The Learning Professional Award 2022 goes to…

We were delighted when our colleague Julie Sutherland, librarian at Forrester High School, was announced the winner of this year’s Scottish Book Trust Learning Professional Award. We asked Julie to tell us all about it –

“It was completely unexpected when I received a call from the Scottish Book Trust earlier this year to say that I had won the Learning Professional Award. I had absolutely no idea that my colleague Lindsay Craik-Collins, CL of English and Media at Forrester High School, had put my name forward. You don’t expect that. She took the time to chat with pupils who regularly use the library outside of class time and I am led to believe that it was their comments that swung the vote my way.

It’s hard to imagine the effect you can have on a young person, but they are the ones that make my day. They challenge and invigorate me and there is no better way to start the day than chatting to a bunch of teenagers. Every morning we have a Card & Chat Club in the library before school starts. It gets VERY loud as we’re all a bit competitive and there is nothing they like more than making me pick up cards, and which occasionally results in a victory lap of the library!

Two of the lads Mrs Craik-Collins spoke to have been playing cards with me since they came to school in S1 and you can see them in the fantastic Scottish Book Trust film which announced the award at the end of this article. They did so well in their interviews and I’m incredibly proud of them. We had really missed Card & Chat Club when restrictions after school returned post-pandemic, initially prevented us from playing. Very soon we will be inviting our new S1s to join in the fun!

No Librarian is an island, and everything I do is possible because I’m part of a team, or really, lots of teams; working with pupils and teachers to understand what needs they have of the library and how I can help them best, developing citywide initiatives with librarians from other schools and community branches in Edinburgh and seeking help across the UK on the School Librarian Network Yahoo Group. I rely heavily on the knowledge and support of my colleagues, and I can do the things I do in school because of these fantastic teams and in my heart this award is for all of them. I’m a bit nosey, to be honest, and I love being the chair of Cilips East Branch because it gives me the chance to network with all kinds of libraries and their amazing staff. I love visiting them (we call this library bagging – a term coined by Cilips Central Branch – just think libraries instead of Munro’s) and sharing, then pinching, ideas that I can bring back to school. We’ve been to some amazing places that are right on our doorstep, everything from the Tool Library to the Library of Mistakes, including a professional peek behind the scenes at the Museum of Childhood’s library stores… then further afield to Prestonpans and Dunfermline Libraries. Library staff have great chat and love showing off their collections!

I’m not very good at looking back and giving myself a pat on the back for something well done, because I’m already thinking about the next thing I have planned. I get bored really easily, so am always looking for something a little bit different to try, whether it’s a course in graphic novels, ways to diversify the collection or a new reading initiative.

I hope that this award will illuminate the positive effect school libraries and librarians can have on a young person’s life. It’s not just about developing literacy and a love for reading, that’s really important, of course, but it’s also about the whole person and being there for every young person that needs your support.

So, who knows what is around the next corner, I have several cunning plans brewing and am keeping my options open and my eyes scanning the horizon, the next conversation in the library or email from a colleague could start something really interesting…”

Congratulations Julie! Watch this wonderful Scottish Book Trust film to find out what made Julie’s nomination stand out –

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