Libraries, Learning, Reading: Access and Opportunity for Children and Young People: Reviewing the Joint SLA, SLG and YLG Weekend Conference 2012

Article excerpt

While outlining the main points made by the keynote speakers at our annual weekend conference, this personal summary does not aim to provide an overview of the weekend as a whole. A number of presentations made by speakers and workshop leaders may be found on the Lighting the Future website:

There was a buzz of anticipation as we approached the fabulous setting of Beaumont House in Old Windsor for the Lighting the Future conference. This was the first joint weekend conference of the School Library Association, CILIP's School Libraries Group and Youth Libraries group since the Millennium conference of 2000, bringing members together to celebrate our profession and to look to the future.

Following a warm welcome we were treated to an opening address, 'Inspiring Learning for All, by Stephen Heppell, Professor of New Media Environments at the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice. Here we heard details and saw pictures of a huge variety of ways in which school libraries all over the world are adapting their physical spaces and methods of working with students to embrace new technologies and to address future needs.


As usual, Professor Heppell infected us with his dynamism, his boundless enthusiasm and his inspiration, showing us exactly what we are capable of doing and leaving us with a myriad ideas to take away. With a succession of quotable lines, such as: 'The chance to mend the world with learning depends on libraries'; 'You can't build better learning for children, but you can build better learning with children'; and 'Learning to learn is the cornerstone of education, he reminded his audience that education which focuses on performance does so at the expense of the joy of learning. With footage of a toddler riding a bike on the screen, we were urged to 'Let children go' and watch them thrive--libraries are the vehicles to make this happen. He urged us to take down all our 'Do not' signs and replace them with positive messages, and even to be positive about having less money: 'Less money means do it differently'. With such exhortations ringing in our ears, he signed off with the sobering thought that more children will leave school in the next 30 years than in the whole of the rest of history. Even this was presented positively: 'How fortunate are the present generation of librarians that they have opportunities to do something about it.'


Then came an interview with Korky Paul, illustrator of the wonderful Winnie the Witch books. Unbelievably, 2012 is Winnie's 25th birthday, and Korky gave us an insight into developing characters on the page. An author doesn't always give detailed descriptions, which means that the illustrator has the freedom to set the story in a particular environment and to surprise the reader with his interpretation of the text. Korky himself often uses people he knows to inform his drawings, putting them into crowd scenes and so on, and we watched as he created a new drawing of Winnie before our eyes.

A panel discussion on 'Reading and Technology' followed, chaired by Nicola Morgan, author of Mondays are Red. The panel consisted of Jonathan Douglas of the National Literacy Trust, Dave Coplin, Director of Search for Microsoft and Bev Humphrey, an independent trainer.

Firstly the panel stressed the power of the librarian to nurture reading and as an agent of social change. Bev Humphrey, a self-confessed 'technology freak, urged us to make full use of the tools we have available. For example, book trailers can be used to great effect to help break down genre boundaries, drawing readers into an area they may not otherwise visit. Twitter stories can be created simply, making the writer think carefully about the limited word allowance. Bev conceded that e-readers themselves do not necessarily encourage reluctant readers. Tablets, however, are motivating students to read by providing a more immersive experience. …