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Fourth School Librarian Profile: Honour Librarian Profile: Emma Suffield

SLA School Librarian of the Year Award 2018: Honour Librarian Profile

Emma Suffield
Saint Wilfrid's C of E Academy, Blackburn


Although her official title is Learning Resources Centre Manager, Emma Suffield is seen more as a member of the family by many of the 1400 students at Saint Wilfrid's C of E Academy in a diverse area of Blackburn, thanks to her personalised, thoughtful and supportive approach to engaging all readers across the school. Innovative and imaginative practice has led to a whopping 450% increase in book borrowing rates since Emma became responsible for the library in 2014. 

Emma's Learning Resource Centre is to be found at the heart of Saint Wilfrid's. It can seat 162 students and is well organised with excellent displays, signage and stock. There is a separate sixth form library (which Emma resources but does not manage) but it is a testament to the excellent atmosphere and environment created by Emma that many sixth formers choose to study in the main LRC rather then their dedicated area.

Emma works closely with all subject departments to provide resources for lessons, and whilst information literacy is embedded in the curriculum and delivered by subject staff, Emma provides additional support with displays in the library on relevant topics such as plagiarism and fake news as well as 1-1 help for individual students. Reading is underpinned by the Accelerated Reader scheme, though this is far from the sole focus of reading promotion in the school, with lots of playful approaches to encouraging wider reading being in place, for example, "Chocolate Reading Time" after school on Fridays helps support those students who have not met the school's requirement for engaged reading time whilst QR codes and augmented reality (using the Aurasma/HP reveal app) invite students to not only discuss books (by being involved in the creation of the augmented reality or content brought up when QR codes are scanned) but also to entice other students to try something new (the library loans out iPads to those who don't have their own ensuring everyone can access this additional library experience).


Enriching activities regularly take place in the library. 2018 saw the LRC transformed into the Great Hall of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry at one point and a new programme of music concerts has recently begun, enabling students to showcase their talents as well as helping to create a relaxing and soothing working environment.

A major innovation introduced by Emma since she started at St. Wilfrid's has been the reorganisation and labelling of non-fiction books. Low usage and poor stock led Emma to entirely revamp this area of the library, in consultation with subject staff, to focus on supporting revision. The students find this 'Revision' section not only more usable and presentable but also comment that it contains the resources that they really need and more importantly want to use. This is born out by soaring usage by years 9-11 over the past 18 months.  

Multiple book clubs, book award shadowing and creative writing clubs run out of Emma's library. She has also twice hosted the Lancashire Pupil Librarian Conference (an initiative started by the SLA Lancashire Branch 11 years ago where Pupil Librarians from Lancashire schools who are members of the SLA are invited to take part in numerous fun activities and games throughout the day, with the chance to network and make new friends). Emma herself has an excellent team of student library helpers and believes the conference is a "great way to reward our Pupil Librarians for the amazing work they do in our School Libraries." 

As a child Emma once argued with a librarian in her local public library about having to leave the library when she didn't want to (it was closing time and there was a storm outside). Now she is in her "perfect job"; as a librarian she can stay as long as she likes in the place that matters most to her.

You can find out more about Emma's work here: emmasuffield.wordpress.com

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