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Shiona Lawson

Shiona Lawson with pupils from Rothesay Academy
Shiona Lawson with pupils
from Rothesay Academy

Shiona Lawson
Learning Resource Librarian, Rothesay Academy, Isle of Bute

Shiona Lawson played at libraries as a child and wants to work until she is at least 70 because "I love what I do". She relishes finding new ways of coaxing pupils into the Learning Resource Library at Rothesay Academy, the only secondary school on the Isle of Bute, where she has been in post for two years. An example is her Reading around the World programme, which uses a mixture of fiction and non-fiction to improve literacy across the curriculum and teach library skills. Pupils travel around the world through reading, learning to evaluate what they are learning as they go.

In her two years in the job, the stock has been revitalised and now the library offers 10,000 books including graphic novels, enhanced with eye-catching displays. It is not surprising that issues have gone up. As well as luring pupils into the library, Shiona took them to the Edinburgh International Book Festival to see author Nicola Morgan last year, having acquired a grant to fund the trip.

The 400-pupil secondary school shares a purpose-built new campus with a primary school (for which Shiona also manages the library, which is run by a volunteer retired headteacher) and an FE college. The library is open until 5pm on schooldays with homework club two nights a week. Windows along one side and glass doors on to a courtyard mean that the large, rectangular room is bright and full of natural light. There are bright eye-catching displays, good sightlines and ample room for a whole-class visit. As well as teaching library skills and information literacy for most of the day, Shiona teaches P7 transition classes and regularly visits Rothesay primary and the other two primaries on Bute. Her citation for the School Librarian of the Year award notes that she is "a confident and very competent teacher with a quiet command and good delivery". The school has a high proportion of pupils with special needs including some with severe learning difficulties.

 

With the focus on information literacy in Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence Shiona has become a mentor for the Glow project (the national schools intranet) and has received training to pass on to teachers. She runs a student librarian scheme with eight students using the SLA Pupil Librarian Toolkit as their model. A former student, Danielle Durnan, nominated Shiona in gratitude for past support.

Shiona is a qualified, Chartered librarian with a degree in English and History and a postgraduate librarianship qualification. She attends INSET and SLA courses when they are available in Scotland and is an active member of the Argyll and Bute Librarians Group.

She is determined to demolish the librarian stereotype portrayed in books and films "where the librarian is shown as dowdy, old, plain, with pointed nose and chin; glasses perched on end of nose and hair worn in a severe bun. (That's just the male librarians!)".

She throws herself into the wider life of the school, as creative director of the school show and co-ordinator for Spirit Aid, the school’s designated charity. The comedy night she organised to raise £3500 for Spirit Aid children’s relief projects in Malawi was, she says, the most memorable experience of her time at Rothesay Academy, apart from being nominated for the School Librarian of the Year award.

More memorable still, perhaps, is one evening in her previous job as librarian in the social sciences department of the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, the biggest public reference library in Europe, which serves to demonstrate Shiona’s calm under pressure. "A pinstripe-suited city gent asked for books on Al Capone. After an unsuccessful search I informed him that all the gangster books were missing. ‘That's incredible!’ he said. ‘Al Capone came to me in a dream and asked me to prove his innocence but when I attempt any research I am thwarted at every turn. Al Capone is my guiding spirit. Can you not see him standing right here beside me?’ Needless to say I couldn't see Al Capone, but I did suggest that he contact the Library of Congress for help."

For more information about Rothesay Academy see www.rothesayacademy.org.uk