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Inspiration Award 2017

Inspiration Award 2017 - winners!

The School Library Association Inspiration Award 2017 for primary schools has been awarded to Adderley Primary School, Birmingham. The judges were impressed with the immersion in books and reading children encountered, with a reading culture spread throughout the whole school. The library is within a wide corridor, central in the school. The walls are vibrant with book quotations and illustrations. Stairs lead off the library, depicting book spines. Lights illuminate shelves of titles attracting readers from 3 years to 11. Staffing the library, not only with a school librarian, but also a Reading Manager means children always have someone to consult about books.

The secondary school SLA Inspiration Award winners presented an impossible choice. So, in this exceptional year of excellent shortlisted schools, three schools are joint winners.

  • American School of Madrid
  • Headington School, Oxon
  • Hymers College, Hull

All these school libraries have responded to their individual needs with unique design.

The American School of Madrid offers a Makerspace without compromising the traditional library area for study and relaxation. The expanding space welcomes the user for one aspect of school life and answers questions you didn’t even know you needed answering.

Headington has an exceptional balance of books and IT, blending tradition with 21st century sustainable, green planning. Led by the professional librarian, this library was designed with outside the box thinking, expanding the traditional gym with a glass surround, working together in harmony.

Hymers College have taken Hull’s City of Culture vision and designed a beautiful building to welcome their wider community into a multi-use hub offering 21st century library facilities in an inspiring design putting the role of the Library and Librarian at the heart of teaching and learning.

The award celebration was held in Covent Garden on the afternoon of Monday 2nd October. The School Library Association Inspiration Award has been created to set future standards for the recognition of excellence in school library design. The award will be made biennially to the school library space that shows inspiration, innovation, creativity and resourcefulness in its library design and in use, either through creative use of specific products or promotions.
Gresswell www.gresswell.co.uk

Photos from the 2017 ceremony 

We are delighted to present the full citations of the Selection Panel for the shortlisted Secondary and Primary schools.

Shortlisted Secondary Schools

American School of Madrid

Librarian: Liz Keating • Headteacher: Mr Ben Weinberg

As you enter the main building of the American School of Madrid (www.asmadrid.org) you are welcomed by the Stanton Griffis Resource Center on your left. Initially you see the fiction library; no doors, no barriers, just two short runs of mid-height shelving forming a divide between the corridor and library, creating an inviting and informal feel. A bright and airy space, pupils can relax with a book on the giant bean cushions or around the coffee tables, work in groups around tables or individually in the study carrels.

American School of Madrid LibraryAttached to this is an enclosed makerspace with Lego, robotics, and arts and crafts materials on offer for students to create and invent. This makerspace area makes way through to the fiction library with glass walls and doors to create a quieter space for individual study to take place. In this part of the library you will find the main issue desk. In addition to issuing books students can also charge their electrical equipment (mainly phones!). The Librarian, Liz Keating, has a desk situated in the non-fiction library that ensures staff coverage across the large space. The library is such an inspiring space that the Communications Manager also decided to make the library her base.

Two popular private study rooms, equipped with screens provide an area for collaborative work where students can practice presentations or work without disturbing other users. Outside, study tables and carrels provide space for individual quiet study. Beyond study the library houses a reproduction room. Here students can print their work and teachers can print in large format. Staff can also make promotional materials such as badges and display decorations using the die-cut machine and vast selection of cutters.

The American School of Madrid have definitely used their space well. Students commented that they liked the options of study area depending on their needs and the fact that they could always find somewhere to sit. Aesthetically they remarked how much lighter the library now is and how much better the vinyl flooring is as opposed to having carpet previously which got dirty easily. The magazine collection includes titles that reflect the interests and hobbies of staff as well as students. With a number of international staff, a collection of guides on Madrid itself and countries throughout Europe for information and inspiration for travel during holidays is on offer. Events for pupils held in the library have included Green Eggs and Ham Day on Dr Seuss' birthday, raising awareness of banned books week and open mic events.

