Two weeks in the life of a school librarian

A look into the life of Pamela McLean, St Ninian’s High School, Kirkintilloch.


Attended CILIPS conference in Dundee and presented on our SLIF-funded Shelf Help project, tying in my work in the school library with the strategic aims of the National Strategy for School Libraries in Scotland. Loved meeting other librarians, and now full of ideas to take back to school.


Busy day back at school. Arranged book buying visit to Scotia Books, spoke to Science department about organising a café event in the library before the end of term, and prepared for the AH English class visit tomorrow by selecting potential dissertation texts for pupils. One of the senior pupils who’d sat in on my research skills sessions last week came in to talk about the resources I’d mentioned, and to get more help finding information.


Hosted Open Book Reading, who delivered a shared reading and creative writing training session to school and library staff. Feedback very positive – a brilliant start to our SLIF-funded MYstory in the Library project. Shared Bookflix display resources with another school librarian who was visiting to attend the training.


Out of school all day on the library rewards trip. Took 13 pupil library assistants on a book buy to Waterstones Sauchiehall Street – very impressed by how engaged our pupils were, 4 of them even decided to buy the same book and run their own mini book club. This was followed by a brilliant tour of the Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University. The librarian there had researched our school library and compiled a video of her findings using our website and twitter account. An inspired way to demonstrate what librarians do!


Joined SLIC’s new Basecamp group for Scottish School Librarians, and reflected on a successful week.

The week before…


May holiday. Practised Shelf Help talk to an empty library, hoping it would boost my confidence. It didn’t. Tried to put up a new spinner and spent ages looking for a screwdriver to put it together. Finally got one before starting on the cataloguing that’s been piling up but then remembered class visits I needed to prep so had to abandon the cataloguing for something more pressing (again).


Pupils back today. Found out one of the teachers meant to be accompanying us on the library rewards trip can no longer make it. Double checked we were still OK for ratios but now worried in case someone else pulls out.


Delivered a research skills session to a senior class who had trouble settling. Not sure how much of what I was telling them stuck.


Planned to install apps on the library’s new iPads which I need for the MYstory project. Our brilliant I.T. technician was able to get them set up very quickly but the app I was hoping to use isn’t available so had to spend time researching other apps. Couldn’t get a clear stretch of time to set them up so had to leave the app installations for another day.


Demonstrated our online resources to an English teacher looking for research support. It took double the time it should have since I kept forgetting how to access specific parts of the resources. Not the slick librarian skills I was hoping to show off… Remembered to pick up my notes for Monday and reminded myself that next week is a new week.

Novelties Book Club for pupils; Comic Characters Graphic Novels Club and Staff Book Club

Library Book Clubs at Elgin Academy:

In Novelties Book Club at Elgin Academy, we are a lively group which enjoys reading, discussing and sharing books with each other and with everyone in school. We meet every Wednesday at lunchtime and we can bring our own lunch, to make the most of our lunchtimes. Our activities include: shadowing The Grampian Children’s Book Awards, creating a reading folder of reviews, creating fantastic displays, as well as promoting our popular Star Reader Interview each month. We enjoy watching film adaptations of books and we help with our whole-school reading events, such as our hugely successful Harry Potter Book Night. We have built a book fort in the library, with over 500 books and held a Bookathon in the library all day, raising money to buy even more fabulous books for the library. Other events we are involved with are the library Poetry Picnic and helping to make Book Week Scotland a success. Book-themed cakes often feature!

Comic Characters Club is for all those – pupils and staff – who are interested in reading graphic novels, or who want to write their own comic, or who are mad for Manga. Every Tuesday, during lunchtimes in the library is when it meets and each year shadows the Excelsior Award. This is the only nationwide book award for graphic novels and manga – where kids aged 11-16 decide the winner by rating each book as they read it! The Excelsior Award attempts to highlight some of the amazing books that are out there – books that fully deserve to be in our school libraries alongside regular fiction!  

Our Staff Book Group has a membership of 15 staff, drawn from a variety of departments. It meets once a month, at lunchtime, to discuss a chosen book. Staff are encouraged to send suggestions to the library for book choices and a list is collated for each meeting and votes are cast and counted for the book of choice. Twice a year, we have a booky lunch and our annual Secret Santa book giving at Christmas time is always hugely popular. We also enjoy trips outside school to the cinema to view film adaptations of books.

William Sutcliffe Visit

We welcomed bestselling author William Sutcliffe to Elgin Academy on Thursday, 28 March 2019, when he met four S3 classes in the library.

William is the author of 10 novels and his books have been translated into 26 languages. His book, We See Everything, was the main focus of his visit. It is a gripping and powerfully relevant book, which was nominated for The Carnegie Medal Longlist 2019. Some of our pupils met William last summer during the Library trip to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Such was the impact he had, that they asked him then to visit Elgin Academy. We were delighted that he accepted the invitation and all enjoyed the session with him.

William read from his book We See Everything and led discussion and explored some of its themes with pupils. This is a gripping page-turner which is powerfully relevant and packs powerful moral and emotional punches. Pupils learned tips for their own writing and one important one to remember is: read! 

There were good questions from pupils too and all of William Sutcliffe’s books are available to borrow from the school library.

These author sessions were supported by Scottish Book Trust Live Literature Fund.

Doctor Who Day: 13th on the 13th

The Doctor Who Day 13th on the 13th library event on Thursday 13 September at Elgin Academy was the culmination of an S1 literacy project to which all in school were invited and was a celebration of pupils’ creativity, the return of Doctor Who and the arrival of the first female Doctor Who. Departments and pupils were asked to make contributions and to share their knowledge and learning with all in school.

The Novelties Book Club pupils shared some of our Doctor Who books, in scenes they had identified, from five different Doctor Who books. There were costumes and characters from Elizabethan England, a Christmas invasion, the Antarctic and Rose too, of course. There was lots of interest from pupils and staff in the books and the Novelties Book Club pupils both entertained and educated with their stories. S1 English pupils showcased their research into women scientists and pupils and staff were invited to participate in the Fish Fingers & Custard Challenge, hosted by the library assistants. The Maths department led a session, focused on a variety of puzzles and games and the PE department staff created a Weeping Angels game for pupils. There was a superb Space and Time and Travel presentation from the Physics department with a variety of activities for pupils to try. Dalek cakes made by the Home Economics pupils were the icing on the cake of a day!

With Selfies in the TARDIS and walking Cybermen chatting to everyone and favourite monsters voted for by S1, everyone really did enjoy an extraordinary Doctor Who Day.

Dear Alex…. School Library Problem Page

Dear Alex,

Help! This is my first position as a school librarian and I don’t know where to begin.  The school I’m working at hasn’t had a librarian in a long time.  What should I do first?

See our new problem page to read the advice

SLG Scotland Networking Event, June 21st 2019

SLG Networking event programme

Come and joins us for an afternoon of lively school library discussion!

Catch up with fellow school librarians over coffee and then our Chairperson Lee-Anne will give an update on the new committee and the plans for the future. This will be followed by Stephen and Donna discussing their experiences of working across two schools, a situation many of us are now in (or may be heading towards!) Then on to development planning and how to combine HGIOSL and the new strategy, VLTS when producing your development plan. As always we’ve included plenty of time for networking with other school librarians – always a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

Hope to see you there!