International Women’s Day 2023 – Librarians in literature

In Australia, around 84% of librarians are female[1], despite the expectations of this lowly fellow, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1909:

“‘It is not likely that many women will become the heads of libraries; they are handicapped by various limitations; limitations perhaps of physical strength, perhaps of temperament. Still, there are only these limitations to prevent them from aspiring to the highest positions in the state, and no doubt one or two women will eventually hold such positions. ‘Nine out of every ten women are unfitted [sic] to be at the head of a library,’ remarked Mr Anderson, the Government Librarian, ‘but sometimes a tenth is discovered, and she is beyond price.'”2]

If we’re making up statistics, I’d hazard a guess that slightly more than a tenth of women librarians are ‘beyond price’. They’ve endlessly inspired and helped people throughout history, both in real life and in the media.

Every now and then, we find a cool article on social media about the awesome librarians in films – those tweed-and-cardigan-wearing, mild-mannered, rule-abiding superheroes who hold the key to solving the mystery.

So, in celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, we’d like to pay homage [give a shout-out] to the well-known – and lesser-known – librarians in literature, paragons of the art of librarianship – some of our favourite literary characters who are not only ambassadors for the profession, but for all women.

Mrs Phelps, in Matilda, by Roald Dahl

SCIS no. 425299

Notwithstanding the current Dahl controversy, Matilda remains a perennial favourite with children and adults alike. And everyone remembers Miss Honey, right? That teacher every teacher wants to be, and every child wishes they had? But really, we should be remembering the librarian from Matilda – the woman who guided, curated and supplied Matilda’s fundamental education! Mrs Phelps is the one who equipped Matilda for the challenges ahead.

Sylvia Blackwell, in The Librarian, by Salley Vickers

SCIS no. 1868507

Sylvia Blackwell is the unfussy, calm and efficient – yet burningly passionate – children’s librarian in a small town in 1950’s England. She’s an inspiration to the townspeople and indeed to all those who aspire to cardigans, efficiency and imparting a love of reading. Sylvia Blackwell (named by the author after her own favourite librarian) is flawed, human and inspirational, and her legacy long outlasts her lifetime.

Reine-Marie Gamache, in the Inspector Gamache series, by Louise Penny

SCIS no. 5439280

Have you heard of Three Pines? Ostensibly a cosy murder mystery series set in Québec and starring the indefatigable Inspector Gamache. However, the heart and soul of this story rests with his wife, Reine-Marie. Reine-Marie is librarian goals: the epitome of calm, intelligence, wit and good sense.

Irene Winters, in The Invisible Library series, by Genevieve Cogman

SCIS no 1704030

Irene Winters is a steampunk heroine – part spy, part thief, and wholly capable. She represents the tough, intelligent, librarian-as-all-rounder trope. Irene resides in a realm where parallel worlds exist, librarians represent order, fairies represent chaos, and books are very powerful. If I lived there, I’d want Irene on my side, that’s for sure.

Batgirl (aka Dr Barbara Gordon), in the Batgirl series

‘In the Gotham City Library….’ Detective Comics no. 359, (January 1967) https://blogs.loc.gov/headlinesandheroes/2019/07/lets-talk-comics-librarians/

SCIS no. 1958796

Not only does she fight crime, the daughter of Inspector Gordon also has a PhD in Library Science and runs the Gotham City Public Library. The comics do embrace the library cliché though – imagine calling the world of the library ‘mundane’! – but Batgirl teaches us that women are resourceful and that appearances can be deceiving.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these fantastic female librarians in literature. You can find Catalogue Records for all the titles mentioned on our database.

By Ceinwen Jones, Cataloguing Team Leader, Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS)

[1] https://labourmarketinsights.gov.au/occupation-profile/librarians?occupationCode=2246 data from 2021

[2] “WOMEN LIBRARIANS.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 20 February 1907: 5. Web. 7 Feb 2023 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14849217>.

SCIS and your library collection

Ahead of our webinar on developing your library collection with SCIS, cataloguer Mavis Heffernan previews some of the ways you can use SCIS as a collection development tool. Register for the webinar today for in-depth advice on how to use the tools covered below.

A subscription to the SCIS database provides much more than bibliographic records for school libraries. With access to more than 1.6 million bibliographic records, the database is also a means of support for teachers, providing a valuable view of curriculum resources.

