As a school librarian I can remember library regulars who eventually became library assistants. They often began by seeking refuge and a quiet space, then took on responsibilities suggesting ideas and activities for the library and it was wonderful to watch them grow in confidence.
Sue is our long standing library adviser and chartered librarian and part of our friendly Customer Success team. Her experience prior to joining Reading Cloud ranges along the full spectrum of all things school library including being a secondary school librarian, a children’s book awards judge for a number of national awards and a schools library service adviser and manager. Her role means that she works with library staff across all phases to advise them on best practice using our software and how this can help achieve learning and literacy goals.
What inspires you most about school libraries?
It has got to be a two part answer, firstly it’s amazing school librarians and what they can accomplish. An inspirational school library is not just about how it looks and is designed. It is also about the ethos created which should be of an inclusive vibrant reading culture and learning hub for everyone in school. I have been into some fairly ordinary looking school libraries which fizz with activity and endeavour and are central to everything that goes on. This is often down to one tireless individual whose energy and enthusiasm overcomes every obstacle and makes that vital difference.
Secondly it’s the students themselves and how some make the library their own through every stage of their time at school and their own development. As a school librarian I can remember library regulars who eventually became library assistants. They often began by seeking refuge and a quiet space, then took on responsibilities suggesting ideas and activities for the library and it was wonderful to watch them grow in confidence.
What was it like being a children’s book awards judge?
Absorbing! Each award was a different experience but had one thing in common in that there was a huge amount of reading, note-taking, shortlisting and best of all in depth discussion with fellow judges. The Costa Children’s Book Award (sadly no longer running) included booksellers and young people as judges which brings another perspective. With the Carnegie (writing) and Kate Greenaway (illustration) Medals, all judges were fellow youth and school librarians and were a great bunch of people. I still apply the Carnegie and Greenaway criteria to everything I read, that’s how immersive it was. The difficult part was keeping the secret of who the winners were as I recall being interrogated by very persistent shadowing groups when I did school visits prior to the announcement!
As an avid reader, how do you decide what to read next?
I am lucky to be on the radar of a lot of children and young adult publishers so get lots of new proof and review copies sent to me which is marvellous but daunting especially when you see the size of my reading shelf! I aim to read most of what I am sent to keep my knowledge current, but will confess to favouring the fantasy and historical genres and always have time for an epic quest especially if the book has a detailed map at the start! I also review for The School Librarian magazine and so read stories outside of my favourite genres that challenge your perceptions of the world in many ways which is always a good thing.
Do you have a favourite illustrator?
I am a huge fan of Jackie Morris and love her evocative watercolour illustrations of the natural world which are otherworldly. I have met her and watched her draw at book events which really is a privilege and was delighted when she won the Kate Greenaway Medal with The Lost Words.
What advice would you give to school librarians on using Reading Cloud to promote reading with their students?
I am often asked this and my answer depends on how far the librarian asking the question has reached on their journey with our library software, with developing their library and their library profile in the school. As a starting point I would suggest using our software’s key reader promotional tools such as creating reading lists, reviews and blogs that enable a student to determine their reading choices for themselves, share their thoughts on what they’ve read and possible read more widely as a result .
Delving deeper we would look at strategies to put the library in its rightful place at the heart of the school community. All school’s circumstances are different and there is no magic wand, but your library software can help with your message. Adding exciting dynamic content on the library homepage to showcase new books and authors, help with coursework and advertise activities and services can really make a difference.
Usually the librarian I am working with has lots of ideas and just needed ways to make them a reality and it is often very rewarding to see these ideas flourish in their school library.