Moray school librarian only Scottish finalist in UK contest

Mrs Toonen with academy pupils Rhona Sword, Megan Sutherland and Kayleigh Young

A MORAY LIBRARIAN has been selected as the only Scottish finalist for recognition as the UK’s School Librarian of the Year.

Librarian at Elgin Academy for the last five years, Shelagh Toonen is one of five finalists for the honour. It comes after 25 years of service in Moray with the first 20 of those spent as the librarian at Buckie High School.

Nomination for the award came from Mrs Toonen’s colleagues at Moray’s seven other secondary schools – and marks Moray’s relatively unique position of having a qualified librarian in each of its secondary schools.

Mrs Toonen said of her nomination: “I feel honoured and privileged that my school library colleagues felt they could nominate me, it is very humbling.

“We work as a group and I believe the work we do can help with literacy and attainment.

“All the staff are so supportive, they see the library as a dynamic and diverse centre within the school. The whole school values it and uses it really well.”

Her role included giving a presentation last month to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney, when he called at Elgin Academy during a visit to the region.

Although she is the only member of staff in the school library, she gets tremendous support from staff and from senior pupils, many of whom act as volunteers and help younger pupils with their reading skills.

A panel of judges from the School Library Association will visit the academy for a full day next month to meet Mrs Toonen and witness some of the activities which she has developed across different stages of the school.

Head teacher David Barnett described Mrs Toonen as an “inspirational member of staff” whose enthusiasm and commitment guaranteed a wide range of engaging experiences for young people in the school.

He said: “Shelagh has ensured that the library is central to the school’s work and the impact that she has had on literacy cannot be underestimated.”