At present, there is an increasingly overwhelming number of print and digital curriculum resources available for teachers. However, due to their heavy workloads, teachers are finding that they do not have time, or the expertise, to find specific resources relevant to their needs. Because of this, it is becoming more important for teacher librarians to search and analyse content efficiently in order to support teachers and provide them with access to a wide range of resources. This is where access to the SCIS database can help.

When I was in a school library, I established a Current Awareness service for teachers, using information from what was then the Victorian Education Department’s Central Cataloguing service. This was done on a very small scale. I began by contacting teachers at the school, asking if they would like to have information about available resources for their curriculum planning. This information was accessed mainly from bibliographic records in the Central Cataloguing service. Teachers were notified monthly, using printed lists, and were then able to use the resources already in the school library or to request that additional resources be purchased.

Today, using the SCIS database makes a ‘Current Awareness’ service much easier, both for teacher librarians and teachers. For example, teachers could complete an online form, detailing their curriculum areas of interest, as well as other relevant information, such as resources for professional development. The teacher librarian, or other library staff, then do an advanced search of the SCIS database for bibliographic records of relevant recent resources. This search would include learning area, subject headings, year level, print and digital resources, as well as fiction and nonfiction resources. The summaries in the bibliographic records can also be very useful for resource selection.

In addition, URLs are included for websites and apps, so that staff can click through to a website or app from its catalogue record. Here are some examples of how SCIS records can be used in a Current Awareness service.

  1. The SCIS database, with its curated collection of more than 1.6 million bibliographic records, gives teachers and teacher librarians access to view resources to use for planning curriculum content, planning projects and professional development. For example, the ClickView digital video library features more than 13,500 videos; the Wheelers ePlatform has ebook and audiobook records, fiction and nonfiction, for Australian, New Zealand and UK schools at both primary and secondary level; and there are records from the National Library of New Zealand. There are also records, for secondary level, from Massolit.
  2. A wide range of records for teacher reference resources are available from the SCIS database. These resources are especially useful for teacher professional learning. There are also useful websites for supporting teachers. Some recent examples include: Responding to students’ trauma disclosures (foundationhouse.org.au); Music teacher resources (music-teacher-resources.com); and Educational resources about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures (ABC Education).There are also more than 900 apps available. Examples of recent apps include: Planboard: lesson planners for teachers (apple.com); TinyTap: kids’ learning games (apple.com); and Move ease (nsw.gov.au).
  3. The SCIS database is also very useful for primary school teachers who wish to select class sets of reading materials. A search by the subject headings ‘Reading materials’ and ‘Levelled readers’, and by publisher, such as Sunshine Books and Decodable Readers Australia, will provide access to view a large range of up-to-date print and digital resources.
  4. The SCIS database can also be used as a buying tool or resource selection tool for teachers, as well as teacher librarians. When a search of the database is completed and a list of resources is produced, the teacher will then be able to request these resources to be purchased for use in the library or classroom, and can download the SCIS records for these resources in anticipation of their arrival.

By being proactive, initiating current awareness, and producing specifically curated lists from the SCIS database, school librarians can enhance the efficiency and impact of their collection development practices.

Why you should attend SCIS in person training this year

Elaine Myburgh, Library and Student Services Officer at Sevenoaks College WA, talks about the benefits of attending in-person training with SCIS. If you’d like to attend our in-person sessions, you can register for Melbourne sessions on the 28th of February, or sign up to receive updates when SCIS publishes in-person training dates for your state.

I am a library officer who has transferred across from an administration role with nothing more than a love of books as my training. I now run a school library on my own in a senior college environment and see daily how important it is that the contents of our library be catalogued accurately. Without this, cataloguing our great and often very expensive resources simply wouldn’t have them as easily available for our students and staff.

SCIS is provided free to West Australian schools and is such a valuable resource. I use it to enter all new acquisitions into my LMS. Not only does SCIS offer great support with this, they also offer a lot of other digital content as well. I really love that when I scan a book, I not only get the appropriate and accurate Dewey classifications, but I also get the exact same book cover image, so adding new items into my LMS system becomes a very quick and seamless process.

