Termly themes: a year in the school library

Angie Morris
Head of Information Services
Redeemer Lutheran College

The library as a space is a complex idea. It serves as a learning space, a research space, a social space, an innovative space, and a flexible space (Chan & Spodick, 2014) — especially in a school context, where the library is viewed as a place to extend the curriculum. In addition, the teacher librarians who have redefined their libraries in recent years to remain relevant to their clientele can testify to the importance of creating a cultural space as well. This is not a new idea; concerts have been held in the Library of Congress since 1925 (Brown 2014, p. 391).

To ensure my senior school student clientele did not completely miss the benefits of enjoying the library as a fun place to be, I pulled the idea of themes from my 28-year experience as a primary teacher. I sought meaningful ways to link ideas together and to provide a structure to organise displays and activities in the library. I trialled this in 2016 with some success. In collaboration with our library staff and teacher librarians in the OZTL_NET community, we decided on four themes — one per term.


This theme was a great way to start the year. We placed a display in front of the library, which included ways to connect in the library: with staff, with information, with each other. We encouraged students to contribute to a large paper chain art installation which dangled from the railings of the mezzanine floor. At times, the senior school can be disjointed — in different subjects, different sporting groups, different cultural and music groups — so we publicised it to the community as a way to illustrate how we all connect together. Students were keen contributors with home group classes and other groups participating. Some students made an art form in the way the paper chains were connected. It was a fulfilling community bonding project.

To coincide with the theme ‘Connect’, staff and students contributed to the paper chains, illustrating how everyone is connected.

I purchased a large outline jigsaw puzzle, allowing students to put it together and then colour the pieces. This also proved to be a special device for bringing students and staff together from different year levels, who contributed piece by piece to the puzzle over a period of several weeks.


The Create Gallery showcased original works by staff members in the school.

The ongoing art installation of paper chains gave an inspiring backdrop to hold a ‘Create Gallery’ in the library in Term 2. We invited all staff — both academic and support — to contribute items they created, from craft to paintings. We set up the display like an art gallery, with information regarding each piece. It was a wonderful way to demonstrate lifelong learning to students: that learning does not cease when school finishes. It also showed that talent can come from surprising sources, such as the teacher who no one knew painted, or the cleaning staff who knitted unique jumpers.

A maker station was placed to allow an opportunity for students to create corner bookmarks. We provided raw materials with some display examples. Students were very creative in their designs and often left them for others to emulate as examples, thereby ensuring the learning was passed on.


This theme became a great anchor for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Week activities during the term. A library staff member teased out the Australia: Story Country idea and put together a ‘Fiction race around Australia’ to coincide with the 2016 theme. We have a great multimedia space in the library and used this for Movie Weeks twice during the term, showing the movie on the big screen coupled with a display about the book series or author.

In addition to all this, we held a Publisher’s Display Day where we invited publisher representatives and book suppliers to set up in the library for the day. Both staff and students were then allowed to select resources from the displays to add to the collection. It was a great way for teachers to see what new resources were available and for students to have a greater say in the fiction book selection. This was a profitable partnership for all parties.


We had the best intention to utilise ideas that built on STEM concepts, such as competitions like The Marshmallow Tower Challenge and a Lego competition. We also intended to focus on group activities. A combination of a shorter term, heavy assessment time, and a total refurbishment of the main floor of the library stymied our efforts and we literally ran out of time.

Sharing ideas

When critically evaluating our efforts with themes in 2016, I considered using different theme titles moving into 2017, and again sought ideas and advice from teacher librarian network OZTL_NET. I had many responses for ideas, but in the end, we decided as a staff to keep the same four themes in 2017 to consolidate our efforts and expand the ideas. This was only our first year and we will only improve and grow our efforts over time.

These ideas would not have been possible except for the contributions from many experienced teacher librarians who willingly shared their thoughts and ideas. Idea sharing is invaluable for both the new teacher librarian, such as myself, and the experienced teacher librarian, who is interested in trying new things. Just like the concerts held in the Library of Congress, the concept of themes is not new, either. Many teacher librarians have been using such ideas, particularly in primary libraries, for a while.

