The man with 10,000 resources wins School Librarian of the Year honour

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Librarian John Iona has made a huge impact on reading at the Enfield school where he works. He leads book clubs and homework clubs at Oasis Academy Enfield, organises author visits, runs library lessons for year 7 and 8 pupils and even finds time to creat

Librarian John Iona has made a huge impact on reading at the Enfield school where he works. He leads book clubs and homework clubs at Oasis Academy Enfield, organises author visits, runs library lessons for year 7 and 8 pupils and even finds time to create award-winning resources. 

He has pioneered an initiative called Reading Games, where youngsters earn points for writing book reviews and work their way towards prizes. He also ran a mystery summer reading challenge, where he sent teachers home with teenage novels wrapped up in brown paper, got them to write reviews and then asked them to pass the books on to their students.

Initiatives like these have now led to Mr Iona scooping the title of School Librarian of the Year 2013. He was one of two winners, with the other award going to Hilary Cantwell, the librarian at St Paul’s Community College in Waterford, Republic of Ireland

The pair received their awards from children’s writer Candy Gourlay at a special School Library Association ceremony in London last week.

Mr Iona, who also delivers his school’s Extended Project Qualification programme and plays a significant role in staff CPD and curriculum planning and support, has worked at Oasis for six years. 

After completing his MA in modern literature he initially planned to be an English teacher but realised that working as a school librarian and information manager would make the best use of his skills. When he started at Oasis the library consisted of a room with 500 books. The 1,300-pupil school now has 10,000 resources in its library. 

“Libraries are all about finding out and learning and wanting to explore,” said Mr Iona. “The children who love reading will always gravitate towards the library and want to borrow books. But there are some reluctant boy readers – and reluctant girls readers too – and I really like finding ways to engage them with reading.” 

When SecEd asked Mr Iona to recommend three books for secondary pupils he didn’t hesitate for a second. His choices were The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (which he himself studied for A level), A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, and Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. 

For more information on the School Librarian of the Year, visit www.sla.org.uk/slya

CAPTION: Best of the best: Hilary Cantwell, librarian at St Paul’s Community College in the Republic of Ireland and John Iona, librarian at Oasis Academy in Middlesex with author Candy Gourlay (centre)


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