I attended SCIS training last month – it was excellent. I learned many new skills and found out so much more about what SCIS can offer me and my library. The best part for me, though, was that I gained this knowledge in such a user-friendly, easily accessible manner. As someone who is untrained, it can sometimes be daunting to attend training such as this, especially when there are so many well-trained library staff with many years of experience also in attendance. But our presenter was so kind and encouraging and made me feel just as important and welcome as all the others in the room.

Our training was so thorough. We covered all the aspects of cataloguing that SCIS offers , and the presenter was even kind enough to make it applicable to our various LMS systems. I personally learned a lot more about Authority Files and the increasing need to include these in my cataloguing. The usage of these has made research so much easier for our users – and in a senior college that is essential.

Another element of the SCIS system – that I never even knew existed until I attended the training – is the access SCIS provides to digital content such as websites, videos, apps and e-books. As we all move toward our libraries possessing more digital library content, the knowledge that can make accessing this which has been pre-assessed, catalogued soundly easily researched is amazing.

How I became a cataloguer

SCIS cataloguer Laura Iseman writes about her career as a librarian, and what she loves about cataloguing.

As is common with many librarians, I loved reading as a child. I had a respectable collection of books, and I organised them on my shelves by how much I liked them. This was perhaps not the best system, but I knew where they all were.

My love of books led me to make them my career, and my first professional position was as a children’s librarian in a public library. In those days, it was not yet common for records to be imported. So adding items to the collection meant the individual creation of all records and the children’s collection was my responsibility.

Because I was cataloguing all the new acquisitions, I was very familiar with the collection. When working with children visiting the library I knew what the latest trends were and could let them know what was available. I liked knowing that my work meant students could easily find the resources they were looking for.

In addition to the fun of looking at all the new books, I also enjoyed the process of cataloguing. I am a process worker by nature, and I like categories. Every book is different, but the fundamental structure of the catalogue record doesn’t change. I enjoy the challenge of choosing the best terms and classification for each resource, to give the people looking for them the best chance of finding what they want.

I progressed from cataloguing only children’s books to working on the full collection and then to working in academic libraries. By this time, many records were available online. But there were always those obscure or very new titles that needed a full record made. At the university this, of course, included the research output of the students and staff.

Cataloguing theses can be a real challenge, particularly doctorate theses. I was very grateful to have access to Google when I was working on them. I am not a trained scientist, and sometimes I needed to look up all the words in the thesis title to be sure I was assigning the right subjects. This also exposed me to a range of topics I would never have chosen to investigate. I know more about microbiology than I ever expected to know, and for a while I was quite up to date on research into the prevention of malaria. Higher mathematics, however, remains a mystery to me. Cataloguing academic theses did give me some idea of just how broad this topic can be.

Works in the humanities were closer to my interests, and I appreciated the new ideas that I saw expressed. One, in particular, that has remained with me was a study of Jewish immigrants to Melbourne in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I was interested in the discussion of the ways that religious practices and dietary restrictions helped to maintain the community as distinct from society at large. So much of our social bonding happens over food, it is difficult to develop intimate relationships with people if you can’t eat together.

My career as a cataloguer has come full circle and I am once again working on resources for children and young adults. I am enjoying the fact that these titles rarely contain words I don’t know. I can delight in seeing new picture books and be reminded of old favourites as they are re-issued.

The daily pattern of my work now is one I could not have imagined when I first started. The idea that I could make quality records without having the items in hand would have been bewildering when I first started cataloguing. The fundamental process is still the same though, and I still find satisfaction in knowing that I am helping many people in their search for knowledge, enlightenment, or a cosy read to enjoy before bedtime.

How to start decolonising your library collection

Thinking about doing a stocktake or audit of your library collection at any time can be a daunting task. Some librarians and staff may find they’ve inherited a large and aging collection. And you may get the feeling that if you remove too many things, you’ll be left with hardly any resources at all!

But never has the concept of ‘quality over quantity’ been more true or important than when we’re talking about decolonising Australian school library collections. If you’ve felt that your school library may contain materials about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that are out of date, factually incorrect and even offensive, but have been too overwhelmed by the scope of the task of dealing with them, you may find this guide helpful.

1. Get yourself into the mindset

If you haven’t already read it, this article in our Connections school library journal might inform and inspire you. It describes the first-hand experiences of a teacher librarian and a First Nations parent when they embarked on a similar project.

