08 March 2022 Share
In this blog, Sue Bastone, Chair of the Trustees, discusses our strategy and our plans for the future.
What a challenging, but exciting, time to be Chair of the School Library Association! When I became Chair in June 2020, three months into the pandemic, we were nearly two years into a three year strategy though our priorities shifted enormously that year of course. Our CEO, Alison Tarrant, and her team rose to the challenge magnificently and, as you will know, provided online resources to support schools which were second to none and very well used during the many lockdowns. My role, and that of the board of trustees, was to ensure that the SLA not only survived during uncertain times, but became stronger through good governance, forward planning and, most importantly, a strong vision.
In July 2020, having regard to our current strategy and the new landscape, the board agreed five simplified Strategy Aims to take us through to March 2022, whilst we concentrated on planning for a strategy to take us onwards and upwards – we were, and are, ambitious and confident for the future. Having recruited a new Strategy Trustee, Amanda Whiteford, she and I put together a plan to involve as many people as possible in our strategy planning. After an initial board discussion in July 2021, we split into groups who then spent the summer months researching various areas to report back in the autumn. These groups were Growth, Stakeholders and Competitors. Growth is, of course, vital to the SLA’s survival. We are a membership organisation and this needs to grow for us to be sustainable. This group looked at ways in which the SLA could grow its membership and how similar organisations do this, together with member benefits, our audience and areas of focus. The Stakeholder group included consultation with members and branches, our partners and patrons whilst the Competitor group concentrated on what could threaten the future viability of the SLA. All our trustees were fully involved and we quickly saw the benefit of having recruited new trustees outside school libraries but with strong connections to and support for what we do.
After 18 months of meeting on Zoom, we finally met, some of us for the first time, at an inspirational Away Day in Stratford-upon-Avon in September. Most of our trustees and all our staff spent a long, but very fruitful day, brainstorming ideas following presentations from the three groups. Our President, Richard Gerver, and many of our partners joined us for dinner and a very convivial evening. Zoom is very convenient but meeting up in person made us into a real team. Following our Away Day, a small strategy sub-group was formed to take all the ideas forward and pull them into a workable strategy. We asked ourselves such questions as: ‘who are we – librarians or educators? Or both?’; ‘what can we achieve without government?’; ‘what do our members care about?’ ‘what can we do now, what do we need to work towards?’. We talked about where we wanted to be in five years’ time and how we could get there. All this informed our new vision and mission and the values we hold. This was fed back to the full board for discussion and comments and finally approved in early 2022. Our new strategy runs from March 2022 – March 2027 and I hope you will find it as exciting as I do!
Our Vision: The SLA works towards all schools in the UK having their own (or shared) staffed library. School staff and children would then have access to a wide and varied range of resources and have the support of an expert guide in reading, research, media and information literacy.
Our Mission: The SLA will:
• Raise the profile and benefits of school library provision and their contribution to the UK’s educational agenda to regional and national governments and educational bodies
• Support senior school leaders, governors, parents, teachers, Trust leaderships and others in the development of their school libraries to improve literacy and learning in a realistic and constructive manner
• Provide training, networking and tools for all those working in school libraries
• Develop the support for teachers to embed reading and research in the curriculum
• Create opportunities for all library staff to develop and showcase their work
In order to deliver these, we have a five point strategic plan developing over the next five years. Throughout it all, our values define what we are: we will
• Act honestly
• Empower members
• Listen and understand
• Be learning orientated
These are challenging times for schools and we stand determined to give them every support we can. We believe in our vision and in the passion and commitment of our members. Please support us and spread the word – together we can make a real difference.
Sue Bastone, SLA Chair, February 2022.