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SLYA Profile - Gill Trueman

We present the last candidate on the School Librarian of the Year Honour List. The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on 1 October 2012 - watch the website for details. We hope you will find reading about these exemplary librarians interesting.

Gill Trueman

Library and Information Manager
Peasedown St John Primary School, near Bath
(www.peasedownstjohnprimary.org.uk )

Gill TruemanGill Trueman’s unique style is all over the library at 500-pupil Peasedown St John primary school, from the hand-embroidered Welcome sign to the seaweed curtains and treasure chests for indexes and returned books (the Key Stage 2 library has a pirates and sea theme).

It was this opportunity for creativity and self-expression that drew the former university and BBC librarian to the school in 2004 after a career break to bring up her two daughters.

“I had always enjoying working in the education sector and I had thought I might return to universities, but what I had seen of the primary environment with my children showed me that there was room for enthusiasm and fun in learning. Also I had so enjoyed sharing books with my children. It was a way to use my library and creative skills in a way that I could really see the impact.

“I spent three years managing libraries at the World Service and trying to work out how to charge producers for research time and resources and it was very frustrating. In school I might deal with something tricky such as integrating APP (Assessing Pupil Progress) but I can see the point of it.

“I feel that I am doing something that directly benefits the children and my work is highly valued by the staff.”

Gill’s undergraduate degree is in music and she is a singer and flautist. Her projects with pupils might include a “research rap” sung to the beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”.

After graduation, she worked for a year in Reading University library before postgraduate librarianship studies at Loughborough. Two years at the BBC sports library followed before the move to the World Service. “I enjoy having a fresh take on things and every day bringing something new, so the BBC job appealed.”

When her family relocated to Bristol, Gill worked in a sixth-form college library (“It felt like it was an era of technological change although at the time that meant a CD-ROM tower. I enjoy the same kind of challenges in school now”). Her first encounter with primary schools was as a parent. Her initial ten paid hours a week at Peasedown St John have increased to 30 as her role has expanded, notably through timetabled library lessons for Years 3 to 5 in which she teaches research skills, information literacy and e-safety. She also team teaches with class teachers and involves class teachers in her planning so that they can reinforce information literacy across the curriculum.

“We’ve been teaching Web2.0 tools and social media skills to Year 5 for two years now particularly focusing on e-safety guidelines. It’s giving the children really solid experience.

“I was asked to develop information literacy as part of the school’s 2020Vision curriculum to give the children the skills they will need in the future. For me that is one of the two columns of library provision, developing children’s reading enjoyment and helping them form their personal taste, and teaching them how to access knowledge.”

Gill Trueman with pupilsGill’s colleagues credit her with creating a reading ethos in the school, building pupils’ enthusiasm through author visits and her own tireless search for the right reading material for each child. Her lunchtime Chill’n’Read book clubs (with music) are so popular that she has had to restrict pupils to attending once a week. She relishes the moments when a child asks her for the next book in a series that is hitting the spot. The teaching staff make her their first port of call for sourcing resources. Joint headteacher David Tilling, who nominated Gill for the SLYA, cites this as one way in which employing a librarian can save a primary school time and money.

The “Great Library Sea” theme of the Key Stage 2 library is a response to the layout of the library, in what was once the old Victorian school hall. Constantly updated display boards showcase work from pupils’ library sessions. There is a minibeast-themed library for Key Stage 1 in a conservatory area which was added to the building shortly before Gill arrived. All pupils from Reception up have class visits to the library and can borrow two books at a time. Gill has a team of pupil librarians (“Treasure Seekers”) from Years 4, 5 and 6 and two trained regular parent volunteers.

Gill is currently working with the ICT team to develop the school’s new website and virtual learning environment through which she hopes to boost parental involvement. She has set up a regular mobile library visit just before the end of the school day so that parents can use it at first alone and then with their children.

Gill networks as much as possible, partly through her local School Library Association group through which she is researching possible author visits. She also enjoyed the Summer 2012 SLA/YLG/SLG weekend course. “I came back with so many ideas, including a Winnie the Witch birthday party and a plan for a Readathon scheme with Years 5 and 6 which I am talking to teachers about. It’s important to get out there and find out what’s available to us.”

She also belongs to another local schools networking group which sounds as if it might have been designed for her: Enthusiasts Must Unite.

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