Getting the school library ready for the new year
Published on: 17 August 2022
Alison Tarrant, CEO of the School Library Association, knows exactly what to prioritise when planning for the new school year. Here are her top tips for creating a library that new pupils will love.
Getting the school library ready for the year ahead can be one of those jobs which it’s either great fun to do, or which feels a little overwhelming because of everything else you have to do… Where do you start? Here are my top tips for how to make sure your school library is maximised from day one.
It may be no surprise I’m recommending you start by reflecting on last year. If you did an annual report, take a moment to re-read it. If you didn’t, reflect on the year. What were the things which worked, activities you were proud of, things that would be even better if...?
Plan what you want to do over the year, or at least the first term. Create a library development plan (there’s a template available to SLA members) or just list three things you want to achieve. You can use our Year planner (download here for non-members, though a more detailed version is available to members) and our Get Everyone Reading primer if you’re focusing on building a reading culture.
Don’t miss this all-important opportunity to weed. Clear out broken, old and tatty books. Less is more in this case – libraries need to be visually appealing and enticing.
Using Cressida Cowell’s metaphor of books needing to be presented like sweets, take a moment to imagine that sweet shop…
Jars on the walls, named, easily identifiable, looking delicious. School libraries should be channeling that same energy; be imaginative about how you use the space. If there are books which are great for the curriculum but not the best looking, see if there’s somewhere else you can store them, or give them a separate section. Some may see this as blasphemy, but the aim of the library is all important: if you want children to explore and borrow books, that overrides other logic.
It can be very hard to see with new eyes what we’ve acclimatised to, so pair up with a colleague, or find a critical friend to draw your attention to the sections or displays which need attention. Pupils can be quite good for this too – ‘find the oldest book you can’!
It can also be a good time, if you’ve got a few quiet days in the holiday or training days, to do an audit and identify gaps in provision. Sometimes this can highlight a bias in genre, sometimes it can highlight other gaps, which you can work towards closing over the year.
Get the library being used
There are many elements to this, but I’m going to cover only two: pupils and teachers.
Use this as an opportunity to uncover pupil voice. Give them options and ask them to vote – in assemblies, digitally or with tokens and containers in the library, depending on your ask and audience. But vitally, once you’ve done this, let them know the outcome and what you will do/have done about it.
The summer holiday is a long time, so remind teaching staff what you can offer. Ask for schemes of work in order to produce resource lists. Reach out to your school library services to prepare for research/discovery lessons. Give examples of activities which worked well in the library space.
Both pupils and teachers could do with an induction – whether that’s in person with a class, in an assembly, or a video you record and make available online.
So much to do, so little time… here are some resources to help get you started.
Go to https://www.sla.org.uk/support-for-primary-schools for (available to all):
- Top Activities to keep your class reading until half term
- Getting to know your class
- Library Activities for Nursery and Infant Children
- Information Literacy and the Primary School Library
- Creating A Reading Culture
- Five Top Tips For Engaging Parents/Carers With Reading
- Getting To Know Your Class's Favourite Reads
If you’re a member, log in and search for the below to access the resource:
- Library and Reading Planner and Diversity Audit
- How to start and run a library book club
- Reading Bingo
- Library lessons - a guide from Alec Williams
Alison Tarrant is the CEO of the School Library Association, and has been a school librarian, gifted and talented co-ordinator, and form tutor. The SLA is a membership association which supports everyone involved in school libraries, reading and research skills in schools. www.sla.org.uk
Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 17 titles.