A Barbarian in the Reading room

Welcome to my blog


Why this title? Well in my last school job I had a reading (as in reading a book) room and this was used on Open Days by the Learning Support Department. At one such event they put up a notice saying Leaning Support and I said "Oh I suppose this is the Reading (as in UK town to the west of London) Room now." They retorted by naming me the Barbarian and it has sort of stuck.


Sadly, this blog does not include much about Reading (as in the UK town to the west of London) or barbarians but will contain my thoughts on issues in the library and information world and also detail some of the events I have attended, places I have visited and courses I have run. Enjoy!

By sjpavey, Nov 1 2015 12:45PM

After a pleasant summer break in France where somehow we managed to avoid the monsoons in both England and further south from Normandy it was back to work fairly pronto for the Barbarian.

Before the end of August I was invited to return to Box Hill School to run a couple of induction sessions on information skills for the Summer School international students. We had good fun with game based learning including building Lego houses and the feedback was good.

Access-It training continued apace with the start of term in September and several clients new to the system as well as guiding existing users on the rather wonderful new OPAC. This allows you to create your own dashboard and save searches and resources that are your favourites. It also refines the One Search facility allowing cross searching against the catalogue and specified other databases or search engines eg EBSCO or Google Scholar etc. Then students can also create bibliographical records and citations from the resources they have chosen at the touch of a button and all this for free with the start-up package.

I returned to Roedean to meet their Headmaster and to discuss further the plans for developing the Library with him and the librarian. I am looking forward to seeing the outcome next year!

The main excitement of September though was enrolling on and beginning my AET Level 3 course at NESCOT. There are 12 of us all together with an interesting range of backgrounds from hairdressing and personal trainers to teachers from NESCOT. I managed to get the first of the three assignments in on time ….but will I sustain this ???

By sjpavey, Nov 1 2014 02:45PM

There must be mysterious things afoot with Halloween etc as it seems my blog as of mid October has disappeared! So here follows a summary of events and thoughts since mid September.

Firstly an interesting visit back to Box Hill School as a consultant to talk through Extended Essays with the Upper Sixth for their International Baccalaureate. I was able to offer a follow up consultancy by email and a few took me up on this which kept me busy in the early part of October. It was great to work with them and to show them the skills of referencing and layout and they were quick to pick up on it which was very satisfying. It will be invaluable when they get to university.

I did some general library consultancy and training at Caterham School including a session on the Library Management System Access-It. In fact I am now offering freelance training on this system with the blessing of the Company and I'm really looking forward to promoting this again. it's a great system with so many features and all for the one price - no surprise bolt ons to worry about. It's also good to promote a family firm who do their own development work.

Creative Education kept me at the beginning of October with a couple of courses on The Effective School Librarian. One was in London and one in Manchester. I only had a couple of delegates on each but it was certainly interesting. In London one school was an inner city comprehensive and the other an independent girls school in an expensive area. I didn't think in a million years that the delegates would have so much in common - it just proves how wrong you can be. For example both had difficulty in establishing reading habits outside school - one because parents could not speak English or could not read and the other because although the parents were educated, they had an overseas nanny to look after the children who had similar issues. In Manchester my challenge was a delegate who was very experienced and knowledgable but wanted some formal training and a very quiet new recruit to the profession. Both had a great time and gave good feedback so I think I managed to get the balance right and give both an opportunity to express their views.

I have at last finished the Academic Honesty Course for the School Library Association - Yay! Hopefully this will now be up and running before too long. Time to think about the next one. Maybe cataloguing?

...and in between all the work on the Library front it's been a busy few weeks on the music front particularly with Morrigan, playing at Tenterden Folk Festival and more and also the filming of the Irish Music Session at the Kilkenny Tavern in Wimbledon.

So what's to come...well I'm doing some more development work at Winston Churchill School, sorting out some training with Osiris Educational, going to a couple of librarian meetings and then there is the Heath's Training Course on Academic Honesty followed by my inaugral appearance with Independent Thinking Limited at their Big Day Out Down South. Phew!

By sjpavey, Sep 12 2014 03:36PM

So the P45 arrived in the post yesterday heralding the final cut off from permanent employment at Box Hill School. It really is the start of a new adventure and reality is beginning to kick in ...but in a good way. Firstly sleep patterns are interesting. At first some consultancy work had me out of bed even earlier than before and I was beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea but things have settled down with not every day being out and about. There has been time for writing and even better time for thinking and reflecting. I can however appreciate how some people lose track of what day of the week it is. Avoiding the challenge not to slob around in night attire for much of the day is also an aspect I hadn't envisaged!

So far I have been moving and sorting the Junior and Infant libraries for the Gordon Schools in Medway and advising their near neighbour school New Horizon's Children's Academy with the help of Jo Thornhill and the ever wonderful Heath Educational Books. It has been quite a physical task and it looks as if this will continue with my latest client Winston Churchill School near Woking.

