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School Librarian of the Year Award 2017

2017 Winner

Lucas MaxwellThe School Library Association is delighted to announce that Lucas Maxwell of Glenthorne High School, London Borough of Sutton, has been awarded the honour of the School Librarian of the Year 2017.

Multi-award-winning illustrator and author Chris Riddell presented him with the award at a special ceremony at The Hive, Worcester, on 9 October.

Tricia Adams, Director of the SLA, said: ‘‘Lucas is a worthy winner and shows that school libraries are successful champions of both books and technology.  His library is obviously fun to be in and his ‘Poem in my Pocket’ initiative and ‘Open Mic’ nights make the library a much loved centre in his school.”

The two other school librarians honoured for their work are:

  • Mairead Duggan of Mount Carmel School in Dublin
  • Shelagh Toonen of Elgin Academy in Moray, Scotland.

From bringing books to life in highly imaginative and engaging ways, to generous and bold outreach work with their respective communities, via substantial and meaningful support for staff as well as pupils, Lucas Maxwell and each librarian on the Honour list have made a huge difference to the lives of all they work with, igniting a passion for reading.

Read the full profiles of all the finalists and view their video presentations below.

Full Profiles of the Finalists

Mairead Duggan - Mount Carmel Secondary School, Dublin

MaireadMount Carmel is a historic school in the very heart of Dublin city centre, it celebrated its bicentenary in 2017. There are currently 363 girls in the school with half of its entrants coming from outside Ireland.
The school participates in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) and Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) programmes which are aimed at closing the attainment gap in disadvantaged areas. Mairead is employed by the JCSP programme but is fully integrated into the work of the school.

The library is a double length classroom with several distinct zones. There is the read and relax area with colourful and effective displays such as the giant Wonka bar and soft seating including the largest bean bag I have ever seen. The far end is arranged for use as a classroom and study space with tables and chairs and an interactive whiteboard. The desk sits in between these two zones.

Mairead is a perpetual learner; as well as her MLIS she has a degree in English and Irish Literature, and a diploma in journalism. She is currently in the process of a PhD in Children’s Literature, a subject in which she already holds an MA.

Her love of learning shines through in the activities she provides, not just for her students but also for their parents and fellow staff members. She has coordinated pupil-led creative projects such as the 1916 commemorative book, written and recorded raps and fiction and documentary films. She also brings in expertise from outside the school, and we observed an animation lesson using the school iPads for instance.
The JSCP has a curriculum to follow which includes use of the Accelerated Learner programme, Mairead also adds plenty of value including working across the curriculum with peer reading and maths for fun sessions.
She also leads sessions on mindfulness, relaxation and yoga to help her students gain the resilience and self-esteem they need to fulfil their potential.

The Global Developments Impact project is her new brainchild with the ambitious aim of forging long lasting and meaningful links with schools in less developed countries.

Mairead has had a real positive impact on her students with one commenting that “reading was deadly” and that she “wished all lessons were like this.”

Lucas Maxwell - Glenthorne High School, London Borough of Sutton

Lucas Maxwell WebGlenthorne is a non-selective mixed secondary academy in the London Borough of Sutton.

The library in Glenthorne moved to the Hub in May 2016 and now boasts a growing collection of over 7,000 books and access to 30 PCs. The library is a light, bright space at the centre of the school. It is large enough to accommodate several zones, with space for browsing, a teaching area with a bank of computers and projector and a soft-seating area. There are attractive displays, making good use of the space including windows.

Lucas is evangelical about the role of technology in libraries. The library has a strong following on social media and he is especially proud that many of his followers are students. He organises virtual author and careers sessions through Twitter and Skype and he is interested in providing a Makerspace in the library in the future.

There is a sense of fun in Lucas’s library. From timed Lego competitions to interactive and engaging library lessons. Lucas adds a playfulness and light touch to the library that the students overwhelmingly respond to.

The contribution that the library makes to the school is felt well outside of its walls. Staff speak glowingly of how Lucas has enriched their teaching and enthused the whole school about reading for pleasure. Several staff mentioned his "Poem in My Pocket" initiative and Open Mic nights (well, days) as an example of his creative thinking and desire to reach out to the whole school community.

Community is very strong in the school and Lucas is careful to include not just the whole school community but also the surrounding area.  Lucas will timetable events like his wildly popular Comic Con on a Saturday to enable all the young people in the area to attend. He also runs events with local primary schools as part of the school’s transition process. He runs topical and imaginative inductions, last year he themed his sessions around the Pokémon Go craze.

In the words of his colleagues Lucas is a “wave of energy,” “a brilliant storyteller” and that the pupils “love the library, and they love Lucas.”

Shelagh Toonen - Elgin Academy, Moray

Shelagh Toonen Elgin Academy dates back to 1801 but the school has been on the present site as recently as 2012. Elgin Academy is a multicultural school with over 1,000 pupils speaking over 24 languages between them.

The library at Elgin Academy is a semi-circular design with the curve being taken up almost entirely by the floor to ceiling window which means the space is light, bright and inviting. There are attractive displays featuring the work of Shelagh’s student librarians.

The library has space for study as well as a more relaxed zone.  There is also an area set up for teaching small sessions around an interactive whiteboard. The library also boasts a very popular Reading Throne.

The library has a high profile presence on the school web page with its own dedicated microsite showcasing the many activities Shelagh provides for the school community. Shelagh is also active on social media and uses it to interact with national politicians. Shelagh also has her own and students' work published on the Scottish Book. Shelagh is also proud of her work on the Nibbles and Bytes sessions and the book trailers she has produced for the Scottish Book Trust.

Shelagh is known for her imaginative cross-curricula work such as her archaeology project, working with science on infectious diseases and working with the MFL department on International Week.

Reading promotion is very strong in school and Shelagh organises and motivates the whole staff to take part. She also runs shadowing groups such as the Excelsior Award, gives regular book talks and OSCAR (“our school cares about reading”) sessions and talks enthusiastically in lessons and assemblies about the joys of reading. All of this has contributed to literacy levels which are way ahead of the national average.

Shelagh runs transition to university sessions including sessions on academic honesty, information literacy and culminating in a trip to a university library. She is always ready to contribute to programmes or initiatives elsewhere in school and has been instrumental in the success of a project aimed at improving the mental health of teenage girls in school.

Shelagh is at the centre of school life and “if something is happening, it’s happening in the library.”

Video Presentations

Mairead Duggan, Mount Carmel Secondary School, Dublin

Lucas Maxwell, Glenthorne High School, Sutton, London

Shelagh Toonen, Elgin Academy, Moray


Macmillan Children LogoThe SLA School Librarian of the Year 2017 is sponsored by Macmillan Children’s Books - www.panmacmillan.com

Sponsors of Prizes

The SLA is grateful to the following supporters who generously donated prizes for the finalists' schools:

  • Andersen Press
  • Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Education Umbrella
  • Macmillan Children’s Books
  • Nobrow/Flying Eye Books
  • Oxford University Press
  • Walker Books