Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Brilliance of Pupil Librarians - Lucy Coats

Last week I met seven incredible teenagers. What they all had in common was a love of reading - and that love of reading had got them to the final of the first ever Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award. Each had volunteered in his or her school library, making a real difference to literacy. I was proud to present one of the finalists - Jessica Ince from Heritage High School in Derbyshire - of whom her school librarian said: “she is a model student who has committed herself to supporting other students in the development of their reading and literacy skills.” All the students had amazing accolades - and I was so impressed by the dedication they showed to getting books and reading out there to all the kids in their schools.

The eventual winner was Abbie Craske from Aylsham High in Norfolk, who received her prizes from the inimitable Charlie Higson - including original artwork from Chris Riddell.

I'm telling you about this, because these kids are important. Supporting libraries is important. Reading is important. These seven teenagers represent the whole next generation of readers - the ones who realise that reading and books open doors, not only to other worlds, but also to knowledge, to education, to eventual jobs. A library can make a real and visible difference to a child - as Abbie said: “In the beginning the school library was my escape from life, now it enhances my life, and it is a privilege to give something back to the place I love.

Unfortunately, school libraries are closing at a scary rate of knots - so why isn't that scandal and shame in the papers instead of the everlasting parade of celebrities and MPs fiddling money (and more)? I know here on ABBA we have not been backward in shouting about the trend towards closure and 'technology suites' instead of books. We need to shout more often and louder. As Barbara Band, chair of the judging panel, and past president of CILIP told us, school libraries are not statutory - and that is the problem. Nobody HAS to shout about closing them until it's too late.

All pupils in the UK deserve an onsite school library with a librarian in it. It should be a basic right - and in 2015 it is still a right which prisoners have, but school kids don't. I continue to think that that fact is a shame and a disgrace - so perhaps all of us who feel the same way should be making it clear to MPs seeking re-election next May that the statutory provision of school libraries needs to go firmly back on the political agenda.

PS: In other news, there's a VERY exciting thing going on in #UKYA today (19th March) from midday, with a HUGE prize to win. Do go over to my website blog and take a look after 12pm. It'll be worth your while, I promise!

Out now from Piccadilly Press UK & Grosset and Dunlap USA: Beast Keeper and Hound of Hades (Beasts of Olympus)
"rippingly funny…offers food for thought on everything from absentee parenting to the mistreatment of animals (even immortal ones).
Publishers Weekly US starred review
Coming in May 2015 from Orchard, Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII)
'A gripping and exciting read' Armadillo magazine
Follow Lucy on Twitter


Lydia Syson said...

It is such a brilliant new award, and the ceremony was very moving. Long may it continue and gain support. There are clearly so many lasting and broad-reaching benefits to having Pupil Librarians in a school and I think it's fantastic to have their efforts both recognised and rewarded.

Nicola Morgan said...

Wonderful, Lucy! Every time I meet pupil librarians, my heart lifts a little. Only to be crushed by politicians trying to close school libraries (or to replace trained librarians with pupils - which is not the solution! After all, how can those pupils become keen readers in the first place without librarians?)

EGGSCITED about the midday thing! *zips lips*

Emma Barnes said...

“In the beginning the school library was my escape from life, now it enhances my life, and it is a privilege to give something back to the place I love.”

Wonderful. If only people would listen...

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whispering words said...

I loved my school library but I hated how it was considered nerdy to hang out there - so glad to see these readers being rewarded for their efforts!

Dawn Finch said...

Lovely post, and thanks so much for being there on the day. You (and all the other authors) made it extra special. It really was the most wonderful celebration and we are already planning next year.
Pupil Library Assistants do remarkable things, but can't exist without REAL School Librarians.
Good school libraries change lives, and that is only possible with school librarians there to make the magic happen.