What's new

Friday, 27 November, 2020

Press release:

Keeping Children Safe Online

A new toolkit of resources for library staff to help parents and carers to keep their children safe online launches today. Libraries Connected and ASCEL are delighted to work with NSPCC to create this new resource.

The online world has many benefits for children, helping children to learn virtually, entertaining children and helping families and friends to stay connected. However, it also brings significant challenges, especially around keeping children safe online.  These challenges have only increased during the pandemic.  

Funded by Libraries Connected, the toolkit covers topics such as inappropriate content, grooming and online relationships, spotting the signs & settings and filters. These topics have all been highlighted by library staff as areas of concern for the families they work with.

Isobel Hunter, CEO of Libraries Connected: 

‘I am delighted that Libraries Connected has been able to fund this toolkit through the Information and Digital offer. The partnership with ASCEL and the NSPCC has provided an expert-led, library focused toolkit which will support both families and library staff to understand current safeguarding needs and most importantly, how to access quality advice.’

Chris Myhill, Chair of ASCEL: 

‘This resource brings together the expertise of NSPCC and the knowledge and experience of ASCEL members to offer support to parents and carers at a critical time. We are confident library staff will find the toolkit invaluable in their work.’ 


Keeping Children Safe Online

Tuesday, 17 November, 2020

The Universal Health and Wellbeing Library Offer enables libraries to promote healthy living to people of all ages and provide self-management support.

At a recent children’s health and wellbeing webinar, participants, including many ASCEL members suggested titles that would support families during the current pandemic.  ASCEL is delighted to present those titles in a booklet which we hope will “help children to stay safe, calm, connected and hopeful” during these challenging times.  

Book selection

Friday, 30 October, 2020

A BRAVE NEW WORLD:   libraries helping children and young people shape their future


Tuesday 3rd – Friday 6th November 2020   


ASCEL goes online this year, but with the same inspairing range of speakers, including:

Day 1

A message from Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital & Culture 

A Brave New World for Libraries Panel: Sheila Bennett DCMS, (Chair) Isobel Hunter Libraries Connected, Carol Stump President Libraries Connected, Annika Eadie-Catling Head William Davis Primary School, Matthew Burton, Head Thornhill Academy.  

Reading, Relationships and Well-Being: Links with Social Exclusion, Prof. Robin Banerjee, Head of School of Psychology, University of Sussex

Author Kate Milner talks about her powerful book It’s A No Money Day


Day 2

Reading, Health & Social Prescribing: Jo Ward, Change Maker NHSE North West Social Prescribing Network Lead

A Look Inside the Reading Brain - Nicola Morgan, Author and Trainer

World Book Day, Cassie Chadderton, CEO


Day 3 

Education in this Brave New World: Geoff Barton General Secretary Association of School and College Leaders

Literacies, Libraries, Life: Professor Sonia Blandford CEO Achievement for All

Fair Education Alliance: Sam Butters Co CEO


Day 4

The Black Curriculum: Ilhan Awed The Black Curriculum

Being Brilliant, Being Happy & Building Resilience, Andy Cope Author, Trainer & Doctor of Happiness

NSPCC, Sophie Gold 

Brave New World for Reading panel: Alyx Price Associate Publisher Macmillan Children’s Books, Stephen Pryse Chair of BA Children’s Group, Katrina Gutierrez, Lantana Publishing and Annie Everall Director Authors Aloud UK


Conference closed by Alex Wheatle: Reading is Magic




Tuesday, 28 April, 2020

ASCEL is pleased to have been accepted as a member of  The Fair Education Alliance, a coalition of over 150 organisations. Together they drive lasting change at a local and national level, and monitor the gap between the most disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers, and use a collective voice and resources to end educational inequality.

See more about the Alliance 

Tuesday, 17 September, 2019

ASCEL Chair Stella Thebridge and Gillian Harris, SLS Manager in Tower Hamlets, presented a paper on the work SLS-UK has been developing on a framework for evaluation called “Theory of Change”.Read the full post on our blog.

