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The highlight of these two days was the discussion regarding library services developing and enacting the principles of the Literacy Action Plan with reports from Cleo Jones (City of Edinburgh), Yvonne Manning (Falkirk), Katrina Brodin (Glasgow), and Dorothy Williams (Robert Gordon University), complete with bear waiting to be thrown at anyone who spoke for too long.

All of these initiatives are working to build relationships with people, make them feel safe and secure and create a foundation for them to build upon. Perhaps most importantly, these developments are helping to raise literacy standards through partnership with other agencies. Making connections is the life blood of libraries; libraries and librarians are naturally interdisciplinary. It’s wonderful to see so many examples of that skill and mindset being put to good use and being used to advantage people.

I wished we could have had two days just from these speakers alone. Never mind, bring on the bear!

City of Edinburgh
Libraries, Health, Social Services and Education in Edinburgh are focused on improving the literacy of the lowest achieving 20% of pupils. The Council’s Integrated Literary Strategy puts libraries right at the heart of this work, from pre-school Reading Rainbows and whole school projects at primary to secondary school training in paired reading and working with parents.

Yvonne Manning wrote a literacy statement with an online support tool (Falkirk Literacy Strategy) ensuring the involvement of all council agencies. Some of Falkirk’s initiatives focus on Looked After and Accommodated Children, including an Imagination Library in partnership with Social Work, going into homes to deliver the books to the young people in person and modelling storytelling. For teens, the Reading Champions scheme was set up to work with storytellers and animators to produce an animated film, Teardrops on the Wings, which was shown at a film premiere, complete with oscars for the participants. Yvonne’s perpective: they’re lucky to have us!

Public libraries in Glasgow are integrated with social services. The Reader Development Strategy is aiming to make a City of Readers, with numerous interventions: Aye Write; storytimes and Chatterbooks; a summer reading challenge; author events; and outreach services amongst others. Each intervention is tied to an outcome – nothing easy about trying to change everything! There are on-going partnerships the Scottish Book Trust, the NHS, Glasgow City Council Education, the Scottish Government and Glasgow Life.

SLIC commissioned research from Dr Dorothy Williams from RGU into School Library Resource Centres (SLRC); in particular, what impact SLRCs have on learning.

What difference does an SLRC make to learning  and attainment?

What is it about a library that makes a difference?

Dr Williams put the question: do we have the evidence necessary ammunition and evidence? There are many large scale studies available, but they’re from the United States, Canada and Australia. There is very little that focuses on Scottish education.

These existing studies prove that school libraries do have an impact.

Impact of School Libraries (SLIC, 2013)

Impact of School Libraries (SLIC, 2013). Used with permission.

The studies in Kansas (2006-2009) and Illinois (2005) among others, show statistical evidence that a full-time qualified librarian, with the support of senior management, a decent budget and additional library staff, correlated with higher student achievement. This was accomplished through the qualified librarian building and providing access to a decent collection for students, teaching information literacy, and working in collaboration with teachers.  The learner gained emotionally, understood more about information literacy, and achieved better results in reading, writing, maths, history and science.

That’s some list!

In fact, over and over again, studies prove that school librarians have impact, even despite socio-economic factors!

Now, how do we prove it works in Scotland too?