Kingston librarian who engages young readers using iPads and Facebook nominated in School Librarian of the Year Awards

A Kingston school librarian has been shortlisted for the most prestigious award in her profession after engaging students through reading e-books.

Helen Cleaves, 36, who works at Kingston Grammar School, was shortlisted for the School Librarian of the Year Award for her innovative ideas that got pupils more involved with the library through ebooks, Kindles and iPads.

The ceremony will be held on Monday by the School Library Association and she hopes she challenged her profession’s usual dusty stereotype due to her digital methods.

“I hope to give pupils memorable experiences, to surprise and delight, and nurture lifelong readers as a result,” she explained.

Ms Cleaves put together numerous activities such as the annual competition of creating a book trailer on iPads or generating a Facebook profile for one of their favourite book characters.

She also held inter-school debates via Skype, and introduced the Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner app where players are given clues in a virtual dining table and have to guess which literary character will be attending.

She explained that she finds working with children inspiring, entertaining and unpredictable.

“No two days are the same and young people rarely fail to surprise,” she said. “It’s the unexpected ‘magic moments’ that make the job so rewarding.”

Even though she has brought plenty of technology into the school library the fundamentals have not changed as she encourages the students to research properly as well as to read a varied range of materials.

Despite focusing on the digital aspect, she said that that print media texts are now more alive than ever.

She said: “In my experience keen readers will read on anything, possibly preferring print because you can’t beat the tactile experience of a printed book.”

Ms Cleaves got a masters degree in librarianship at University College London and had a part-time job at the iconic London Library where Jeremy Paxman and Vanessa Redgrave were regulars.

She joined Kingston Grammar School two years ago and is looking to work with pupils to create book-based apps and involve people of all ages to the school’s literary festival after her maternity leave.

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