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, 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.

By sjpavey, May 18 2014 11:39AM

This month I have run a couple of interesting training courses both looking at the delivery of information skills.

Firstly for Creative Education, the day long course concentrated on the need for information literacy inclusion in the secondary school curriculum and ways in which this could be embedded. Part of the difficulty of course for librarians is the non statutory status in England and this is reflected in the lack of direct inclusion in the National Curriculum. So this course looked at opportunities to work with teachers in delivery and considered why some teachers were reluctant to embrace the library and the services of the librarian. What made this particularly interesting was that there were two qualified teachers on the course and so they were able to make insightful comments. Both had experience of school librarians and one was temporarily managing /caretaking the library until a librarian was appointed. Both agreed that they were unaware of the extent the librarian could be involved in teaching and learning and so hopefully this course achieved something in spreading the word. The course was very based on libraries and geared towards librarians and so it also covered learning styles and classroom management. It got me thinking about whether there is room for a course about the delivery of research skills for teachers.

The second course saw me back again at the wonderful Heath's Educational Books Showroom and we had a lively day dealing with research and writing up skills for 6th formers embarking on extended projects be it EPQ, IB Diploma Extended Essay or Cambridge Pre U. The delegates had a chance to put their own research skills into action by exploring the showroom for resources using a real essay title. We also looked at sources of information, evaluation and synthesis and touched briefly on academic honesty (although the latter will be run as a more in depth course in the autumn).

So next month I am returning to sessions with 6th formers and Year 10s in schools and leave the adults behind for a bit! .....and looking forward to the book being launched by the SLA.

By sjpavey, Mar 23 2014 01:47PM

This month has been full of exciting training opportunities that have kept me very busy in a variety of areas in the library world.

Just before the beginning of the month I gave a talk to Heads of Departments at Westminster School in London about Academic Honesty and in particular how we have been using the software Turnitin at Box Hill School as a teaching and educational tool rather than a catch out method for suspected plagiarism. This talk was expanded for another session I conducted with the Eton Group of librarians who met at Marlborough College mid March where the topic was Academic Honesty. This is such a priority at Universities as where the risks of plagiarism can have a devastating effect upon the authenticity of research and thus have far reaching implications and consequences. It is so important to ensure our school leavers understand the importance of referencing their work correctly and highlighting and claiming their own contributions and discoveries. This is one of the reasons why I am such a fan of the IB Diploma programme in particular which personally I feel does much to encourage such practice.

I also ran a course for Heaths Educational Books in Sutton about engaging KS4 students in the Library. At ages 14 -16 in the UK there is a noticeable drop off in Library use and I believe much of this is due to exam pressure and the social impact of growing up. I was encouraged that the recent DEMOS report on Generation Citizen also looked at self image and social networking as impact factors in the lives of current teenagers. The course looked at how controlled assessments could be used as a hook for library use in KS4 and also considered how remote use of resources could encourage engagement without teenagers losing their street cred in terms of self image and being seen in the library. The DEMOS report also suggested the skills that would be needed in 2020 - only 6 years away and all of them relate to the work we are so competent in as librarians and information professionals.....oh and I did mention about fiction too!!!

Another course was for Creative Education on the Effective School Librarian. This was attended by a mixture of private and state school librarians but what made it an unusual mix was that all bar one delegate worked in a school that began with Year 9 (13 year olds). This made the focus of the library very much KS4 and KS5 and presented challenges in that there was not much non examined work (as associated with KS3). The discussion was lively and I was able to bring in some of the Heaths Course material into the day.

To wrap up March I will be attending a meeting for Librarians from independent schools next week where there will be much discussion of the school library world and of course the forthcoming School Libraries Group of CILIP conference at the beginning of April. I must start writing those presentations!

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