It is important to recognise that as we establish cultural space in our libraries, we can gather ideas from many other sources and create a new approach to an old idea, putting it into practice in our own unique situations. Try something new, even if you don’t think it will succeed. The response from the clientele can be surprising.

The Create Gallery helped students see that lifelong learning does not end after school.


Brown, CM 2014, ‘Concerts and dances in a library? An undergraduate library as campus cultural space’, College & Research Libraries News, vol. 75, no. 7, pp. 387-391.

Chan, DLH & Spodick, E 2014, ‘Space development’, New Library World, vol. 115, no. 5, pp. 250-262.

Do you have any ideas for themes in school libraries? We'd love to hear about them in the comment section below.

You can also contact Angie at amorris@redeemer.com.au.

Collector, curator or collaborator?: Suggested PLNs for school library staff

In SCIS's Term 1 issue of Connections, Jennie Bales, adjunct lecturer at Charles Sturt University, wrote an article about the collaborative nature of school library professionals. 

With her article, Jennie curated a list of social networking sites for readers to add to their personal learning network. 'These include some personal favourites and represent a balance of different foci and curators: professional associations, corporate services, teacher librarians, and leaders in the information services field', Jennie explains.

Blogs & Websites

Bright ideas
Bright ideas is maintained by School Library Association of Victoria & State Library of Victoria. The page includes general coverage across multiple aspects of library services, technology and pedagogy. Members can contribute and comment.

Services to schools: create readers
Maintained by the National Library of New Zealand’s Services to Schools, this blog includes content across various aspects of library services, with a strong focus on literature and resource sharing. Members can contribute and comment.

AHS makerspace
AHS makerspace is a school library site maintained by Anne Weaver, with a focus on makerspaces and examples of library practices.

This blog is maintained by Jackie Child, a practitioner with a passion for makerspaces and hands-on learning.

Bib 2.0: Technology and the indispensable librarian
Bib 2.0 is maintained by teacher librarian Jeri Hurd. It has a strong focus on ICT in education, including information on applications, library programs, pedagogy, design and makerspaces.

Children’s books daily
Megan Daley shares her passion for literature with engaging book reviews, plus other matters.

The Book Chook
Susan Stephenson’s website The Book Chook shares a myriad of ideas on children’s literature and reading.

Linking Learning
Linking Learning is maintained by Kay Oddone, practitioner on library matters and PLNs. Very useful for ongoing discussion about PLNs, their value and their theoretical underpinnings.

Heyjude: Learning in an online world
Judy O’Connell shares information on technology, pedagogy and everything online.

The blue skunk blog
A US-based blog maintained by Doug Johnson, a presenter, author and long-serving leader in the field. Doug focuses on technology, pedagogy, and issues he believes the profession needs to face.


Australian Teacher Librarian Network
OZTL_NET’s Facebook page includes general coverage relating to libraries, technology, research, resources and reading.

What a difference a school library makes
Karen Bonanno shares cutting-edge content on all things library related.

Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Online
ASLA on school libraries, education and literature.

Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)
SCIS shares various posts relating to school libraries, information services, and SCIS services.

Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) www.facebook.com/acer.edu.au
An excellent source for recent educational research and for providing support to the leadership team.

Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA)
The CBCA shares the latest on children’s literature, including reviews. You can also check if your state or territory has a branch Facebook page to keep up with literary events.

Eduwebinar covers the latest developments in the education arena, including technology, pedagogy and leadership, as well as free and paid professional development.

The King’s School Senior Library www.facebook.com/TheKingsSchoolSeniorLibrary
The King’s School Senior Library’s Facebook page has a strong focus on literature and writing for young adults.

Curation sites

K–12 School libraries
Susan Grisby scoops content of interest to F–12 school librarians, including new technologies, social media, curation, research, educational apps, and more.

Bookmarking librarian
Sarah Betteridge scoops on 21st-century school libraries, Australian Curriculum, makerspaces and educational technology.

Karen Bonanno
Scoop topics include school library advocacy, web tools, inquiry learning, curriculum resources and educational makerspaces.

