What's new

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 sue.ball@staffordshire.gov.uk

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/ 

Monday, 4 June, 2018

Invitation to Tender: Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL)

Title: ASCEL membership review

Deadline for receipt of proposals: 5pm on 30 June, 2018


The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) are seeking to carry out a review of the organisation that will ensure a robust children and young people’s organisation fit for the future. ASCEL is the national body which leads excellence in library services for children, young people and schools. However, a rapidly changing public library landscape means the organisation must reflect and adapt to ensure it remains relevant and the unifying voice of this part of the libraries sector.


Specification and scope

ASCEL is looking for individuals/organisations to research and produce a report on recommended operational models for future working of the organisation.  The recommendations will be considered by ASCEL national committee.  The suggested operational models should include recommendations on structure, membership make-up, subscriptions, governance, areas of work and expertise.



ASCEL welcomes innovative proposals of how to achieve the above, but the following elements would need to be incorporated into proposals:

  • Analysis of the findings from recent consultation with the existing membership and SCL
  • Consultation with non-members and less engaged members of ASCEL
  • Consultation with key stakeholders, including the Society of Chief Librarians, Arts Council England, BookTrust, The Reading Agency
  • Consultation with key partners, including the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), Youth Libraries Group, The School Library Association, School Libraries Group, the National Literacy Trust 
  • Exploration of the work ASCEL undertakes, specifically in relation to the Children’s Promise 
  • Scoping of the work SCL undertakes now that it is an Arts Council England Sector Support Organisation

Further details and how to submit a proposal

Monday, 21 May, 2018

“ASCEL is delighted to be working in partnership with Beanstalk (https://www.beanstalkcharity.org) to help children increase their enjoyment of reading. Both organisations encourage and enable children to practise and improve their reading so that they become confident readers. Good reading skills help to support children as they transition through school. The partnership will enable both organisations to work together to seek opportunities for improving reading support in schools in local communities.”

Sue Ball, ASCEL National Chair, May 2018


“It’s wonderful when two organisations come together and work with each other to achieve the same aims. Beanstalk and ASCEL both seek to ensure children have access to books and have the necessary skills to read these books. This is an exciting step forward for Beanstalk and will enable us to reach even more children in the heart of the communities.”

Ginny Lunn, CEO, Beanstalk, May 2018

ASCEL & Beanstalk MOU



Friday, 15 December, 2017

Read On Get On Coalition launches first robust measure of children’s reading at age 11, as commercial data is published for the first time.

Response by The Society of Chief Librarians and the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians

The Society of Chief Librarians  (SCL) and The Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) welcome this new  annual measure from the Read On Get On (ROGO) coalition which has created a more holistic view of how well the nation’s children are reading . We are delighted that all three elements of reading   - cognitive reading skills, affective processes and reading behaviours -have been incorporated into this model.

Public Libraries provide powerful support for children’s reading and we can make a significant contribution to affective processes (including high levels of reading enjoyment, motivation and positive reading attitudes). High levels of participation in the  annual Summer Reading Challenge and engagement in a wide range of reading activities in libraries demonstrate that when children have free choice about what they read, easy access to  the wide range of  books that only a library can offer, supportive adults to help children find the book that is right for them and fun activities promoting books, they are more likely to be motivated to read and to enjoy the reading experience.  

The new model also highlights the importance of reading daily outside of the school environment. Public libraries actively support parents and children to read together every day and encourage parents and children to develop the reading habit early by promoting book sharing through rhyme times and story times in the early years.
SCL and ASCEL believe that an improved understanding of how the three elements interact will enable all agencies supporting children’s reading to coalesce around shared improvement strategies. We are looking forward to working within the ROGO coalition and continuing to develop and deliver great reading activities to inspire children to become lifelong readers.