Earlier this year, I got the chance to meet with some lovely librarians in Ipswich. They are part of a group called FLAPS, which I was so impressed with I shared it as part of my presentation at the SLANZA conference in July. Here's the slide I used:
Once I found out about FLAPS, I was very keen to see if it could be replicated in NZ. I felt that this idea might work within the framework of a Community of Learning (CoL). My school became part of a CoL last year, and it seemed like a good idea to take an existing structure that the government promotes and gives funding to, and work within that. I like the fact that the meeting takes place during the day, not after school when many of us have a lot of other things to juggle. I also thought that meeting once a term is not a prohibitive amount of time, and therefore hard to refuse!
I could have approached the other librarians in our CoL directly, however I wanted to have the explicit approval that being discussed at the CoL principals' meeting would bring. I have to admit that I was keen for the principals who value their libraries and support their librarians (like mine) to be positive role models on those who hardly think about their libraries at all. I also felt like it was the best option for getting librarians, library assistants, teachers with library responsibility and teacher aides who don't normally go to any other meetings. Having an email forwarded to you from your principal implies that they are keen for you to go and happy for you to be away for the time needed.
Going down this route did mean having to be patient. It took several months before librarians were discussed at the CoL principals' meeting (to be fair, they were in the process of setting things up so had lots of other things that needed to be covered).
Once it had been agreed that we could run a CoL Librarians' Group I emailed all the principals in our CoL, talked about setting up a meeting and asked them to pass on the email to anyone involved with their school library. I asked them to indicate which days would suit them best on a Google doc that covered a couple of weeks later on in the term. I had set the time as 9.30-11.30. A bit later on I followed up with an email directly to the librarians of schools which hadn't responded, as I suspected there were a couple whose principals had not passed on my email!
Twelve librarians (I'll call them that although some were teachers, teacher aides etc) from nine schools attended our first meeting on 28 August. We had seven primary schools, one intermediate and one high school. It was held at my school and we started by getting to know each other better and talking about our hours and the conditions at our schools. I was reminded how lucky I am to work in a big school that has a generous library budget. I showed everyone our library and talked a bit about how we ran things. As usual, when I am surrounded by librarians I pick up little things that will help improve my job. Like when students have overdue books recommending that they take out an eBook instead. Simple but not something I had been doing. I was pleased that there was an offer from another school to organise and run the next meeting in Term 4, and we decided we would have stocktaking as our theme.
Our second CoL Librarians' meeting was held at the end of October. We had librarians from three new schools attend! Our new host seriously upped the ante and made a slideshow about her library and how they handled stocktaking. It was interesting to hear about a wide range of stocktaking practices and Esther and I picked up some good ideas around training student librarians too.
Looking forward to 2018, I've had offers from our lovely National Library ladies to help should we require it, and we may pull in outside experts too.
Overall, I'd say that the CoL Librarians' Group has been successful. It's not a big burden to organise, I've met some new librarians from our local schools, acquired and shared knowledge, and it appears that everyone is happy for it to continue. If your school is in a CoL, I would definitely recommend setting up a CoL Librarians' Group.