JB’s Learning links
Jennie Bales’s diigo social bookmarking site on educational matters, including curriculum, pedagogy, literature, literacy, research and technology.

This Diigo social bookmarking collection includes contributions from a group of teacher librarians.

Are there any blogs, websites, or social media accounts that you would add to this list? Please share them in the comments below. To view Jennie's article in Connections, please follow this link.

Highlights of Connections 99


Here are the highlights from the latest issue of Connections, which is now available online. To download a PDF of the latest issue, please select this link.

It’s time: let’s improve schools’ perceptions of teacher librarians
Bev Novak recommends ways to encourage staff and students to make the most of teacher librarian skill sets.

Stopping the slide: improving reading rates in the middle school
After noticing a drop in borrowing rates as students entered the middle school, Narelle Keen gathered data and conducted student interviews to understand why. Narelle proposes recommendations to improve borrowing rates.

School libraries supporting literacy
Steph Ellis, librarian at Napier Boys’ High School, shares a range of library programs to promote a reading culture and increase literacy skills in schools.

An inquiry-based approach to exploring Australian history
Author Deborah Abela researched her family’s history and Maltese migrant history before writing her novel, Teresa: A New Australian. Deborah’s process can assist students undertaking historical inquiry.

School library spotlight: Melbourne High School
SCIS talks to Pam Saunders, Head of Library at Melbourne High School, about what’s happening in MHS’s library, including library programs and promotion.

The lowdown on authority files
Cataloguing librarian Doreen Sullivan explains how authority files containing name and subject authorities link relevant content within catalogues to optimise users’ search experiences.

SCIS is more
SCIS Manager Ben Chadwick introduces changes to the SCISWeb Licence Agreement, which will help to clearly identify the provenance of SCIS records.

Supporting Australian book creators
Morris Gleitzman discusses one of the simple pleasures of visiting school libraries: finding tattered, much-read copies of his own work. The ELR initiative makes it possible for authors such as Morris to continue producing books like these, while providing free access in libraries.

We welcome any feedback you may have about this issue, or any ideas you have for future Connections articles. Please email connections@esa.edu.au.

Happy reading!


A Preference For Genre

Traditionally, library fiction collections have been organised by author surnames, though many libraries are now ‘genrefying’ their collections, following a model reminiscent of bookstores. This may be through genre stickers on book spines, the physical arrangement of the collection, or both, and means that students are able to browse within their preferred genres.

We are pleased to announce that SCISWeb profile settings have been updated to include genre preferences, which will determine the placement of the genre headings in MARC records downloaded from the SCIS orders page.

Genre headings have historically been included in the ‘Topical Term’ field (MARC 650), grouped with other SCISSHL and ScOT terms. The new update provides the option to have genre headings classified separately, in the ‘Genre/Form’ field (MARC 655). This means your library management system will register these as specific genres, and will enable your catalogue users to search and browse via these headings.

How to update genre preferences

To modify your genre preferences, access your profile page via SCISWeb, and select the ‘Advanced options’ tab.

Here, you have the option to keep genre headings in the 650 field, or select the ‘Genre/Form’ heading 655.

Please note that changes made to your SCISWeb Profile will not affect SCIS records imported directly into your library management system via Z39.50. That means genre headings will remain in the 650 ‘Topical Term’ field in all records downloaded from within your LMS.

Want to read more about genre shelving?

The National Library of New Zealand’s Services to Schools have put together a great resource for school library staff interested in genrefying their fiction collection.

If you have any questions about this update, please send an email to scisinfo@esa.edu.au.

What’s happening in your school library?


We recently mailed out Connections 97 to schools in Australia. In this issue, we included an article by Chris Harte about St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School which has received great feedback. The article showcases the wonderful things librarians Jackie and Megan are doing in their makerspace, and provides tips for people eager to follow in their footsteps.

Following the interest in this article, we’re reaching out to all of you to see if you are doing exciting and innovative things in your library that you would be willing to share with our readers. This will be a great way to share what’s happening in Australian and New Zealand school libraries and inspire others.

