University librarian scoops top national award for student support

A University of Cumbria librarian has scooped the national Information Literacy Practitioner of the Year Award.

The award presented to Kim McGowan at the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference in Manchester.

Kim is an academic librarian at the university’s Lancaster campus and is the first woman ever to win this long-established and prestigious award.

The judges praised her innovative projects, her provision of superb student support and her sheer enthusiasm and commitment to her role.

Kim has been working as an academic librarian for ten years. She said: “I suppose the term ‘information literacy’ may not be familiar to many people.

Librarians once controlled access to information. Now that anyone can publish their ideas on the internet, a large part of the academic librarian’s role is to give students the skills and confidence to interrogate information effectively before they use it.

“Once entrenched, information literacy skills are transferable which means that our manager, teacher and health professional graduates continue to use that critical expertise throughout their professional careers.”

Kim herself did not follow the traditional route into higher education, returning to study as a ‘mature and very scared’ undergraduate after bringing up her family.

She added: “I feel I was nominated mainly for doggedly trying to be the kind, practical, approachable academic librarian that I wish I’d met when I started university in 1998.

“I now realise that non-traditional students don’t have the monopoly on feeling overwhelmed when they start university, and that what would have been good for me when I felt so lost in 1998 is good for plenty of 18-year-olds today.”

In Kim’s nomination for the award, her line manager James Fraser wrote: “Kim has overcome potential barriers to her own education such as dyslexia, and also coming back to education having had many years out as a mother. These struggles have made her all the more determined.”