School Librarian of the Year Award 2016: Honour List Profile
Corby Business Academy (www.corbybusinessacademy.org)
Home-made reward scratch cards, staff/student battles of the books, BBQs, sleepovers, Comic-con events and even zombie apocalypses have all taken place in the library at Corby Business Academy, thanks to their innovative and enthusiastic librarian, Amy McKay. It is perhaps not surprising to learn that this librarian, described as having "natural rapport" with all the young people she works with, believes learning best takes place when the school library is seen as fun, friendly and vibrant.
Amy found her vocation by surprise when she took a library post at a secondary school simply to gain some school-based experience before completing a PGCE. Within days, however, she knew librarianship was the career truly meant for her and since then, she's never looked back.
Being librarian at Corby Business Academy is an incredibly varied job and no two days are the same. Having co-written the school's literacy policy, Amy is responsible for delivering a rolling programme of library lessons to all Year 7 and 8 pupils. She also teaches information skills to Year 12 including academic performance, bibliographies and academic honesty and to KS4 in IGCSE English classes and works regularly with adults who form part of the wider school community - whether liaising with governors, ensuring all new staff receive a library induction or hosting the termly Parents' Reading Group.
As well as supporting teaching and learning, Amy eagerly offers many enjoyable reading promotion activities, trying to ensure that all the school's young people - especially those who aren't traditional library users - come to the library and discover how much fun (as well as useful!) it can be. Book themed parties, reading groups, reading mentors are all part of the mix, with special events such as author visits, a reading challenge and Book Buzz attracting extra funding which Amy can bid for from the school's central finances. For Amy it is important that her library reflects the outside world, and so she creates lots of displays and events inspired by current affairs/events – whether it be a six- week Olympics programme of activities or a simple display based on Tinie Tempah lyrics.
Amy was fortunate to be involved with the school's library from the very beginning and whilst setting up a brand new library was a great challenge, she's very proud of what had been achieved. Of prime importance to Amy is the library's rich and varied stock, including magazines, graphic novels and manga. About 20% of books are bought on the basis of student requests: "An aesthetically impressive library is great, but it needs to be financially supported to allow for a consistent stream of exciting, new books. Encouraging reading for pleasure is so much more effective if you offer the books young people want to read." Being able to bring new books into the library as soon as they are published is important to creating buzz; new stock arriving six months after paperback editions have been cheaply and widely available in supermarkets doesn't excite young readers.
Amy's school is hugely supportive of her work, giving her the freedom and time to develop those things she believes will best benefit students. Developing a library that is "a feast for the eye" as well as an incredible resource for learning, teaching and reading enjoyment is key to Amy's approach to her library. She aims to offer something tantalising to pick up and discover everywhere a pupil looks. Lots of forward facing book storage, comfy, movable furniture that can adapt to the needs of a busy library and a projector and large screen so that book trailers, performance poetry, plays etc. can be screened are all features she believes add real value to the library. Amy is especially proud of her work to narrow the gender gap in library use; boys now regularly borrow more than girls. Non-fiction stock (and ensuring it stays relevant and used, even in today's online world) is another focus of Amy's creativity.
Corby Business Academy is not the only beneficiary of Amy's skills, knowledge and enthusiasm. Amy works closely with feeder primaries to promote transition reading activities, hosting quizzes and providing reading lists. She also likes to include other local schools in her library events wherever possible. Somehow, Amy also finds time (despite being a secret reality TV addict) to sit on the national YLG committee and has recently taken on the role of Carnegie Kate Greenaway Coordinator, a position which means she reads much more widely than she might otherwise - a delight for her and a benefit to her school's pupils because her recommendations are much more varied as a result.
Despite clearly being a ball of energy, Amy is keen to stress that much of the success of her job comes from the people around her. "I benefit hugely from having a supportive Senior Management Team who recognise the value of and (very importantly) sufficiently fund the library. I work with engaged staff who are always willing to get involved and in the library with an amazing colleague who is passionate, dedicated and a pleasure to work with." Ultimately, however, it's the young people who inspire Amy in her work: "I love books and reading, but it's the students who really make this job worthwhile."
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