If you have a story to share that may be of benefit to the wider school library community – whether it’s organising your library’s collections in an exciting way, doing innovative things to engage students with their learning, or doing interesting things to promote literacy, STEM subjects, or your library itself – we’d love to hear about it.

Please don’t hesitate to send us an email at connections@esa.edu.au if you’re interested in writing an article for Connections.

SCIS cataloguing standards update: Dewey or don’t we?

There has been some discussion at SCIS about how schools treat picture books that rhyme. It has been SCIS practice to classify stories in rhyme picture books as poetry, with each book allocated a Dewey Decimal number. However, feedback in workshops and surveys indicate that this did not reflect the preferred classification in schools.

The Information Services Standards Committee (ISSC) meets regularly to discuss and make revisions to the SCIS Standards for Cataloguing and Data Entry, and this issue was recently discussed during a teleconference with the committee. The decision was made on behalf of the ISSC to classify stories in rhyme picture books as fiction, intending to make browsing easier for students and staff in schools. This will also save you the time spent changing the classifications manually.

If you have any questions about this update, please contact scisinfo@esa.edu.au.

We are interested in learning more about how you manage resources so that our standards continue to reflect schools’ needs

We want to make sure our catalogue records continue to meet the needs of our subscribers. Can you spare ten minutes to complete this survey so we can understand how resources are being managed in school libraries?

All survey respondents will go in the draw to win a $250 book card.

Digital resources to use on Harmony Day

Harmony Day is celebrated on 21 March, coinciding with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and following Victoria’s Cultural Diversity Week (12–20 March).

We have created catalogue records for the following digital resources:

Harmony Day : recipes for harmony [website], by the Australian Department of Social Services (SCIS no 1753238)

This website provides information about Harmony Day 2016 and information about the multicultural make up of Australian society. It also provides news feeds, access to free resources, and ideas about how to celebrate the day. Included is access to ‘Recipes for Harmony’, an online resource featuring recipes, cultural profiles and personal stories from every-day and high profile Australians. It also includes a teacher resource to accompany ‘Recipes for Harmony’, which provides example lesson plans, work sheets, ice breakers, and other classroom activities.

Y challenge : celebrating diversity [website], by the Australian Red Cross (SCIS no 1753460)

The Y program encourages young people to explore and celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity. It also helps them develop projects that promote fairness, respect for one another, participation and a sense of belonging among their school and local communities.The program is divided into three sections (Description based on online preview). The program is divided into three sections: Explore, Inspire, and Take action.

Harmony Day Stories (SCIS no 1753463)

Experience three stories that are part Australia’s past, present and future – Renata, Kofi and Anh. Download the Harmony Day Stories app today to watch each stories come to life with augmented reality, a cool new interactive experience (Taken from the app’s description). Available from both Apple and Google stores.

Share our pride, by Reconciliation Australia (SCIS no 1753479)

Developed by Reconciliation Australia, this website introduces its readers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cultures, and perspectives. ‘Share our pride’ was designed to raise awareness and break down cultural myths and barriers in order to build respectful relationships.

Roads to refuge, by the Australian Red Cross (SCIS no 1696317)

Roads to Refuge is designed to give students, teachers and the community access to relevant, factual and current information about refugees (Taken from website).

To find more resources celebrating cultural diversity on SCIS OPAC, you can ‘Browse by subject‘ using a range of different subject headings, such as: Harmony Day (Australia); Cultural diversity; Multiculturalism; or Cultural enrichment.  You can also check out the carousel on our homepage, featuring books that promote a variety of multicultural perspectives.

If you use any other websites or resources that celebrates cultural diversity and encourages cultural awareness, we’d love to hear about them. You can leave a comment here or send us a tweet at @schoolscatinfo.

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day (Tuesday 9 February) is an annual, international day promoting safe and responsible use of the internet, particularly aimed at children and young adults.

As students are well and truly immersed in the digital age, it is important for them to be able to navigate the vast landscape of the online environment, and use the internet in a way that does not cause harm to themselves or others. The internet is filled with endless opportunities for learning, discovery and social interaction; Safer Internet Day reminds us that it also needs to be approached with a sense of responsibility and with some degree of caution.