A vision for a space that caters to the entire school community with pupils, teachers and parents using the library has been realised. The Stanton Griffiths Learning Commons has been well planned in terms of zoning, and the use of glass ensures the library is seen as one space even with the openness of the non-fiction library. Understanding the needs of the school community, the library team have made themselves and the library the first port of call for information and in turn an invaluable part of the school.

Culford School

Librarian: Lesley Martin • Headteacher: Mr Julian Johnson-Munday

Needing a 21st century facility, Culford School in Suffolk (www.culford.co.uk) embarked on a mission to move the school library out of its old home on the top floor of the main teaching building to a purpose built, centrally located, standalone building. Now it is not possible to walk between teaching blocks without passing the library on any side making it an integral part of the school.

Culford School LibraryAs you enter the glass fronted building you are greeted by a light and open space with soft seating and curved shelving displaying fiction books. Moving further into the library, solid wood bookcases line the back and right hand side wall with white curved shelving units in the middle of the library space, interspersed with a mixture of low study tables and bar height tables.

Group work, lessons and presentations are facilitated by a spacious, sound proofed glass walled theatre room that can be used as one large space or divided in to two smaller spaces. The new school library is appreciated across all curriculum subjects. Teachers are able to bring smaller classes in to the library for lessons to use the resources available or host external speakers in the theatre room. Pupils and teachers alike find the new library more accessible and a productive environment in which to work. The library is also visited by pupils from the Prep School in supervised groups. Pupils find the library comfortable and like that the natural light makes it easier to read, factors that were key considerations when planning of the library began. They also find the new layout makes it easier to browse and find books in a logical manner. Although well used, with some pupils visiting every day, there is never a shortage of space to work or relax.

One of the aims of the new Library was to provide Sixth Formers with a space that would aid them in studying for their A-Levels and help prepare them for university. This was achieved with a dedicated mezzanine space with a mixture of study and informal easy seating. Additionally, a small kitchen space provides tea and coffee making amenities. The Head of Sixth Form describes the space as 'transformational' whilst the students appreciate having an area solely for them and feel they are more engaged in current affairs as the resources are displayed more prominently. The Librarian, Lesley Martin, and her team work hard on engaging pupils. Inspiring displays around the library bring attention to latest events such as International Women's Day and the Oscars showcasing books that have been turned in to films. These are updated throughout the year and do not go unnoticed by pupils.

A multi-functional space, the library's use extends beyond reading and studying. Parents' evenings, external lectures and other events are held out of school hours, facilitated by a kitchen area for catering. The library extends outside with large glass doors that lead out to a paved area where attendees can gather and socialise. Culford School's library is a fantastic, modern, well thought-out space with great facilities to serve the needs of its school community.

Headington School

Librarian: Lynn Winkworth • Headteacher: Mrs Caroline Jordan

Headington School in Oxford (www.headington.org) is a blend of ancient and new. It marries the existing building whose beauty has been carefully conserved, with an inspiring 21st century form, the floating glass reading room. There are four distinctive areas: a dedicated teaching space, a study area with an enquiry desk, a mezzanine for quiet study and the glass reading room.

Headington School LibraryGreen is the chosen theme, both in décor and in the strategic approach taken to the management of the Library environment and service, led by Librarian Lynn Winkworth. It is a calming colour that has been used to zone floor spaces between walkways and study areas. Ultimately it leads to the reading room where it almost appears as if there is no barrier between 'indoors' and the surrounding outdoor garden. A reader feels as if they are sitting in harmony with the outdoor space, a most therapeutic experience. The pupils' enjoyment of the space was clear to see both in lessons and throughout the day.

To be an inspiring library design takes more than beauty, its resources must stimulate and feed learning. The stock, both hardcopy and online provides a depth of information which is much appreciated by both staff and pupils. One teacher commented that the development of this library feels like an investment has been made in me, that the further development of my subject knowledge is valued by the school leadership.

