Help or hindrance this is often the debate when discussing pupil librarians, or library monitors as they are sometimes called, but with the right training and management they should be an asset to any library

Benefits for the library

  • They provide positive role models to other library users
  • They help develop a sense of student ownership of the library
  • They help raise the profile of the library through promotion to their peers
  • They assist with a range of library duties allowing library staff time for more strategic tasks.

Benefits for the pupils themselves

Training to become a pupil librarian is extremely valuable. The skills learned are those which are valued in any walk of life – organisation, presentation, communication, team work and customer service, to say nothing of a greatly increased level of self-esteem and confidence and an improvement in learning

Recruitment and selection

If this is done formally it demonstrates fairness, raises the profile of the library, gives status to the role of pupil librarian and provides students with real “work experience”. Usually the process is as follows – first, job adverts are placed around the school inviting students to apply. Application forms are completed and at some schools the pupils may even be asked to provide a reference from their form tutors or class teachers. All applicants are then invited to attend an interview and once interviews are completed, they are informed as to whether or not they have been successful. After selection it is useful to give them each a trial period when they can perhaps shadow the librarian to see what the job actually entails and if they will enjoy it.

For the recruitment process, you will need to prepare the following

  • Posters advertising the job
  • An application form this should include their reasons for applying, any previous useful experience, special interests, hours available etc
  • A letter of appointment (or encouragement to reapply next time)
  • A job description which should include:
    • A brief description of the tasks the pupils will carry out – issuing and returning material; shelving, tidying and reviewing books; helping others to use the library effectively and assisting library staff with displays, promotions and processing
    • When they will be needed – days and times
    • Key personal attributes required – reliable, punctual, careful, friendly, able to work without supervision, good alphabetical and numerical skills, good communication skills, love of books and reading, enthusiasm for ICT, able to follow routine procedures, hard-working et

Before recruiting pupils decide on the following:

  • The number of students you wish to select – a manageable size is no more than 10
  • The year levels from which they will be drawn
  • Their tasks and responsibilities
  • Selection criteria (skills, qualities and attitudes) and include these in the job description and job application  form
  • A training programme
  • Who will be responsible for their training and supervision
  • Which part of the school day will be rostered: before / during / after school, morning break, lunchtime
  • The rewards and privileges you will offer your student librarians
  • Status and awards such as badges of responsibility

The training programme

Training which is skills-based and age-appropriate is essential for an effective student librarian programme. Consider having a trial and review period as part of the programme and once it is in place update it regularly to ensure it is still current and effective. A module scheme is recommended as students work through a range of activities at defined levels, achieving rewards and acknowledgment at each level. Design appropriate activities to allow you to measure a student’s skill level and achievement in each area.

Managing your pupil librarian team

  • Create clearly defined tasks
  • Draw up timetables / rosters to ensure pupils are always on hand to help in the library at the busiest times of the school day and that the sessions are distributed fairly. This in turn encourages regular attendance and reliability
  • Ensure there is ongoing supervision
  • Schedule regular training times
  • Timetable regular meetings to enable student librarians to discuss activities and upcoming events, make suggestions, ask questions and raise any issues

Rewards and privileges for pupil librarians

Don’t forget to make your pupil librarians feel valued and appreciated – after all they are giving up their free time so make them feel that it is worthwhile committing to the scheme. They deserve acknowledgement and rewards for the important contribution they make to the library’s management and development. Ensure rewards for student librarians are included in the library budget. Examples include:

  • Explicit acknowledgement and positive reinforcement from the Head and teaching staff, as well as the librarian
  • Pupil librarians’ names, photos and short biographies including their reading favourites displayed in the library
  • Identifying badges
  • End of term or end of year party /outing /gift (book voucher)
  • Borrowing privileges

Listed below are some useful guidelines on the selection, training and management of pupil librarians

Terrific Trainees: Pupil Helpers and the School Library by Nikki Heath  (SLA Guidelines series)This guide gives practical advice on how to select, organise and train  a band of enthusiastic student helpers. It considers the reasons why we have them, and the benefits. There are also sections on dealing with common problems that arise as well as case studies showing how the guidelines can be put into practical use. These are particularly helpful as they include detailed job descriptions and possible duties at different levels. There are also appendices containing application forms, interview questions and task lists. This publication complements the online SLA Pupil Librarian Toolkit mentioned below but can also be used as a stand-alone document. Available from SLA  £13.50 (members £9.00)          

The SLA’s Pupil Librarian  Toolkit:  This is a 52 page free downloadable guide in PDF format but available only to SLA members. It offers ideas on selecting and recruiting pupil librarians, organizing induction and developing a training programme. It includes a wide range of sample documents such as posters, letters, check sheets and certificates that you can use and adapt as you implement your pupil librarian programme. It is suitable for primary and secondary schools. A number of the documents shown in the Toolkit as samples can be downloaded in PDF format ready to use. The certificates can be filled in with your school’s and pupils’ names and sent direct to your printer.

5 Tips on Starting a Student Librarian Program

Lucas Maxwell, who won the SLA’s School Librarian of the Year Award in 2017 did not have student library assistants when he started at Glenthorne High School in the London Borough of Sutton. He had to start from scratch. As his program has been highly successful he offers some useful tips

The National Libraries of New Zealand Services to Schools has a very useful website on the recruitment, training and management of pupil librarians.  It also includes a range of sample documents such as application forms, job descriptions, task lists and training level award certificates which can be downloaded ready to use. To view the website please click here



(Last updated by Denise Reed on 9 April, 2018)



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