Ten things we love about SCIS

Here at the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), our mission is to make our users’ life easier. Our data is designed to work seamlessly within your library management system, using high-quality data to build a brilliant user experience. To support your work, we also have the SCIS Data website (scisdata.com) – with a stack of nifty features that will improve your library catalogue and save you time and money.

List: Ten things we love about SCIS

1. Cataloguing (of course!)

The SCIS database has approximately 1.6 million high-quality, consistent catalogue records.

As part of a SCIS subscription, libraries can also request cataloguing for new materials that they have not been able to locate a record for in SCIS Data. We encourage you to place an online cataloguing request at my.scisdata.com/CreateCatalogueRequest. Good news! We have recently revamped the service to make it quicker and easier to submit these requests. You can use this service to request the cataloguing of websites and other online resources you think would be useful to you and the wider school library community.

Sometimes, you might have a query about a record or maybe you’ve found a mistake. Simply email help@scisdata.com and our cataloguing team will investigate.

Remember we are a cataloguing community, so feedback helps not only you, but also nearly 10,000 other users around the world.

Picture of Mavis cataloguing a delivery of books
SCIS Cataloguer Mavis Heffernan hard at work!

Learn how to make an online cataloguing request: vimeo.com/417043786

2. Cover images

Text-only catalogue displays are a thing of the past. While the old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is wise, the reality is that the cover of a resource makes it look more appealing and does affect reader choice. Using cover images to supplement the text-based catalogue record is an effective method of catching the reader’s eye as they browse through the virtual shelf.

SCIS subscribers are able to download most of the cover images displayed in SCIS Data into their own library-management systems. Subscribing schools may not pass cover images on to a third party, but for their own use they may include them:

  • on the school’s online library catalogues
  • on the school’s website, including blogs, wikis, online newsletters and intranet
  • elsewhere within the school.

Resources recently catalogued in SCIS

Learn more about cover images and SCIS: scisdata.com/connections/issue-109/cover-images-and-scis

3. Digital content

At the time of writing, there are over 80,000 records on SCIS Data for digital resources (websites, apps, ebooks and digital videos), and this number grows every month. We also catalogue apps, ebooks and digital videos. We catalogue resources that are curriculum-related, educational and recreational.

SCIS has made catalogue records for nearly 400 free Project Gutenberg titles (scis.edublogs.org/2020/05/06/literatures-greatest-works-are-yours-for-free). SCIS Data offers subscribers the option to download collections (https://help.scisdata.com/hc/en-us/articles/360051763433-What-are-the-Download-Collections-) of records from four resource providers: ClickView digital video library; Wheelers ePlatform One; World Book eBook Series; and the National Library of New Zealand (Topic Explorer and EPIC Resources).

The hard work has been done – importing digital content is a quick and easy way to grow your collection.

Learn how to download records for websites in SCIS Data: vimeo.com/275765622

4. Collection development

When a teacher approaches you about finding resources for their upcoming unit, where is the first place you look? Perhaps you perform a quick internet search to see if it can direct you to any relevant resources. Maybe you check a publisher’s website. Yet, if we encourage students to use the library catalogue based on its inclusion of trusted, credible and educational resources, why not use a catalogue ourselves?

Let’s say the history teacher has approached you to help her find World War I resources for her Year 9 class. If you pop over to the SCIS catalogue, you can start with a basic search – perhaps simply ‘World War I’ – and, from the results page, refine your search. Filtering by your specific learning area, subject and audience level will provide you with the most relevant resources catalogued by SCIS. The advanced search option allows you to limit your search further by either fiction or non-fiction – and, if it’s fiction you’re looking for, to narrow your search by specific genres.

The Featured categories on the SCIS Data search page provide a quick and easy way to source resources and records for websites, apps, ebooks and digital videos. The SCIS catalogue also has the ability to build lists. Rather than downloading one record at a time, you can curate lists within the SCIS catalogue. This is particularly helpful for schools using SCIS as a resource selection tool.

SCIS Data includes additional information via our subscription to Syndetics. Where the information is available, the record consists of summaries and annotations, author notes, authoritative reviews, and series information. Through our subscription to LibraryThing for Libraries, we can also provide community-generated content, including recommendations, tags, and links to other editions and similar items. Although this additional information is not included in the downloaded record, it can help with searching and selection of records.

How good is that?

Learn how to use SCIS Data as a selection tool:
scisdata.com/connections/issue-104/scis-as-a-resource-selection-aid

5. Authority Files

SCIS Authority Files (scisdata.com/products/authority-files) provide a rich search experience to make the most of your resources. Authority Files link terms between records, to display the ‘see’ and ‘see also’ references. A subscription to SCIS Authority Files allows you to download Subject, Name and Series Authority Files from the SCIS website, and upload them to your library management system – where you’ll truly see the magic of metadata with a rich search and discovery experience for your students.

