Dedicated Vanessa wins coveted national library award to the delight of staff and students

Dedicated Vanessa wins coveted national library award to the delight of staff and students

There were celebrations all round at New City College this week as library assistant Vanessa Munro was named as the winner of a prestigious national Professional of the Year Award.

The CoLRiC (Council for Learning Resources in Colleges) Jeff Cooper Inspirational Information Professional of the Year Award is presented to an individual, chosen from colleges all over the country, who has shown exceptional engagement with students and has had a positive impact on learning.

The judging panel chose Vanessa, who works at Havering Sixth Form, in Wingletye Lane, Hornchurch, as the winner because they were so impressed with:

  • Her creative and engaging transformation of the SEND library and learning spaces through art
  • Her excellent partnership and collaboration with teachers and students, evidenced by overwhelmingly positive feedback
  • Her commitment to literacy and the joy of reading, and
  • Her dedication, most notably by learning the unique language programme Makaton


She was presented with her award by Principal Janet Smith and Deputy Principal Phil Hall, below, who congratulated Vanessa on her wonderful achievement.

New City College library assistant named as winner of CoLRiC (Council for Learning Resources in Colleges) Jeff Cooper Inspirational Information Professional of the Year Award.

At the presentation was Elaine Brown, Vanessa’s manager, who had nominated her for the award. Elaine stated in her nomination: “Vanessa has created an amazing space for our SEND and Foundation Skills students. It initially started with a few bookshelves, but with her enthusiasm and innovative ideas, it has resulted in a full-sized library full of books, games and bird feeders.

“Vanessa has worked with curriculum colleagues and students to create wonderful artwork around the walls, so that the students truly feel that this is their space. She runs storytime and activity sessions within the library, as well as out and about in the curriculum. She knows all the students by name and her lunchtime club is a safe space for students needing some ‘time out’. She has even started learning Makaton to enable her to communicate with our students with high needs.”

Vanessa’s colleague Sally Nason, said: “Vanessa is popular with both staff and students. Many students choose to spend their free time with her and enjoy helping with displays and artwork. Vanessa is excellent in making students feel valued and confident.

“Nothing is too much trouble for her – she is committed, hard -working, funny and a positive role model. She has made the library the centre of the department, constantly researching new ideas and creating a stimulating and welcoming place. Vanessa has made a difference to many of our students’ college experience and is so worthy of this award.”

Audrey Stranders, Group Director of Learning Resources at New City College, who was also at the presentation said she was ‘delighted to share and celebrate Vanessa’s achievements’.

Vanessa commented: “I am so grateful to CoLRiC. It’s fantastic to receive recognition for the work I do with the students. I would like to thank my managers – Elaine Brown and Audrey Stranders – and all my colleagues for supporting me in the development of this focused learning resource service.

“Our aim is to provide a welcoming and inclusive space for our amazing students. Developing their capabilities and supporting their needs have always been our priority. I feel proud of what we have achieved.”

CoLRiC is an independent organisation that is the voice of Further Education and Sixth Form College Libraries and Learning Resource Services in the UK. It advocates and champions quality and exemplary practice across the educational sector, supporting staff to show the impact and value that they bring to teaching, learning and the student experience.

We caught up with Vanessa during her busy working day for a Q&A. Here’s what she had to say:

  • How did you become a Learning Resource Assistant?

    For many years I worked in the City, and after having children I had the opportunity to change careers and as I’ve always had a love for literature, and wanted to work with young people, so a Library/Learning Resource position was perfect for me.

  • Tell us a bit about the space you have created for Foundation Skills students at New City College

    Ideas that may work in a ‘traditional’ setting may not necessarily work here. We needed to consider wheelchair users and access issues, but more importantly that the area was bright, welcoming and engaging. The artwork was created by a student who was a fabulous artist.  Each year we plan to add more art and displays created by students. Recently we produced the ‘Tunnel’ display outside the library as we were inspired by the book of the same name, by Anthony Brown.  On hearing of Newcourt’s project, the author very kindly sent in a signed piece of his artwork to show his appreciation, which was wonderful.  The books we stock are also very student-led. We aim to provide anything the students request (within reason) with cookbooks, Marvel and buses being latest favourites!

  • What is your favourite part of the job? 

    Seeing the students developing in front of my very eyes – and this is often over several years.  The thought that I may have helped in some way towards that development is so rewarding. For example one of our students with severe autism does not like anything on our giant scrabble board, and for the past couple of years he will remove any letters from it if we put up any words. Last week he began to place words on there himself, one after another! He had to take them down at the end of the session – but its progress….  Also, a bitter-sweet part of the job, as all those who work in education will know, is seeing students leave the college and go into employment and out into the real world. That is very satisfying.

  • What has been the biggest challenge with running story time and activity sessions

    One week things may work, but the very same thing may not work the following week due to the nature of the students’ needs. Such outcomes are beyond your control. And that needs to be accepted. On the other hand a last-minute session is often arranged or extended to include a last-minute craft as everything is going so well. Adaptability and thinking on your feet is key.

  • Do you have anything else planned for the new year

    We would like to reintroduce work experience within the library for the students.  Also, we run a six-book challenge across the college’s libraries, and I will be promoting and relaunching the challenge at Newcourt in the new year. Finally, I hope to continue getting to know the students, go into classrooms and find out what they would like to make the Library more appealing to them.

New City College library assistant named as winner of CoLRiC (Council for Learning Resources in Colleges) Jeff Cooper Inspirational Information Professional of the Year Award.