Tips for Authors Working in Public and School Libraries – Part One

School and public libraries are fantastic places to host author workshops, but if you're not sure where to start, author K.M. Lockwood has gathered some handy tips from librarians and authors. 

This two-part series will be sure to help you make the best of your time among the Dewey Decimal aisles. First up, here are some basics to think about when approaching libraries and planning your visit.


Who Should I Contact?

  • School Librarian or failing that, Head of English/Literacy Co-ordinator. 
  • Try the Schools Library Service if there is one. This will cover a range of venues. 
  • Direct emails or letters to a school can work – especially if you’ve met someone at a conference/event. 

  Public Libraries

When’s the best time to get in touch with libraries? 

  • Ideally six months in advance of your visit. 
  • September can be a good time. 
  • NEVER at the end of term. 

Public Libraries 
  • Around the March/ April when budgets are set.


What should I be paid for a library event? 

  • Be absolutely clear about your expenses from the outset. Include travel costs, food and hotel/B&B if you have travelled an enormous distance. 
  • Ask about Literacy funding or other related ‘pots’. Remember the OFSTED inspection framework expects schools to demonstrate an “active policy of reading for enjoyment" - author visits are part of this. 
  • Look at the Society of Author guidelines for suggested rates. 

How will I know what facilities are available?

  • These can vary depending on the venue. Just ask. It's not impolite to ask, honest! 

How should I plan my event? 

  • Avoid first thing Monday morning – or be prepared to do something rousing! 
  • You might want to nab the lesson before or after a break as this will give you a chance to mingle. 
  • In Primary schools the last lesson of the day can be good as you may be able to catch the parents at this point. 
  • Stick to the school’s timings – for example, always give them time to register. 
 Public Libraries 
  • If you’re working with pre-school children then aim for 10am as older siblings will be in school. 
  • Saturday mornings can work well. 
  • Early evenings will suit YA readers. 
  • Expect to present for 40 minutes tops if your presentation is not interactive. 
  • Expect to run a workshop for up to an hour if the children are directly involved. 
  • Double-check the arrangements a week in advance. 
  • Keep in touch if delayed. 

What kind of attendance numbers can I expect? 

  • Be flexible about what you can handle, but be honest too. 
  • Understand that schools may find it hard to timetable a large group. 
  • You might want to offer a large group presentation followed by a sequence of smaller workshops. 

Public Libraries 
  • Be warned that children are notorious for not turning up unless the PARENTS know about you! 

Collated with help from these wonderful and generous people: Anna James, Dawn Finch, Kristy Rabbitt, Jayne Truran, Matt Imrie, Mélanie McGilloway 

Visit Words and Pictures on the 15th April for the next set of invaluable tips , which will focus on how to maximise sales and publicity during your visit. 

K.M. Lockwood
K. M. Lockwood is a writing name of Philippa R. Francis. Once a primary school teacher, she became a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at West Dean College in 2011. Her story The Selkies of Scoresby Nab was short-listed for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition and long-listed for the Times Chicken House in 2012/13. She was born in Yorkshire but now lives by the coast in Sussex. Her writing shows her deep fascination with British folklore and the sea. Her interests include reading, scuba diving and belly dancing, though not at the same time. She also blogs at


  1. Thanks Philippa, a really interesting summary.

  2. Some great tips, Philippa! Thank you :)

  3. Interested in the idea of the the librarian as a point of contact for primary schools. I've always contacted the literacy coodinator or headteacher, but I deal mainly with big audiences (100-200) and longer events. Must try including librarians in my target...!

  4. My main observation - having visited about 30 schools a year for very many years - echos your comment about checking with the school the week before. Schools regularly will reschedule things at the last moment, or forget to do something you thought was agreed long ago; or you'll find that your main contact is actually away somewhere else on the day! So... I try to remember to send out full notes of what we've agreed, a couple of school days beforehand; and I check back to see whether I've actually had confirmation for everything from the right person in writing.

    1. Thank you Eddd for sharing your experience - really valuable.

  5. TOP Tips Philippa! Thank you.

  6. Excellent tips. Thanks Philippa!

  7. Brilliant summary, Phillippa! Really useful info.

  8. More great tips to bookmark and come back to - thanks Phillippa!


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