Learn more about SCIS Authority Files: scisdata.com/connections/issue-112/scis-is-more

6. Help (really)

SCIS prides itself on responsive, proactive customer service. Our team of customer service and cataloguing professionals are on hand to answer your questions. Visit our contact page (scisdata.com/contact-scis) to submit a question. Explore the SCIS Help articles (help.scisdata.com/hc/en-us) or watch the SCIS Help videos (vimeo.com/user4095009) and learn how to make the most of your subscription. Or stay up to date with the latest SCIS news by visiting our news carousel at scisdata.com. We are here to help.

7. Shopping cart

The SCIS shopping cart allows you to request and download your invoice, or pay online.

Our shopping cart also allows users to add in SCIS extras before renewing their annual invoice – such as barcode scanners (scisdata.com/barcode-scanners), professional learning and Authority Files. Ordering is nice and simple, and should you decide you need something extra when you renew your SCIS subscription (like a barcode scanner for stocktake!) you can have everything on one invoice to pass on to your accounts team.

Barcode scanner
SCIS has a range of barcode scanners available for purchase within Australia.

8. Professional learning

Attend a SCIS webinar (scisdata.com/professional-learning) and learn how SCIS Data makes resource management simple – helping school libraries by providing high quality catalogue records, improving content searching and discovery, and developing digital collections.

The free SCIS short course ‘Managing your library collection and catalogue’ (scis.edublogs.org/2020/03/31/free-scis-short-course-managing-your-library-collection-and-catalogue) is suitable for new school library staff and for those who would like a refresher. Published on the SCIS Blog, the course focuses on collection curation and cataloguing, it helps school library staff get started in organising the resource offerings in their library. The response to this course has been overwhelmingly positive, with comments ranging from ‘Thanks, this is so helpful and timely while working from home’ to ‘Back to basics. A good reminder of what makes libraries tick …’

9. Community

We’ve been publishing our magazine Connections (scisdata.com/connections) since 1992, and we’re pretty proud of it. For the first time in our history all back editions are available online – a fascinating record of changes in the library industry over several decades.

All Connections articles are written by members of the school library community. Writing for Connections is an excellent way to advocate for your library and share your ideas with colleagues around the world. Now, more than ever, it is important to celebrate the valuable role of school libraries and recognise how they support student learning. So, if you have a great article you would like to share, please email connections@esa.edu.au.

Connections school library magazine

As part of our ongoing commitment to the library community, Connections is freely available to anyone, anywhere. To join our mailing list, visit confirmsubscription.com/h/r/F55C1FEDABD5B8D4.

The SCIS team is passionate about school libraries. In addition to Connections magazine, we offer the school library community a number of ways to keep up to date with what is happening at SCIS and with industry trends and information. Subscribe to the SCIS Blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn @scisdata or Instagram @scis.data.

We want to know what’s important to you. Join the SCIS Facebook group and be part of the conversation: facebook.com/groups/570608273802240

10. Friends

SCIS cataloguers add approximately 3,700 catalogue records to the database each month, keeping it relevant and current. The resources catalogued come from a range of sources, including publishers, booksellers and school libraries. These hot-off-the-press titles are our best means of creating a quality record that is accurate and compliant with international cataloguing standards. This is important, considering each record is likely to be downloaded by nearly 10,000 school subscribers around the world. It’s rare to have a day when we don’t receive a small parcel or large box of books delivered to one of the six SCIS cataloguing depots.

SCIS also works with providers of library management systems to ensure the most efficient delivery of SCIS products and services. And we support university and TAFE educators in training and developing future librarians with essential cataloguing skills by offering complimentary access to SCIS Data.

Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.*

*Thank you Misty Copeland for the excellent quote!

Libraries, the heart of the school

Caroline Hartley, SCIS Manager, has contributed an article to the Australian College of Educators (ACE) latest edition of Professional Educator.

The article explores how school libraries are reinventing themselves as contemporary places of connection, collaboration and content creation. The trend towards flexible learning spaces that are modular and meet the needs of individuals, groups and classes with multiple creative uses such as maker spaces, coding clubs, and student-led groups, is increasing. Welcoming spaces that support both the curriculum and social development goals of their schools can benefit students in their literacy attainment and reinforce the development of digital citizenship skills.

Magazine article: Libraries, the heart of the school

Please note, Professional Educator is an exclusive publication for Australian College of Educators (ACE) Members. It is also available through a number of the EBSCO databases. If you wish to read more Professional Educator articles, please visit the ACE website (www.austcolled.com.au) where you can apply to join the College and gain access to Professional Educator along with a range of other services and benefits.

Acknowledging Indigenous communities and culture in SCIS Data

The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) wishes to acknowledge the Kulin Nation, Traditional Custodians of the land on which our offices are located, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We also acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands across Australia, their Elders, Ancestors, cultures and heritage.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2020 is #InThisTogether2020, and in these trying times, this has never been more relevant.

SCIS recognises our responsibility to work for national progress in reconciliation and we are committed to continuing to work towards achieving this outcome.

SCIS cataloguing standards recognise the rich and special nature of indigenous communities in society. As an Australian and New Zealand focussed database, we have some unique cataloguing standards that recognise the Māori and Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in our database.

Dewey Decimal Classification and book numbers

To give emphasis and a shorter number to religion, spirituality and creation stories of the Australian Aboriginal people, the permanently unassigned Dewey number 298 is used.

