with the jewel in the crown being the Weekend Course, joint with YLG, which happened in Birmingham. Over 170 delegates attended the Weekend Course, and we were sold out before the early bird discount closed, so don’t delay when it comes to booking next year! I have been working on the weekend course for 2020 since February, and we have a programme I’m proud of, including impeccable speakers and brilliant workshops, as well as a number of changes to add even more value for money. I can’t wait until booking opens in the new year, and we get to share all the news with you (we may even release it as an early present for you).
The Weekend Course saw us celebrate our Honour List for School Librarian of the Year at a drinks event for the first time, made all the more special by the fact it was shared with our YLG colleagues, and Jake Hope (lovely man that he is) got in touch after the event to say: “Seeing the videos of the shortlist at the weekend course was one of the highlights of the course for me, the passion and imagination that each showed was really motivating and definitely gave a big boost.” Sharing the videos in this way is something we want to continue for future years.
We have increased our outreach this year, attending a number of conferences, and delivering training to a range of schools and universities; and it’s great to continue working on this front and doing as much advocacy as we possibly can.
There have been a number of internal changes as well - a new all in one website and database, which has added new usability for our members and non-members was much needed, and is proving itself very useful. At the same time, because of new legislation, we had to change our finance system. This combination has meant a slightly steeper than ideal learning curve in the office, and to be honest it is less than ideal having this level of change all happen at the same time, but outside factors meant despite our planning this was the way it happened, and I’d like to thank the team for their patience and perseverance this year. We have also launched a new service - the CPD Library - which I think is a strong offer that will meet the needs of our members; we're delighted to be supporting Elizabeth Hutchinson in #LibraryStaffLoveLearning too; another great developing partnership.
We have released new resources, worked with publishers to offer posters, bookmarks, books, and author visits to members, and offered a range of competitions for non-members too. Our blog duo has been joined by a third - our blog to highlight BAME authors called Varied Voices, which started in October. This is an important addition to our programme of the CEO blog and the Development and Discussion blog, and something I’m personally very passionate about. If you’ve not had time to explore Varied Voices yet perhaps that’s something to ease you into the holiday season...
On a personal level a real highlight was being invited as a guest of NCVO to their centenary celebrations, and going to Windsor Castle and meeting the Queen. I met some incredibly inspirational people – all of whom worked in charities and benefited from the advice and support of NCVO. Meeting members at conferences and through branch meetings has been great – we are a membership association; it’s important your voice is heard and you let us know what you want and need, so I will continue to try and get to all branches in the year ahead. For myself, and indeed for all of us in the office, talking to members is a real boost and reminds us why we work so hard.
2019 has been a challenging year at times, and at times it has been more challenging even than I anticipated as we try to achieve everything that we want to for our membership and the sector at large, however, the size of the challenge has been matched by the level of support I receive from all areas of the organisation - all the amazing branches who I’ve met, and those I haven’t yet (but hopefully soon!), the trustees, Specialists and of course the amazing team I work with in the SLA Office. As we go into a new year I’m reflecting on our successes, the things we can learn from and thinking about the things we’ll be working on next year, and I’m taking to heart the support and encouragement we have from our members and the sector at large. Enjoy your break when you get there, and as always get in touch if there’s something you want to share.
With all the very best for the festive period on behalf of all at the SLA,