Maura Farrelly is the CKG Judge for YLG Northern Ireland
2017 was the year I turned 50. It could not have had a better start, with a new job as a School Librarian at Victoria College. I loved my previous job as part of the Special Collections & Archives team at QUB, but at heart I will always be a school librarian and this was too big an opportunity to miss: a school which caters not only for 11-18 year olds, but also has a Prep department and a nursery. Life, I thought, couldn’t get any better.
And then it did!
Having regarded CKG Judges as an elite breed of SuperLibrarian, a kind of hero; I admit that joining them was more than a little daunting, but excitement will always win over nerves and I’m so glad it did.
Just as I hit half a century, the CKG year took off with judges’ training and this was quickly followed by the arrival of parcels and piles of gorgeous books. Always a reader, all those years of practice were put to good use, as was an ability to ignore any commotion (and chores) to focus on the written and illustrated pages.
As with the best stories, things were definitely going too smoothly! Faced with reading 237 books, I do not recommend a broken wrist. While the extra time off work was definitely appreciated, it wasn’t so easy to hold a book, especially when trying to make notes at the same time. And as for typing them up…There may have been a few tears!
The judging meetings were intense and exhilarating and exhausting and adrenaline-fuelled, and that’s all I’ll say about those.
The most rewarding part of the year has undoubtedly been sharing the books with the pupils in school. Shadowing with the Book Club has been a lot of fun as the pupils have reacted so openly to the shortlisted books and they have been really keen to recommend them to friends, classmates and family. It has been fascinating to compare the reactions of the older girls to those in P2 or P3.
I especially enjoyed watching two year 8s reading one of the picture books together, every reaction and emotion showing on their faces as they turned the pages. Pure gold.