2. Assembling your criteria for the assessment of resources

You need to set some parameters to help you decide what to keep and what to remove from your collection. The good news is many others have already considered this! There’s a seminal set of criteria written by the Curriculum Corporation; a shorter set of guidelines developed by the Queensland Museum; and a guide written by Narragunnawali which amalgamates the two.

You can use these documents to develop a set of criteria that is appropriate and usable for your specific needs.

3. Deciding where to begin

You may wish to break the project up into stages, especially if you have a big collection. This might mean looking at sectioning off parts of your project into categories like:

  • Fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • Picture books
  • Big books
  • Teacher resources
  • Readers
  • Audiobooks
  • Audiovisual material

You may also need to break up non-fiction into sections. If you use Dewey, consider beginning with:

  • 200 – Religion. (If you use SCIS, you’ll find resources relating to Indigenous spirituality at 298)
  • 300 – Social Sciences
  • 900 – History and Geography

These Dewey classifications are where you’re likely to find the bulk of your resources about First Nations peoples of Australia.

4. Assembling your team

If you only have a small collection, you may be able to tackle this job on your own, bit by bit. But if you have a larger collection you may need help. If you’re able, perhaps you can call on teaching staff to help out at certain times. Your parent community may also be able to help – and maybe even people from the local community too. This is where your carefully crafted criteria for assessment of resources will come in handy – it will ensure everyone is on the same page!

You may also like to do an initial sweep of your collection, and then have a team of ‘reviewers’ who are familiar with your assessment criteria, who can double check the resources you are keeping and discarding. This can be a good way of checking you are on the right track, and of making the job a community endeavour.

5. Get started!

Things are always busy in a school library and the ‘right’ time might not just jump out at you – so you will have to make it happen. Perhaps you could have a working bee, and get lots done in one fell swoop…or perhaps you might make it a project the team might work on over a term, or even several terms, in between other work. But the most important thing you can do is just to get started! Every small step you take towards this goal is a positive one, even if there are missteps along the way.

6. Use your Criteria for Assessment as a basis for selection criteria for new resources

Just because a resource has been recently published doesn’t mean that it will automatically fit your revised criteria! Make sure you have a clear idea of what types of resources you want to add to your collection. Some libraries have a policy, for example, of only purchasing new resources about First Nations peoples if they are authored by First Nations peoples – or if they are endorsed by First Nations communities. You may like to preference resources published by First Nations publishers; or you may see, after auditing your collection, that there are gaps in your collection that need filling. Adding some detail around selecting First Nations materials in your Collection Development policy will help you stay on track with your goal of maintaining a decolonised collection.

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful, and that you are inspired to get started on your own project. The last thing to emphasise here is that we must take responsibility, as librarians and educators, to ensure we are informed and able to make sensitive and considered decisions about what is contained in our collections, without deferring responsibility and mental load to others. It is up to us to get started and begin this work – and there’s no better time for that than now.

We’d love to hear about your own experiences – if you’ve started, had blockers, or managed to complete an audit of your own. Please add your comments or send us an email telling us your story.

10 essential resources for online cataloguing

SCIS cataloguer Heath Walsh reveals his 10 most essential sources for creating quality catalogue records.

As I work through my daily cataloguing lists at SCIS I have a set of go-to online resources that I use to help me with my cataloguing work. The list of these resources below describes how they aid my cataloguing, and is designed to help any school library staff who wish to tap up their own records.

Trove / Libraries Australia

Cataloguing is a collaborative process, not only between work colleagues but between cataloguing agencies. This is especially true at SCIS where we attempt to catalogue titles that we do not have on hand and so must rely on online data from other agencies. For this reason, the Trove discovery service – or the subscription service Libraries Australia, which helps underpin Trove – is essential for SCIS cataloguers.

Hosted by the National Library of Australia in partnership with content providers, Trove is an Australian online library database aggregator and service which includes full text documents, digital images, bibliographic and holdings data of items which are not available digitally, and a search engine as a discovery tool.

Worldcat provides a similar service globally, but bibliographic records from the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD) are also uploaded into the WorldCat global union catalogue, which means that records found in Worldcat can often be found in Libraries Australia. Libraries Australia provides MARC records not only for titles found in ANBD but also Worldcat, which makes it an essential subscription service for cataloguers.

