Health & Wellbeing, and the National Strategy for School Libraries

In line with our Health and Wellbeing aim SLG Scotland gave kind permission for this blog to be re-posted here.

Student in a library

Every month we showcase an activity or project that furthers one of the strategic aims of Vibrant Libraries, Thriving Schools (VLTS). This month we’ve collected what the committee members of the School Libraries Group (Scotland) have been doing to further the health and wellbeing aim of the National Strategy for School Libraries in Scotland. Our circumstances may be very different but no matter how small, every library activity is a reminder to pupils and staff that they are not alone.


A safe space


Although the library’s access has changed because of COVID restrictions, Amanda has worked with her pastoral team to identify the library as a safe space for pupils who need it during class time. Free time is just as important: Pamela has been able to give each year group their own day when they can visit the library at lunch: even if it is just to say hello to the library fish. Gillian’s library has also been open at lunch and “has been adopted by many of the S1s as a haven away from the main areas of the school.”


Bibliotherapy


The free CILIPS online CPD sessions have sparked several funding bids, including one by Carol which is based on the bibliotherapy work of Edinburgh school librarians Christine Babbs and Lynn Brown. Sharing stories with staff is another way of promoting the library’s health and wellbeing benefits: every day during Book Week Scotland, Pamela posted a picture of a very short poem or story on the staff Teams page, with no pressure on staff to do anything other than read it. It generated lots of discussion and positive feedback.


Clubs


Many of us still aren’t able to run clubs in person, but Microsoft Teams and other platforms have been a virtual venue where, in the words of Shelagh (our chair): “pupils can share, chat, create and connect with each other – and with staff too”.


Competitions


We’re one of the main places in school where (according to one S2 pupil) “fun stuff is still happening”. And if you don’t have access to your physical library space, you can still run competitions & events – even if they’re run online or via the classroom.

Donna Baird shared details of her fantastic Book Week Scotland competition on Basecamp: challenging pupils to design their own facemask based on a book. Amanda ran this in her school, with the winner’s design turned into a mask. A design-your-own-bookmark competition ran the same way, with the bookmarks given to members of staff at the end of Book Week Scotland as a thank you for everything they’ve done this term, and as a reminder to take some time to read and relax.


Events


Pamela ran a ‘Tweet the Author’ event over Book Week Scotland. The aim was to connect readers with authors, passing on positivity from readers to writers, but it was a brilliant boost to lots of our pupils to see their comments liked, retweeted or replied to by writers they love.

Connecting with other schools is another way of promoting positive health and wellbeing amongst pupils. Carol & Shelagh are both working with school library colleagues on health and wellbeing projects, one on bibliotherapy and the other nurturing creativity and offering a space to share creative work.


Reading


Reading can be a great stress-reliever and offers an escape from reality: all school librarians know this, which is why we’re working so hard to get books into the hands of readers. Many are turning to eBooks (their own or public library eBooks) to make sure pupils still have access to reading material even when they’re not in school. Reading support can also boost pupil wellbeing: Markie runs two book groups for pupils who have English as an additional language (for juniors & for seniors). They run in the Library during class time, providing a safe space for pupils to develop their language and literacy skills without judgement whilst fostering good reading habits. Pupils vote on which books to read which is then tied in with fun literacy-based activities and fervent discussion on related topics!


Research


Gillian runs a hybrid research/health & wellbeing project (H&WB) with all S1 PSE classes, which raises awareness of H&WB topics and identifies the library as a space which supports this. She asks pupils to pick a topic, then research it and create an information poster of their findings.


A friendly face


If you are currently in school and seeing pupils every day, then you are a friendly and familiar presence whether your library is open for business or not. Every interaction with pupils & staff is important: virtual or in-person, it doesn’t matter. You can offer the best kind of library service simply by offering a kind word or a moment of sanctuary to someone who really needs it.

SLG Scotland are running an online author event with Victoria Williamson as part of Children’s Mental Health Week in February 2021. This will be a chance to find out how you can run virtual author visits in your school while COVID restrictions are in place. Stay tuned for more details later this month!


Re-posted by kind permission of Shelagh Toonen and the SLG group. The original can be found here https://www.cilips.org.uk/health-wellbeing-and-the-national-strategy-for-school-libraries/

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