The School Librarian of the Year Award – a celebration of superheroes

On Tuesday 9th October the School Librarian of the Year award ceremony took place in the Judge’s Court above Brown’s Restaurant, Covent Garden. Librarians, authors and members of the children’s books community gathered together to celebrate the wonderful work carried out by some remarkable school librarians.

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The four Honour Award Librarians, Emma Suffield, Alison Kennedy, Dr. Cchavi Jain and Nicki Cleveland with author Lauren St John

The very best librarians are those that meet the needs of their community and this is particularly obvious in the work done by school librarians. Their role is a unique one being a blend of both academic and pastoral and also catering for every single pupil within their school. At the moment I am reading The Lost Magician by Piers Torday and in the opening chapters he says this about librarians:

Although, Evie supposed a librarian was kind of halfway between a parent and a teacher.”

I was reminded of this during the presentations for all four of the outstanding librarians on this year’s Honour List. The schools they work in are very different to each other, an international school in India, a Lancashire C of E Academy, an independent boarding and day school for girls and a state primary school. This illustrated perfectly the range of skills required of today’s librarians. However there was a common thread running through the comments made by both the pupils and staff at these schools. The libraries were welcoming places where people felt safe and happy.  At one of the schools pupils said the library was “exciting” and “felt like home.” That’s a tricky combination to pull off successfully and yet the librarian had managed to do it. Both teachers and pupils discussed how the librarians acted as a mentor, supporter and almost as a friend. In addition to teaching how to access information successfully and use it productively, encourage reading for pleasure and nurture readers who enjoy a wide range of fiction these librarians were guiding pupils over career choices, exam technique and life’s everyday problems.

Emma Suffield, winner of this year’s School Librarian of the Year Award, encompasses all of these skills in her role as Learning Resources Centre Manager at St Wilfred’s C of E Academy in Blackburn. She is viewed as both a friend and member of the family by both pupils and parents. Emma has a creative and positive approach to her work that has made a big impact on her school in her time there. Incredibly she has achieved a 450% increase in book borrowing since she took over four years ago.

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Emma Suffield School Librarian of the Year 2018

Children’s author Lauren St John presented Emma with her award and in her speech beforehand Lauren stressed the importance of libraries and librarians. She said that she had read research that stated that “reading is training in the art of being human.” Libraries and librarians enable access to books and reading for all regardless of income or situation.  Lauren St John said that she was blown away by the standard of the  librarians on this year’s Honours List. She went on to describe librarians as “superheroes” and “particularly now in our world when many people in power don’t realise the importance of libraries.”

In his closing remarks, Alec Williams former chair of the School Library Association, said that there is so much more to the role of school librarians than the traditional image. He mentioned the growth in creative use of social media by school librarians, particularly in engaging children with authors. This was particularly evident in the primary school, I thought, with pupils saying they had met authors they had never heard of but loved their books.

All four of the school librarians being honoured are wonderful ambassadors for their profession. In her lovely acceptance speech Emma Suffield thanked last year’s winner, Lucas Maxwell for his help, support and sharing of ideas. Emma has already started to do the same via Twitter and I am excited to see what the coming year holds for Emma and the #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign for which she, and the other three librarians, are such an excellent advert.

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A chapter of School Librarians of the Year past and present, Lucas Maxwell, Emma Suffield, Amy McKay and John Iona

The Great School Libraries Campaign is a joint campaign officially launched last month by the School Library Association (SLA) and CILIP School Libraries Group (SLG) campaign supported by CILIP to ensure that every child has access to a great school library.

For news, information and downloadable resources please visit the dedicated website for the campaign

Please do support this very important campaign. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all children had the opportunity to have school librarians such as those celebrated at this happy occasion

Thank you very much to Alison Tarrant, CEO of the School Library Association for inviting me to the ceremony, it was a delight to be part of such a special afternoon.

 

 

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