5 ways to create a great professional learning library

Developing a library for teachers is a great way to boost CPD - but how is it done best? Kate Jones shares her tips

Kate Jones

Teacher CPD: How your school can create a great professional learning library

There’s been an explosion of educational books in recent years, many written by teachers still in the classroom and school leaders on the ground.

There are far too many for an individual to read but the choice is powerful. We try to encourage and promote a love of reading with students, therefore we should role model this, too, leading by example through reading for pleasure and reading to learn.

This focus has led to an increase in professional learning libraries in schools around the world, with bookshelves of the latest books in education proudly on display.

This is a positive development for all. However, how do you ensure you can get the most from such a resource and ensure the provision to staff is as relevant as it can be?

Building a powerful teacher CPD library in your school

Here are some ways I think it can be done best, based on my experiences launching a CPD library in a previous school. 

1. Involve staff in the book selection process

One person alone, whether that be the librarian or senior leader responsible for teaching and learning, should not be the person to select all the books for the CPD library.

Instead, it is important to ask staff what books they have read and would recommend and what books staff would like to have stocked.

This could be hosted in a document that can be regularly updated and added to with requests and recommendations – ensuring that what is being purchased and made available is actually what staff want to use.

2. Order multiple copies of the same book

It is a good idea to purchase copies of the same book for two reasons; firstly to try and ensure it can be read by more than one teacher at a time – we all know how annoying it is when the book you want is not available – and secondly to encourage reflection and discussion among staff about what they have been reading.

Depending on how far your budget stretches, you could buy enough to help support a book club within the school. It is worth contacting publishers directly via their website because they can sometimes offer bulk discounts for schools.

3. Promote a wide range of books

A CPD library often focuses on teaching and learning books, which is understandable because there is a range of books published in this area.

However, there are also books to support teachers in their pastoral roles, books that focus on classroom management and behaviour, SEND, leadership and much more.

Furthermore, it is also important not to neglect subject and phase specialism with professional learning. There are books written with specific audiences; either subject- or age-specific or for leaders at different levels. It can be tempting to focus on the books that cater to a wider amount of staff but professional learning has to be relevant and the ultimate goal should be to have a positive impact on students' outcomes and/or wellbeing.

Aim to include a diverse range of books and authors in the library.

4. Communicate with staff about the library

Books can easily gather dust as teachers are busy and time is precious. Visiting the library to see what the latest offerings are will be low down on the priority list.

As such, make sure staff are aware of the books they can access – whether via email or as a regular reminder in staff meetings – and encourage them to take advantage of the resource being provided to them.

5. Link the CPD library to the school development plan

Each school has its own priorities and areas of focus. Whatever they might be, the staff CPD library can reflect this and support staff with this focus.

If there is a whole-school focus on feedback and reflection, there is a range of books that share research and advice about effective feedback.

Questions to ask in meetings; has anyone read anything they would recommend on this topic? Are there any books we can order that can help us with this?

This can be key to help staff feel empowered – and may lead to some major breakthroughs. 

Kate Jones is head of history at The British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi, and the author of Love To Teach, Retrieval Practice and Retrieval Practice 2. She tweets @KateJones_teach

5 rules for rolling out a winning CPD programme

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