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.

Connect

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.

Create

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.

Communicate

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.

Collaborate

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.

References

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
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.

Bib 2.0: Technology and the indispensable librarian
http://bib20.blogspot.com.au
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
http://childrensbooksdaily.com
Megan Daley shares her passion for literature with engaging book reviews, plus other matters.

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

Linking Learning
www.linkinglearning.com.au
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
https://judyoconnell.com
Judy O’Connell shares information on technology, pedagogy and everything online.

The blue skunk blog
http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com
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.

Facebook

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

What a difference a school library makes
www.facebook.com/Schoollibraries/about
Karen Bonanno shares cutting-edge content on all things library related.

Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Online
www.facebook.com/ASLAOnline
ASLA on school libraries, education and literature.

Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)
www.facebook.com/schoolscatinfo
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)
www.facebook.com/theCBCA
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
www.facebook.com/eduwebinar
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
http://www.scoop.it/u/susan-grigsby
Susan Grisby scoops content of interest to F–12 school librarians, including new technologies, social media, curation, research, educational apps, and more.

Bookmarking librarian
http://www.scoop.it/u/sarah-betteridge
Sarah Betteridge scoops on 21st-century school libraries, Australian Curriculum, makerspaces and educational technology.

Karen Bonanno
http://www.scoop.it/u/karen-bonanno
Scoop topics include school library advocacy, web tools, inquiry learning, curriculum resources and educational makerspaces.

JB’s Learning links
https://www.diigo.com/user/jbslearninglinks
Jennie Bales’s diigo social bookmarking site on educational matters, including curriculum, pedagogy, literature, literacy, research and technology.

Teacher-librarians
https://groups.diigo.com/group/teacher_librarians
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.