Wednesday, 19 June, 2019

ASCEL, Libraries Connected and The Reading Agency Launch Principles for Working with Young People


In 2013 The Reading Agency received a five year Anniversary Gift from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation which provided the opportunity to create and develop Reading Hack, a programme for young people aged 13-24 years in public libraries and schools.  

In the first two years the Reading Agency worked with young people, library and youth organisations to develop the programme from concept to its delivery from April 2015.  The programme aimed to engage young people in reading by making it relevant to their passions and motivations and supporting their personal and skills development. Examples of how young people have taken part in the programme include managing author events, setting up book clubs, planning activities and events to support reader development initiatives in libraries such as the Summer Reading Challenge and planning and delivering small scale library festivals.

53 library authorities participated in the programme in year one with this rising to 170 library authorities in the third year.  27,000 young people have taken part as volunteers, cultural programmers and peer advocates from 1,790 libraries across the UK.

In 2015 OPM Group, an experienced independent evaluator was commissioned by The Reading Agency to evaluate the Reading Hack programme and the final report was published in May 2018.  The evaluators found that the success of the programme has demonstrated the demand for a co-produced, locally owned volunteering offer that young people can build and adapt for themselves.

The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) wished to identify a set of principles for working with young people that would underpin ASCEL’s Children’s Promise and shape the way in which libraries work with young people.

Funding from Paul Hamlyn has enabled the identification of a set of principles to underpin library work with young people which will form part of the legacy of Reading Hack.

Researchers Marianne Bamkin, Birmingham City University and Sarah McNicol, Manchester Metropolitan University were commissioned to research and develop a set of principles and they published the report Developing Principles for Working with Young People in Libraries Sarah McNicol said, “It’s been exciting to work on a project that brings together so many years’ work in engaging young people in libraries.  We hope that the report and principles, which are based on the views of young people themselves as well as practitioners from the library sector and beyond, are helpful for library staff working with young people in a variety of contexts.”

Marianne said, “I had a strong personal motivation in developing principles because I have worked with young people in school and public libraries.  It was incredibly rewarding and a lot of fun to work together with young people who encouraged me to share their passions and allowed me to feed their appetite for books and stories.  I hope the principles will help and encourage library staff to engage closely with young people and have fun, like I did, while helping to shape their future.”

ASCEL Chair, Stella Thebridge said about the report, “ASCEL members were delighted to receive this useful report with practical principles that can be applied to our work in public libraries with young people.

It will strengthen both the relationship between library staff and those participating in activities and our offer to those young people who volunteer to support activities for others, like the annual Summer Reading Challenge.

This builds on the excellent work of the Reading Hack programme facilitated by The Reading Agency, who are key partners with ASCEL.  The principles formulated by the researchers in this piece of work are validated because they stem entirely from the views of young people themselves.  We look forward to applying them in our libraries across the UK.”

Sue Wilkinson, CEO of The Reading Agency said, "We are grateful to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for allowing us to use the funding for Reading Hack to commission ASCEL to develop these principles. Reading Hack showed how important it was to empower young people to use their skills and creativity and identify ways of involving their peers in reading. I am delighted that the learnings from Reading Hack participants and Marianne Bamkin and Sarah McNicol’s work has ensured that we now have a sustainable legacy from the programme which can help shape the work we all do with young people in the future."

The President of Libraries Connected, Mark Freeman stated, “Young people are vital to the present and future success of library services. Research shows that young people are amongst the most active users of library services and we want more young people to join them. These new principles will give libraries guidance to reach out to young people and collaborate with them to design services that are relevant, inspiring and meaningful to young people now and into the future.”

Supporting Resources

A power point presentation for ASCEL members to discuss at regional and strategic meetings  

A power point presentation for ASCEL members to introduce the principles to library staff  

A template for planning, monitoring and evaluating work with young people using the principles

** NEW** ASCEL has produced some resources to help members to implement the Principles in their libraries (July 2019)

The Youth Employment Skills Framework mapped against the TRA & ASCEL principles for working with young people and young people volunteering in libraries.

