15 September 2021 Share
Here is a blog version of the Chair's report from the SLA AGM for those who couldn't attend. After the AGM Alison Tarrant, CEO, shared some insights from the Member Survey, and these will follow in due course.
Our AGM was deferred until September in order to ensure our annual accounts were able to be presented. Our General meeting held in June approved the proposal for the SLA to convert to a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) and this is proceeding with the Charity Commission. Also approved at our General Meeting were the election of our new trustees. Copies of the full annual report are available on our website but I would like to highlight some of its contents. I will also update you on some more recent items.
As we all know, the year March 2020-21 was a challenging one, but in being forced to reconsider our basics we ended up confronting and dealing with many issues, which we believe leaves us in a stronger position for the long term. The SLA has moved forward at a rapid pace, notwithstanding the pandemic, and the trustees would like to thank the CEO and entire SLA team for their sterling efforts, ensuring that the Association has become stronger and benefitted from the situation, rather than what might have been the opposite.
Despite the difficulties and uncertainty, the Association continued to provide core services in this time of need. We re-focussed our energy on providing resources, support and events to our members and the public. Our school closure resources pages were by far the most visited pages of our website over the year. Our training programme very quickly became entirely digital. 47 webinars were organised, many of them free to all and there were two new events free to members: Meet the Creator and Richard Gerver in conversation with... New online training courses continue to be added. We are very proud of our continually developing digital offer and this has had a positive impact on our membership.
The SLA has worked with many partners to our mutual benefit: we worked with the Reading Agency and the DfE to contribute resources to the Reading Together Day focussing on family reading time. Following this we worked with Alec Williams to deliver a downloadable guide on encouraging reading for pleasure. This has been very popular in schools and indeed resulted in us recruiting one of our new trustees, Ellen Firth, a Deputy Primary Headteacher! A Covid working group was formed with CILIP SLG in order to collate knowledge and deliver guidance to schools. We have continued to support the Great School Libraries Campaign.
Governance was a core focus for the board in the year to March 2021 and continues to be so. Improvements introduced include: formal discussion of risk, increased use of working groups and a review of our governing procedures using the Charity Governance Code. A skills audit of trustees has been introduced in order to ensure the Association has the skills it needs to govern effectively. In July 2020 we recruited trustees with financial and strategic skills and, though after the remit of this report, trustees with grants and fundraising and communications skills, and a member of the education profession have been recruited, all of whom share our vision and passions but can offer different perspectives.
Similarly, our staffing needs have changed and with long-serving staff retiring, we were able to recruit a Marketing & Communications officer, a Publications and Awards officer and, more recently, a Membership officer. Together with the existing staff, they make a formidable and efficient team and I know you will all appreciate the excellent service they offer. An Employment committee has been put in place to ensure fairness and consistency and performance review is now carried out throughout the association.
Our new Patrons and President, Richard Gerver, are helping us to achieve our strategic aim of showing school libraries in a wider context and we are very grateful to them for their support and involvement.
Shortly after the initial lockdown was announced in March 2020, the board agreed to hold online meetings and to hold shorter meetings more often. This has ensured the board have been kept fully informed and able to be agile and deal with any concerns in a timely fashion. We have also held a number of strategy meetings online, planning for the development of a new 5 year strategy 2022-27. I am delighted that we will be meeting in person later this month to bring all our consultations and findings together. A great deal of research has been undertaken over the summer and I would like to thank all our trustees for their time, commitment and enthusiasm in ensuring the future health and success of the SLA.
At the AGM, our officers elected by the trustees were ratified by members. They are: Chair – Sue Bastone, Vice-Chair – Alison Kennedy, Hon Treasurer – John Bradford, Hon Secretary – Amanda Deaville. Thank you to them all for their hard work and commitment and to all the trustees who give so unstintingly of their time and skills.
I am proud to lead the SLA, its trustees and staff, into an exciting future.
Sue Bastone, September 2021