YATakeover – celebrating 80 Years of the CKG Medals

Today is day two of this amazing celebration over on Twitter – if you missed out yesterday fear not – catch up using the hashtag #YATakeover and throw yourself into the fun today.

Just check out the list of authors and illustrators involved! What better way is there to spend the eve of the Carnegie and Greenaway Medal announcements?!


Report: AGM and An Evening with Chris Riddell

The YLG Northwest AGM took place on Monday 16th November and this year, thanks to Booktrust, we were very fortunate to be able to combine the occasion with an event with the brilliant Chris Riddell, who was in the region as part of his Children’s Laureate Tour.

Coming with the subtitle “Librarians I Have Loved,” much of Chris’s talk provided a fascinating insight into the books that made him a reader and the librarians that guided him along the way, including the rather fearsome-looking “gatekeeper,” and (my favourite) the librarian knight, “fighting to the death to defend their library.”

Chris also talked about the magic of story time at the end of the school day and recalled memories of The Hobbit being read to his class by one particular teacher – something that evoked fond recollections of my own primary school experience (I well remember settling down at the end of each day in Year 5 to listen to Mrs Newsham read the next chapter of Bilbo’s adventure, waiting desperately to find out what would happen next).

Such experiences are crucial in forming a love of books and it’s heartening to see how tirelessly Chris advocates for all children to experience this and to have the right to a school library with a trained librarian. Chris has called upon Education Minister Justine Greening to provide a full picture of school library closures and reaffirmed his intention to continue campaigning post-laureateship at Monday’s event.

Chris Riddell is not only a fantastic author and illustrator but also an extremely engaging speaker with an endless supply of amusing anecdotes – about misbehaving in church as a youngster, reading instead of shelving in his Library Assistant days (something none of us at YLG NW have ever done of course 😉) and  the way he just can’t help drawing in the margins of books.

To listen to Chris speak and see some of his fantastic illustrations was a real treat – thank you so much Chris and Booktrust for a wonderful evening!


Report: Families – An Open Door to Literacy; YLG Conference 2016

On Friday 7th & Saturday 8th October, a catalogue of children’s librarians, of which I was lucky enough to be one, descended upon Cardiff for the annual Youth Libraries Group conference. The conference brings together librarians, publishers, authors and guest speakers for two packed days of networking, talks and workshops and is definitely a highlight of my professional calendar.

One of the best things about conference this year was the breakout sessions. From using sport to entice young people into the library to engaging families with reading through nature (anyone up for the Twig Towers challenge!?) the workshops were full of simple, practical tips and ideas that were no / low-cost, achievable and relatively straightforward to implement.

Twig Towers – perfect for a Stick Man themed session

Tracey Cooper from Scottish Booktrust led an excellent Bookbug session (forget garlic bread, stretchy Lycra is the future!) and showed that simplicity is key when it comes to planning sessions for under fives and their families – it’s not about how many nursery rhymes you know but about the reassurance, security and enjoyment of a shared experience. In fact, repetition of a few well known rhymes often works better than a wider repertoire as carers feel more confident and relaxed and less worried about getting things wrong and so are more likely to engage and interact with their child.

The session with Becky Wells on engaging children with autism was also really useful. Becky showed us a video which showed how overwhelming an everyday experience such as visiting a shopping centre can be for a child with autism. We were then given the chance to talk in groups about some of the things which could be triggers in our libraries and what simple steps we could take to help children with autism and their families and make visiting the library a positive and reassuring experience for them. 

Having been to conference for the first time last year, this time I was much more prepared. By that I mean this time I took a suitcase. A big one! For one of the best things about conference is being surrounded by so many brilliant, beautiful books and being able to take lots of them back home with you. 
One of my favourite bits of the whole weekend is when the publishers each take their turn on the stage to highlight their forthcoming titles and the opportunity to get hold of advance copies of those books is a little piece of librarian heaven. I get so excited, not only at the thought of reading them myself, but also at the thought of the enjoyment and wonder they will bring to the children and young people that borrow them.

Books glorious books!

