Planning on renovating your library? Think again

Laura Fleming

Think your library needs a renovation? You might be right, but before spending unnecessary money on a major overhaul, you might want to think again. I receive inquiries all of the time from schools whose libraries are not used, and thought that renovating their space was going to do the trick. Oftentimes, even with a big referendum that allows for a state-of-the-art renovation, those spaces continue to be unused.

The solution to turning a library around is NOT a renovation. It is the culture.

Upon my arrival at New Milford High School, in New Jersey, I walked into a library that was unused and that was referred to by my principal at the time, Eric Sheninger, as a ‘barren wasteland’. We didn’t have the luxury of a big sum of money to renovate our space, so we were forced to think of other ways to change it. Those changes focused not on how the space looked, but on transforming the culture of the space.

Thanks to a few core changes, our space went from being completely irrelevant to our school community to what Eric described as a ‘thriving learning metropolis’.

Continue reading Planning on renovating your library? Think again

Mackay libraries unite for award-winning Anzac project

In 2016, the ANZAC 100 Mackay Remembers: Field of Poppies Project received the Queensland School Library Association's Brian Bahnisch Award. The facilitator of the project, Margaret Spillman, shares her story, and how the community worked together to commemorate the ongoing Anzac centenary in a meaningful way.

Margaret Spillman
Teacher librarian
Mackay West State School

During the lead-up to the Anzac Centenary I wondered how we as a school community might honour the memory of those who served. In particular, I wanted a way for our students to be actively involved, as the future of the Anzac traditions lies in the hands of our young people. I was inspired by the Sea of Poppies outside the Tower of London. While the poppy might commonly be used for Remembrance Day, I decided to use it for our project as well because it is such a strong visual symbol for all those who served.

My concept was that students would create a poppy using a red plastic plate. This would have a soldier’s name written across the front. It would be attached to a bamboo stake and ‘planted’ on the front lawn of the Mackay Regional Council building in the week before Anzac Day 2015.

Continue reading Mackay libraries unite for award-winning Anzac project

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.

Continue reading Termly themes: a year in the school library

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
http://slav.global2.vic.edu.au
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
http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/blogs/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
https://ahsmakerspace.wordpress.com/author/anneweaver
AHS makerspace is a school library site maintained by Anne Weaver, with a focus on makerspaces and examples of library practices.

TinkeringChild
http://tinkeringchild.com/travelling-with-a-makers-eye
This blog is maintained by Jackie Child, a practitioner with a passion for makerspaces and hands-on learning.

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

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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?&bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?&bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?&bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)
http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=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)

To My School Library, With Love

There is a government primary school I know that has its fiction and non-fiction resources distributed throughout its classrooms. These resources used to be all together in one small room, but that room was recently put to other uses. As far as I know, there is no catalogue or database to organise these resources. Perhaps there is a spreadsheet printed out on a pin-board somewhere. I suppose that situation can work if children are happy to browse, or know who to ask about where to find the specific topic or item they’re looking for.

When I went to primary school in Queensland in the 1980s, the library was most definitely a distinct ‘place’. I remember very little about most of my classrooms, but I have vivid memories of the library.

The library at Kenmore State School was a brick building, separated from the junior classrooms by an undercover concrete pathway whose cracks, I recall, were infested with girl germs. If you went too far, you got to the dusty staff car park (out-of-bounds!), and then the swimming pool. Lunchtimes often saw me playing ‘tiggy’ and ‘brandy’. Less often I was on the oval trying to play sports that required two ‘C’s that weren’t my strong points – competitiveness and co-ordination. On many lunch breaks I found myself in the library.

The librarian was as constant to that school as the steel pipe gate and bitumen assembly area (complete with yellow dots indicating foot positions for ‘Attention’ and ‘At ease’). I think her name was Mrs Fielding. The bulk of the library consisted of low shelves at about head height, with non-fiction works laid out in Dewey. Behind Mrs Fielding and our borrowing cards was an area of perhaps four square metres, where the junior fiction was placed on low shelves and in browseable tubs. A few beanbags were thrown around on the plush and vibrant carpets.

On the other side of the library were the tall shelves which enclosed the big-kid’s books. To me, this space had a private and arcane feel. As a younger kid I heard the snickering of older boys in there, and wondered what schemes they were cooking up. I once ventured in and picked a big-kid chapter book at random. It was on the second shelving unit to the right, third shelf from the bottom (I am seeing it as I type), and it was called Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. Flicking through the pictures, some combination of the book and the room gave me a distinct feeling, which I know today as being called ‘otherness’. There was something frightening, wonderful, and sacred about that book and that place in that moment. I still get a vestige of that feeling when I read it to my children.

I grew up to be one of those scheming boys. One of my favourite places to scheme with my gang (the ‘Super Sneaky Team’) was the library courtyard. The courtyard had a few timber-slat benches painted government-issue chocolate brown. Beside and amongst the brick paving there were a few shrubs and a paper-bark tree. There were broad-leaved vines growing over a high timber fence that was painted to compliment the benches. Our main – and perhaps, only – scheme was to wander past Mrs Fielding, and exit the sliding door into the courtyard where we would engage in some innocent banter to dispel suspicion. We’d do that for a prudent time, then slip off to the far corner, which was invisible from the Fielding vantage point, and scale the fence. After celebrating our super-sneakyness we’d wander off somewhere else. Perhaps the oval.

I wonder if the library still has that courtyard?

In about 1985, the library installed the first computer available for student use. It was something along the lines of the RadioShack TRS-80 MC-10. Mrs Fielding was very encouraging of me to use it, and I began to imagine she purchased it just for me. In a tiny corner near the back entrance to the senior fiction area, I learned to program in Basic, and to save my experiments on magnetic tape. I can easily imagine my life would be very different if Mrs Fielding hadn’t set me up with that machine in that little corner. I almost certainly wouldn’t be in this job, writing this article.

I regret to tell you that by the time of my final year at Kenmore State School the Super Sneaky Team had been disbanded for some years. We had creative differences about the role of sport at lunch-time, and I once fought Sandy in the mud for an hour in an attempt to resolve it. I’d landed in a new, geekier, crowd and we spent most lunch times playing role-playing games. In the library.

(My mum forbade me from playing those games – she said they were satanic, and they were the reason my friend Tom talked in his sleep when he came for sleepovers. But I was addicted, so I had to learn to be dishonest with her.)

I recall one day in particular. We’d pushed together two (brown) laminate trapezoid tables near the doors to the courtyard. I was waiting for my turn to create a character. I gazed over the heads of my friends to the high louvre windows on the far side of the library, where, despite the film of dust from the staff car park, I could see the sky, and the trees on the hill above the shopping centre. It was raining. I was aware of the cold and wet outside by virtue of comparison with the warmth and comfort inside the library. I was aware of hushed conversation, of kids moving calmly amongst the non-fiction shelves, of Mrs Fielding stamping somebody’s card. I’d forgotten my friends, and like my first venture into Moomin Valley, I was lost in my own tranquil place. That moment is my single strongest memory of my primary school library.

I’d like to go back there one day. I don’t know if the building is still being used as a library, or whether it is even still standing. If anybody knows I’d love to hear from you.

Ben Chadwick
Manager, SCIS