Celebrating the School Librarians of 2016

School Libraries Celebration Day 2016

The annual celebration of the impact of great school librarians took place on Monday in the atmospheric Judges Court at Browns (Covent Garden London), presided over by Alec Williams. Fittingly, in this, the fifth and final year of Kevin Crossley-Holland’s presidency of the School Library Association, five amazing school librarians were honoured for their outstanding work.

The citations about the shortlisted librarians demonstrate the wide range of experience and expertise in the profession, the passion and commitment of the honoured librarians and the energy and enthusiasm which has enabled each of them to make a real difference to individuals as well as to the whole school. During the event, school-made films about the librarians paid further testimony to the impact of their work. More importantly, the films revealed the quality and importance of their relationships with students, teachers and parents. We were left in no doubt that school librarians have a key role to play in their schools.

The film about Sophie Chalmers (Southbrook School, Exeter) was set in and around their fantastic double-decker library bus. I loved the contrast between the frenetic fun-filled action and the ‘shhh’ moments when students commented on Sophie’s many qualities. Like all of the films, this was a ‘love-letter’ to someone who meant a great deal to the students.

The students’ testimonies in the film about Rachel Knight (Sherborne Girls, Dorset) highlighted the importance of her support of individual needs (particularly in the case of sixth formers) and celebrated some of Rachel’s many initiatives and library-based activities – including the fabulous Dinner with Mr Darcy and a library-based Wellbeing Evening.

In the case of Amy McKay (Corby Business Academy, Northamptonshire), we were shown the impact of her work throughout the school community and beyond – from transition visits to lessons about referencing skills and from encouraging Y9 SEN students by reading aloud to them to discussions with the parents’ book group.

Nurturing a love of reading is at the heart of all the librarians’ work, including Alison Tarrant (Cambourne Village College, Cambridgeshire) who has effectively used displays, activities and links with local and national awards to fire the students’ enthusiasm, alongside initiatives like DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) and the Patron of Reading scheme.

Last but not least, we heard about Lauren Thow (Portobello High School, Edinburgh) who was praised for going the extra mile in her work with departments, being instrumental in school development and sharing her expertise in literacy and information skills teaching with a wider audience.

Although each of the films painted a very different picture of what’s involved in being a school librarian, at the heart of them all was the celebration of a truly inspirational professional.

Before the overall winner was announced by author Kim Slater, she asked ‘what makes a good librarian?’ Having ‘hawk eyes’ probably goes without saying, but also having the skills of a counsellor, the ability to forge relationships, encourage creativity, make links with the wider community and ensure inclusivity. Possibly most importantly librarians need the (super) power of persuasion that can help to get students hooked on books!

Many congratulations to Amy McKay, School Librarian of the Year 2016!

sla-winner-amy-mckay   Photo Credits  Philip Cooper Photography

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