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Cool, Calm and Collected: Managing Behaviour in the Secondary School Library
Larson, Claire and Dubber, Geoff (2009)
Wanborough, Swindon UK: School Library Association (SLA)
SLA Guidelines Plus series
77 pages
ISBN978 1 903446 49 2
Available from:
The UK based School Library Association exists to support and encourage all those working in school libraries, raising awareness and promoting sound practice through an effective training and publications programme. Cool, Calm and Collected: Managing Behaviour in the Secondary School Library is one such publication. It begins with the premise that appropriate behaviour is not something that just happens but must be managed and taught. A skilled teacher, for example, manages the behaviour of a large group of students so that they are focused, motivated and are learning effectively. For library staff it may not be so straightforward in a large open area, where staff do not have complete, direct responsibility for either a particular subject or the progressive learning of students over an entire semester. Accordingly, this book adopts a range of positive strategies or practical approaches to discipline that can work in schools.
Since the library is an integral part of the working of all effective schools, the five principles outlined in Alan Steer’s 2005 report of the Practitioners’ Group on School Behaviour and Discipline commissioned in the UK and applied to school libraries are:
  • The environment in which we study, learn, relax and work influences our behaviour
  • Clear rewards and sanctions, which are in line with school policy and which are applied fairly and consistently, help to promote good behaviour in the learning resource centre (LRC)/library
  • Good behaviour is learned. We all have a responsibility to teach it and model it
  • Specific strategies can be adopted in various circumstances, such as managing student behaviour during a lesson in the LRC, during free time in the LRC and when individuals or small groups use the LRC.
  • The LRC staff should be involved in all aspects of training and coaching regarding behaviour management.
 Importantly, the whole issue of behaviour is related to how the library is perceived and regarded in the school as a whole. It is essential that the LRC staff have the support and backing from senior teaching staff. LRC staff should be familiar with the school’s behaviour policy and the systems for putting the policy into action, that is, the set procedures for reporting and following up behaviour problems. Wherever possible, sanctions alongside duty of care towards all students should operate as they do elsewhere in the school. Ensure that students understand what will happen if they do not follow the expected code of behaviour.
Managing student behaviour is by no means an easy, straightforward task. It takes practice, perseverance and an understanding that it is impossible to get it right every time. Cool, Calm and Collected: Managing Behaviour in the Secondary School Library outlines assertive rather than aggressive techniques, the importance of positive influences, respect but not absolute control, as it is usually impossible to control other people’s behaviour. Reasons are outlined for students’ misbehaviour: environmental factors, social factors, attention seeking and the huge changes physically, mentally and emotionally which occur during adolescence. The authors recommend that LRC staff practise new strategies to find what methods work for them and to be mindful of body language, tone of voice and choice of words when managing students. These types of contribution are helping to reinforce and develop the school ethos by equipping students with effective social skills as well as achieving the vision and goals of the LRC.
The four case studies at the end of the book contain useful behaviour management strategies, codes of student conduct and behaviour expectations in the library. Finally, the four appendices comprise various checklists of LRC staff status and working conditions, user perceptions of the LRC, a list of rewards and sanctions followed by a further reading list. The text is accessible with practical advice for managing difficult behaviour situations in any school library.
Reviewed by Dr. Robin Zeidler
Director of Library Services
The Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership
Melbourne Grammar School