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Citation for Barbara Hickford


  • Our Lady’s Convent Senior School, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
    Nominated by Jackie Atkinson, retired school librarian

The library at this small independent girls’ school was re-located in September 2006 into the former school hall, which provides a compact but much-improved central space with distinct areas for separate functions, including a mezzanine. Barbara has added some lovely touches which enhance the visual appeal, such as the striking hanging textiles from the twin school in Uganda. The school is small, with under 400 students including the sixth form, and high-achieving. This can bring its own problems - students may think they don’t need the library – and Barbara uses her wide knowledge and experience to develop the library’s potential. She is the school’s first qualified librarian, attends Heads of Department meetings, has a generous budget and takes every opportunity to raise awareness of the library’s role.

The fresh décor and furniture in the new library is complemented by attractive displays, publicity and information about, for example, the Children’s Laureate. Library promotion is seen elsewhere in school too, and we particularly liked the Decorate a Door idea, when on World Book Day each classroom door became a book cover. The large stock reflects the nature of the school in its quality and depth. Fiction in particular issues well, and Barbara’s great knowledge of children’s literature is reflected in the wide range of reading initiatives which are pursued with commitment and drive. The Reading Olympics scheme is particularly impressive, and starts with Y7 students as part of their library induction, proceeding through bronze, silver and gold certificates to a Reading Diploma for Y9’s and upwards. Diploma holders become Reading Advisers and are expected to be involved in recommending books to other students. There are Reading Clubs for students and staff, a Podcast Club, an Accelerated Reading scheme, and a Reading Buddies scheme. The school takes part in the Summer Reading Challenge, an Abingdon School joint Carnegie Shadowing scheme involving six secondary schools, and the Kids Lit Quiz, which Barbara is “really proud to have brought to Oxfordshire”. All these activities are supported by recommended reading lists, book reviews, newsletter items, and regular author visits into school.

Barbara provides library induction for Y7’s, reinforced by Study Skills in PHSE lessons, and a Y8 Information Literacy Skills programme. Many teachers speak highly of the support Barbara gives, and of successful projects undertaken using library resources – the new library is better suited for whole class usage and this aspect will grow. Barbara recommends websites and forwards newsworthy information to departments for classroom debate. We saw an English class evaluating book reviews, discussing the next Children’s Laureate and taking part in a Reading Game. An induction day for 6th formers not only prepares them for private study, but also aims to re-invigorate their leisure reading through initiatives such as “speed dating” with books. Barbara has a team of student volunteers who undergo a thorough training programme, many using this work in connection with the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Beyond the school, Barbara is active in the Oxfordshire branch of the SLA – her nominator, who used Barbara as a mentor in setting up her own school library, describes her as an “inspirational chair”.

These are early days for the new library – “ a place for the future” as the Head describes it. Barbara’s detailed Development Plans show the way forward. Stock refreshment, stronger information literacy strategies, greater integration with the whole curriculum, higher levels of KS4 and sixth form involvement, and the development of independent learning, are all on the agenda. Her capacity to bring fresh ideas, combined with stamina, enthusiasm, knowledge, and calm efficiency, will ensure that the library continues to grow.