SLA School Librarian of the Year Award 2020 :: NEWS
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SLA School Librarian of the Year Award 2020

10 February 2021 Share

Honour Librarian: Claire Marris

Claire Marris is the Library Manager at Toot Hill School, an ‘Outstanding’ (Ofsted, January 2012) 11–18 secondary school, with a student population of over 2,000, situated in the market town of Bingham, Nottinghamshire.


The school’s Learning Lounge, as the library is known, is housed in its own building on the school campus where a great deal of thought has gone into making it a particularly welcoming space with an emphasis on reading for pleasure. It has around 11,000 books and is full of comfy chairs, whilst tables, hard seating and computers are limited (students have access to a separate IT suite). Pre-Covid, when year 7 and 8 students attended their fortnightly lessons in the Lounge they were asked to take off their shoes before settling in to their dedicated quiet reading time adding further to the sense that the library is a welcoming, safe space. Free reading is a central belief of the Learning Lounge.

In conjunction with the English Department, the Learning Lounge provides timetabled lessons for all KS3. In addition, they offer a series of induction sessions during the autumn term for the new Year 7 students and a refresher session for Year 8 students. Because the school is so large, Claire has created an in-school mobile library for the sixth form to ensure no student lacks access to great books.


In pre-Covid times, the library was abuzz with clubs and activities including Board Games Club, Manga Club, Debate Club, and Reading Classics. Claire would normally aim for 3–4 author visits per year, supplementing that with Twitter chats and Skype sessions with authors, carefully developed reading challenges including one based on the BookTrust school pack, visits to the local bookshop and a nearby book festival. Initially the Lounge was a dedicated Year 7 Bubble space, but now there is also browsing access for Year 8, with the rest of the school able to access to books and resources via a click and collect system.

Innovations that Claire has introduced to the school include a school-wide Reading Week, where every lesson during the week begins with 10 minutes of reading for pleasure, as well as a whole host of special activities in the Lounge. She has also initiated a new relationship with the local infant school to support their own reading for pleasure journey, including visiting the Lounge for special sessions. Her weekly podcast, which is full of book news and reviews and is available to staff and parents as well as students, is very popular. 

Claire is supported in her work by a Library Assistant, and up to 15 student librarians, who receive special and intensive training. Claire has recently gained her CILIP Chartership. She regularly avails herself of CPD from a variety of sources and finds great inspiration from collaborating with departments across the school and other librarians on Twitter, noting in particular a previous winner of the SLA School Librarian of the Year, Lucas Maxwell.

You can get a further flavour of Claire’s work by following @lounge_learning on Twitter.