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Blog post

Library Lifeline part 13: How can your school library be in more regular use?

23 Mar 2023

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Welcome to our most recent 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 and your question may be the focus of a future blog.

Our pupils don’t have the chance to visit the library regularly. I’m so keen to open our school library more so they don’t miss out, but we just don’t have the staff. Any suggestions?

Primary school teacher

We know that not all library spaces – particularly in primary schools are lucky enough to have a dedicated member of staff assigned to them. Perhaps your library is staffed by someone whose role includes many other responsibilities such as a Literacy Coordinator (and full-time class teacher) or a TA, or perhaps you rely on a non-salaried position? If you are not in a position to have a daily member of staff dedicated to the library there are still ways you can devote some time to your library.

Although there will be someone in school whose remit is to cover literacy which should include the library, the library should be seen as a whole school responsibility. With this in mind, can you set aside an INSET afternoon to discuss a plan as a team?

Questions to consider

  • Who will lead on this?
  • What do you need each year group/class to do within the school year to ensure every child visits the library?
  • How often will this be achievable?
  • How can you include use of library for each class so it is part of curriculum teaching rather than an add-on?

Example plan

The solution will be different for every setting and it is important to create a plan that is suited to the children and sustainable by the staff team. If you aren’t sure where to start, take a look at the example plan below which includes age related ideas for pupils to visit the library with their class teacher – or in groups with other staffing. What is achievable for your school?

Example plan to keep the library in use
Stage Actions Frequency
Pre-starting school Open school library to parents at end of day when school starters visit for a taster session Once in Summer term
Reception Introduction to where school library is
Storytime in library every half term
Half termly
Year 1 Explain the difference between fiction and information books and show children where to find them in the library
Invite in a librarian from your local public library or SLS
Half termly visits
One off visit
Year 2 Visit your local public library perhaps in the Summer term
Show pupils how to borrow books from the library. This will entail having the opportunity to
return them too, so at least 2 sessions per half term needed
One off visit
Half termly visits
Year 3 Book talk – when doing the register in class, spend just 10 minutes asking if anyone would like to share what they have recently read and why they enjoyed it. Ensure you are reading books aimed at this age so you have something to contribute. Make sure you continue this point for the remainder of children’s primary education
Visit school library to browse/borrow
Weekly in
Half termly
Year 4 Book talk- extend and expand the range of fiction your class reads. Use resources such as posters to support you in this
Visit school library to browse/borrow, and research for current curriculum topic
Weekly in
Half termly
Year 5 Book talk
In library use different types of books – dictionaries, encyclopaedias, teach use of keywords for searching
Weekly in class
Half termly
Year 6 Book talk
Upper KS2 pupils visit KS1 classes or lower KS2 to talk to classes about reading. Do in pairs with prepared questions if this helps them
Weekly in class
One off visit for each pair over course of year

The above will share responsibility among all class teachers which ensures all children have a library experience throughout their primary school years and brings reading to the fore. Class teachers will use the library to show pupils where books are for their class topics. Consider the role the library can have in all subject development plans – not just in English, how purposeful time in the library be built in across the curriculum?

Although the SLA recommend having a paid member of staff for the library, even if it is not full time, there is a place for volunteers who can carry out specific tasks. They too need someone to report to and need to be clear on how to use their time purposefully to contribute to the school’s plans for the library. Ensure you meet regularly, perhaps half termly and have a method of communication weekly which works for you both. Could a parent or two come in an hour before school finishes?

Get Pupil Librarians on board

You may have Pupil Library Assistants in school. Pupil helpers need oversight and training, however. There is an SLA member resource of a Pupil Library Assistant Toolkit available on the SLA website here: and you can use this to suit what you can manage in your school.

Ensuring Pupil Library Assistants know how the library is organised is essential. The time invested in training will pay dividends when these pupils are able to help guide other pupils and change displays to maintain excitement in the library. A shelf or box for loan returns in the library means pupils can place their returns in and these can be dealt with by the pupil library assistants.

Benefits of this commitment

It takes a whole school commitment to enable all children to have regular library time throughout their time in primary school, but the benefits are huge and will help children form a love of reading and lifelong library usership behaviours.

Useful resources

Download the SLA’s free 'primer' on how to go about encouraging reading for pleasure in your school

Share these Five handy tips with parents on how they can enjoy reading with their children

Expand your range of fiction with these fantastic Road Reading Maps or Tube Reading Maps by Mister Bodd, KS1 teacher and book lover

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