School Librarian of the Year 2021

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Inspirational Librarians2020/2021 Honours List

School Librarian of the Year 2021: I jotted down four adjectives whilst listening to four of the five librarians on this year’s honours list share their good practice:

creative

assertive

supportive

inclusive

These are qualities that apply to any effective school librarian and I hope the qualities displayed by these ladies inspire librarians everywhere to stand proud, to value what they do and ensure they influence the value placed on reading, information and the role of the library in their schools.

I am always delighted when a librarian working in a Primary school makes the honours list and this year it is Rose Palmer from The Oaks Primary school in Ipswich. In addition to creating inspiring displays and topic boxes and regularly holding reading related assemblies, Rose co-ordinates the Chantry Book Festival, which brings a wealth of contemporary writers and illustrators into the heart of her community. Her approach to those in her area (which has high levels of deprivation) is wholly inclusive. Establishing a Little Free Library for parents (stocked through donations), everyone is invited to share in the joy of reading and families are encouraged to read together. Rose also champions The Patron of Reading scheme and advocates The Federation of Children’s Book Groups as a source of great support for solo librarians.

Students really engage when they believe an author is ‘theirs’

A KS3 Reading Week has been really impactful

Claire Marris, from Toot Hill School in Nottinghamshire, told us about the impact of her weekly podcast ‘Lounging with Books’ and her extended study clubs (including board games, chess, debating and manga) to encourage less frequent library users into the space. Claire displayed another trait of a successful librarian and that is courage and the drive to take a risk. Admitting to not being a lover of Classics, she set up a Reading Classics club and shared much loved favourites including The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Animal Farm to the more traditional Alice in Wonderland and The Railway Children. This last title was so enjoyed that children went on to act out a portion of the story which was filmed and premiered in the library film club. A really impactful initiative that Claire has introduced to her school is KS3 Reading Week. Starting with Year 7, and building year on year, the children now spend 10 minutes at the start of every lesson during that week reading a book of their choice. Along with Poetry slams, a quiz and author visit, the profile of reading is raised.

Re-shelve fiction, so only the spines of books with female authors face outwards

Terri McCargar, from Latymer Upper School in West London, shared her methods for establishing excellent links with staff by wrapping a book from their subject and leaving it out for discovering during coffee break at an INSET day. Each book was accompanied by a quick library guide, listing items in the library in print and online that specifically resource their subject. Terri also ensures her presence in the school goes beyond the library and team teaches PSHE in classrooms. She is also very creative in her topical displays and for International Women’s day, re-shelving the fiction so that only the spines of books authored by female writers can be seen, makes a valuable statement and discussion starter for visiting pupils and staff.

When the Polish community from all year groups come together to write a feature on their homeland, friendships are formed and authentic writing is produced.

Eadoin Quinn from Southern Ireland, after making the audience green with envy at her wallpapered end of the library, complete with donated fireplace! shared some brilliant ideas for bringing together groups of children with different commonalities in her bilingual school through the School newspaper. When the Polish community from all year groups come together to write a feature on their homeland, friendships are formed and authentic writing is produced. This is such a good idea to give everyone a voice and spotlight different cultures or interest groups such as girls who like sport or boys who play an instrument.

“the library is for everyone”

Kristabelle Williams, of Addey and Stanhope School in Lewisham, has the mantra – ‘the library is for everyone’. Using the Free Books Campaign, the brainchild of Sofia Akel, to promote authors of colour and support disadvantaged children, she has ensured inclusive book provision for all children at her school. She also advocates the SIFTing through (Mis)information strategies from Mike Caulfield which scaffolds children in questioning and investigating information sources – vital in these times of increased fake news and social media usage. She shared many great ideas for increasing Reading for Pleasure, including a Dragon’s Den style activity in which children have to ‘sell’ their chosen book to the panel. Kristabelle highlighted the importance of belonging to a support network of other local librarians.

These ladies are truly inspirational to their schools and to the wider community of librarians, teachers and LSAs with responsibility for their school libraries. With their good practice, I hope you can see how to realise the full potential of your libraries.