In conversation with ASLA’s Teacher Librarian of the Year

For Library Lovers’ Day, we celebrate the work of Jane Viner, who was awarded Teacher Librarian of the Year in 2017. SCIS recently spoke to Jane about what makes her library unique and what she finds most rewarding about her role and working in school libraries.

‘I loved this book, Mrs Viner. Now I know why I like reading. Are there any more like it?’

Like music to the ears of any school library professional, these words play a particularly upbeat tune for Jane Viner.

Jane, who was awarded Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year last year, is the Head of Library at Kilvington Grammar School in the Melbourne suburb of Ormond. She originally joined the school library profession excited by the opportunity to make a difference within a whole school, rather than just one classroom or year level. Over 30 years later, Jane still finds joy in the core offering of the school library; that is literacy, and the transformation of children into lifelong readers. In particular, she loves ‘seeing a student’s eyes light up when you find them, show them, and order them the book of their dreams’.

Opportunities abound for making a difference in children’s lives at Kilvington Grammar School, where Jane is fortunate to work with students from the Early Learning Centre to Year 12.

Jane and her team have worked hard to create a culture that promotes reading. One area that supports this and makes their library unique is their Lounge Room. This video shows just how much the students value the work that the library staff have invested in creating a safe, welcoming, engaging environment that encourages student input and takes into consideration different interests across year levels.

‘When I first came to Kilvington a few years ago, I remember that the library was a quiet zone for people to come and study. There were posters everywhere that said ‘shhh, no talking’ … It’s changed into more of a lounge room area, where people can come in at lunchtimes, at recess, and after school to read books, do some study, mingle with people and play games’, a student shares in the video.

Another aspect that makes their library feel special for Jane is Kilvington Reads. Held in May each year, this five-day festival, organised by Jane and her team, has the whole school community celebrate their love of reading. Kilvington Reads includes author and illustrator workshops, competitions, dress-ups, and student-run literary quizzes for the school staff.

Jane knows that developing a passion for reading is just one aspect of the library’s role in the wider school community; building their information and digital literacy skills is also key. The same enthusiasm that comes from finding the right book can be found in ‘introducing students to quality digital resources and seeing their eyes light up at the possibilities’. Translating articles into a student’s first language, or one that they’re studying, is yet another way to connect students with texts — and a new way to find that gleam in their eyes.

Jane says that a good teacher librarian brings enthusiasm, energy and excellence to their work, which is made possible by the support of an effective, supportive school library team. For Jane, such a team is composed of ‘committed, passionate, flexible, friendly professional staff, who have a good sense of humour and a willingness to tackle any task’.

Despite the immense contribution that teacher librarians make to the school community, there remains a perception that their role is still undervalued, with more schools opting to fill the role with volunteers or staff already committed to a full-time teaching schedule. However, Jane — and a whole cohort of trained teacher librarians across the world — find hope in their situations. Jane recommends teacher librarians advocate for their role and seek opportunities to demonstrate their value within the school.

‘Collaborate and create opportunities for teachers and students,’ Jane says. That might be as simple as finding an opening with one student, one class or one teacher, and jumping at it. ‘Don’t make the mistake of saying you are too busy; no one is busier than a primary teacher on a full teaching load.’ Indeed, understanding the pressures placed on teachers provides yet another occasion for librarians to demonstrate their worth. Collaboration with teachers can ‘take the hack work out of their tasks’.

Teacher librarians can be faced with similar challenges to teachers: too many opportunities and not enough time. ‘We need to be thinking about impact and effort,’ Jane explains. For example, creating a thirty-minute library display can be just as effective as an extensive artistic display created over several hours. The key, she says, is to continue to ask, ‘Is this impact going to be high?’ — and to reduce the work that doesn’t support that.

In the always evolving landscape of school libraries, it is clear that Jane values their focus on literacy the most. Hearing how students have responded to the school’s development of a strong reading culture is a simple reminder of why Jane currently holds the title of Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year.

The full history of Connections is now online

2017 has been an exciting year for SCIS.

Our new website SCIS Data was launched in August, complete with a fresh rebrand and exciting new features to support school libraries. We also celebrated the 100th issue of our quarterly magazine, Connections, and to commemorate the milestone, announced that we would digitise and make available the full history of Connections.

We are proud to announce that — for the first time in our history — the entire collection is now available to view and download online.

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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.

Continue reading How the school library saved my life

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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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’.

Continue reading Planning on renovating your library? Think again

Highlights of Connections 101

Here are the highlights from Connections issue 101, which is now available online. To download a PDF of the latest issue, please select this link.

Leadership is not optional – it’s a job requirement
In order to promote libraries as indispensable to the education community, the school library industry needs more leaders. Hilda Weisburg looks at how to step out of your comfort zone and into the leadership role.

Librarians in the digital age: experts in e-health
Susan Marshall explains how the school librarian’s role is central in developing students’ digital literacy and e-health, and introduces a free website to support online safety.

What do our students really want?
Megan Stuart, teacher librarian at Canterbury College, surveyed her students to discover what drew them into their resource centre — and what it could do to draw them in more.

Ebooks: to subscribe, or not to subscribe?
Teacher librarian at Singleton High School, Martin Gray, weighs the arguments for and against ebooks in schools.

Navigating the information landscape through collaboration
Elizabeth Hutchinson, Head of Schools’ Library Service in Guernsey, writes that information literacy is at the centre of student learning, making the role of library staff as important as ever.

Library catalogues and the World Wide Web: it takes two to tango
Nicole Richardson explores the way library catalogues engage with the World Wide Web to create a rich, interactive search experience.

Continue reading Highlights of Connections 101

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

What’s happening in your school library?

Connections

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.