The new 2022/23 academic year brought an exciting change – face to face events could restart! JCS hadn’t been able to run any events since our highly successful 2-day conference in 2019 on the theme of ‘Building digital capabilities’ so we were excited to get out and meet with librarians again.
With so many schools in the UK transforming their library to be both physical and digital (see our February Guest Blog) – and committing a lot of their budget to digital resources, we wanted to help by making sure they were getting the most out of them and that staff and students were reaping the benefits. So, we are now running workshops around the country giving librarians (and EPQ coordinators) the opportunity to learn about new resources, to hear who loves what and why, and most importantly, to share ideas on best ways to engage teachers with the resources.
So far, we’ve run two workshops, one at Abingdon School and the other in London at Latymer Upper School. Both events were full of excited librarians thrilled to get out of school, to chat and share ideas and examples of good practice. But for those of you who haven’t been able to attend a workshop yet, we wanted to share what we’ve heard so far.
How Graham Gardner is helping his students and staff at Abingdon School
Graham has invested in a lot in digital resources, and from what we saw, committed a lot of time to mapping them to the curriculum to make it as easy as possible for students to see which resources to use for their various subjects.
He shared a lot of his approaches and we’ve collated the highlights below, however we highly recommend watching his full talk on the JCS YouTube channel!
Map out your priorities in advance
Your priorities and any key dates associated with them should be aligned with what your school’s focus areas are (e.g., academic, citizenship, pastoral) and mapped out ahead of time, so you can fully prepare.
The classroom leads to the library
Map your digital resources against what teachers and students need with the school’s focus areas in mind, and they will inevitably find their way to the library.
A student’s intellectual level is a moving target
Students have a significant cognitive load as they move through adolescence, which impacts the rate they can process information. When you add digital resources into the mix, it can become overwhelming so remove complexity wherever possible.
Navigating ‘fake news’ and the ‘red pill’ mindset
It is important not to alienate students who might be steered by these types of perspectives by telling them that they are wrong. Encourage them to explore different perspectives and demonstrate how to find trustworthy sources of information.
Only librarians like to search – everyone else likes to find
If you leave teachers and students to figure out how to work with digital resources themselves, there will be little to no engagement. Show them how to use the research tools offered by digital resources e.g., Gale’s Topic Finder or JSTOR’s Text Analyzer.
Embrace the role of the information intermediary
Identify resources that are timely, relevant, and useful, curate these resources appropriately with guidance and context, then promote through your school’s digital platforms, at school assemblies and staff meetings, classroom demonstrations, or through student/teacher one to one meetings.
Look at resources through the lens of Assessment Objectives
If you map resources against the way students are being taught and what’s essential for them, both students and teachers will engage more with the resources as a result.
Terri McCargar’s approach at Latymer Upper School
Terri has also invested in a lot of different digital resources over the years and enjoyed sharing details of the resources that she loves and how she raises awareness of them across the school.
Some of her favourite resources are the Gale in Context series of subject databases because of the breadth of content, powerful search function and Gale’s Topic Finder. The JSTOR Secondary Schools Collection has been an essential resource for research for many years but her newest investment is in PressReader. She showed delegates how she involved all staff in the decision to subscribe or not and the overwhelming vote was a Yes!
Every librarian is in a different situation
If your school library is limited by factors such as staff numbers or budget, it is important to seek flexible and creative ways of engaging students and staff in a way that works within your means.
Use the promotional methods available to you
Terri promotes digital resources on Latymer Upper’s Google site in the form of an online resources A-Z, and she shares a link to this catalogue in her email signature. She also hangs posters promoting various digital resources in relevant spots around the school to catch students’ attention in the right place, at the right time.
Set up regular demonstrations
It is impossible to demonstrate resources to every student on an individual level, so take the opportunity to set up group demonstrations wherever possible, framed under themes such as ‘Learning how to research’, or ‘Finding research for EPQ’. This can also be done with teachers at department meetings.
Don’t do the research on behalf of your students
Instead, walk them through the process. Show them how to find what they need, and this will in turn help them get more confident in independent research.
Help students think outside the box
Sometimes, students may request resources outside your school’s digital and physical resource provision. When that happens, it’s a perfect opportunity for them to think creatively and look beyond what their school can offer.
Sharing good practice
We really enjoyed hearing our delegates share their good practice. Lots of further ideas emerged from the discussion and here are some of our favourite pieces of advice that came from both workshops:
- Create an online open appointment form and share this in your email signature, to encourage students and teachers to schedule focus time with you.
- Engage students with digital resources by participating in related library tasks, such as testing links on platforms where you share digital resource information. They will be more likely to visit the library and use digital resources if they are familiar with them.
- Padlet and Wakelet are brilliant options for sharing links to useful articles and research content within your digital resource library.
- Building a strong digital resource library and an engaged school community is not a linear process – pace yourself and take it one step at a time.