Let’s Talk Libraries: Croxley Danes School – Victoria Rovira
What is your role at Croxley Danes and what do you oversee?
I am the librarian at Croxley Danes and have been here for 13 months. This is a brand-new school which opened its doors in September 2020. I am in charge of the whole library which is also used as a classroom during the day.
The library is at the heart of the school and is the first thing you see when you walk through the doors.
I’m not actually a trained librarian, I just have a real passion for books and working with children – I’ve kind of learned the job just by doing it. In my interview, the Head Teacher asked how I would feel about building a library from scratch. I said to him, “Well, it would be a challenge, but an exciting one.”
And it’s been brilliant.
When I came here, there was a cupboard with a couple hundred books and no Library Management System. So, I had to purchase everything that’s in here. The students are so lucky because everything I’ve purchased is new. We now have nearly 5,000 books that I’ve catalogued. I’ve stickered every single book, all by genre and by age group. They all have about five stickers on them! (I have a lot of patience.) It’s been a massive undertaking, but it’s been absolutely brilliant.
So, you started without a Library Management System, tell me about the decision to then choose Accessit Library.
I worked with the Head of Literacy over the summer to source the best software we could find. We did some online research and spoke to other schools. The feedback we had from schools regarding Accessit was very positive, and the online searches were very promising. Accessit Library stood out by miles. I was using very dated software in my last school but as I had no experience as a Librarian, I was a tad naïve about how much a Library Management System could support the role of a librarian.
We booked an online demonstration and I was blown away by the content, layout and ease of use. I am not very confident with using software and was a tad worried I would struggle with the sheer amount that Accessit Library could do, however I was amazed at how quickly I took to it.
How did you find the process of installing Accessit Library?
It was seamless (our IT department spent the most time installing it, so I wasn’t involved in that part). I had a whole library to catalogue from scratch and I was quite fortunate that I had a blank canvas to work from – having no need to transfer over from another system. I booked my training which I found very informative and the trainers were incredibly helpful. Despite feeling nervous and overwhelmed at how much I had to do, I didn’t feel as though I was left to my own devices.
How did your staff and students go about being introduced to Accessit Library?
I had to give library lessons to the whole school to demonstrate how they would use Accessit Library to browse and reserve books. They took to it straight away and the library soon became a busy hub of the school.
I would open up Accessit on a big interactive screen and I would show students how to login. Students then had a section of that lesson to go on and use Accessit whilst they were in the library.
After an hour’s lesson they know how to use it, which I think is great and is a testament to how user friendly Accessit Library is. The fact that you can have a 20-minute to an hour lesson and be able to use it more or less straight away is great. Accessit Library is very intuitive and really user friendly.
How do students use your library?
We had to open the library under very strict COVID rules which meant that the students were not able to touch the books. This meant everything had to be done via the Accessit Web App, so the engagement was very high from the start. They took to it really well, especially as Accessit Library is quite visual. They liked that.
Initially the students would come in at break and lunch to logon to the computers and browse the books online. The Web App is a fantastic asset of Accessit Library that enabled us to open, where many schools had to keep their libraries closed. This was such a huge benefit, not only for the students but for the staff as well.
I only had 16 computers, so Accessit’s reservation feature worked really well because they could just put a reserve on it and I would go and get it off the shelf and then bring it over to them. The feedback I had from the students has been very positive, even now that they can touch the books themselves!
So, your students have become familiar with the Accessit Web App and use it well?
I do see quite a lot of engagement with the Web App. They use the quick lists quite a lot and they like to be able to see their borrowing history as they have to keep a log of their reading throughout the year. The students like to use the Web App to explore books which are on the Croxley Danes 90-Book Challenge. I set this up at the start of the year so that I could track the reading of each form group. Having the books on a reading list has meant that students can easily find the book they are looking for. I also run a lot of competitions in the library to try and build enthusiasm for books by putting posters on the Web App. These are always met with excitement as soon as they go up and I am inundated with entries.
A few of them also use the Visual Search. The images I use for Visual Search are exactly as they are on the book. I really like that, because they can look at the image on Accessit and then the same image is on the sticker on the book and shelf. From a visual point of view, it’s a nice way for them to search and it’s like Accessit Library and the physical library are talking to each other.