Digital citizenship can be found in the Australian Curriculum in the Digital Technologies learning area, as well as across multiple general capabilities, including Information and Communication Technology, Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capability, and Ethical Understanding.

Below is a list of websites (and one book) that can be used to encourage safer internet use and ensure students wear their digital citizenship badges responsibly:

Cybersmart detectives by the Australian Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner (SCIS no 1749917)

Cybersmart Detectives is an interactive website suitable for Year 4 students. It offers a half-hour class activity that asks students to take on the role of the Cybersmart Detective, where they must find clues and answer questions, demonstrating that certain actions made in the online environment can have negative repercussions.

Digital citizenship in schools: nine elements all students should know by Mike Ribble (SCIS no 1739384)

Produced by the International Society for Technology in Education, this book examines issues concerning information literacy, digital citizenship, and social aspects, and safety measures of using the internet. The book discusses how both teachers and students can become informed, responsible internet users.

CyberSense and nonsense : the second adventure of the three CyberPigs by the Media Awareness Network (SCIS no 1746691)

CyberSense and Nonsense teaches young people about netiquette, as well as the information and critical literacy skills necessary to distinguish fact and opinion, including those that contain bias and harmful stereotypes. The website also offers information about encouraging ethical online behaviour, how to be an effective searcher, as well as teaching guides for parents and teachers.

eSmart Digital licence by The Alannah and Madeline Foundation (SCIS no 1722072)

The eSmart Digital Licence is a website developed by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation suitable for children aged 10+. It uses an interactive quiz that includes videos and games with eight learning modules to evaluate students’ understanding of digital safety, and teaches the skills required to learn, socialise and play online in a safe and responsible manner.

Posti network by Arts Centre Melbourne (SCIS no 1566388)

Developed by the Arts Centre Melbourne, with the support of the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, this website aims to help upper-primary school students understand the implications of occupying digital spaces, especially in regards to social media use. It is also designed to teach young users about their roles and responsibilities as ‘digital citizens’.

You can also check out Kay Oddone’s article in the latest issue of Connections, ‘Information and critical literacy on the web’, which is an abridged version of a series of blog posts she has written about information and critical literacy in online spaces. Her original blog series can be found here.

Do you use any other resources to teach students to become responsible digital citizens? Let us know in the comment section below, or send us a tweet at @schoolscatinfo.

Happy and safe internetting!

SCIS is heading to NZ in March

It’s been five months since SCIS was last in NZ, and we’re getting ready to come back.

We’re hosting professional learning workshops in Auckland (15 March), Wellington (18 March) and Christchurch (21 March). These workshops – hosted by SCIS Manager Ben Chadwick and Director of Metadata and Library Services Rachel Elliott – are suitable for SCIS subscribers and non-subscribers, and are a great way to learn how to make the most of SCIS while catching up with other school library staff.

Not a subscriber? If you would like to check out what SCIS offers before heading to one of our open workshops, register for a free trial. You can browse through the SCIS catalogue, download records in SCISWeb, and check out how we can assist with your resource management and collection development. We’d love to have a chat and answer any questions at the workshop.

At each location, we will host two workshops: a free one-hour information session, as well as a three-hour workshop aimed for subscribers, Making the Most of SCIS. Places are limited for all sessions, so register here to secure your spot.

  • Making the Most of SCIS workshop ($55.00AUD)
    These workshops are open to all school library staff. The workshop offers an in-depth understanding of how SCIS can assist to provide a more effective library service for school libraries. Participants will enhance their understanding of SCIS as a database of consistent catalogue records for educational resources, created to international standards.This workshop includes materials and light catering.
  • SCIS Information Session (FREE)
    In each location, we are also hosting a one-hour session for non-subscribers who wish to know more about SCIS and the services we provide.

To register for our NZ workshops, click here.

For more information about our professional learning sessions, including our upcoming webinar series that will begin 16 February, click here.