I'm also engaged on doing some training this month for a couple of schools - one for library staff and one for the 6th form on extended essays. Then there are a couple of courses for Creative Education in London and Manchester too.

In between all this I am writing the SLA online course on Academic Honesty and looking at the updating of The Innovative School Librarian for the planned revised edition.

My work with Independent Thinking Ltd is really getting interesting. I am now delivering a keynote speech at their Big Day Out Down South which I've called "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants". It will look at how Academic Honesty is vital in this age of digital information and the implications for research and future legacy if we do not get students today to appreciate the need for these skills. I've also been invited to speak at another of their conferences in June next year.

One of the pieces of information which Ian Gilbert recently shared is an amazing film called Schooling the World - The White Man's Last Burden. It's been a while since I watched something so thought provoking as this. Basically it questions whether our imposition of Western Culture on Third World Countries has any long term benefit or whether we are destroying their culture and philosophy to the extent that it simply disappears. Particularly poignant I felt was the part where the German teacher who had raised money to build a school in the Himalayas was proudly explaining her charitable work and this was balanced against the effect it might have on the community. Another interesting part for me was the consideration that anthropologically these commumnities had existed for thousands of years and in comparison the industrial world and the technological world had only been around for a few hundred years and a few decades respectively - so whch society was most successful? It considered that Western Education had only given benefit to a few and the vast majority of young people were left between cultures - unable toget employment in the city and yet unfamiliar with customs and practices at home. It is a beautifully shot film and at another level could so easily be used to demonstrate how the media can manipulate our emotions and feelings. If you havn't seen it, take a look and be inspired.

Finally I was very lucky to take a bid on eBay and pick up an ipad mini for less than half price. OK so its not the latest model but I'm intending to load it up with Apps and arrange according to Bloom's Taxonomy so that I have got something independent for training purposes rather than using my personal device.

So the Barbarian has boldly stepped out alone but is far from lonely .....is this a bold step too far? Only time will tell!

By sjpavey, Jul 5 2014 01:07PM

As I am constantly reminded there is a fine line between taking risks and just being plain stupid and reckless. I hope that my move to full time freelance work and quitting my job at Box Hill School will fall into the former category rather than the latter! Should it prove otherwise then my wonderful leaving present of an Appalachian dulicmer may help the pension fund - once I've learnt to play it!

So yes it was farewell to 6 wonderful and crazy years at Box Hill School where I managed to ceate a library for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in under 3 months with no resources to build upon. I created a space used by the whole school community that was a focus for teaching and learning as well as a fun place to be. I had no rules which led to some interesting scenarios (no not that one!) including a remote controlled drone floating above the bookshelves and the infamous library pets - the sea monkeys turned freshwater fleas. It was sad to leave all the students and my wonderful zany colleagues but I am returning to do some freelance work there in the Autumn and the 6th Form Irish Night with my band in the Spring.

In my leaving speech I said that I hoped I had left a legacy of recognising the importance of Information Literacy in today's world. They have not managed to find a replacement for me yet. I made reference to the current chronic shortage of well qualiifed and professionally qualified librarians. There are many vacancies in the South East at present offering good salaries and terms and conditions but they are not attracting applicants let alone ones demonstrating appropriate experience. It is a sad time for the school library when we should be cashing in on the information explosion and showing young people and teachers how to select and use it effectively. Fifteen years ago Elizabeth Bentley of SLN fame did a survey and found the average age of school librarians was mid forties and in discussing this we predicted there would be a crisis around this time. We so need to encourage younger people into this exciting profession but it will be hard without statutory provision of libraries in schools (as in the prison service) and without universities offering library based undergraduate and postgraduate courses including a schools module as an option.

In between all the running away I have been runnning some training courses too. With Creative Education in London I had some lovely delegates for the Effective School Librarian course and we all had a very inspiring time in between the amazing food produced by the posh London hotel at regular intervals. I also spent two very enjoyable days (one with Year 10 and one with the 6th form) at Bradfield College looking at information literacy skills for research and write up. I experimented with some new ideas for teaching students to put their formal reports into the correct order. Bradfield College run a bespoke Diploma programme for KS4, part of which is an extended research project. The 6th form course concentrated on EPQ. The students were excellent and very attentive and I think left the sessions with good practical advice. While I was there the College were putting on their Greek Play - this time Antigone - in the school amphitheatre. It is performed in ancient Greek and is shown every 3 years with a long tradition. Returners in the audience can still remember their lines many years later. What an amazing feat. I love visiting schools and finding out about these quirky events in their school year.

With the freelance world beckoning I have also been accepted by some companies to run training courses in addition to my work with Creative Education. So look out for courses by the School Inset Company, Osiris Educational and Lighthouse. I am busy writing another online course in addition to the one on EPQ for the SLA this time on Academic Honesty. ....and my book. Mobile Technology and the School Library is now finally published and available - Yaaay! I have also been listed as a school library consultant with the SLA.

So hopefully I am edging towards the adventurous and I am looking forward to the thrills and maybe not so many spills of the coming months.

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