A picture of the trove libraries Australia interface
The Trove Libraraies Australia interface

WebDewey

WebDewey provides search functions that make locating the relevant Dewey classification number and cataloguing efficient and accurate. The database, which is updated regularly, includes the most current version of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

I can’t imagine constructing Dewey numbers from print volumes like librarians used to do last century. Rifling through four volumes of the Dewey Decimal Classification tool to find the relevant number for a particular topic seems awfully onerous compared to the lovely search indexes found in WebDewey.

A subscription is required, but this is an essential resource not only for constructing Dewey numbers, but as further input for subject classification given that it has its own taxonomy of subjects.

Library of Congress Authorities

When it comes to creating new SCIS personal name authorities, input from the Library of Congress is useful when there is confusion over definitive renderings of personal names. At SCIS when we devise new SCIS authority subject headings we are mindful of Library of Congress treatment as input for our working papers, thanks to this search engine.

Booktopia

At SCIS we often work through ebook lists and Booktopia is very handy due to its coupling of print and ebook formats for a given title in separate tabs. The same goes for audiobooks. It is also a great source for finding target audience data, such as age-appropriate classifications.

The Booktopia interface
The Booktopia interface

Books In Print

A subscription is required to access data in this Bowker resource, which is invaluable for finding data on publishers and their physical locations. Great for gleaning target audience data and reading levels, this resource also sometimes provides a Dewey number.

An example of reading level data from Books in Print
An example of reading level data from Books in Print
The resource interface from Books in Print
The resource interface of Books in Print

Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT)

When cataloguing video shorts on specific concepts – typically in mathematics and science – this thesaurus is terrific. At SCIS we provide these headings in bibliographic records. As a cataloguer I have needed assistance from this thesaurus to select suitable SCIS headings.

ScOT provides a controlled vocabulary of terms used in Australian and New Zealand schools. It encompasses all subject areas as well as terms describing educational and administrative processes. The thesaurus links non-preferred terms to curriculum terms.

Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory

This is the online authority for data on periodicals. Subscription is required, which we do not have at SCIS, but I have wished for it whenever a SCIS subscriber requests a SCIS record for a magazine or serial title.

ISBNdb

ISBNdb gathers data from libraries, publishers, merchants and other sources around the globe to compile a vast collection of book data searchable by ISBN, title, author or publisher.

ISBNdb calls itself ‘The world’s largest book database’. I have tended to use it when I have been unable to get results from my usual sources such as Libraries Australia or Books In Print.

ISBN converter

Situated on Bowker’s ISBN.org website, this is great for when I need a quick conversion from the old 10-digit ISBN format to the current 13-digit. This can occur at SCIS when we have old records that require enhancement, often in response to subscriber requests.

RDA Toolkit

At SCIS, when we do not apply our own standards related to content, we turn to RDA. Institutions require a subscription to access the Toolkit, which now enables subscribers to create what is called an application profile. This presents the way in which a subscriber applies RDA in its own institution.

I hope you find these resources useful as you navigate your way through the seas of bibliographic description. Bon voyage!

 

Reading for global peace and harmony: International School Library Month collection development

The month of October is International School Library Month. This year’s theme is reading for global peace and harmony. SCIS Cataloguing Team Leader Ceinwen Jones has some great suggestions for developing your library collections in support of this theme.

On first impressions, the International School Library Association seems to be setting some lofty aims for this year.

But isn’t reading for global peace and harmony what teacher librarians have been promoting since school libraries began? That is, providing materials that give students a chance to be transported to other worlds, and generating knowledge, understanding and appreciation for achievements, peoples, cultures and lives that are different to their own.

This ongoing work is surely a powerful and important step towards global peace and harmony.

What, then, is the best way to focus our resources on better achieving this goal? First, we must ensure our collections reflect the diversity of our communities, both local and global. By providing and promoting access to a variety of voices and perspectives, we can celebrate the ways diversity enhances our lives.

Here are five recently catalogued titles reflecting diversity, easily found using the search function in the SCIS database – an excellent tool for developing your collection!

