Let’s Talk Libraries: Cheney School – Jill Fenton
School Librarian, Jill Fenton, has been getting books into the hands of Cheney School’s 1600 students for 6 years.
Since a lockdown-switch to Accessit Library in March 2020, Jill discusses how Accessit Library’s Single Sign-On and capabilities to seamlessly create links, promote books, and upload and group resources support hers and Cheney School’s mission to promote reading for pleasure and encourage all aspects of learning.
Jill also provides insights in to Cheney School’s new learning initiative ‘Library into the Classroom’ and how this and Accessit Library’s multiple dashboard functionality supports the students’ development of Information Literacy.
- Phone App
- Information Literacy
- Single Sign-On
- School Learning Initiative
I think Accessit Library is an absolutely brilliant interface between the library and the students. It is a great way of showing off what you’ve got in the library. Books on shelves look fantastic, but you can make it more attractive, more colorful, and more appealing. Accessit Library is a really great way of showing off books like this and encouraging kids to explore and read them
What helped form the decision for Cheney School to switch to Accessit Library?
I really didn’t like the previous software we had, so I did some research and we spoke to other Accessit Library users. The decision to switch to Accessit Library was made between me and my team manager, who himself was a former school librarian. We both felt that it was a no-brainer.
What helped form the decision was the brilliant interface for the kids, the Accessit Library Phone App and the fact that Accessit Library were by far the most responsive and the most connected from the suppliers we spoke to. It was a very easy decision.
You switched to Accessit Library as everyone was heading into lockdown in March 2020, how did you find the process at that time and how did you feel supported by Accessit Library?
Being stuck at home was great to acquaint myself with the product. The Accessit Library Support Team here in the UK were just absolutely brilliant – I was hanging off the phone to them.
Within a month I had set up Accessit Library’s Click and Collect service and I was lending books to students like they were going out of fashion. I would come into school on a daily basis and pick the books off the shelves and then kids would come and change their books from reception. It was even more effective in the second lockdown because the kids were much more aware of it.
We also saw the value in, and invested in, Accessit Library’s Phone App very quickly, so the students had that for the second lockdown too.
During the more recent lockdowns, I set up my own Google Classroom for kids to join me and we would look around the library together. I would guide them to the books they wanted to read, and for some of them, I would deliver the books to their houses. Without Accessit Library, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that. It was brilliant.
As you have become more acquainted with Accessit Library since installation, what has become some of your favourite features?
Kids have to remember so many passwords, which in my opinion can be a barrier to learning. So, the fewer barriers you put in front of students to access the stuff they need is really useful. I think Single Sign-On is absolutely essential.
It’s really useful that you can create and send a link to most things. Students come to me wanting something to read, so I can just put a list together on the Accessit Library Web App and email the link to them so they can then browse through those books. Then, with the list in front of them, they can easily reserve the ones they want. It is all very seamless.
I think the Accessit Web App is absolutely fantastic for both me and the kids. It looks inviting, exciting, and interesting. It has different colors for each dashboard and I purposely make it bold and as interesting as possible to encourage students to want to learn.
How else do you use the Accessit Library Web App as a tool to encourage students’ reading and learning?
I love being able to upload online resources, books, YouTube links, podcasts and everything else in one place on the Accessit Library Web App. It means we’re not differentiating as it is all learning.
I prefer to have a dashboard rather than lists of books because it’s more dynamic. You can add and remove books very quickly and you can add a link anywhere for students to access the dashboard. Instead of a list of books as a static PDF, the students are able to click on to something that is dynamic and takes them to lists of books from different genres. We also have eFiles and PDFs to support GCSE reading for the older students.
There are dashboards for each Year Group. I’ve recently created dashboards specifically for students’ projects which have book links, web links and YouTube links all together. There are links we recommend using to help them do their work, rather than them wasting their time trawling through Wikipedia.
It’s great that these dashboards are now set up and will be improved over time. It is a long-term investment as I’ve spent a lot of time setting these up, but next year we can just revisit them and add to them. A link to these dashboards can then be put onto the homepage for the kids to be able to access quickly.
How do your students engage with the Web App and what impact does Accessit Library have on their learning and development of information literacy?
It’s clear to me that Accessit Library is getting through to them because they are learning how to use it. They are observing books so much more – I come in each morning to a list of reserves! I probably process around 40 reservations about three or four times a week.
I’m also showing a lot of how they can search their reading ranges within Accessit Library and the Accelerated Reader functionality. It’s very noticeable that the kids know how to and are using that facility.
Kids are media savvy, but we need to guide them in the right way, because students learn much more in lessons when we’re putting the right stuff in front of them. I believe in the importance of age-appropriate texts and putting the right books, at the right age, in front of the students.
Accessit Library supports this by allowing us to put resources right in front of them on the dashboard, including web resources, YouTube videos and other resources. And we can then easily add the dashboard’s link to Google classrooms for all the students to access.
The dashboards are just fantastic. We’re giving them the right resources that they need to actually help them learn in a structured and supportive way.
‘Library into the Classroom’ Learning Initiative
This year I have started the ‘Library into the Classroom’ initiative, which is the way the students interact with the internet and also improves our nonfiction offering. I think teachers are increasingly seeing the advantages of it too.
We’re running research lessons and Accessit Library is absolutely key for it, as I’ve been banning them from using Google.
For example, we put together a really nice dashboard for a research lesson with our Year 9s on ‘revolutions’. We told the kids they could only use the dashboard and books rather than Google. We then gave them the choice, but they still gravitated towards the books because they were actually doing work rather than spending time looking on Wikipedia.
One of our teachers did this with one class but didn’t with another. He said that the class that visited the library, read books and used the Accessit Library Web App produced work that was much more detailed and diverse, because the kids were enabled to actually do their own research.
They’re actually starting to learn to research and discover the advantages of finding information themselves, and Accessit Library has supported this.
I report directly into the headmaster, and he’s a huge fan of Accessit Library. He just sees that it works.
You’ve mentioned that the Accessit Support team were helpful as you became acquainted with Accessit Library, how has your experience been with them since?
Great. They really are fantastic. I know some of them personally by name, and Bridget in particular has been so supportive.
Also, the fact they have been librarians themselves means they just get it. As a librarian, you’re often the only person in the school who knows what a librarian does. So, having somebody who really does get exactly what you’re talking about really makes a difference.
I cannot speak highly enough of the fantastic Accessit Library Support team in the UK. They’re absolutely brilliant.