Youth Employment Skills Framework


Monday, 10 June, 2019

We're delighted and proud to hear that two ASCEL members have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Sue Ball (ASCEL past chair) and Gillian Harris (Tower Hamlets SLS and Chair of ASCEL 2009-11) have both received MBEs for their services to libraries in the recent list.


Current Chair of ASCEL, Stella Thebridge says, "There can be no doubt that their immense contribution to ASCEL has been recognised as well as their work for their own library services.  We are immensely proud of them and send our heartiest congratulations!"


Sue Ball worked at Quinton Library initially as a Saturday Assistant and graduated from Leeds Polytechnic in 1986 with a degree in Librarianship. Sue returned to the West Midlands and worked as a Library Assistant at Quinton Library to gain experience before covering a maternity leave in Sandwell Schools Library Service.

Sue began working in Staffordshire in 1988 as the Wombourne Mobile Librarian. Sue has had various roles during her career in Staffordshire – Children’s Librarian, Group Librarian, Portal Librarian and has been in her current post as Stock Services and Activities Manager and a member of the Libraries Management Team since January 2016. During her career in Staffordshire Sue has had responsibility for Bookstart, Learning, the Schools Library Service, Bibliographical Services, established the Young Poet Laureateship within Staffordshire and project managed the relocation and design of Stafford, Newcastle Under Lyme and Lichfield Libraries.  

As part of Sue’s wider professional role she chaired ASCEL West Midlands for 7 years before becoming the National ASCEL Chair in 2016. Sue has been a member of The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge and Reading Hacks steering groups, the Children’s Laureate selection panel and currently chairs Libraries Connected’s Health Offer group.

Speaking about the award, Sue said: “I am absolutely delighted to be awarded this Honour.  I am passionate about the role libraries play in enhancing the lives of people of all ages and the communities in which they live and I hope that in being awarded this honour it will help to raise the profile of our public library service and Staffordshire County Council’s Libraries and Arts Service.”


Gillian Harris is currently Head of Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service.  She has been a school library advisor, children's librarian, school librarian, a VSO librarian in The Gambia, West Africa and organised a job exchange for herself with a children's librarian in Vermont, USA.  She has served on the National ASCEL committee, committee of the School Libraries Group London Branch and as Chair of the International Library and Information Group of Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).  In 2015, she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of CILIP.  During her time with the National ASCEL Committee, she worked to raise the profile of Schools Library Services nationally and has been part of the sub-group which set up national offers for SLSs under the brand of SLS-UK.

On her honour, she said: "I am amazed and deeply humbled to be nominated for an MBE, and proud on behalf of all the many very hardworking and dedicated people I have worked alongside in my career – in Tower Hamlets and with CILIP, SLG, ILIG and Ascel, as this award is for them too."


Monday, 13 May, 2019

NewsGuard is a new tool, available free to libraries and educators, designed to spread news literacy and combat misinformation. Its trained journalists review news sites using nine journalistic standards and write Nutrition Label reviews to give people more context for the credibility of their online news sources. Following a successful launch in the US last year, NewsGuard recently launched in the UK, publishing its ratings and Nutrition Labels for the websites representing more than 90% of the news consumed online in the UK (read coverage in The Guardian here).



NewsGuard is delighted to partner with libraries that install its free browser extension (available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge) on staff and patron computers, providing patrons with more context for the information they see in their search results and on social media. More than 200 libraries in the US have started using NewsGuard — from Los Angeles to Toledo, Ohio (you can read about Toledo Library’s experience in this Library Journal feature).


