Librarian Guest Blog
We’re glad to welcome back Terri McCargar, Head Librarian at Latymer Upper School, as our guest blogger this month. In this second installment, Terri shares her insights on how your school can wield online resources like JSTOR and PressReader as powerful digital tools for transforming learning outcomes. Plus, she provides you with crucial advice on how to best promote your digital library – we hope you enjoy her insights.
Catalysing academic success with e-resources: Latymer Upper School
Latymer Upper is an independent and co-educational day school in West London. Over time, we have built up a substantial digital library, including 11 online resources through JCS, to provide students and teachers with high quality, authoritative resources that they can access both within the school premises and remotely, on a range of devices.
At the time of writing, Latymer Upper is one of the 579 UK Schools, and one of the 1,576 schools worldwide (excluding the USA), that subscribe to the JSTOR Secondary Schools Collection through JCS.
This digital resource has become a cornerstone of our educational resources. Our subscription grants us access to millions of academic materials, including journal articles, book chapters, and many primary sources across a variety of subjects and topics. It also has many helpful features that allow our pupils to find, read, save and cite suitable sources in their work.
Our key to EPQ success
I work closely with our Head of EPQ, Helen Doyme, to support the steadily growing number of Sixth Form students pursuing an Extended Project Qualification each year. This year, 76 students completed these projects to a very high standard – 72 students achieved an A or A+.
“For pupils to excel in their EPQ, it is vital that they have access to high-quality, academic sources,” Helen explains. “JSTOR is an invaluable resource for this – our pupils use it extensively and the quality of their work is a direct result of the quality of the material available.”
Other EPQ teachers echo these sentiments. Paul Wizonski, who teaches EPQ, Religious Studies & Philosophy, notes the transformation in the quality of our students’ EPQ submissions. He directly attributes this uplift to the invaluable, transformative power that JSTOR (and PressReader) brings to our digital collection.
But Paul Goldsmith puts it best. In his experience, we simply could not deliver the EPQ without JSTOR. It’s central to all researching due to the sheer quality of the content.
A game-changer for students and teachers
But JSTOR’s utility stretches beyond the EPQ; we actively promote it to A-Level or Pre-U students studying courses which require coursework or personal investigation.
As such, it reaches into various subjects, including disciplines like English, History, Art History, and Photography. In the words of English teacher, Joe Murray, “JSTOR is indispensable for any A-Level English student looking to ground their learning in serious, independent reading of secondary sources.”
Staff also use JSTOR for their own research and Continuous Professional Development. The resource isn’t aimed at our younger secondary school students, but it is often used by teachers for background reading and learning of their own subjects. This means that it can then be incorporated and adapted into lessons for younger age groups.
John-Paul Flavell, a Biology teacher, is proactive in incorporating content from scientific papers into his class practice questions. Meanwhile, Karolos Galazoulas, a Religious Studies & Philosophy teacher, has downloaded over 50 articles since the beginning of the year to continuously enhance his subject expertise.
PressReader is the latest addition to our digital collection – we were actually the first school to enthusiastically adopt last September! Although we already had access to news articles through Gale, I had been wanting a way to browse publications and read the news online.
PressReader more than fulfils the brief.
7000+ publications in 70+ languages
PressReader offers staggering access to over 7000 publications in over 70 languages. This includes almost all the main UK broadsheets, tabloids, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The Week and The Week Junior and all the BBC magazines.
It also provides access to a whole host of arts, cultural, and sport publications like The New York Review of Books, Rolling Stone, FourFourTwo and Wallpaper. Incredibly, it includes today’s editions plus an archive for the past year (or longer, depending on your subscription).
A specific department highlight: the Modern Foreign Languages department now uses PressReader to support the cultural element of their course. They have recommended it to Sixth Form students who can access Spanish-language newspapers and magazines such as El País and Muy Interesante.
A delight to use – lower cost; greater access
Unlike other news databases which are intended for searching for individual articles, PressReader offers a fantastic browsing experience, whether on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
It is very intuitive, allowing you to view the news in its original print/screen layout, complete with all the images and advertisements. As you do so, you can choose a particular headline and the article will automatically resize as needed to a text-friendly view for scrolling on your device.
Remote access is easy to set up and maintain through the free app, which means that with the site licence, all students and staff can access PressReader for their recreational reading outside of school.
Subscription to PressReader has saved us money. Having replaced staff room newspaper deliveries, our subscription costs less than having print delivered daily in term time. And it provides far greater access since all staff and students can access all the publications all year-round.
We promote our digital resources to the students directly as much as we can, whether one-to-one in the library or through a lesson. For example, every year, I offer a series of brief, timetabled demo sessions with Year 12 students.
The most effective promotion comes at the point of need. This is when a teacher or librarian introduces students to a resource in the direct context of learners’ upcoming projects.
The ongoing challenge in this? Making the teaching staff aware of the value of such resources. Here are a few of my tactics:
• I send all new staff a welcome email, complete with a Wakelet of useful library links including our library catalogue and Online Resources A-Z page.
• We provide a library induction for new staff and I demo the online resources most relevant to them.
• To avoid overwhelming staff, I keep communication focused, emailing about only one or two e-resources at a time.
Crucially, in conversations with teachers, I try to remain alert to opportunities to suggest how a subscription resource might help fulfil their students’ needs.