Kevin Sheehan, School Librarian of the Year 2010, was the winner of the inaugural Klaus Flugge bursary. The bursary was set up thanks to the generosity of Klaus Flugge of Andersen Press and allows a librarian to attend the Youth Libraries Group Annual conference as a fully paid delegate. In times of constraint for both school and public libraries, this is an act that can make a real difference to individuals and to their practices, just as libraries themselves are able to make a huge difference the lives and aspirations of those using them.
On a serious note I was really experiencing a mid-job mid-life crisis when I applied for the Klaus Flugge bursary that successfully enabled me to attend the Youth Library Group conference. Actually, I was on the brink where I questioned whether I wanted to carry on as a School Librarian in the future. Constantly being barraged by headlines in the media really has had an negative impact on my own mental health. What have I got to contribute? Are there going to be School Librarians in the future? Am I good enough?
This year’s theme was on Reading the Future examining the impact of libraries on children and young people. My tote bag said it all ‘It all starts with Enid Blyton’, which I felt on reflection was like some kind of karma. Enid Blyton did not just provide me with escapism, away from the 1980’s plastic monotony during my formative years, but more notably made me fall in love with books, libraries and librarians. So, it was exactly like going full circle!
"We are all the same when wearing pyjamas."
It was an understatement to say that this year’s three day conference was jam packed. There was so much for me to hear, see and experience, and I was determined to savour every single moment of this time. Again, another understatement to say it was all brilliant. However, if I was to identify three key moments it would be:
- Melvin Burgess, Sharon Dogar, Juno Dawson and Sally Nicholls panel discussion examining women’s representation within young adult fiction. Melvin really summed it up as ‘childhood is a peculiar prison’. However, what is very clear is that publishers, authors and librarians create a freedom where positive female characters, whether that be from past, present or future, can have and regain power.
- Whoever thought of the Enid Blyton midnight feast deserves a sainthood. It pulled together the whole cohort of the publishing and library world in such a fun and spontaneous way! We are all same when wearing pyjamas. I don’t think I have ever experienced anything as hilarious and well-spirited at a conference previously.
- Jackie Morris provided a very emotionally satisfying conclusion to the conference exploring the importance in exploring visual literacy through wildlife and nature. It was a very special experience listening to Jackie on how the best ideas come from the silence of voice. I also felt very privileged obtaining a signed copy of ‘Lost Words’ personalised with my very own badger.
Jake Hope advocated in both his opening and closing speech that it was important to go away from the conference, then put the inspiration and experiences into practice. Actually, I have to say that I have done this repeatedly since being back at school. It is not just myself but also others have seen the positive energy that this conference has instilled into my whole being. There has not been a murmur of those constant negative mumblings that I experienced prior to the conference. It has really made me happy and positive for the future. I really do believe that School Librarians have a lasting impact on lives. Thank you for making me believe in myself again.