Other highlights of the programme included Nicky Parker and Laurence Anholt’s discussion on racism and the ways this can be explored and challenged through fiction; learning all about West Sussex’s Communication Library and services for children with disabilities and their families; and the privilege of watching Barroux paint live on stage. Not to mention the presentation of the CKG medals and CILIP Amnesty Honour and the sumptuous gala dinner that followed.

I returned from conference not only with a suitcase full of books but with a head buzzing with ideas and sense of affirmation about the importance of libraries and librarians and their ability to change the world, one book and reader at a time.


Report: YLG Northwest Unconference on the Move 2016

Last weekend saw the return of our Unconference on the Move. After the success of the 2015 event in Manchester, we decided to stick with the ‘on the move’ format and visited three stunning locations in Liverpool’s cultural St George’s Quarter: Central Library; the Walker Art Gallery and the majestic St George’s Hall. All of which were shown in their best light on  what was a beautiful last-gasp-of-summer Saturday.

The aim of the Unconference was to give delegates from across the region the chance to meet, network and talk about topics that matter to them. With that in mind, we started the day by asking delegates to nominate topics for discussion before embarking on a tour of Central Library with our guide, Susan.

Susan showed us some of the building’s most distinguishing features, including the large children’s library, the Picton reading room and the soundproof space for teenagers, complete with games console and PCs (no books in there though, although teenage fiction is situated just outside). The impressive archives space also looked well-used, whilst the roof terrace is always beautiful – I’m beginning to think it’s always sunny in Liverpool as I’ve never visited the library on a day that’s not terrace-worthy yet!

the stunning Picton reading room

After the tour, we settled down to our first discussion groups of the day. Splitting into two so delegates could choose what most appealed to them, one group discussed digital engagement and interaction with young people; whilst the other focused on the future of school and public library services for children as librarian posts are deleted and libraries are closed.
The digital group discussed the best ways to connect with teenagers and reasons why they might not be digitally engaging with our services as much as we might like – including organisational restrictions (library staff not being allowed to use social media); the platforms we are using (are these the ones where the teenagers are? And do they even want us there?) and the danger of teens tuning out (social media saturation). Suggestions included staff using examples of other organisations where social media is used to good effect to build a business case or even to look to the young people they work with for this (ask them what they want from us digitally then use that as evidence). It was agreed that whatever method of communication is used, the key is to always be authentic as young people can smell desperation through a screen.

With well-documented cuts and changes to delivery models, the second group discussed ways in which library services for children and young people can be promoted and protected. The key finding of this group was “keep shouting your message, it is always new to somebody.” Key initiatives that are good opportunities for libraries to raise their profile were identified, including the Summer Reading Challenge, Code Clubs and the Shelf Help collection for young people.

the Shakespeare book art dotted around Central Library added a touch of drama to proceedings

Following this we then moved on to St George’s Hall where, after a look around this beautiful building, the discussions continued apace. Books were the order of the day this time, with “Moving readers on…Wimpy Kid and beyond” and “Books for older teens, including LGBT+ and mental health themes” the chosen topics.

After lunch and further networking at the Walker Art Gallery, it was back to Central Library for the final part of the day: deciding upon the Northwest regional nominations for the 2017 CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway awards. Committee members championed a selection of books, highlighting how they meet the awards criteria before delegates voted for their favourites. As a result our regional nominations are:


Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles – Steve Anthony

Counting Lions – Stephen Walton


These Shallow Graves – Jennifer Donnelly

Orbiting Jupiter – Gary D. Schmidt

Thank you to all delegates that attended the Unconference this year – we hope you found it as useful and enjoyable as we did.

The YLG Northwest committee

Making the world a bit bigger – YLG Conference 2015

At the end of October I was lucky enough to attend the annual Youth Libraries Group conference. The theme this year was ‘Diversity, Variety and Choice’ and the conference was run in partnership with the Community, Diversity and Equality Group. Not only was this my first time at conference, it was also my first ever visit to Scotland, with the lovely Beardmore Hotel in Glasgow the venue for the weekend.

Diversity (or the lack thereof) in books for children and young people is a topic that has been hotly discussed and debated in recent months and, coming hot on the heels of controversial remarks from author Meg Rosoff on the topic, the timing of this conference felt very apt. Continue reading