Jionalibrarian's Blog

School Librarian blogging about schools, libraries, education and anything else I find interesting (Tweeting at @jionalib and photography at

LIASA-SLYSIG Conference 2016

I had the pleasure, and honour, of attending and presenting at School Library and Youth Services Interest Group’s (an interest group of the Library and Information Association of South Africa) biennial conference in Bloemfontein on 28-29th June.

The theme of the conference was “Connect, Create, Transform” and I delivered a keynote and a plenary talk, along with two workshops.  On the opening day, I presented my keynote titled “Are we restricting reading?” and unpicked the challenges we can face when it comes to embedding a reading culture in schools, the ways in which some initiatives that seek to promote reading for pleasure can actually be detrimental, and how we can seek to liberate reading.  I then ran a workshop looking at using online photo editors to create reading promotion posters.  On the second day, my workshop was about using online start pages (such as Bag the Web, Pearltrees, Pinterest and Netvibes) to create resource pages for research topics and I delivered a plenary session about delivering EPQ and supporting information literacy in the curriculum.  You can take a look at the resources, slides and transcripts from these sessions below.

I found the experience of speaking at a conference abroad to be a really rewarding experience.  The chance to reflect on how my experience in my own context and how this might be pertinent for others, encouraged me to think about the challenges we might face in this sector that are relevant to all, and the ways in which we might go about addressing them locally.

I attended some of the other keynotes and workshops while I was at the conference too.  The opening talk by Jonathan Jansen was an inspirational, motivational talk about the politics of reading for education and pleasure.  He reflected on the idea that reading dampens our views and anger by forcing us to engage with the ideas of others, and understand the relevance of history and context on both our own and others.  The way in which he discussed the sort of reading that facilitates a more deep understanding of divisive issues should serve to question, challenge, destabilise and then dampen the reactionary antagonism towards views that might be different or opposing to our own was a fantastic way of highlighting the value of books and reading, and the importance that they hold in modern societies.

I also found the session about web-tools such as RefMe really useful.  While I know of these tools, I have not found the need to have a play with them before and so getting hands-on with RefMe was helpful and I am sure I will be able to use this in the future with my students.

The panel discussion, as well as informal discussions with delegates, about the challenges faced by school Librarians certainly had a parallel with those currently experienced in the UK.  The variation of value placed in the role of Librarian and Library, depending on the individual school, really seems to be the key factor that will determine the presence and importance placed on them both, and this can usually be traced back to leadership and Headteachers within the schools themselves.  Without any national guidelines, stipulations or requirements on schools to provide either, the national picture in South Africa, as well as England, will potentially always be one of disparity for pupils and professional insecurity for Librarians.

During my stay I was looked after by Irene Reid from the SLYSIG national committee, with the help of Theresa de Young, who made feel welcome, supported and at ease.  Irene’s care and hospitality, along with her drive and enthusiasm, made my stay in Bloemfontein, and then in Clarens and Durban, a memorable one and I am hugely grateful.

Overall, I found the experience hugely rewarding, on both a professional and personal  level, and I am hugely grateful for being given the opportunity.

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Did I mention I like taking photos in my “spare” time?

If you are interested in seeing some of my work, then you can take a look at

Have a great Christmas.

Book Review: My Brother Simple

Book review from one of my sixth formers, from our Literature Society.

Source: Book Review: My Brother Simple

KS4 Breakfast & Books Club

My KS4 Breakfast and Books Club is going strong.  Although small, we have added a new member from year 10, as a result of my attending the evening for parents and their sons/daughters who are on the Academy’s “more able” register.

Megan recently read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four which you can read on our ‘Book Reviews’ page of the OAE Media Blog at  It is a great read, and she has shown a real deep understanding of the novel and the themes Orwell tackles.

Our next book is one that we are all going to read, and that is Patrick Ness’s The Rest of us Just Live Here.  They were all really excited about getting their copy of the book today, having watched the video of Ness reading from the novel last week.  They have all read A Monster Calls and I am really looking forward to meeting with them next week to see what they think of his latest book.  Look out for blog posts reviewing the book very soon.