Indigenous Australian history from the perspective of a First Nations female historian

Sister girl: Reflections on Tiddaism, identity and reconciliation

Jackie Huggins

SCIS number: 5396925

A new edition of Murri historian and activist Jackie Huggins’s seminal Tiddaist classic, featuring timely and compelling speeches and essays. The pieces in this collection represent almost four decades of writing, including essays, speeches and interviews. They combine both the public and the personal in a bold trajectory tracing one Murri woman’s journey towards self-discovery and human understanding. As a widely respected cultural educator and analyst, Huggins offers an Aboriginal view of the history, values and struggles of Indigenous people. Sister Girl reflects on many important and timely topics, including identity, activism, leadership and reconciliation. It challenges accepted notions of the appropriateness of mainstream feminism in Aboriginal society and of white historians writing Indigenous history. Jackie Huggins’s words, then and now, offer wisdom, urgency and hope.

Learning about pronouns

The pronoun book

Chris Ayala-Kronos and Melita Tirado

SCIS number: 5415913

They, she, he … all together, us! Join along in this vibrant board book’s joyful celebration of people and their pronouns. How do you know what someone wants to be called? Ask! This lively board book features illustrations of a diverse cast of people and simple text that introduces their pronouns.

Celebrating neurodiversity

Wired differently: 30 neurodivergent people who you should know

Joe Wells and Tim Stringer

SCIS number: 5411451

Covering the spectrum of neurodiversity, the book features a range of inspirational people, from actors and entertainers, to athletes and activists, and shows young neurodiverse readers that often what makes you different can be your key to success. The chapters feature biographies that expand to cover a broad range of themes, such as the importance of lived experience in discussions of neurodiversity, challenging stereotypes, representation and creativity.

A celebration of our diverse world

A world for me and you: where everyone is welcome

Uju Asika and Jennie Poh

SCIS number: 5408759

Imagine a world where everyone looks identical, where all food tastes the same, where we all speak the same language. A world that is … well, pretty boring. This picture book encourages inclusion, acceptance and kindness, and invites readers to imagine the world as a vast library with room on the shelves for everybody’s story. It is a celebration of our incredibly diverse world as it really is: home to 195 countries, thousands of different cultures, 10 million colours, 6,500 different languages and 4,300 religions.

Diversity toolkit for teachers and librarians

Infobase’s diversity toolkit

edited by Sam Elkin [and three others]

SCIS number: 5419894

Celebrating diversity in the community helps foster a sense of respect, equity and inclusion. This website gathers a wealth of content and digital tools – including expert-led webinars, blogs and relevant Infobase resources – to empower users with fresh insights, information and practical strategies.

Free sacred texts

At SCIS, we’re constantly cataloguing new resources of all kinds, and we love letting our community know about any free resources. With the help of our friends at Infobase, we’ve created a brand new list of free sacred texts, which are useful for schools offering senior subjects such as Texts and traditions (Vic), Studies of religion (NSW, ACT), Religion and life (WA), Religion studies (SA, NT), Religion in society (Tas) and Study of religion (Qld).

If you have any free texts you would like SCIS to catalogue, you can ask us to add them to our database by submitting a cataloguing request.

Use the below SCIS numbers in the left-hand column to search for and download the resources from our database.

 

