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CE Blog 2020 5: A new year; a new challenge

15 September 2020 Share

This year’s return to school hasn’t been like any other in living memory.

This year’s return to school hasn’t been like any other in living memory. The challenges are numerous, and made all the worse by the fact that it’s a new situation, so the information is evolving all the time – this removes any comfort in simply knowing what’s what. This has made advising particularly challenging; we want to help and support, but we don’t want to give false information. The COVID working party came up with guidance (1) a few months ago, but knowing we were at the start of an evolving situation decided to fit the guidance to this situation. In light of a new report which has caused considerable concern, a statement has been added; but the most effective thing in keeping you safe are the fundamentals: washing/disinfecting hands and social distancing.

 This situation has had a range of effects; it’s developed new language, and gave a small break to nature as pollution decreased as well as all the negative consequences for our nation. The impact on school libraries is diverse: for some school library staff this has added a layer of complexity to their job, while for others this has increased their sense of job insecurity, but for everyone it is a situation that has pushed us to evolve and innovate to allow us to do our jobs.

In charity networks the idea of ‘build back better’ is really taking hold; how can we use where we are currently to improve the future and ensure we’re building back stronger, making permanent changes to address some of the issues we were facing pre-pandemic… It’s an interesting thought, but a challenging one as many charities have been faced with a huge drop in income, at the same time as seeing demand for services increase significantly. How could school libraries ‘build back better’? It’s difficult when you’re in the centre of a storm to look forward and think about what things will be like after the storm, but it’s worth doing – there might be some respite there. 

For those working things out in the immediate term, some things which are currently happening in schools are:

  • Click and collect – pupils choose books (or ask you to choose for them) and then collect them at a designated place and time
  • Library staff are visiting class/form rooms with trolleys for pupils to choose from 
  • Browsing of specific book selections can be done in bubbles – choose a selection that relates to a topic your group are looking at to get started
  • Mary-Rose Grieve has written a fantastic blog for TES with some more ideas; her five ‘Go’ points are well worth reading (and thanks for the mention!) (2)

However, the short term will disappear all too quickly, as terms do, so think about these things for the long term picture:

  • Put books through a system of some sort – while traipsing across school delivering books the temptation to jump over certain protocols will be strong; but these protocols are your friend. Loaning books through a system means that there is not only a record so you can (try to) get it back, but the statistics will support you in future, showing that even in near impossible circumstances you contributed to the literacy and aims of the school. 
  • It might feel like a lifetime ago, but write a report of lockdown activities; it doesn’t have to be onerous, bullet points will do, but write what you did in lockdown. In a few months it’ll be even harder to remember, and you’ll never know when it’ll be needed to help your case. 
  • Aim high; when under siege you can end up looking at your feet rather than the horizon, but that stops us from moving anywhere. Aim to do the things you would have done usually, and ask for support if you’re struggling to work out how. Not everything can be done, most things won’t be able to be done in the same way, but let’s aim high; we’re all in it for the pupils. 
  • We need to keep our focus – your aims are the same (widely) as prior to COVID; how are we going to try and meet them? Budgets are tighter than ever (again) and all parts of a school, in all types of schools will be under the microscope. Focus on priorities and impact – what are your school’s priorities; who are the groups they’re particularly concerned about? If you’ve started new things, measure the impact. It doesn’t have to be onerous, but it can help a lot when it comes to meetings and your own understanding of what works.

We all need support and resources; don’t be afraid to ask what’s been helping colleagues. Personally, social media has been a source of support, resources and laughter, so now might be the time to try it if you’re not online already. At the SLA we have updated the resources page (3), made 7 hours of training available to members in case you weren’t able to catch them the first time ; and will soon be launching webcasts so you can choose when and where you watch the webinars if you can’t catch them live. We’ve also started ‘Meet the Creator’ (4) which is a chance to get to know about some of the books/authors coming out each month, and it’s entirely free to members . I know many of you are still planning online lessons and activities (one of our members is planning to continue with online reading groups to get around the fact that as a rural school transport is a major issue) and you might be interested in this free resource from Clickview which is a ‘Teaching Online Masterclass’ (5) including input from some big names in education.

Hopefully, you’ll find them all useful, and in amongst the stress and worry there are still moments which are making it seem worthwhile; do share them (6)  so we can lift community spirits. In the meantime, we’re going to continue doing all we can to support the sector; let us know how we can help you. 

  1. https://www.cilip.org.uk/news/506793/COVID-19-Guidance-for-School-Libraries.htm (there was also a webinar, available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZqkICcvZ8g&t=18s  
  2. https://www.tes.com/news/back-to-school-reopening-library-books-magic-subversive 
  3. https://www.sla.org.uk/onlinecpd
  4. https://www.sla.org.uk/ticket/meet-the-creator-september-2020/10034
  5. https://www.clickview.co.uk/teaching-online-masterclass/    
  6. https://www.sla.org.uk/mom