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Celebration day: honouring the best for 2014.

I think that the SLA's School Libraries Celebration Day in early October should be a national holiday! It's bit like having a Coronation Day every year isn't it? Yes I can remember sitting quietly on a small stool at the age of six years staring in amazement at a brand new wooden cased television with a flickering black and white screen--I enjoyed every minute of that grand occasion just as I greatly enjoy our own annual school library coronation day! As last year we used Hotel Russell in the heart of London as the setting. The great and good of the school library world gathered to celebrate this year's brilliant group of school library people and places. The SLA's prestigious School Librarian of the Year Award, now in its tenth year, hopefully needs no introduction and it was excellent to highlight and honour the work of these enthusiastic forward looking librarians, library managers and assistants who achieve so much for their pupils and who are honoured by the SLA every year. [See report of the School Librarian of the Year Award overleaf.]

Inspiration Award

What perhaps isn't quite so well known yet is the SLA's Inspiration Award. Very generously and actively promoted by LFC and Gresswell from the DEMCO Europe family of brands, our new Inspiration Award has developed from the SLA's very successful Library Design Award. Now annually awarded to the school library space that shows inspiration, innovation, creativity and resourcefulness in its design and in use, either through creative use of specific products or promotions you can see that it has developed from simply looking at library design. We also thought it a good idea to have both primary and secondary categories. We think it has worked well. Schools are constantly looking to improve, refurbish or rebuild their library space or new schools are being created, so through this award we are beginning to collect examples of interesting, imaginative new school libraries using new products and promotions. This change simply from 'library design' came about in part due to the amazing Story Garden that some of us judges saw at Nansloe Academy in Helston Cornwall last year.

This year we had 28 Inspiration Award entries which pleased us enormously and you can imagine the debates and discussions that ensued to reduce the total to a manageable visit list. It is certainly one of the highlights of my professional year doing some of these visits. The team of judges (that's Dawn Woods, Carol Webb and me from the SLA and Selina Dawkins and Jacqui Smith from DEMCO, all guided and cajoled by Tricia Adams) were all so impressed with the schools that we visited. It's a shame we couldn't find the time to visit them all! Their vision and drive, their new colourful libraries, exciting use of furnishings and fittings, amazing displays and active use of resources, books and IT was just so impressive. They are leading the way for the rest of us to follow. It isn't all a matter of cash--it's a matter of inspiration and innovation.

In the primary category Ashington Central First School has themed its library, it has a corner castle, Oak Tree Primary (the winner) has a fairy tale theme, Alice (of course in Wonderland!) is very evident at Whyteleafe School in Surrey and Battyeford CE (VC) Primary School in West Yorkshire has a double sized classroom and some brilliant zoning, some vibrant displays and here they make use of lots of IT, a Hobbit House, a story tent and large dry wipe tables for active group work etc.

The secondary schools we visited were just as exciting. Budmouth College in Dorset has a brand new library located in the atrium of the new school. Some school struggle with this for a variety of reasons but Budmouth is clearly a winner here. The Hub Library has this central location and uses specially designed bookcases in the form of giant books! Others may well follow. Bishop Challoner Catholic College was a delight to visit--their Open Learning Centre with its welcoming atmosphere, attractive shelving, lighting, zoning and flexible use of the space and furnishings showed us excellent features of 21st century library design. Dixons Allerton Academy (our inaugural winner) with its Bridge Learning Commons (rather than library) had all the hallmarks of a modern go-ahead, stimulating, supportive space for independent learning, reading, with its space within a space for immersive, multisensory learning--truly a space for 21st century independent or group learning with an interesting team/staffing structure. All of course, primary and secondary honoured schools had full support from senior leadership teams who appreciated the importance of reading, library facilities and the links between curriculum development and library development.

What a great year for the awards. I'm reflecting on what we've seen but I'm also looking forward to next year's hopeful entries already!

Geoff Dubber is a former Chair of the School Library Association and the Association's Publications Editor.

Find out more ...

For further coverage of the 2014 Inspiration Award, explore the full report on the SLA website at:
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Author:Dubber, Geoff
Publication:School Librarian
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 22, 2014
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