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Meet the Shortlist – Graham Fairweather

Scotland's library and Information Professional of the Year Shortlist. Graham Fairweather, 2023. CILIPS blue and grey logo. White paper background with mixed blue confetti around the outside.

Graham Fairweather, Senior Librarian at the High School of Glasgow. 

Graham’s engagement is primarily within the school, education and charity sectors where he is known for being passionate about diversity in literature and the role reading has in forming empathy skills in young people. He is thrilled to be a member of a working group for EmpathyLab, where he has had input and provided feedback into the design of resource materials for primary and secondary schools, and he has advised on strategies and avenues to engage more schools and libraries within Scotland with Empathy Day and the Read for Empathy Collection. Similarly, Graham has developed strong links with the School Communities team at the Scottish Book Trust, for whom he has provided feedback on learning materials. He has also collaborated on the production of resources for schools and libraries, as well as with filming and content for their FMRC programme.

Graham holds a positive reputation for his public speaking and enthusiasm and has presented at numerous national and UK-wide events and CLPL sessions for Scottish Book Trust and Empathy Lab. As well as presenting for SLIC, speaking at CILIPS22 and for the South West Education Improvement Collective. He has spoken on a wide variety of themes and topics (e.g. creating a whole school reading culture, curating diverse and anti-racist library collections, school library-centred transition projects and reading for empathy) but a central theme is always showcasing the positive impact that libraries and library staff can have in our schools and wider communities. Graham has also mentored postgraduate placement students with an interest in the school library sector from the library courses at both Strathclyde and Robert Gordon Universities (virtual and in person projects). Students work on projects that will have genuine benefit to our libraries (contributing to ongoing SLIF projects) and get the opportunity to visit and experience life in his school library.

Graham has designed and project managed two large SLIF projects. He leads the team that launched the Read Woke programme across all South Ayrshire secondary schools, and then the ambitious expansion to primary schools. Read Woke is having positive impact within schools, with changes in student behaviours and engagement with social justice issues reported. They have showcased across the authority what libraries offer, overhauled collections, worked with authors, fostered key partnerships across the industry, and have created a programme that will form a core part of reading for pleasure in South Ayrshire for future years. Having created bespoke Read Woke websites, Graham is committed to making all resources freely available to all other schools. He continues to manage these projects voluntarily despite having moved authority because he fully believes in the goals.

Graham’s work in creating innovative approaches to reading for pleasure was recognised by winning the First Minister’s Reading Challenge with Prestwick Academy in 2022, where he also designed a library-based H&W course that taught information and digital literacy skills that students then used to research H&W topics. Upon leaving South Ayrshire he was also recognised at Annbank Primary School for his impact on reading engagement by having a student reading award created and named after him (yes, he cried).

Having only been in his new role at the High School of Glasgow since August, Graham has been praised by students, teachers and senior management for creating a popular and thriving library that now reaches capacity every day. Also taking time to modernise the library environment and stock significantly, making it a safer and more welcoming space – particularly for neurodivergent students. After being approached by students, Graham now leads the schools LGBT groups (student and staff), whilst also being a member of the Rights Respecting Schools committee and running numerous clubs.

Generous with his time and alongside managing Read Woke voluntarily, Graham never turns down requests to speak or share best practice and ideas. He believes our professional community works best when we proactively collaborate and share resources and ideas freely with colleagues. Currently, he is creating a secondary level programme to explore the rights of children through books. Also, he is working with Scottish Book Trust to make this a widely and freely available resource to aid schools to use books to embed the values of the UNCRC and to put school libraries at the heart of Rights Respecting Schools journeys.

Along with sitting on a working group, Graham has joined the EmpathyLab team as a judge for the Read for Empathy Collection (2024) and is supporting EmpathyLab in promoting their resources to Scottish libraries and schools. He has also become a trusted early reader for several authors in the past year, the highlight of which was making editing suggestions included in a 2022 World Book Day book. He also hosted Nicola Sturgeon at Prestwick Academy library in June. Recorded in front of the national press, Graham led a conversation focussing on the benefits of reading and showcased the impact of SLIF funding on our libraries to benefit our community. Given this was likely the only chance he would ever have to steer a conversation with the First Minister in front of the press, he highlighted the importance of school and public libraries, as well as the value of external agencies including Scottish Book Trust, CILIPS and SLIC.

Graham is also in the early development stage starting a non-profit company “KidLit Glasgow” which will focus on representation and children’s literacy engagement in Glasgow communities. The dream is to create another avenue to support and inspire families to join our wider community of readers.

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