How the school library saved my life

Megan McDonald
Children’s book author

I grew up reading—at the school library, on the bookmobile, at the comic book store, at home next to the heater under the piano. As a girl, I found pieces of myself in the characters of Ramona, Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls, Jo March, Harriet the Spy, Jane Eyre.

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You think you know what librarians do?

Corey Thornblad
Teacher
Kilmer Middle School, Virginia, USA

I recently had the pleasure of participating in the annual Virginia Association of School Librarians conference in Norfolk, Virginia. I’ll admit that I was a fish out of water – the only teacher in a sea of school librarians. Even though I don’t know much about the Dewey Decimal System or online catalogues, they made me feel right at home.

As I sat at dinner, listening to their conversation about teaching and learning, I realised that unless you have had the privilege of working in a school over the past decade you may not understand what school librarians actually do. Librarians are not a braggy bunch, so I feel inclined to set the record straight on their behalf. You probably think they spend their entire day shelving and checking out books, while shushing students. It’s time to set aside these stereotypes and give librarians their long overdue kudos.

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The Australian Reading Hour – a perfect fit for school libraries

Anita McMillan
Knowledge and Learning Resources Manager
West Moreton Anglican College

It is exciting to be involved in a process where different industries band together to create a whole that is worth far more than the sum of its parts. It is both professionally and personally exciting when it’s all about what we love best – reading.

I’ve had the honour of working with the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and a number of other book industry giants to take the Australian Reading Hour campaign to new heights. This year on Thursday 14 September we are asking all Australians to set aside one hour to read. Libraries, bookshops, publishers, authors, illustrators, politicians and corporations will all be involved.

As school library staff, we are in the perfect position to organise, facilitate (or at the very least encourage) such a reading activity for our entire school community – staff, students, parents and supporters.

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Self-advocacy through evidence-based practice

Cathy Costello
Teacher librarian
Campbelltown Performing Arts High School
http://www.virtuallibrary.info

As teacher librarians, we can become frustrated and feel we are victims of occupational invisibility – that our contribution to whole-school programs and student outcomes is unseen and undervalued. This feeling may be due to the nature of our work in empowering colleagues. As a result, our contribution is often swallowed up in the successes of others (Oberg 2006). Our invisibility is also because, while we can see the impact we make on a daily basis, we can usually only offer anecdotal evidence regarding our contributions (Hay & Todd 2010; Lamb & Johnson 2004–2007).

To remedy this, we need to throw off the victim mentality and advocate for ourselves. We must become proactive. We must self-promote and make visible our contribution. To this end, we need to gather hard evidence to unequivocally prove that we make a difference (Bonnano & Moore 2009; Hay & Todd 2010). According to the Australian Library and Information Association (2004), excellent teacher librarians ‘undertake research which informs evidence-based innovation in school library programs’. Likewise, Hay & Foley (2009) advocate that, to build capacity for student learning in the 21st century, teacher librarians need to employ evidence-based practice to support a ‘continuous improvement cycle’. Similarly, The NSW Department of Education and Training (2010) has posited evidence-based practice as one of its foremost recommendations in creating sustainable futures for school libraries.

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Highlights of Connections 102

Here are the highlights from Connections issue 102, which is now available online. To download a PDF of the latest issue, please select this link.

Tinkering, making and building in the school library
With the increasing popularity of makerspaces in schools, school libraries are frequently seen as the leaders in hands-on technologies such as coding and robotics. Jackie Child shares ideas for engaging students with computational thinking — and resources to make it as easy as possible for library staff.

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Ignite wide reading with diverse resources at your school library

Josephine Laretive
Teacher librarian
Moriah College, NSW

School libraries have a vital role in the provision and promotion of quality and diverse reading materials that inform, value and ignite reading. Promoting ‘a reading culture through the active promotion of literature’ (Australian School Library Association, 2004) is one of the ASLA teacher librarian standards. Promotion and access to varied reading materials ‘helps students to engage imaginatively and critically with literature to expand the scope of their experience’ (Australian Curriculum: English v8.3). Encouraging wide reading and access to a variety of reading materials increases students’ interests and motivation to read (Miller, 2012). ‘Numerous research studies prove that wide reading improves children’s comprehension, background knowledge, vocabulary, fluency, and writing’ (Krashen, 2004 as cited in Miller, 2012). Furthermore, literacy development and achievement is benefited by recreational reading and reading for enjoyment (Merga, 2016).

The following resources have made a difference to the diversity of reading resources available to children at my school library, adding to the existing range of imaginative and informative books. The resources that follow also link to the Australian Curriculum in that they provide access to imaginative, informative and persuasive texts in different formats and for different age levels.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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