I’m hoping to convince Vikita to write a review about Everybody knows this is nowhere by Alice Furse, which she recently finished too.  Watch this space.

Owen Jones’ ‘The Establishment’

A must read for everyone on the journey to a greater understanding of society… and the shadow behind it.

Source: Owen Jones’ ‘The Establishment’

Window Writing

So, having had a read of Teacher Geek, by Rachel Jones (@RLJ1981) over the Summer, I took away her idea of using chalk pens for writing on windows.  As I don’t have very many prominent display boards in my Library, I thought that using the windows, of which I have loads, would be a great way to utilise them to share information and ideas.

So, having bought a set from ebay, I have been gradually filling up some of the windows with literary and inspirational quotes.  The best bit has been getting the pupils involved, and I have had plenty of them wanting to have a go.  Below are photos of some of their work:

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Additionally, I have used these to share information, like adding our opening times, book and homework club times, and advertise e-resources.

This has, at the very least, been an additional way of using display with an eye-catching and alternative method.  A little further to this, it has encouraged pupil-lead engagement with the Library, and an extension to creative tasks for my book clubs and regular Library-goers.

Book Club Introduction

I have written a guest-blog post about our year 10 book club on the OAE Media blog, where you can read all about what we have been up to in 2014-15. Please have a read to find out more.

Media Studies @ Oasis Academy Enfield

I have been running a small book club for pupils in year 10 in 2014-15.  It takes place every Wednesday morning before school, from 8.15-8.40am, in the Library.  Each week we get together for a breakfast snack and a chat about whatever we have been reading that week.

The thinking behind the club is primarily to get together to have an informal chat about books, share the books we love, recommend great books to one another and find new fantastic books to read.  Sometimes we all will have chosen to read the same book, other times different books by the same author, sometimes along a similar theme or genre, and yet other times completely different books altogether.  Each week we will have a chat about what we want to read next, and make a choice for what we are going to read next.  There is never any pressure to finish…

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Surprise Summer Reads 2015

We have done Surprise Summer Reads for a few years now. This involves offering all staff and students the chance to have a book chosen for them, then wrapped an delivered to them on the last day of the Summer term. This means that they will get a book that they wouldn’t normally pick up for themselves, but that whoever has chosen the book thinks that they will enjoy it.  They key outcome is that they will read a book from the Academy Library that they will then hopefully be able to recommend to students in the following year, as we all know how powerful it is when teachers/role-models can talk with enthusiasm about books.

In previous years, staff have signed up and then a group of volunteer students have then picked a member of staff from the list and then chosen a book for that member of staff (see a previous post).

This year I decided to vary my approach, and have given all twenty-one staff (except for a few special exceptions who had read it already) who signed up a copy of A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness.  Firstly, this is one of my absolute favourite books and one that I recommend to anyone and everyone anyway. Secondly, I have a class set that I use in Library lessons, and so many pupils in the school will have read this book too. This means that this year, come September, the conversations that staff will be having with pupils will be about a book that both have read and enjoyed.  I think that this will be equally powerful and will hopefully then facilitate further discussion about other books each have enjoyed and, through the common/shared starting point of A Monster Calls, they will then be able to go on to recommend other books to one another too.

surprise summer reads - staff

Pupils this year also signed up and their books were chosen by my Assistant Librarian and I.  For the nineteen pupils from a mixture of years 7-10, we picked out a range of great fiction to challenge and push these keen readers.  These pupils will hopefully come back after the summer having read something that they wouldn’t have chosen for themselves that they will then recommend to other pupils, as well as talk about with the teacher who also took part this year too.

surprise summer reads - students

I’m very much looking forward to getting the completed postcards from staff and students with their thoughts about the books that have had for the Summer.  These will then be displayed in the library, as well as shared via other channels such as the Academy newsletter, plasmas and any other mediums I can get my message out there with.

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