CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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A New Normal in School Libraries

Category: Branches and Groups

Last month we went back to school and all of us had to get used to a new normal. We’re doing our best to support our schools but a lot has changed, and we’re all facing very different circumstances. It’s library services, Jim – but not as we know them. The School Libraries Group Scotland sat down and had a chat about how the school term has gone so far. We hope you find our notes helpful:

Access during class-times

This is a mixed bag and really depends on the set up of your school. Year-group zoning often means only a single class (or small groups) can use the library at any one time, and reading for pleasure visits might be off the table. To solve the problem, some librarians are ‘rolling with it’ and running a mobile library, delivering book requests and bringing a selection of books on a trolley that pupils can choose from in class.

Access during free-times (e.g. lunch)

Again, this varies. Depending on what your school has decided, you might not be allowed any pupils in during free time, or you might be allowed a group from the same year (with capped numbers). Your Senior Management Team will guide you on this.

Author visits

With no in-person visits, librarians are turning to online author visits instead. These can be pre-recorded videos from websites such as World Book Day, Scottish Book Trust & Authorfy, or they can be recorded and personalised for your school (pupils’ questions can be emailed before filming). Remember Scottish Book Trust have just opened bids for Live Literature events. You can also use material from online book festivals, including the upcoming Reading is Magic festival.

Book requests

‘Book a book’; ‘Click & collect’ … whatever the name, school librarians have made sure pupils can still ask for the books they want to read. Online request forms have been created on Microsoft Forms/Google Forms and made available on school websites, Twitter, Teams pages, and on QR codes on posters around the school.


Official Scottish Government guidance says that books must be quarantined for 72 hours after they have been returned (or otherwise touched). So pupils browsing by hand is out – but they can ‘browse with their eyes’ if librarians create ‘blurb out’ displays, or write out first lines and display next to covers.


Most of us will already have had to disappoint pupils asking when book/comic/manga club will start again. You might be allowed to have clubs with members from the same year – and you can try running clubs virtually if you’re not. Keep checking in with your Senior Management Team because things keep changing: with the introduction of face coverings some clubs have been allowed to restart.

Events (National Poetry Day, Book Week Scotland etc…)

Librarians are adaptable, and we know we can still celebrate words and stories – even if the usual celebrations can’t go ahead. Big or small, it’s all about sharing – so why not email out subject-related poems to departments which can be read aloud at the start of National Poetry Day? Or ask pupils to design a bookmark and turn the winning designs into bookmarks you give out to classes? Some librarians are even planning to team up with school library colleagues to run virtual events.

Library assistants

We miss them! But even if they can’t help out in the library at the moment, keen helpers can still create posters to advertise your book requests, promote any competitions you might be running, and represent the library in pupil voice events.

Online learning

School librarians have added so much to their digital skill-set since March. Microsoft Teams users can create a Library team, or add a Library channel to other Teams. Learning how to record screencasts is a great way of supporting the teaching of information literacy skills, and free online digital collections like Padlet and Wakelet can allow you to create shareable resource lists and digital bookshelves.

All you can do is your best – you’re not alone! We hope this list has helped. If you’re looking to share ideas or get inspiration from other school librarians then give us a follow on Twitter @slgscotland, or drop us a line at 

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