What is this 90-Book Challenge you mention? Please tell me more!
Because I don’t particularly work with other faculties that much, I need to be able to track what they’re reading. So, the idea is that over the whole school year, each form has to read all 90 books from that challenge. That’s one book per term for each student, over three terms. So, by the end of this term, one form should have read 30 books from the list.
When they read a book, they then fill out a review card and bring it to me. They also have a poster in their room of those 90 books and they cross off the book that they’ve read. I have quite a few students writing book reviews on the Accessit Library Web App. The students being able to read a book and write a review about it directly on the Web App is quite a nice touch.
They get house points for the most books read and at the end of the school year the form with the most house points gets to go on a day out somewhere. It keeps reading enjoyable. I have found this has been quite popular with the younger groups. And if we have someone ask how we check how much students are reading, I can then refer to this and say, “Well, we’ve got this 90-book challenge and in this form, I’ve got 10 reviews. So, I know that 10 students in that form have read these books.”
What do you like the most about Accessit Library?
Connecting the physical space with the digital space
What I like about Accessit Library is that it links in so nicely with what physically happens in the library.
I’ve got the posters that I make visible on the big screen in the library and the same poster is on the Web App. So, there are books that are physically on display and then you’ve got them in reading lists on the Accessit Web App, too. It just all ties in really nicely.
For example, I made a poster for the Football Heroes series on the Accessit Web App which I had on the screen behind me. I also put all the books on the top of the bookcase facing the students as they walked in. I couldn’t believe how many boys came in to borrow those books.
Another example, is that one student asked me for more content on the scientist Brian Cox, who has a number of podcasts. So, I was able to add these podcasts to the Accessit Web App which I find amazing. Something like that is great because it’s the student’s voice coming through into the library. And from that, this student borrowed one of Brian Cox’s books. This feature is great because it allows students to have more of a voice in the library – more so than if we didn’t have something like Accessit Library.
It gives students a bit more input as to what happens and the actual Web App allows students to see that they are being listened to, by putting their suggestions up on the page. As for teaching staff, Accessit Library assists their teaching because they can work with me, and I can work with them.
Creating Overdue letters has saved me so much time. I do a report of my Overdues and then email the list to the form tutors, saying, “look at this list and send them to me.” Being able to create and send those lists is a massive time saver. With my old LMS I used to have to highlight everything and export it to Excel. I can now print the list off, email it and it’s nice to look at. The layout is simple and it’s easy to read. It’s brilliant.
Cataloguing Teacher Resources
I have also started to catalogue Teacher Resources and PDFs. This has been a big success, particularly for students who are due to sit exams. I have found that this had been a big support for students with SEN needs as it is easy to find and easy to use.
Cataloguing teacher PDFs is fantastic from a revision point of view. For example, one of the topics they focus on is refugees. So, they can just go into Quick Lists, click on Refugees and then their PDFs appear in the results which they can open up. It does need the whole school involvement, as the teachers have a better idea than me of what resources to use. They can just send them to me and I can catalogue them in Accessit Library.
When they are doing any revision, particularly for the older year groups, something like this is invaluable. If a teacher has used a resource in their class and they’ve referred to it, particularly for homework, then they can send that to me and I can put it on Accessit. And if the students don’t have a printer at home, they can come into the library in the mornings and print off these resources here.
I know teaching staff do use PowerPoint Presentations quite a lot in their lessons, so the fact they can be added to Accessit Library is fantastic. If you’ve got students who work a little bit slower than their peers, being able to access that PowerPoint Presentation at a later date can be a bit of a lifeline. This is also invaluable as a school because it saves on paper, as they don’t have to print all of those resources out. And there is no (this is the teacher in me coming out) excuse for them not being able to do the work – because the work is there.
And the good thing is, is that it literally takes minutes. All a teacher has to do is email me a PDF and I upload it – that’s all they have to do. It doesn’t take hours of them going through paper resources. It’s just the click of a button. The feedback I’ve had from teachers has been brilliant. They’ve all said, “Wow, it’s that easy.” And I say, “Yeah, it’s that easy!”.
It is just one good thing about Accessit Library and the way it brings a school together. Especially as teachers are so busy that sometimes the library is on the backfoot. But because Accessit Library does have this feature, it brings the school together and helps the library become seen as a learning resource for the whole school.