Careful thought has been given to different ways of learning and smart technology has been wrapped into the design ranging from a touch screen table to sonic chairs giving an offer that is balanced, non-intrusive and flexible. This vision includes how it can free the Librarian's time from clerical tasks to performing the valued work of teaching and supporting pupils and staff. The ethos is excellent with a high standard of practice and provision which together form an excellent school library model for the 21st century.

Hymers College

Librarian: Sarah Tenniswood • Headteacher: David Elstone

Headteacher David Elstone's vision has created a superb Library offer at the heart of his school, Hymers College in Hull (www.hymerscollege.co.uk). The contemporary design with its high glass walls and coloured panes sits among the traditional school buildings. Yet a strong sense of harmony between them is conveyed as they exchange reflections of each other in their windows. School resources: the Library service, reprographics and I.T. have all been drawn into this building design, making it the community's hub. This includes the welcome given to parents, before and after school, who can visit to support their child in the choosing and borrowing of items. Unusually for a school library it is open during the holidays so that pupils can continue to be supported in their studies.

Hymers College LibraryEnhancing both the academic and pastoral life of the school have been central aims driving the design. There are a range of Library areas: a formal study space on the mezzanine; glass pods for group work; a dedicated technology space; acoustic sofas in the fiction area; leisure seating in the journal reading section; the Gore lecture room with author events and creative activities; a careers service; seminar rooms; and a large meeting room with an outdoor roof area. All accompanied by a café for Homework Club and mixed gender toilets creating an attractive and inspiring Library model.

Clear recognition was given to the impact made by the Librarian's role, underpinned by the view that use of the Library has to be taught in order to capitalise on the investment that has been made. Overall an inspiring design has been realised which puts the role of the Library and Librarian, Sarah Tenniswood, at the heart of teaching and learning.

Kingham Hill School

Librarian: Donna Saxby • Headteacher: Mr Nick Seward

Kingham Hill School (www.kinghamhill.org.uk) is a well established and respected independent school for the 11–18 age range on a large and very scenic site in the North Cotswolds. It needed a new library and the opportunity arose as the use of some buildings were swapped around. In the words of the school's nomination form 'our school library has been transformed from an old fashioned and cramped space to a welcoming and engaging library that encourages reading and learning'. The school was keen to produce a multi-use flexible 21st century library space – for reading/research, active learning/teaching, for Sixth Form private study, that included a presentation area for students and parents and with a wide range of books and digital resources. The SLA judges who visited the school would wholeheartedly agree that this has been achieved!

Kingham Hill SchoolThe library, opened in the summer of 2016, was moved from what is now the staffroom and has nearly quadrupled in size. With a change of location, situated on two floors linked by a well-placed spiral staircase, with a separate Sixth Form study enclosed area, a useful upstairs classroom space, lots of study and quiet reading seating, new shelving and display units from Opening the Book, a centrally located issue desk and with lots of flexible and available IT (no serried ranks of work stations here), the new library is very much fit for purpose. The space has been designed imaginatively, some of it bright and open, some is darker and more intimate with spotlight type lighting. Part of the upper floor is a carefully thought out mezzanine.

The whole library space is calm, tidy and welcoming, with muted colours, comfortable seating and clear signage. Teaching staff and students obviously like this new and attractive space, both as a relaxed and stimulating teaching space and as a quiet study and personal reading area. The furniture and book stock is thoughtfully arranged – younger fiction is located by the entrance, non-fiction is upstairs around the classroom area and the issue desk is located in the middle of the ground floor space. There are interactive whiteboards on both floors and with easy access to two bookable trolleys of Chrome books, use of electronic journals is also encouraged. IT is very much in evidence. The experienced professional librarian, Donna Saxby, is very active promoting and supporting reading and the wider school curriculum. She is busy developing digital literacy in the schools and is a key player in providing resources and skills support for exam course work and EPQ. 