If you have any questions, pop them in an email to our customer service team at scisinfo@esa.edu.au.

We hope to see you while we’re in New Zealand.

Australia Day ’16

With Australia Day just around the corner, we have compiled a list of Australiana resources including non-fiction, fiction and picture books, as well as other useful teaching resources such as interactive websites and DVDs.

CC BY 2.0  James Cridland https://flic.kr/p/3sWhGWAustralia Day marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, but it also presents us with the opportunity to reflect on our history, culture and people. This year, to commemorate Australia Day, we have included a variety of resources that look at these aspects of our country. It provides a small snippet from a wide array of resources that are available to be shared with students for Australia Day. For more resources, use the SCIS catalogue to browse by subject, using subject headings such as ‘Australia Day’, ‘Australian history’, ‘Australiana’, or ‘Australian stories’.

You can also check out our Australia Day blog post from last year for a list of resources that look at the clash between European settlers and the Aboriginal peoples.

What’s Australia Day All About? [Online video] (SCIS no 1748373)
A short video suitable for primary school students, What’s Australia Day All About looks at how people commemorate the national holiday, and different perspectives that are held about the day.  The video encourages interaction and reflection by concluding with a trivia question.

Aussie Clue Cracker [Website] (SCIS no 1748506)
Aussie Clue Cracker is an interactive online game encouraging students to learn more about unique Australian icons, symbols and events. Users are shown 12 images that contribute to our national culture, and are given 11 clues to guess the correct answer.

Australia Day : History [Website] (SCIS no 1748485)
This informative website developed by the Australia Day Council looks at the history of the national holiday, and how and why it has been both celebrated and challenged.

Our World : Bardi Jaawi : Life at Ardiyooloon by One Arm Point Remote Community School (SCIS no 1484264)
This vibrantly illustrated picture book, written by students of One Arm Point Remote Community School, is a great resource that invites the reader into their community, sharing the culture and traditions of the Bardi Jaawi people.

A Concise History of Australia by Stuart Macintyre (SCIS no 1741554)
This book provides a concise, accessible overview of Australian history from our early history to today, including our social, political and economic history.

True Blue? : On Being Australian edited by Peter Goldsworthy (SCIS no 1347615)
Suitable for senior school students, True Blue? exposes students to a range of perspectives on Australian identity, and will encourage readers to reflect on what it means to be Australian – or if there is a concrete definition at all.

Australians All : A History of Growing up, From the Ice Age to the Apology
by Nadia Wheatley, illustrations by Ken Searle (SCIS no 1731022)
Nadia Wheatley interweaves over 70 real-life stories into the book, mixing her own narrative with biographies and first-hand accounts from various Australians in time, including well-known individuals such as Eddie Mabo.

Samson and Delilah [DVD] by Warwick Thornton (SCIS no 1475514)
Directed by Indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton, Samson and Delilah looks at the lives of two teenagers growing up in a remote community in central Australia, and the struggles as they leave their community and head to Alice Springs.

Australian Backyard Explorer by Peter Macinnis (SCIS no 1420539)
Australian Backyard Explorer, winner of the 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia Children’s Book of the Year Award, tells the remarkable stories of individuals who explored the vast Australian landscape in the first 120 years of European settlement.

Australian Story : An Illustrated Timeline by Tania McCartney (SCIS no 1547510)
Australian Story places key moments in Australian history on a timeline, from the formation of our country and its flora and fauna to modern life in Australia. Filled with illustrations and images taken from the National Library of Australia’s digital collection, this is a striking visual account of Australian history.

The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip by Michael Sedunary (SCIS no 1698767)
This book tells the story of the friendship between Captain Arthur Phillip who led the First Fleet, and Bennelong, an Aboriginal man, despite coming from two very different worlds.

Why I Love Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft (SCIS no 1712314)
Bronwyn Bancroft visually celebrates the vast and diverse Australian landscape – both natural and man-made, expressing her deep feelings for the country.

Let us know your favourite books and resources to share with students for Australia Day – or books you love to read yourself.

Image: James Cridland (CC BY 2.0)