NewsGuard is pleased to be working with the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians to spread the word to librarians about this free service. Stella Thebridge, chair of ASCEL, said: “We are delighted to recommend the NewsGuard initiative to users of libraries across the UK. The unique alerts provided by NewsGuard to the provenance of news websites means that all computer users can be fully informed about the accuracy and source of the information they are reading, enabling them to take their own view about what they are reading. We hope both public and school libraries will see the benefits of offering NewsGuard on networked computers as well as encouraging individuals to add NewsGuard to their own devices.”

Monday, 8 October, 2018

ASCEL is looking for an individual or an organisation to work with representatives from ASCEL, Libraries Connected and The Reading Agency on developing a set of principles that will shape how libraries work with young people.  

The closing date for expressions of interest is 28 October 2018, 5pm.  Please send expressions of interest to [email protected]

The work will need to be completed by the beginning of March 2019.

EOI Document

Thursday, 6 September, 2018

Libraries Connected, The Reading Agency and ASCEL Launch Growing Well, a Toolkit to Help Combat Childhood Obesity

In early 2017 ASCEL commissioned The Reading Agency to research recommendations for a possible children and young people’s strand of the Universal Health Offer.  The Universal Health Offer is a strategy which expresses the public library contribution to the positive health and wellbeing of local communities.  It is delivered by Libraries Connected in partnership with The Reading Agency and is one of the six Universal Offers available in English public libraries.

The report, “Developing a Children and Young People’s Strand of the Universal Health Offer” was published in March 2017.  A recommendation from the report for library support for children’s (5-11 years) health and wellbeing is:

  • Activities and events promoting healthy living, physical activity and oral health 

ASCEL commissioned Diane Dixon Associates to research and develop a range of creative and engaging family learning activities to be used by library staff for events focussing on combating childhood obesity and that can be accessed from the ASCEL website.

The toolkit, Growing Well is now complete and ready to use.  Sue Ball, Chair of ASCEL said, “we are delighted with this toolkit created by Diane Dixon Associates as it will provide library staff with the information and resources they need to confidently run fun activities for families in the library.  The resources also encourage further activity and learning in the home.  The activities will allow library services to support local health priorities around combating childhood obesity.  Thank you to Arts Council England and Libraries Connected for funding this project, to Diane Dixon Associates for creating the toolkit content, to library colleagues for their contributions and to Shane Anderson our ASCEL web designer.”   

Julie Oldham MBE, Head of Library and Museum Services Bolton Council said, “The Growing Well Toolkit is a brilliant addition to the Universal Health Offer. By providing worked examples of ‘deliver ready’ activities for children and families it will help public libraries to tailor their offer to their local health priorities. It will also help to suggest, create and strengthen local partnership delivery. All this will save time and effort in planning event programmes and, more importantly, endorse the contribution that public libraries make to healthy and happy communities.”

Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency said, “It is fantastic to see such a positive and practical outcome from our research for ASCEL mapping the priorities for a children and young people’s strand to the public library health offer. Our report clearly identified the need for and value of library based events and activities promoting healthy living amongst 5 to 11 year olds. The Growing Well Toolkit will ensure that public libraries are able to build their contribution to the health and well-being of local children using quality assured, best practice tools and techniques supported by local partnerships.”  



The Growing Well toolkit can be found on the ASCEL website https://ascel.org.uk/ascel-toolkits 

ASCEL is the national network of senior managers in Children’s Public and Schools’ Library Services leading on excellence in library services for children and young people.

Libraries Connected is a membership organisation, representing the heads of library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Libraries Connected takes a leading role in the development of public libraries through advocating for the power of libraries, sharing best practice and helping to shape the public library service now and in the future.  The vision is an inclusive, modern, sustainable and high quality public library service at the heart of every community in the UK.  Libraries Connected is a registered charity, number 1176482  https://www.librariesconnected.org.uk/ 

The Reading Agency is the leading charity inspiring people of all ages and all backgrounds to read for pleasure and empowerment.  Working with partners, their aim is to make reading accessible to everyone.  The Reading Agency is funded by Arts Council https://readingagency.org.uk/