The new library is very much seen as at the heart of the school. The senior staff are enormously supportive too. The carefully planned new library not only by its design but also by its use shows clear innovation, creativity and inspiration.

Princethorpe College Sixth Form Library

Librarian: Celia Scott • Headteacher: Mr Ed Hester

Princethorpe College (www.princethorpe.co.uk) is a Catholic, co-educational, HMC independent day school for about 880 pupils aged 11–18, of which 202 are in the Sixth Form. Based in a magnificent former Benedictine monastery set in two hundred acres of leafy Warwickshire parkland, the buildings have been extended and up-dated to provide twenty-first century facilities including a Sixth Form Library within a Sixth Form Centre linked to the older building on the ground floor and by a first floor bridge.

Princethorpe College LibraryThis is an attractive, minimalist, clean looking space in which to work quietly. This is a library for study rather than recreational reading as students do not have the time, although a double sided three shelf bay of adult fiction offers respite reading for sixth formers. The space allows students to work independently, as in a university library, as the aim of the school is to equip students with resilience for life, not just good exam grades. Alternative collaborative spaces are provided elsewhere. Students appreciate the silence but are also able to use headphones so can work to music and they comment it is easy to navigate stock. Librarian Celia Scott encourages staff to use the library, and Years 7 and 8 are brought in to see where they are heading.

With many e-resources, shelves offer basic core texts and wider subject reading, with the Head of Sixth Form vowing to fight to protect the library budget. Although a small space, students commented they never have trouble finding a seat in which to study, the space lends itself to the necessity of Sixth Formers to study to achieve their goals in life.


The SLA Inspiration Award is sponsored by Gresswell.
Gresswell Logo

Shortlisted Primary Schools

Adderley Primary School

Headteacher: Mrs Rizvana Darr

Adderley Primary School (www.adderleyprimary.co.uk) is a large primary school just a mile from the centre of Birmingham. The school sprawls across old Victorian buildings with later additions, but throughout books are evident. From the Hobbit House on the edge of the Forest School, to walls covered with attractive professionally painted book related pictures or quotations, books surround the children.

Adderley Primary LibraryThis is a very child-led school with pupils leading initiatives, although the staff also have ideas that are picked up so the school works together. Previously in two separate KS1/KS2 book areas with bits of shelving, the school library is now in a wide thoroughfare corridor, wrapping around a corner, and has a set of stairs with book spines painted on leading off it. Corridor libraries have pros and cons, but this one works. There is so much to look at on the walls and the shelving itself, so as a pupil using the space to walk through, you can't help but become interested in what is happening around. The fact that these displays change regularly is also a pro to keep children interested.  It has improved behaviour, as knowing they are passing through the library mean children respect the space. Pupils commented that they like the library as it has lots of books, the paintings inspire them to read particular books and authors, they all liked the fact that the library changes regularly. One liked the multicoloured lights, one pupil mentioned liking SLS books as they changed. One pupil said she was inspired to become a librarian when she was older.

The reading culture in school spreads out from the library. An outdoor library/reading space is manned by Maarten McGoven, the Reading Manager, at break. Author visits from Authors Aloud are preceded by preparing the children for the visit beforehand. Reading Clubs take place three afternoons after school. There are many library competitions, an author of the term, WBD activities include sharing books with parents in the library. The school buys into Birmingham Rep Theatre to come weekly into school and lead workshops. Classes read a book, then rehearse a performance of that book. This has boosted the confidence of children in more areas than just reading. Children from reception to Year 6 are taken to Shakespeare festival performances. The school also has a school radio station which broadcasts programmes including audio books. Information literacy is not neglected as Dewey activities take place in library lessons.

On our visit staff repeated the phrase 'The school is the library' and this immersion in books is the reason Adderley has reached the Inspiration Award shortlist.

