06 September 2021 Share
How should we re-open? What are the systems?
Talk to your line manager and find out what their plans are. Risks still need to be minimised, but the vaccinations are doing the main work in this area. We need to ensure that access to reading materials and the space of the library are available to the pupils who will need them. Your risks will vary depending on your library layout and personal circumstances, so re-download the Risk Assessment and go through the process again (ideally with your line manager or Health and Safety responsible person). It’s not so much having the document at the end, but the process of thinking things through will help you feel prepared.
You may be able to see what your local school library service or public library are doing to give you ideas of how to manage this phase.
How should I approach SLT?
With empathy! Senior leaders in schools have had an incredibly tough time, and they have been doing their best. You will know your SLT best, but an approach along the lines of: ‘I am going to do this risk assessment to help me think things through – is there someone I should include in this process?’ might help open the conversation.
If disagreements arise, try and stay calm. This can be very difficult when you feel at risk, but is vital for the long term relationships. Try and find out what the logic is behind any decisions, and see if there’s a compromise, or if the decision maker is simply missing some information. For example, ‘open as normal’ may sound great on paper, but if you know that means 100+ people in a space with no ventilation and if that isn’t in line with how the rest of the school is being run it might be that the decision maker isn’t aware of the numbers of pupils you usually deal with.
My library has been closed for a year, and all my momentum has been lost... I’m feeling tired already!
This is completely understandable, and the emotional impact of the closures and changes shouldn’t be ignored – this is normal. Try not to view it as a huge mountain you need to take on, but break it down into smaller steps, and prioritise each of them. The changes to staff, pupils and processes may mean a re-think is needed anyway. Use it as an opportunity to consider the weaknesses of previous library provision; what can you do this time to minimise it? Who are the pupils your school is particularly worried about at the moment? What can you do to bring them into the library environment?
Take time to network, and speak to colleagues in other school libraries; this is a hugely important way of feeling understood and for getting practical help.
If you’re still struggling, think about the things you missed last year – what moments are you most looking forward to this year? These may be big events – World Book Day or Harry Potter Night for example – or small moments – having pupil library helpers and regular users back. How can you generate moments which will remind you why you decided to work in a school library? These may still look a little different, but work within the current limitations... for example, if the moment you love is when a pupil says ‘thanks - this book is brilliant!’ even if you’re not doing a full programme of library lessons, could you record a 5 minute/10 books video where you recommend as many books as possible in the time? This can be shared with relevant year groups, tutor groups, classes etc.
I haven’t worked in a school library for over a year, I can barely remember what my job was...
This is normal; don’t berate yourself for this. You reacted to a situation and have done what you can within the limitations placed on you.
Think about your job description – re-read it. That is your guiding star, and anything in addition should be dealt with separately. If you think your job is at risk ensure you are part of a union – they cannot help you unless you are a member before trouble starts so don’t wait until it’s too late.
Consider the school’s priorities; how can the library help the school deliver them? Literacy, wellbeing, information literacy are all on the curriculum and schools will be looking to support pupils in these areas.
The library’s been closed for over a year – how am I going to get pupils back in the habit of using it?
See if there’s space for library lessons – go with a clear but brief outline of what will be covered, how it will help develop reading skills or introduce children to a wider range of reading texts.
Regardless of whether you can have lessons or not, think about other ways to get pupils into the library; what clubs could you offer? Could you run homework help sessions? Poetry slams? Guest lecturers after school? Find out from the pupils what they want – a survey or assembly talk could help here.
One of the best things you can do to encourage visits to the library, conversely, is to be elsewhere in school. This is one of the biggest challenges – you need to be in the library to look after the pupils and provide a service, but without outreach services will reach the same pupils. See if there’s a way to be in an assembly, or do a duty in a play area or dining hall on occasion. Being visible will remind pupils and staff of the services you offer and enable you to speak to pupils outside the usual circle.
Do I still need to quarantine books?
On the World Health Organisation website it still says: “People may also become infected by touching surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus when touching their eyes, nose or mouth without cleaning their hands.”
Public Health England advice on this now reads as "there is no longer any requirement to quarantine returned books and library resources, or to wipe down their surfaces."
Are you quarantining every other book in school? Is storage of quarantining books proving as equal a health and safety risk? Risks should be balanced with practical considerations and now we know more about the virus airbourne contamination is the greater transmission method.
How can I ensure a smooth launch of the library?
It’s going to take time, so don’t feel like it all has to be perfect on day two. Pupils will need reminding of the rules, and it will take time to get to do inductions for them all. You may want to create new posters about the expectations of the library. Consider where these are placed carefully – eye height, and near to the relevant areas or waiting areas. Try and frame things positively so it doesn’t inadvertently become a room of rules...
For many schools routines have changed significantly, so a reminder of when the library is open, and accessible would be helpful for pupils. Try and do an assembly for each year group; or share a powerpoint for the Head of year to share on your behalf. Three things from the school library:
* three things to know (when the library is open, what resources you have; the staff available to help);
* three things to do (homework, borrow books, draw or create);
* three things to read (highlight some new releases);
* three things to discuss (a conversation starter, to draw people into the library to discuss with you – these could be anything but for example: Winnie the Pooh was banned in China; 15000 books have been moved over the summer in this school, William Faulkner wrote his epic novel As I Lay Dying during the night shift as he worked at a power plant
This is a light touch library presentation, that anyone could deliver but which would draw people into the library.
One question you might want to ask is does the library look its best? Could you do a new display to draw people in? Is there something which has happened in your local area? Could you focus on a particular element in books – 10 books with maps? 10 books with characters in an area like this one? 10 books involving a bunker?
If you would benefit from the opportunity to speak to other library staff face to face, members can join our virtual coffee break
on Thursday 16th Sept 4-5pm. Book here
Alternatively contact your local branch and arrange to meet with other members in your area - or call our advice line on 01793 530166