Sunday, 28 April 2013


A couple of weeks ago the TES published the Top 100 Teachers’ Favourite Books and, in response, school librarians created their own list (see blog below). Since then, we’ve taken the top ten and put together a further list with an overall winner! The final list is interesting and, again, shows the diversity of school librarians’ reading with books ranging from both adult and children’s classics through to contemporary novels and, unsurprisingly, including several crossover books. The results were very close but the final list, in order, is:

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Chaos Walking trilogy – Patrick Ness
The Lord of the Rings trilogy – JRR Tolkien
The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Noughts and Crosses series – Malorie Blackman
Private Peaceful – Michael Morpurgo
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell

I wonder how many teachers have heard of some of these books, let alone read them? And yet I know from my own experience that most school librarians and several of my students will have read the majority of them. With a whole-school approach to literacy being high on the Ofsted agenda, perhaps it’s time for schools and teachers to recognise that their librarians are the experts when it comes to books for children rather than just rely on the English department, and for PGCE courses to include a module on children’s and young adult publishing?

Saturday, 27 April 2013


Today I had the pleasure of attending the first Libmeet organised by CILIP’s SLG London & SE group. I had been looking forward to this for several reasons; firstly, it’s always a pleasure to spend time in the company of other school librarians, talking “shop”; secondly, I love visiting other libraries as I invariably pick up ideas from them; and thirdly, it made a change from refurbishing my own library!

It was held at Lilian Baylis Technology School in South London, which I have to say was absolutely amazing; such a wonderful use of space and colour, and I wish I had been able to wander around the school a bit more. There was even a rather magnificent gilt mirror in the toilets! And it was also very good value, thanks to sponsorship from Brown’s Books for students.

The day was jam packed with sessions. We began with a Library Surgery; attendees had previously suggested topics to cover and these were discussed in small groups, very similar to what happens at Unconferences. Although it was an organised session with each group discussing every topic for a short time, its unstructured and informal nature enabled us to allow the conversation to develop into relevant areas according to the concerns of the group. Thus our general topic of behaviour in the library ended up as a discussion on how to deal with sixth form students. This was followed by a session on self-promotion and advocacy, something we all do to a certain extent but which is so important for our status and profile within schools. We need to market our services to all our stakeholders - students, staff, parents and governors – because if we don’t then nobody else will, which means telling everybody what you do, why you do it and what impact it has.

After lunch there were two sessions to choose from; one on e-books and resources, the other on the VLE and the library. I attended the latter, partly because (I have to confess) that the school website and VLE is low on my list. It’s not that I even have to do it myself as we have a member of staff who is responsible for them both but I still need to tell them what to put on it. However, talking to other librarians about their websites has given me the impetus to do something about this and I think I’m going to start with a write-up and some photos of the newly refurbished library as this will be a perfect way to tell both students and parents what we’ve done and how the school has invested in the library - that self-promotion idea.

If you get a chance to attend a Libmeet I would thoroughly recommend it. They are an ideal prospect for networking, for gaining further knowledge and ideas, and for CPD. You will usually come away with at least one practical task that you decide to implement, if not more, but I think one of the most useful aspects is the opportunity to talk to other librarians and to share expertise. Something invaluable if you work as a solo librarian.

I had an extremely enjoyable and productive day, and look forward to this becoming a regular feature in the SLG London & SE calendar but there was one question I totally forgot to ask: where on earth did they get those sublime brownies from?

Sunday, 21 April 2013



Librarians are always fascinated by book lists so when the TES recently published the top 100 teachers’ favourite books, it generated a lot of discussion amongst the online school library community. However, it was also felt that school librarians should produce their own list as we are the people that actually deal with books on a daily basis. The list we came up with is as varied as the teachers’ list; it’s in alphabetical order rather than by popularity although the top ten are highlighted. The problem is, ask a school librarian to name their favourite book and they’re likely to give you about fifty titles including their personal favourites as a child, their favourites as an adult, their favourite teenage/young adult titles, not to mention a list of picture books and graphic novels. So, whilst many of the titles listed are similar to those on the teachers’ list, they also reflect the wider reading that most librarians do and the list shows not only the varied range of books but also a more contemporary collection.

Keeping up-to-date with what is published, what’s being read and trends is part of our job. It enables us to select our stock to cater for the needs of our user group and also to match that stock more accurately with individual readers. We know how to entice a reluctant reader, what to suggest next for a Wimpy Kid fan and how to challenge a more-able reader whilst ensuring the content is suitable for their age.

Schools that ignore and do not use their libraries and librarians are wasting this expertise and experience; schools that don’t even have a library are preventing their students from accessing the resources and benefits that only a school library can provide. And when it comes to books and reading, the person to ask really is your school librarian.

Barbara Band

Skellig – David Almond

Flowers in the Attic – Virginia Andrews

Atkins’ Molecules – Peter Atkins

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen *

The Crow Road – Iain Banks

Rebecca’s Tale – Sally Beauman

Noughts and Crosses series – Malorie Blackman *

Junk – Melvin Burgess

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

Looking for JJ – Anne Cassidy

Wild Swans – Jung Chang

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

Artemis Fowl series – Eoin Colfer

The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins

The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

The Dark is Rising series – Susan Cooper

Framed – Frank Cottrell Boyce

Gatty’s Tale - Kevin Crossley-Holland

Matilda – Roald Dahl

Everything Happens for a Reason – Kaista Daswani

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

The Hare with Amber Eyes – Edmund De Waal

The Gruffalo – Julie Donaldson

A Gathering Light – Jennifer Donnelly

Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne Du Maurier

Middlemarch – George Eliot

Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

A Room with a View – EM Forster

The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend – Matthew Green

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

The Raw Shark Texts – Stephen Hall

Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

Black Daisies for the Bride – Tony Harrison

Tales of the Otori series – Lian Hearn

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

The Strange Meeting – Susan Hill

The Outsiders – SE Hinton

The Island – Victoria Hislop

Stravaganza series – Mary Hoffman

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner – James Hogg

High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

The 13th Horseman – Barry Hutchinson

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Journey to the River Sea – Eva Ibbotson

A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

The Summer Book – Tove Jansson

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

The Fionavar Tapestry series – Guy Gavriel Kay

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis *

The Giver – Lois Lowry

Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian

A Song of Fire and Ice series – George RR Martin

I Carried you on Eagle’s Wings – Sue Mayfield

Atonement – Ian McEwan

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things – Jon McGregor

Breathe – Cliff McNish

Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell

Anne of Green Gables – L Montgomery

Private Peaceful – Michael Morpurgo *

War Horse – Michael Morpurgo

Trash – Andy Mulligan

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Chaos Walking trilogy – Patrick Ness *

The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

The Abhorsen trilogy – Garth Nix

Z for Zachariah – Robert C O’Brien

1984 – George Orwell

The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series – Michelle Paver

Seeing the Blossom – Dennis Potter

Tom’s Midnight Garden – Philippa Pearce

Tamar – Mal Peet

Soul Music – Terry Pratchett

His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman *

The Long Walk – Slavomir Rawicz

Mortal Engines series – Philip Reeve

The Wave – Morton Rhue

Harry Potter series – JK Rowling *

Holes – Louis Sachar

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

Black Beauty – Anna Sewell *

Mahabharata – Margaret Simpson

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark

The Help – Katherine Stockett

Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – JRR Tolkien*

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth Von Arnim

Out of Shadows – Jason Wallace

The Tadpole’s Promise – Jean Willis

The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak *