The book channel /

Emma Suffield : SLA Librarian of the Year 2018

Although her official title is Learning Resources Centre Manager, Emma Suffield is seen more as a member of the family by many of the 1400 students at Saint Wilfrid’s C of E Academy in a diverse area of Blackburn, thanks to her personalised, thoughtful and supportive approach to engaging all readers across the school. Innovative, imaginative practice, frequently going the extra mile, has led to a whopping 450% increase in book borrowing rates since Emma became responsible for the library in 2014.

Just Imagine Libraries Advisor Caroline Bradley asked Emma to share some of her top tips, following the announcement that she was the 2018 winner of SLA Librarian of the Year.

How do you make your library appealing to the children?

The LRC was very cluttered when I first started at Saint Wilfrid’s and I wanted it be open and inviting for the students as soon as they walked through the entrance. The LRC is now quite spacious, colourful and bright with numerous displays around the LRC. I have noticeboards on as many walls as possible to promote events, activities and clubs and it is always nice to see the students looking at these. I have spent time over the years labelling the fiction stock with genre labels which the students relate to when choosing a book and also moving books around so ‘lost’ books become more noticeable amongst the popular reads.

Can you explain the ways you have involved other staff and senior management with the development of the library and particularly the book selection process?

Every year Heads of Departments and staff are asked to select stock through a recommendation for purchase process. Staff are invited to come to the LRC to look through the stock and help decide what is relevant for their course. When the curriculum changed teaching staff were key to ensuring we had the right stock in the LRC for students. We often have suppliers and publishers coming to the LRC to show teaching staff resources they have on offer. This is a great way for teachers to interact with publishers directly.

How do you work with your local primary schools?

In 2017 and 2018 we wrote some short stories in Creative Writing Club and sent them to local Primary Schools to share the students work with them. I am always on hand during Year 6 Induction Evenings and Year 6 Induction Days to showcase the LRC to our new students. I want to be more involved with our local primary schools in the future.

Can you give an example of how you have used new technology to encourage disaffected readers?

All of our students have access to an iPad within the Academy. Students are more than welcome to use these in the LRC for working, reading and quizzing on Accelerated Reader. I also use iPads for activities during events throughout the year. Whether it be using Aurasma (HP Reveal) where books can come to life or using the app Seppo – where students can use their iPads to create/take part in treasure hunts/activities around the LRC. I am working with authors throughout the year especially Savita Kalhan through the #BookPenPals scheme and we will be skyping authors as much as possible.

Can you outline your innovative system for organising non-fiction?

When I first started as a School Librarian at Saint Wilfrid’s the non-fiction stock was not being used. I decided to ask the students why. Their response was there that they wanted more books to support their GCSEs. So, after talking with students and management I decided to take the plunge to revamp the non-fiction section to a revision section. All the books within this area are now either revision guides, core texts or supporting texts to help students in years 9, 10 and 11 with their GCSEs across all subjects. The students really value the new revision section and the issue statistics within this area have risen dramatically due to this change.

What has been your most effect/favourite Library display?

My favourite library display is one I created about Equality and Diversity at the end of the last academic year. I love how this display is appealing and really catches the student’s eye when they walk into the LRC. The books on display cover topics relating to humanity, race, heritage, gender, culture and inclusion etc. As we are a Faith School these are topics that we promote throughout our ethos on a daily basis.

What is your proudest achievement as School Librarian at Saint Wilfrid’s?

Since starting in 2014 issue statistics have risen by 450%. Last year we hit over 13,000 loans and I was astounded. Seeing students sitting and reading on a daily basis in the LRC during their own time is just so rewarding.  I am so proud to have created that reading atmosphere and long may it continue. But, I think my proudest moment now has to be winning School Librarian of the Year 2018!

Nominations for the SLYA 2019 are open now, and will close 31st October 2019.

Nomination forms are available from the SLA website: