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An introduction to school librarianship
An introduction to school librarianship

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1 Gathering and analysing evidence

As a librarian, you will often need to review your practices and compile reports which evaluate your library’s performance. When writing reports or undertaking a review, it’s important to identify your audience and tailor the tone of your writing accordingly. For example, a report for governors or the senior leadership team (SLT) should be formal and detailed, whereas an update circulated amongst parents might be briefer and chattier. However, no matter who you are writing for, you should support your arguments with evidence wherever possible, ensuring that you are focused and analytical in your approach.

One of your most significant sources of data will be the reports from your Library Management System (LMS). In particular, you may be able to obtain information on the most borrowed books and most popular authors, as well as other borrowing statistics which are broken down by category, for example, by gender or genre. You could even view the borrowing data for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or students with English as a second language (EASL). In doing so, your LMS will be able to supply you with important data on reading and literacy, a topic which will undoubtedly be of common interest to all schools, whatever their teaching and learning objectives. Using this data might influence and inform anything from library funding and procurement to collection management and your school’s literacy development plan.

Whether it’s reading and literacy analytics from your LMS, feedback and suggestions from staff and students, the footfall counter on your security gates, or your social media and website analytics, evidence is most useful when viewed in context. For instance, if you are interested in breaking down borrowing statistics by gender, but one particular year group has a gender imbalance, interpreting the data in isolation may lead you to draw misleading conclusions. Similarly, you may find that there’s been a decrease in footfall and borrowing during one week of the year, however, further investigations might reveal that this can be explained by the fact that a year group has been on an exchange visit abroad. Applying context to the evidence you collect can help you to explain anomalies and more confidently identify trends.

It is important not to fall into the trap of reporting everything though. This can dilute your message and make those reading the report lose focus from the main points you are trying to put across. You should focus on your school’s goals and development plan and relate your evidence to these, as Sarah suggests in the next video.

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Video 1
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In Video 1, Sarah suggests a combination of statistical and anecdotal evidence can help bring your report to life. Is this something you include in your reports at the moment? In the activity below, you will consider the reports your LMS can generate and how you use them in your reviews.

Activity 1

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes

Provide two examples of reports you produce using your Library Management System (LMS) and describe how you use them.

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Below is an example of a report you might produce using your LMS and its benefits to you.

  • Analysis of non-fiction borrowing statistics by year-group:
    • This will help you to identify which topics are most popular and, therefore, might benefit from further investment.
    • It can help you create a marketing strategy to target year groups that have shown the least interest in non-fiction.
    • It can help you make a judgement as to whether non-fiction books were read for pleasure or were borrowed to assist in schoolwork.

Having read this section and listened to Sarah, are there any changes you would make to your future reporting? Could you use more anecdotal evidence, for example?

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Now you have considered what information you should include in your reports and how you should report it, in the next section, you will develop these themes further and examine the different types of evidence that you can use to substantiate your arguments.