5414903 American Hero Myths Native American
5414918 Babylonian Legends of the Creation Babylonian
1311209 Bhagavad Gita as It Is Hinduism
5414960 Book of Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
5415607 Book of Shadows Wiccan religion
5415455 Bulfinch’s Mythology Greek and Roman mythology
5415418 Concerning Christian Liberty Christianity
5415427 Daodejing Daoism
5415436 Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria, West Africa African wisdom stories
5415568 Hebraic Literature, translations from the Talmud, Midrashim, and Kabbalah Judaism
5415449 History of the Reformation in Scotland Christianity
5415581 Holybooks.com
5418406 Hymns of the Eastern Church Christianity
1316415 Internet Sacred Text Archive
5415556 Legends of the Gods: The Egyptian Texts Ancient Egyptian mythology
5415580 More Jataka Tales Buddhism
5418364 Most Holy Book (Kitabi aqdas) Bahai faith
1587116 Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome Greek and Roman mythology
5415615 Myths and Legends of China Chinese mythology
5415810 Myths and Legends, The Celtic Race Celtic mythology
5415628 No Cross, No Crown By William Penn
5415634 Popol Vuh Quiche Maya of Guatemala
5415676 Representation of Deities of the Maya Manuscripts Mayan
5415882 Rubaiyat Islamic mysticism and Sufism
5415950 Sayings of the Fathers (Pirke Aboth) Judaism
5415853 Selections From the Writings of the Bab Babi religion, Bahai faith
5418856 Siri Guru Granth Sahib Sikhism
5415865 Songs of Kabir Islam, Hinduism, Sihkism
5415876 South African Folktales African folktales
5416171 Summa Theologica, Part III Roman Catholic
5416228 Táin bó Cuailnge Celtic mythology
5416193 The Bible, Douay Rheims Version Christianity
5416333 The Bible, King James Version Christianity
5416119 The City of God, Volume I Christianity
5416122 The City of God, Volume II Christianity
5418322 The Four Books Confucian
5415972 The Imitation of Christ Christianity
5415730 The Indian Fairy Book Native American
5415811 The Institutes of the Christian Religion Christianity
5414944 The Kitáb-i-Íqán Bahai faith
5415701 The Myths of the North American Indians Native American
5415849 The Quran Islam
5415689 The Unwritten Literature of the Hopi Hopi myths
5418316 Tibetan Book of the Dead Buddhism

5 questions you’ve been asking about the Schools Catalogue Information Service

The who, what, why, where and how of the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS).

Every day our customer service team speaks to staff from schools across Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the world. Whether it be on the phone, via email, or in person, there are some questions that are more commonly asked than others. That’s why we’ve written this 101 guide on the five facts people most want to know about SCIS.

1. Who/what is SCIS?

The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is primarily a cataloguing service for your school library. Our service is a layer of data called catalogue records – these are like a digital version of the physical catalogue cards that libraries used to use many years ago. Our catalogue records can be imported into the software you use to manage your library (referred to as a Library Management System or LMS for short). Our records contain information about all your books and resources, and this helps you and your students to find resources when you search by keyword, subject, author, title, publisher or publication date.

We service almost 80 percent of schools in Australia, over 40 percent of schools in New Zealand, and our services are being taken up by a growing number schools across Great Britain and other parts of the world. We’re owned and run by an Australian not-for-profit company called Education Services Australia.

Creating catalogue data is laborious work, but it’s essential to students being able to find the information they need when they search in your library. Our cataloguers are all qualified librarians who skilfully sift through resources by hand to ensure our data is accurate and high-quality.

2. Why would my school need SCIS?

If you  ask any qualified librarian, they will tell you that cataloguing takes a huge amount of time and effort. Each resource catalogued must be examined and classified with a set of terms that are consistent across records, otherwise your resources become increasingly hard to find in your database. For example if your library uses the subject heading “World War II” on one history book but then uses “World War 2” for another, both books might not appear in in the same search. Our service spares you all the time and effort of creating this complicated and essential data yourself, and your school can ask us to catalogue new resources for you whenever you like.

Many people don’t realise that failing to catalogue resources with accurate, consistent information makes managing, stocktaking and weeding your collection very difficult.

Additionally, having one over-arching, cohesive catalogue can be of great help even if you don’t have a centralised library – quality cataloguing is still important when your resources are split up between classrooms. If one class is doing an assignment on volcanoes and students can’t locate any of the relevant resources in any other classrooms, there can be some significant consequences, including:

  • Your students missing out on fundamental learning and research opportunities
  • You and your colleagues being forced to spend additional time locating resources physically rather than digitally
  • The valuable resources you have spent time and money acquiring sit on a shelf unused.

All school staff benefit from SCIS records as they help to save school staff time (which is a precious resource in all schools) and help provide the correct resources to your students.

3. What products does SCIS offer?

SCIS offers two main products: SCIS Data and Authority Files.

SCISData provides you with access to our catalogue record database of over 1.6 million high-quality catalogue records. With a SCISData subscription, you can search and download as many of these as you like – and this includes records for digital products in addition to physical books.

Authority Files are files that generate ‘see’ and ‘see also’ references for searches in your catalogue, meaning that if you search for books about ‘bugs’ you can also return results on books that include ‘insects’ as their subject. Authority Files create important, verified connections between related subjects, names and series.

These two products together create a powerful combination and streamline your school library services. This saves you time and allows you to focus more on what matters: connecting with your students.