Charford First School

Headteacher: Mrs Anita McLaren

Charford First School (www.charford.worcs.sch.uk) in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, is a delightfully busy, engaging and caring larger than average first school serving the needs of children aged from 2 years to Year 4 pupils. In November 2016 it opened its brand new exciting library. Centrally located, combining a library from an atrium and also another from the school entrance foyer, it is now the focal point in the school for reading, books, storytelling and general relaxation and enjoyment of the written and spoken word.  In the words of the Head Teacher 'we cleared and adapted a classroom especially for this, including some building work, new entrance doors, newly painted walls in calming colours and a new carpet'.

Charford First School LibraryEntering under its colourful tree canopy you are drawn into the woodland themed library – a magical, cosy and inviting space with tailor made curved light wood shelving supplemented with more from Willowbrook Furnishing, with a purpose made arch linking some of the shelving, an eye catching storytelling chair, some tables and chairs, beanbags, lots of soft furnishing, mats and attractive curtains. Wood has also been used for book ends and label holders. The school site manager clearly has useful DIY skills. He also made the issue desk.

The library is big enough for flexible whole class use, yet small and comfortable enough for small group and one-to-one work too. The children are very proud of their new library and there is some real book enjoyment going on there. The library is busy throughout the school day – exchanging books, information seeking and each class has a 30+ mins lesson in this space every week. There is an enthusiastic band of children helpers and some effective staffing: 'our librarian and assistant librarian are in the library throughout the day, ensuring books are returned to the right place, stamping and labelling new and donated books and providing assistance to anyone who needs it,' stated the nomination form. The school puts on workshops for the parents to encourage use of the library and reading in general and of course the children themselves are encouraged to come along to the library for various and varied activities – the Y2 Challenge 5 Library Club on a Monday lunchtime which promotes and develops information seeking in various ways and others, using pupil premium funding, come along for the Book Munchers Club, there are also regular reading competitions, a recent one has involved taking selfies!

This is a lovely library for a first school and congratulations to Jackie Strange who runs the library and the Head Teacher Anita McLaren for their work so far. It will be interesting to hear of the next stage in its development.

New Milton Infants School

Headteacher: Mrs Kate Stanton

New Milton Infants School (www.nmis.hants.sch.uk) in New Milton, Hampshire, is a lively, energetic and very much child centred infants' school of approximately 280 children aged 4–7. They have a shiny red, wonderfully illustrated, double decker bus as their new school library and everybody knows it! It proudly sits in the school playground and we judges thought it excellent and clearly the children and staff do too!  'A few other schools have done it, so why not New Milton,' was the thought of Kate Stanton, the Head Teacher. 

New Milton Infants LibraryWith space at a premium, a drive to promote reading across the school starting, a new library was clearly needed (and a space for support work too) so a redundant double decker bus was just the solution. The staff loved the idea. Driven onto the school site, decommissioned and put in its current resting place over two years ago now, Kate and her team quickly set to work on their new asset - planning and creating their new school library. 'We designed every inch of the refurbished interior ourselves and sourced the bright striped materials and furniture to give us the vibrant child-friendly library we wanted'. With a constant stream of ideas and support from all around them, advice from Hampshire Schools Library Service, with In Cube shelving – fiction books on the top deck with room for class and group activities and information books on the lower deck, Kate, Mary, Caroline and the other staff, parents, governors and volunteers set about creating an exciting space for reading, storytelling and general book activities. Completed within 11 months, the children were constantly updated on its progress and invited to contribute ideas to the design and the eye catching illustrations of book characters, quotes etc on the exterior.

With the added bonus of access to Wi-Fi the children can use iPads and laptops over there. A library management system has also been installed, soon to be self-service. Kate told us that the bus had made a real difference to reading interest and levels in the school, becoming a talking point in the community and a selling point for prospective parents and staff. The children with whom we spoke obviously love it too and feel energised by using it, not only in their regular weekly class times but also before and after school every day of the week. It also features nicely on the school website. Without doubt it has been a brilliant piece of work and will continue to interest and inspire the school and its children in books, reading and the school libraries for a long time to come.