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Background to the SLYA

The Award


The School Librarian of the Year Award is the SLA's prestigious honour to recognize the excellent work that is carried out in school libraries every day, and to highlight the best current practice of those whose work is outstanding.

The School Librarian of the Year Award was proposed in 2003 by Aidan Chambers, who was the President of the School Library Association at that time. It was intended to be an award for excellent practice and to be given annually 'in recognition of outstanding and exemplary work by a school librarian... whose work may be within the conventional bounds of library and information resource centres or be in unconventional areas.' (Aidan Chambers' initial proposal, October 2003)

It was very important that all sectors of education should be eligible for the award so it was open from its inception to primary, secondary, and special school staff and would also include those working with students aged 16-18. The nominations could come from anyone working in a school library from 'an innovative chartered librarian in charge of a highly developed secondary school library... to someone working with limited resources in ways that demonstrate what can be achieved in nursery schools.' (Aidan Chambers' initial proposal, October 2003)

The Award was to be open to all working in school libraries including those who were not members of the SLA.


Nominations are invited from colleagues, headteachers, pupils, governors and anyone with an interest in school librarianship. Nomination forms and guidance notes are available on the SLA website.

Nominees do not need to be members of the SLA, and may be from any phase of education.


The nomination form for SLYA was developed to make the selection process as straightforward as possible and to make it possible to compare nominations from so many people with such different backgrounds.

When the nomination forms reach the SLA office in Swindon they are opened by the office staff and all trace of identity is removed from the form so that each nomination is anonymous when seen by the SLYA panel at the first selection meeting. It is so critical that the forms truly reflect what the librarian achieves that to help with its completion guidelines are provided.

At the first selection meeting the forms are discussed and a long list is compiled. All who fail to go through to the next round are contacted and told what needs to be added to their nomination form for it to be successful in following years - some truly amazing librarians are unsuccessful at this stage because the forms do not reflect the true extent of their achievements!

Once the long list is agreed the SLA office staff contact the librarians to ask for a range of paperwork to support their nomination. The paperwork should contain examples of policy documents, lesson plans, self-evaluation and anything else that shows that the essential foundations for the library are in place. A questionnaire is also sent to aid the judging panel in their selection of the short list and includes:

  • The general background of the school and catchment area

  • The library environment including stock, LMS, use of the library and presence on the website or VLE

  • Nominee's career including formal qualifications

  • Nominees' access to CPD and which courses they have attended - this is given a very high priority in the selection process

  • Support for the nominee within the school and from SMT

  • When and how information skills are delivered

  • Reading promotion

  • Induction of staff and pupils

  • Evidence of the impact the library/librarian has on pupil achievement - this is given a very high priority in the selection process

The second selection meeting looks at these documents in detail and uses them to select the final short list who will all be visited by at least two members of the panel. The panel aim for a short list of approximately six or seven as funds for the visits and judges’ time are limited.

The visits take place over a period of approximately two months. At least two panel members attend for each visit and, if possible, one member of the panel goes on every visit to provide continuity.

After the round of visits, reports are prepared for each nominee and shared with the other members of the panel prior to a final selection meeting where all the candidates are discussed at length and there is an opportunity to add personal comments to the reports.

From the shortlisted nominees visited an Honour list of three or four is selected and the final winner is also chosen.

Guidance for visits to shortlisted candidates

If you are fortunate enough to be selected to be on the shortlist for this year's SLYA you will be visited by two of the four SLYA judges. The following guidance may be helpful - and may make you feel less nervous about the process!

Visit Procedures

Word document, 18 kB (Requires Microsoft Word 2007 or later)


The School Librarian of the Year Award is run entirely on sponsorship kindly donated by friends and supporters of the award. No money is taken from the SLA budget so all staff time, the cost of the visits, prizes for the winners and the final ceremony must be covered by the sponsors' donations.