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Duncan Wright

Duncan Wright with pupils from Stewart
Duncan Wright with pupils from
Stewart's Melville College

Duncan Wright
Senior School Librarian, Stewart's Melville College, Edinburgh

Duncan loves his library almost as much as he loves Glasgow Rangers, and even Lothian Rangers, the amateur league team of which he is captain. Nick Hornby’s football-crazy bestseller Fever Pitch changed his life when he read it at 13 because: "I suddenly discovered that people wrote books about the things that I was interested in, and that I wasn’t the only person with an addiction to football."

Fever Pitch
is still in Duncan’s top three books of all time, in between Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. He enjoys helping his students find the book that will offer them a similarly strong connection. "I love recommending books to pupils and two weeks later getting to hear them tell me how much they have enjoyed it. And I love the fact that every day is different, that how the library develops is part of my responsibility and that the pupils will never fail to surprise me." It might surprise the boys, on the other hand, to know that Duncan often gets yellow cards when he plays football, but has never been given a red.

Lessons based around YouTube film trailers, an Everyone a Reader video made for a World Book Day assembly and a programme of author visits including Keith Gray, Garth Nix and Julie Bertagna also help to grow new readers. One of Duncan’s proudest moments in his job has been: "Watching the S3 year group being completely transfixed during a talk by author Christopher Brookmyre. The bell went for break and not one boy moved - even with the extra 15 minutes I was having to force boys out for their next class." He has also organised visits to Scottish Book Trust events with Darren Shan and Saci Lloyd.

He has a high profile throughout Scotland as an organiser of the Kids’ Lit Quiz (the 2010 world final was recently held at Stewart's Melville and Duncan’s place on the honour list was announced at the celebration gala dinner).

The library is a former chapel complete with a gallery and organ and has a permanent art collection. Study tables have been made from the old pews in the chapel. The pupil library monitors help with displays and visit a bookstore once a year to select stock as well as doing counter and shelving duties.

Duncan is not afraid to transform the traditional space for a book event: "A couple of years ago a colleague in the English department and I decided we would have a series of ‘Desert Island Book’ talks in the library. On the day in question I arrived to find two bags of builders’ sand and a home made palm tree beside my desk. During the morning a desert island began to appear in front of me and by lunchtime teachers were sitting on a desert island telling pupils about their favourite books. It was all very surreal."

Stewart’s Melville is a private boys’ school with a mixed sixth form. It shares a campus with its sister girls’ school, Mary Erskine College, and Duncan has helped to set up joint projects including a book award and book festival. With the Mary Erskine librarian, he devised a Literacy Ladder programme which is used across the curriculum in P7, S1 and S2.

Duncan is head of department and also an assistant head of house (a rare appointment for a non-teaching member of staff). The library is considered to be the academic heart of the school and Duncan meets with the director of studies, his line manager, every fortnight. He is on the school’s information literacy working party and recently presented his sixth form information skills project at a heads of department meeting. All S1 and S2 pupils are timetabled into the library for half an hour a week to work on specific tasks and Duncan runs induction sessions for all new pupils and staff.

He is convenor of SLA Scotland, was a member of the SLA board for three years and was course director for an SLA weekend course in Glasgow. He is currently focusing on Web 2.0 in his own professional development plus, of course, keeping up with reading.

For more information about Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools, visit www.esms.edin.sch.uk