We're delighted to share with you our latest blog in our series, Library Lifeline, written in association with the School Library Association. This series is designed to support anyone working in a school library by answering their questions directly. If you have a question that you’d like to ask our ‘agony aunt’ – the SLA’s Member Development Librarian, Dawn Woods – then please email us at email@example.com and your question may be the focus of a future blog!
This week's question comes from a school librarian debating whether or not to set up a pupil librarian scheme in their school library.
I have heard from colleagues in other schools that their Pupil Library Assistants are a huge asset to their school but that the system can take some effort to set up. Is it worth me having Pupil Librarians in my school?School Librarian
You may have returned to your school in the new year with resolutions to maintain order and build a strong reading culture in your school, but your hours may be the same, and you don’t have a team of assistants working for you.
Having Pupil Library Assistants, or Pupil Librarians is an excellent addition and enhancement to your school library and one which many library staff cite as invaluable. In cases where you don’t have a library, Reading Ambassadors can help just as much in helping you to celebrate your reading spaces and reading for pleasure.
Not only will delegating tasks allow you more time to develop and implement strategic elements of your reading culture, but having pupil library assistants also benefits pupils enormously.
For many children, a position of responsibility can be beneficial. Pupil Librarians can be rewarded badges, with recognition being given in assemblies. This will instil a sense of pride, accomplishment and ownership in the library. Those who are Pupil Librarians in primary school may also feel more confident when inhabiting the library space once they make the transition to secondary school too.
What does a Pupil Library Assistant programme do?
Most importantly, it would:
- Gives pupils a voice in school
- Allows pupils to make a valuable contribution to the running of the school
- Develops pupil knowledge, skills and personal qualities in a real-life context
- Provides role models for other students
- Contributes towards embedding a reading culture in school
- Raises the profile of the library
- Supports the library staff
What do pupils gain from helping in the library?
Recruiting pupil librarians creates a buzz around the school library and reading spaces, and it can have further long-lasting positive effects for the individuals involved, including but not limited to:
- Increased confidence and self-esteem
- Opportunities to take on responsibility
- Reward for a positive contribution
- The opportunity to assist other students
- A vehicle for student voice within the school
Where do I start?
Now that you’re ready to go ahead and implement this wonderful, long-term initiative, we’ve got some pointers for you about tasks and duties to start off your Pupil Librarians and Library Assistants. Remember these can all be easily adapted to suit your particular set up and school needs:
- To help in the library at agreed set times
- To shelve returned books
- To keep a section of the stock tidy and in the correct order
- To help with library displays and book promotion
- To help issue and return resources
- To help other students find what they are looking for
- To suggest appropriate titles for purchase
- To take part in book events and celebrations
- Help with the tech side of running a library, setting up initiatives such as book trailers and filming book reviews for school-specific forums and social sites
The number of pupil library assistants needed will vary from school to school. Some primary schools will recruit perhaps two from each year group at the beginning of the year or term. Larger schools may need more – recruiting two to three pupil library assistants to cover each day.
Appointments can be made annually (some schools ask pupils to apply in September others prefer the end of the summer term) or at the beginning of every term.
Something to strive for
Make the process a privilege and something that pupils are excited by and strive for by having a procedure of advertising, inviting applications, interviewing and offering a training package with increasing responsibilities.
Training does involve an investment of time, but it pays off in increased awareness among your team in library routines and knowing the library can be kept tidy as pupils become very protective of their space. Reassess the initiative termly so that you can make any changes in accordance with what suits your individual school and its needs.
Be aware of GDPR concerns on the library management system, although most systems allow a pupil assistant log-in as a halfway house between your admin log-in and pupil’s own accounts.
The SLA have a toolkit available for download to members which has templates of job advertisement posters, interview tasks, outcome letters and a detailed training programme which makes the process less arduous.
There are also badges for sale on the website and there will shortly be a relaunch of the popular Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award recognising the contribution nationally made by pupils who work in their school libraries, acknowledging the skills they have gained then give back to the school community.