It’s getting students to make the connection that the library is not just books, it’s so much more than that.
How does Accessit Library’s reporting functionality help you out? Do you use it to report on healthy engagement between your students and the library?
By being able to run reports with Accessit Library, I am able to see which year groups are borrowing more compared to others. This is fantastic when it comes to providing data to support SEN as well as the English department.
The Head Teacher asked me to get him the borrowing data and wanted to know how many boys in Year 7 had borrowed books, how many girls had borrowed all through the year groups and so on. And so, from the Accessit’s report feature I was able to easily share this with him. To be able to see the most popular books, authors, searches, etc. is a brilliant way to cater each individual library to their pupils.
The data is also particularly helpful when it comes to buying books. I was able to see who the most popular author was and most popular book, genre and so on.
I buy the books for the school and obviously at the beginning it wasn’t a question of picking and choosing, I was just purchasing everything. Whereas now that I’ve got a fully stocked library, I’m able to use this data to purchase books that I know will be enjoyed and talked about.
It’s great you are able to report this to your Head Teacher. How does he and others involved with the performance of Croxley Dane’s library feel about Accessit Library?
I had to show the Head and Deputy Head the Library Management System we had chosen and the reasons why we chose it, as they wanted to know why I would go for this one over something that was a few hundred pounds cheaper. But even then, Accessit Library had enough selling points for everyone to understand why.
And when the senior leadership teams have sat in on some of the introduction lessons I’ve done, they have all been bowled over. They say, “Wow, it can do this, it can do that.” and I think some of them have noticed the increase in student engagement. And from a teaching point of view, that’s the icing on the cake.
You can have a piece of software, that’s amazing, but if nobody uses it, what’s the point?
Having teaching staff see students use it is enough for them. They can actually see that engagement is happening, so they know that it’s good. And I think if a student uses it then you’ve got a happy teacher.
Funnily enough, our sister school have a different Library Management System and their Deputy Head came to look at our library and loved what I had done, especially with the 90-Book Challenge. But in particular, he loved Accessit Library. And as a result of that, I got a phone call from their librarian asking me if they could come over and look at it.
So, that’s our sister school with an established library who has seen Accessit Library as our Library Management System and has wanted to transfer over.
Are you happy with how your Accessit Library Web App is looking?
I am extremely proud of how much I have learnt and at how easy it is to use. I had a few different Accessit Library trainers in my initial training period and I remember seeing some Web Apps and thinking I would never be at that level. I have to say a huge thank you to the team at Accessit Library, as without them guiding me I would not have produced such an inviting and vibrant Web App.
One thing I love about the Web App is that you can tailor it for each school. Our school uniform is purple and green so obviously, I went for purple and green. And for Halloween, I changed it to orange and black. if you’ve got anything coming up, like Christmas, you can have fun with it and play around.
How have you found the support offered by the Accessit Library Support team?
Amazing! They have supported me since day one and I am so grateful. I felt overwhelmed at first but with their support, I have managed to create a functioning, appealing and busy library – both bricks and mortar and online!
Accessit made things very easy for me. As I mentioned previously, I am not a trained librarian and have learnt things on the job. The team at Accessit never made me feel that I was incapable of doing a good job and were extremely patient with me. Even now when I have any issues, I know I can pick up the phone and someone will help me. I swear they must have a picture of our school so they know when we call!
And because a lot of the people who work at Accessit Library are librarians themselves; they have that knowledge that I don’t. So, I could ask questions that I knew that they could answer. Sometimes, I’d ask such an obscure question they sometimes wouldn’t have an answer to it. But they would always go away and find out – and that is something that I liked.
And, are there any other comments you could share about your experience so far with Accessit Library?
Accessit Library gives a voice to students and teachers, and I think that in itself is invaluable.
Like the student who asked me for the Brian Cox material, it’s not just a question of him coming and asking me a question and I said I’d do it, but instead, he was able to see what had been done and that he was listened to. Accessit Library is its own little box in our school that can be seen by everyone.
Accessit Library is closing those gaps, that do appear a lot in schools with libraries, and that helps with the divide between the two – particularly now with so much technology.
Having something like Accessit Library at your disposal just opens windows of opportunities that weren’t previously there.
How would you describe Accessit in one word?