CILIP Youth Libraries Group unconference 19/3/17

On Sunday 19 March, CILIP’s Youth Libraries Group organised an ‘unconference’ at Richmond Library. As was explained at the beginning of the event, attendees of an unconference decide what will be discussed and lead the discussions themselves. So at the beginning of the day we were invited to suggest ideas for discussion, which were then used by the event organisers to plan a programme for the day.

The author, Elizabeth Laird, gave a short talk to launch the event. She talked about her new book, Welcome to Nowhere, about a family forced to flee during the Syrian civil war. She also talked about a collection of Ethiopian folk tales that she recorded and edited to make them accessible to children. They are available for free online –

The first session I attended was on how to demonstrate the value of a school or public library. Ideas included:

  • sending termly reports to your line manager based on circulation data and ‘display interaction’ data (i.e. counting up how many times you see people interacting with a display)
  • ensuring students write the resources they’ve used in homework
  • citing research showing the benefits of reading (e.g. by the National Literacy Trust and Book Trust)
  • having a governor linked to the library
  • highlighting targeted collaboration with teachers, e.g. a book club that supports a particular curriculum area

The next session was on running events in the library. Want to get an author to come and speak at your school? Try and catch them when they’re on a publicity tour. Publishers also love to hear how the visits went afterwards. Another great idea was to invite feeder primary schools to events. Not only does this share the event with more people, it can be a good incentive for the more in-demand authors to come to your event as they’ll reach a wider audience.

In the afternoon I joined a discussion on knowing and developing your stock. Lovereading4kids and Books for Keeps were both mentioned as good sources of book reviews, recommendations and more. Apparently, Peters suppliers also allow those who sign up to see book reviews without having to buy books. Literary prizes, such as the Wellcome Book Prize and the Branford Boase Award, can be a good way of scouting out new books. Finally, keeping teachers abreast of new stock is important and then encouraging them to read it by, for example, challenging them to read a teen book over the summer.

I also attended a session on information literacy. Discussion focused initially on how to teach students about fake news. This IFLA poster was suggested as a good resource:


By IFLA ( [CC BY 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

And, a fake-news generator, could come in useful for displays.

The discussion then moved to the problem of plagiarism in schools. Teachers are increasingly seeing plagiarism in pupils’ work. However, the frequency with which it is occurring is also making it harder to crack down on. This is clearly an issue that needs addressing by both teachers and librarians.

Finally, mention was made of two ways in which secondary school qualifications are now including an information literacy component:

  • A-level history coursework requires students to undertake independent research
  • GCSE biology students have to reference works they have used in lab reports

This blog post has given a taster of what was discussed and some of what I took away from the event. I really liked the ‘unconference’ format and the informal approach (make-your-own name badges and bring-your-own cake). And it was a great opportunity to network with other librarians, authors and publishers.