|The 2016 Finalists of the Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award with Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell, and the top authors who supported the award.|
This is one of my favourite times of year as it is now that we are getting ready to open the nominations for the Pupil Library Assistant ofthe Year Award. The award is a collaboration between CILIP’s School Library Group, and the School Library Association and was created by award-winning school librarian, Barbara Band.
This award recognises the huge contribution that young people make to their school libraries, but it also acknowledges just how important those libraries have been to them. Each year we on the judging panel receive bundles of nominations for young people who have made an enormous difference to their school via the work they have done in their school libraries.
Reading the nominations is deeply moving. These young people have often overcome great barriers to find their place in their school, and in the education system. Many have struggled with their own literacy and it was only when they became involved in their school library that they found their feet. A large number of these pupils have found solace and comfort in their school library, a sense of belonging that they did not find elsewhere, and in return gave their time and their hearts to working in them.
In the pages of the nominations we have found young people who have created amazing reading schemes to support the needs of dyslexic pupils. We have read about pupils who have designed listening corners for pupils who can’t yet read. We have heard of those who have nurtured and cared for pupils who are lonely and isolated, and of those who have worked hard to make their school library the most welcoming place in the school.
The judging panel read every single nomination with great care, and we have the unenviable task of picking one pupil to take the title of Pupil Library Assistant of the Year at the ceremony in March.
It is a great honour being part of this process, even if it is a deeply difficult task. One thing that really shines through is the fact that all of these young people have not only changed their library, but they have been changed by it. The school library has not only been a source of information and books, but it has been a lifeline. For every one of the hundreds of nominations we have read the library has been the one place in the school where they felt safe, where they belonged, and this in turn has improved the quality of their lives and their school work.
A school library is so much more than an extension of the classroom and a source of study materials. The school library is for many pupils the one place that they feel safe and welcome, and it is often the only place of that nature within the confines of the school. The school library is the key to better pupil engagement and it is one of the few spaces in the school where the pupils can express ownership.
Every child deserves a school library, and every child deserves a school librarian. The years spent at school largely represent a child’s one shot at a better future, and a school library is an integral part of that. The Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award gathers together not only the young people who dedicate their time to making a difference for others, but it demonstrates just how important a well run school library is.
Nominations for the 2017 Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award open on Sept 19th and will remain open until November 7th. If you know of any pupils who should be nominated for this award, please do use the link. You can find out much more about the award, and see photos of our dazzling award ceremony from 2016. Once again we would like to thank the wonderful authors who gave their time to support this award, you made the day incredibly special for the finalists, and we really couldn't do it without you.
If you would like to take part in the award process, please use the contact form on the website. Please do talk about the award, and share your love of school libraries. If you are visiting a school this autumn and you meet pupils who you feel might fit the bill – pass on the details! On social media please use #libpupilaward
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Dawn Finch is a children's author and librarian and is part of the judging panel for the Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award. She is the current President of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, and is a member of the CWIG Committee.