In addition to our two subscription products, SCIS also offers professional learning opportunities and library barcode scanners. Our professional learning sessions are designed to help you learn to manage your resources effectively and optimise your students’ learning experiences. And, of course, our barcode scanners will assist you at the circulation desk to ensure all loans and returns are processed smoothly and efficiently!

4. Does SCIS provide any free support?

SCIS assists in connecting an enormous variety of teachers, school staff, parent volunteers and library professionals. We endeavour to provide this vast community with the best support we can. We publish a termly magazine in print and online called Connections, where you can find out the latest school library news. Connections publishes pieces written by practising educators, teachers, library staff, authors and industry figures, offering a wide variety of views to reflect the variety of our audience.

Additionally, we often share news and updates across our social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Vimeo. Our Vimeo page offers all viewers free advice that can help you make the most of your SCIS subscription.

And lastly, we have a wonderful blog – which you’re reading right now! We post all sorts of news from educators, publishers and our own news on this site. We welcome all manner of contributions to this blog, so if you have any ideas, please feel welcome to write to us about it!

5. Is SCIS the software I use when I’m searching in my library?

SCIS is not what’s known as a Library Management System (LMS). When you’re using your system, the interface is not what we’ve created. There are a number of wonderful vendors who create all sorts of different Library Management Systems you can use, and we work with all of them.

Our data sits ‘under the hood’ of your LMS. It powers your searches for resources, provides data consistency that makes them findable, and gives you back the time it would take to catalogue your resources manually. That’s the magic of SCIS, we work so seamlessly within your Library Management System that we’re practically invisible!

Provocative punctuations: a day in the life of a cataloguer

When I tell people what I do, I often find that the general impression of librarians (and cataloguers, in particular) is that the job must be a bit boring, but at least we get to read books all day.

Some of this is true – tackling that pile of maths textbooks can get a little dull. However, sometimes my to-do list contains a real gem among the everyday humdrum.

To give you an idea of what these diamonds in the rough look like, I’ve put together a list of some of the more provocative resources that have recently punctuated my days with both intrigue and humour.

  1. Tazzie the turbo chook finds her feet
    SCIS no: 5410326

Australian picture books have delighted me ever since I read Harry the hairy-nosed wombat as a child. My latest happy find was Tazzie the turbo chook finds her feet by Sonia Strong. I had not previously been aware of the existence of this Tasmanian native-hen known affectionately as the ‘turbo chook’. (Apparently this flightless bird has been clocked running at more than 50 km/h, although that may be an exaggeration.) The artwork is a delight as well. I was only sorry that, as I did not have the book in hand, I couldn’t read about how Tazzie managed to defeat the nasty feral cat.

  1. Zelensky: the story. The country’s top comic
    SCIS no: 5408453

The resources that schools ask SCIS to catalogue vary widely and often include videos. I recently catalogued a documentary biography of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It was fascinating to see a former TV star presented as an effective president at a time of invasion. The contrast between footage of his comedy career, and his current role was striking.

  1. Poo, spew and other gross things animals do!
    SCIS no: 5397452

When working with resources aimed at children, it can help to have an ‘earthy’ sense of humour. I was recently called upon to catalogue a CSIRO publication called Poo, spew and other gross things animals do! written by Nic Gill and Romane Cristescu, with illustrations by Rachel Tribout. This book delivers on the promise of the title, describing in delightfully disgusting detail the many and varied products of animal digestion.

  1. The mapmaker
    SCIS no: 5410486

The highlight of my cataloguing work today happened to be a graphic novel by an up-and-coming Australian author. The mapmaker, by Ben Slabak and illustrated by Francesca Carità, is the first volume in a series. It is a tale of pirates and magic in a parallel Earth during the age of discovery. Appropriate for all ages.

  1. Wombat can’t sing
    SCIS no:
    5400579

I will round out my list with another Australian picture book, Wombat can’t sing by Katie Stewart. Wombat would like to make people happy, like his friend Fantail whose singing is a delight. Wombat’s attempts to learn to sing are not very successful, even with the help of his friends. He eventually finds his own way of making others happy. The artwork showing the animals and birds featured is beautiful, and I got a good chuckle at the image of Wombat trying to sing like Frog.