Excelling as a school librarian

Carol Webb, Librarian at Forest Hill School in London, was declared 2011 School Librarian of the Year in October. To follow are some of the reasons why the School Library Association feels she excels as a school librarian.

Dawn Woods, Chair of the SLA School Librarian of the Year Selection Committee, said: "Carol was the first school librarian we visited on our quest this year and she certainly raised the bar at Olympic standard heights.

"The library is immediately visible from outside the school and beckons to all who pass. Within the school it is a bright focal point. Carol's information literacy approach would put some Higher Education establishments to shame."

The judges were also impressed with Carol's links to publishers. "Carol saw the opportunities and seized them and this has resulted in an all boys' school of avid readers defying all stereotypes."

Other exceptional school librarians who were recognised in the final are Helen Emery, LRC Manager at King Edward VI School in Lichfield, Staffs; and Wendy Roberts, Senior School Librarian at Ardingly College in West Sussex.

Carol Webb has been a school librarian at Forest Hill School in Lewisham, South London, for 17 years and during that time has built a strong network of links with publishers.

Webb has put those publisher links to good use, including setting up author events in school and hosting webcasts by authors such as Eoin Colfer from Ireland and US author Rick Riordan.

The author events that she holds in school always have an enthusiastic audience and she makes full use of the school's state-of-the-art theatre. A highlight of her career, she says, has been hearing from author Bali Rai "that he had not, in ten years of school visits, had such an overwhelmingly positive response from boys about reading".

She relishes every opportunity to make young readers feel special and adventurous. "The boys love it when I get proofs of a new Charlie Higson novel, for example, in the post and pass it around, and they know they are reading it ahead of the public. They like to be in the know."

Carol received a Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) fellowship in 2007 for her work on reader development.

With a network of fellow school librarians built up while studying for a Masters in Education degree in information literacy, she is a co-author of The Innovative School Librarian: Thinking Outside the Box (FACET, 2009).

She has given papers at conferences including the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and a public services umbrella bodies conference.

Her current key project is her doctorate in education. Like her masters, it is based at Canterbury Christ Church University, with research for both being done at school. She is in the final phase of research and started drafting chapters over the summer break.

"I've been interviewing teachers about what they perceive information literacy to be in relation to their subject area and how they perceive the skills changing through technology," she explained.

"The first findings were very exploratory and very fragmented. Each teacher has a different set of lenses through which they view these skills and a different vision for their subject. We're working out a common language. It's exciting work."

Webb chose further studies in education rather than librarianship because, she says, "I enjoy being part of a cohort of teachers, and meeting heads of departments and higher education teachers with similar interests."

19/10/2011Excelling as a school librarian
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