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Librarians of Accessit – Sarah Pavey

Accessit is a library management system made by school librarians, for school librarians, and our series ‘Librarians of Accessit’ explores that dynamic of our team further. In this second edition, Sarah Pavey shares her own experiences of being a librarian and how Accessit makes a librarian’s life easier.
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AccessIt helps us by automating many of these chores and we can then spend more time liaising with our customers, researching what resources will be beneficial, supporting teaching staff in planning and delivering lessons, talking with senior leaders about how the library can have impact on the wider school goals and much more.

Sarah P.

Where in the UK are you based?

Epsom in Surrey – home of Epsom salts and The Derby.

How long were you a librarian for?

I started as an information scientist, then moved into pharmaceutical market research and when my daughter was born, I worked for a firm of actuaries as a librarian before running away to school. I’ve been in school libraries for 21 years and have been working as an education consultant and trainer for 8 years.

What is the best part of being a librarian?

Where do I begin? I think, aside from being able to buy any book you want to read, it has to be the degree of autonomy that you have. Unlike subject teachers, you are not constrained by the exam syllabus or curriculum, and in fact, you need to develop initiatives that are “off piste” so you can use your creative and innovative skills.

When did you first encounter Accessit?

I was looking for a replacement for my current Library Management System and didn’t want to move to Windows. I had a phone call from a colleague in a close by school one afternoon who said, “the people selling the LMS software you want to buy are on their way to you and should be there in 15 minutes”. 15 minutes later, Martin and Julian burst through the door and the rest is history!

What is your favourite feature of Accessit’s?

There are so many to choose from. I am proud to see two of the suggestions I made up and running as part of the program. Firstly, the citation feature, which I suggested years ago and which began with a fairly rudimentary version of Harvard. The second was the browsing statistics.

I also love the PDF features and being able to upload the contents pages of journals or lists of poems in a poetry book without having to type it all out. But my favourite of all has to be Visual Search – it is so flexible and it is amazing if you are creative. I use it with bespoke subject headings so I can ensure all the relevant resources come up in one place for project-based learning. I would upload books, journal articles, videos, websites, databases and guides to research. Then, at the start of the project I would go to the classroom and show the teacher and students how to get to the visual search icon. Also, with the web reports it was possible to see the number of hits on the visual search and how much it was being used. We could also use the web messaging feature to make suggestions for additions or withdrawals from the list.

How does Accessit make a librarian’s life better?

There are so many features in AccessIt which take away the mundane chores, such as data input, circulation and chasing overdues. A librarian can save so much time by using z39.50. You can set up self-issue which allows for multiple approaches to searching. Or, you can upload “how to” videos which means that users can be more independent. Although these tasks are within our comfort zone, it is easy to spend far too much time hiding behind them to avoid doing something that pushes the boundaries, and which might have more impact on the school community. AccessIt helps us by automating many of these chores and we can then spend more time liaising with our customers, researching what resources will be beneficial, supporting teaching staff in planning and delivering lessons, talking with senior leaders about how the library can have impact on the wider school goals and much more.

What are the most rewarding things about being a librarian?

I was not only the librarian but also a tutor, which I believe helped me to get to know students better and encourage use of the library. I also spent a considerable amount of time teaching with subject teachers in the classroom, as well as the library. My main rewards were delight in watching students grow in self confidence in their approach to independent learning. At one school I was the “go to” person for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Extended Essay – teaching students about academic integrity and essay composition – it was so rewarding when they returned to school for a visit after starting university and saying how much they had put into practice there. Equally, I loved putting together initiatives for event days and getting the whole school community involved. I enjoyed watching them having fun at events like our live Cluedo game for World Book Day, naming the sea monkeys we kept in the library, trying to eat the fake biscuits we made as part of the ‘Christmas food around the world’ display competition (they had to find the real one) and smelling the essential oils on our ‘Stay calm for the exams’ display.

What is the strangest thing a student has ever said to? What is the strangest/funniest story from your time as a librarian?

I was the sole person on duty one summer Wednesday afternoon and the library was quiet because everyone was playing games outside. A short, rugged looking man wandered into the library with his son. They said they had an appointment to look around the school but there had been no-one in reception, so they were just looking for themselves.

In those days, GDPR and safety were not as high priority. They gave me their first names and I showed them around for about 20mins answering questions about the library and the school. I did think the man’s face looked a bit familiar, but with it all being a bit sudden and me being busy, I didn’t pay too much attention to it. At least, not until after they had wandered off and a small posse of students rushed into the library excitedly asking, “Is it true Mick Jagger and his son are looking around the school?”. It turned out Mick Jagger’s sister had been asked to book an appointment at the school, but accidently made it at the Further Education College which had a similar name. So, while the FE college were hanging out the flags in preparation, the Jaggers wandered unnoticed and unexpected into our school.

In your view, what are some important keys of school libraries and librarians?

School libraries and librarians have to support everyone in the school community. It is sad that in England the curriculum has driven many school libraries simply to be adjuncts of the English department and many have lost their cross curricular role alongside professional staffing. We need to develop collections that support all of the curriculum. As well, we need to balance the need for developing reading for pleasure and reading for information in whatever format is appropriate for the individual user. So, we need to be confident users of digital technology, skilled collaborators and communicators to work with staff and students but we also need to be familiar with the learning outcomes our users are seeking so we can direct them with impact. I know this is a bit controversial, but I have always felt that if a student is not a fluent reader by the time they are in secondary school, then they need specialist help from the special needs department or, maybe, English as an additional language. We can encourage reading to improve skills and to promote escapism, but essentially, we need to concentrate on the delivery of life skills for information literacy as defined by CILIP ILG in 2018 – ie. skills for Education, Health, the Workplace, Citizenship and Everyday Life.

How do you/would you encourage students to read?

I am not the best person to ask about this! I do read, but I am not a great fan of fiction. I do like faction books, but finding the time to sit and read at length is rare outside of holidays. However, I did use to enjoy getting students more engaged with reading through various initiatives such as interactive displays, talking about books, making scenes from books out of scrap or using apps such as 3D Paint and Bitmoji. I prefer active learning around fiction and was never comfortable with a silent reading lesson for a whole class of students. I am also a fan of reading aloud and this is something I would do if a teacher asked to hold a reading lesson in the library.

Many of the ideas I used for reading for pleasure, in the form of games, are available in my forthcoming book as well as other initiatives from around the world. The book shows how learning theory can be related to these activities. It will be published in September 2021: Playing Games in the School Library by Sarah Pavey.

For anyone who can’t wait that long, there is an online course available which complements the book on the School Library Association website – this is modular and is completed in your own time equating to a half day of training. You can find this here: https://www.sla.org.uk/course/game-based-learning.

If you would like to contact Sarah further, you can find her on Twitter @Sarahinthelib or visit her website www.sp4il.co.uk.

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