Emma Suffield, School Librarian of the Year Honour List

EMMA SUFFIELD is learning resources centre manager at Saint Wilfrid's C of E Academy in a diverse area of Blackburn. Included in the SLA School Librarian of the Year Honour List, here Emma tells us what sets her school library apart.

Q: What was your route into becoming a school librarian?

A: I was previously a Library Resources Assistant at a local FE College for eight years and wanted a new challenge. A very close friend worked at the Academy where I am now employed and told me about a vacancy for a School Librarian which I decided to apply for as it was the challenge I needed. I love reading and wanted to share that passion and promote reading for pleasure to young people.

Q: Where are you now?

A: I am a Learning Resources Centre Manager at Saint Wilfrid's CofE Academy in a diverse area of Blackburn, Lancashire with 1400 students from years 7-13. We received 'Outstanding' in our SIAMS inspection and 'Good' in our latest Ofsted inspection.

Q: How would you describe your library and your relationship with the students?

The Learning Resources Centre (LRC) can accommodate 162 students and I have 10 wonderful student librarians to help out on a daily basis. Being a school librarian isn't just about being a librarian but also a teacher, pastoral support officer, manager and administrator. I like to think I am approachable to all students and that we have a great relationship as the LRC is now a fun, vibrant place with a wonderful atmosphere.

Q: And how would you describe your approach to the job?

A: Being a School Librarian means I need to have thorough knowledge of all the resources, and library management system to be able to give students the best reading and literacy skills they need to set them up for the future.

Q: What are your school's priorities for the library?

A: To keep developing and promoting reading for pleasure throughout the whole Academy (years 7-13) our Academy's motto is 'Those Who Read Succeed'!

Q: How do you support other teachers and teaching across the curriculum?

A: I introduced a revision section in the LRC which was requested by the students as the previous non-fiction section was just not used. I worked with teachers and heads of departments to create this area by purchasing the correct resources including revision materials, core texts and supporting texts for GCSE students to support them with their studies, and this section is now heavily used.

I also produce displays relevant to subject areas to showcase books that support an event, eg Shakespeare Day, Science Day, Pi Day, Holocaust Day etc. Teachers know that I am also on-hand to support with literacy skills in the classroom if needed.

Q: What have been your biggest successes and innovations to date?

A: Since I started at Saint Wilfrid's in January 2014, annual issue statistics have risen from 2345 books to 13,200 at the end of July 2018 across the whole Academy.

I have introduced book clubs which have increased year upon year. I started with one book club and had three this past academic year. I also run a Creative Writing Club and a Stan Lee Excelsior Award Club. I hope to have a 6th Form Book Club next year if time will allow. Reading is really proving to popular at Saint Wilfrid's.

Q: And what are the biggest challenges for you?

A: The biggest challenge for me is getting boys and non-readers reading! Trying to show some students that reading is fun but also beneficial to their future can be difficult, but slowly I am knocking these barriers down year upon year.

Q: What are your budgeting priorities and how creative do you need to be with your funds?

A: I need to keep the LRC well stocked with relevant new publications that the students want to read as well as housing numerous books of the popular reads. I also need many books to keep my book clubs running but the School Library Pack from Book Trust does help with this. I am very lucky that my line manager is also head of Pupil Premium and is the literacy co-ordinator, so we work together the best we can to host great literacy events in the LRC throughout the year.

Q: How are you using technology in the library?

A: Every student at the Academy has access to an iPad and this really helps with digital technology within the library.

I have used eBooks in book club and Aurasma/QR codes to promote interactive book reviews around the library. At the Harry Potter Book Night in 2018 we used HP Reveal to bring front covers of the 'Daily Prophet' to life. We filmed staff asking Harry Potter questions (in fancy dress) and then the students scanned the pictures using their iPads. The pictures came to life and the students had to answer the relevant questions.

Q: What next for your library?

A: I really want to develop the Manga section which I started before the summer term and work with curriculum staff to purchase some more resources for the revision section. We now have a library skype account, so I would like to skype authors in the future especially within my book clubs as author sessions are a great way to help develop reading for pleasure.

Q: Can you share three simple things you have tried out that you'd recommend to other librarians?

1. We place reviews sheets in books when issuing books to students for them to write a very short review once they have finished that particular book. This review then gets posted on the library twitter account and tweeted to authors. Students really like it if the author replies.

2. I have a 'suggestions book jar' on the library desk which includes coloured paper for certain genres with book titles written on. If students are really struggling to find a book they can use the jar to suggest a title within a genre they like reading in.

3. The most important thing is having the right stock within a library. I want to stock what the students want to read so I have a 'book suggestions box' where students can recommend books for the LRC. This is reviewed on a half termly basis and I will purchase what I can.

Q: What one thing have you done that has the most impact in your library, and how do you know / measure its impact?

A: Since I started at Saint Wilfrid's in January 2014 issue statistics have risen annually from 2345 books to 13,200 across the whole Academy which is from having the right books for the students to read, running Accelerated Reader and I currently have three book clubs which may become four in 2018/2019.

I think being a prolific reader myself and having a love for YA novels and children's books really helps to improve my knowledge within this field which enables me complete my role successfully.

Q: How has being a member of the SLA helped you in your career?

A: The SLA has helped me develop as a professional. Networking with other school librarians to share ideas is so beneficial and I have recently become vice-chair and secretary for the SLA Lancashire Branch.

06/09/2018Emma Suffield, School Librarian of the Year Honour List
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