The Copy and Paste Generation and The School Librarian

Each term the Surrey branch of the School Library Association holds a meeting where members have the opportunity both to network and to gain some CPD in the form of visiting speakers offering training, advice or new ideas.

Our Spring term meeting took place this month at City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead where we welcomed Sarah Pavey who was to speak on the subject of plagiarism, copyright and the role of the school librarian. Sarah is a former school librarian and now an independent trainer, consultant and author.


This is obviously a wide ranging and important topic that in one and half hours we were only able to briefly discuss. Sarah’s usual training session on this subject is a one day course but nonetheless we were able to take away some valuable points and ideas to share with teachers and use in our libraries. We began by talking about the issue of academic honesty and the need to stress to pupils the importance of showing respect for other people’s intellectual property. The issue of conveying what constitutes plagiarism is a key part of the school librarian’s role in preparing children and young people to be responsible in their use of information in further education or the workplace.

Plagiarism is not simply the copying of someone else’s work, it is pretending that it is your own, no matter what form this work is in. In years gone by this would refer only to material printed in books but now of course the situation is much different with information being stored and accessed in many different sources including online, visual, audio, gaming etc. Sarah engaged us all in an activity where we each listed reasons for copyright on a sheet of paper which was then marked by our partner who then replaced the name on the list with their own. Those who had the most correct answers were rewarded with a sweet. If you missed out on a sweet because your partner had claimed your list as their own you were justifiably miffed! This exercise would work well with children of all ages serving to show what it feels like to have your own work stolen by someone else for reward.

We discussed the different forms of plagiarism, both intentional and unintentional and which types of children may be tempted to cheat. Sometimes pupils may plagiarise work under the misapprehension that it is permissible to paraphrase or they may not know how to use citations correctly. This is something that the school librarian is qualified to teach and therefore could successfully work with teachers to ensure that children understand how to cite the sources they use and how to use note taking skills effectively. We also looked at the way in which assignments are marked and noted that if research skills and referencing were marked by teachers this would encourage the correct use of information.

Sarah also included in her presentation links to the useful anti-plagiarism software now available, both free and paid for. These included and We went on to look at how to teach referencing skills using practical examples in the library and tools that make referencing easier for us all such as apps like

Finally we looked at the tricky issue of copyright in schools discussing everything from use of DVDs in the classroom and the copying of newspapers to the creation of online teacher resources and fan fiction. We could have carried on for so much longer and Sarah’s enjoyable session gave us all much to think about and talk through with colleagues.

There are many sources of information and advice about the subject of copyright and you may find this website, Copyright and Schools useful. The School Library Association has produced some publications that are helpful such as Credit Where It’s Due: The School Library Preventing Plagiarism Sarah Pavey has also co-written Cultivating Curiosity: Information Skills and The Primary School Library which is a valuable aid in encouraging younger children to use information correctly and responsibly.

Thank you very much to Sarah Pavey for an excellent and thought provoking session and for Sue Dawes, the librarian at City of London Freemen’s School, for her warm welcome to her lovely library.

Our next branch meeting takes place on Wednesday 12th June at Heath Educational Books, Sutton when we are looking forward to welcoming Imogen Russell Williams, children’s book critic for the Guardian and editorial consultant. If you would like to stay in touch don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @UK_SLA_Surrey

My colleague on the Surrey branch committee, Cathi Woods @Cathilibraryreg has written about our Autumn term meeting which you may like to read to find out more about what we do.

Finally Sarah Pavey has contributed to an excellent book The Innovative School Librarian which I can thoroughly recommend as it is full of practical advice and is an inspiring read for all school librarians.

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