For works where the book number would, if built according to SCIS Standards, be ABO and covers topics on Australian Aboriginal peoples, substitute the letters ABL.

SCIS Subject Headings

Resources on specific indigenous people are entered under their name e.g. Iwi (Māori people), Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginal peoples.

Māori terms where applicable are used e.g. Waka, Wharenui, Te Reo Māori.
Names of Māori tribes can be added to the list e.g. Tainui (Māori people), Waikato (Māori people).

Reconciliation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia is an allowed heading, along with Stolen generations.

Additionally, the names and languages of every major grouping of Australian Aboriginal peoples have been added.

SCIS Subject Headings SCIS Subject Headings

SCIS Standards are always changing and adapting to meet our school library communities’ expectations. We welcome feedback; the SCIS Information Services Standards Committee (ISSC) is happy to receive and review suggestions from our school library community.

#InThisTogether2020 #NRW2020

Renate Beilharz
Cataloguing team leader, SCIS

Renate has worked for SCIS since 2018. A qualified teacher librarian, she worked in secondary school libraries for 20 years before teaching library and information services at Box Hill TAFE. She is passionate about ensuring that schools receive the quality data needed to empower information discovery for students.

SCIS Data case studies

Stack of books

Read these SCIS Data customer case studies to learn how school library staff use the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) to save time and money and enhance their library service.

SCIS Data case study: Josephine Barclay, King’s College Taunton, UK

‘SCIS is like a trusted library assistant that builds my catalogue with accurate records, and allows me to focus on supporting the students.’

SCIS Data case study: Ruth Maloney, Tonbridge Grammar School, UK

‘I wouldn’t have such a high functioning system if I didn’t have SCIS, because it’s like having an assistant librarian whose job is just to catalogue, and who does that job really well. It’s an essential part of the library catalogue for me.’

SCIS Data case study: Chris Archbold, Riccarton Primary School, NZ

‘SCIS makes a consistent catalogue. If all the primary schools around New Zealand are using SCIS, they are all getting the same information. This means that students can move from school to school and know that they are still going to get good, consistent search results.’

SCIS Data case study: Caroline Roche, Eltham College, UK

‘Yesterday, a student asked for a book on Emmanuel Macron. It will be delivered today, and I will be able to catalogue it within five minutes because SCIS is quick. I’ll have it in her hands this afternoon.’

For more information about the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) please contact help@scisdata.com.

Literature’s greatest works are yours for free!

Julie Styles, SCIS Cataloguing Librarian, explores the Project Gutenberg ebook library.

Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitise and archive the world’s cultural works and make them available in ebook form for free. To date, it has over 60,000 free ebooks on its database. On average it adds 50 new ebooks each week.

It’s collection features mostly older literary works for which U.S. copyright has expired. Most were published before 1924, with some published in the decades after.

You will find some of the world’s great literature at https://www.gutenberg.org/

Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Homer, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, the Brothers Grimm, Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, and Emily Bronte are all available in multiple ebook forms for free.

In addition to novels, poetry, short stories and drama, the database also has cookbooks, reference works and issues of periodicals. You can also find a smaller collection of sheet music, audiobooks, still pictures, and moving pictures, including footage of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

Although Project Gutenberg primarily has works of literature from Western culture, there are also significant numbers in many other languages. Non-English languages most represented are French, German, Finnish, Dutch, Italian, and Portuguese.

You can use the Search box to look for a particular title or browse titles by a favourite author.

Project Gutenberg

The Bookshelves allow you to browse by genre, age group, and topic. And if you are undecided where to begin there are Top 100 lists of titles to get you started.

Top 100 lists Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg and SCIS

SCIS has made catalogue records for nearly 400 of these titles.

The best way to locate them in SCIS Data is to do an advanced search of the phrase ‘Project Gutenberg’, choosing Publisher field, and the exact phrase from the drop-down options.

Each record contains a convenient link to the resource on the Project Gutenberg database. Once at the resource, you should find multiple ebook formats to access.

SCIS Data record

Project Gutenberg record for Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

If you want a title on Project Gutenberg, that we have not already made a record for, simply go to our online cataloguing request system and request the ebook:  https://my.scisdata.com/CreateCatalogueRequest

Once you have mastered the international Project Gutenberg website you may also be interested in the Australian digitised collection at http://gutenberg.net.au/

Enjoy searching through this treasure trove!

SCIS Data case study: Josephine Barclay, King’s College Taunton, UK

‘SCIS is like a trusted library assistant that builds my catalogue with accurate records, and allows me to focus on supporting the students.’

School: King's College Taunton
Type: Independent co-educational secondary day and boarding school (aged 13-18)
Enrolment: 470+
Cataloguing subscription: SCIS Data + Authority Files
Library management system: Infiniti
Size of collection: 10,000+

King’s College is part of King’s Schools, Taunton along with its prep school King’s Hall. The schools provide continuous day and boarding education for girls and boys aged 2 to 18 years. King’s College pursues academic excellence with a commitment to good teaching and effective learning. Librarian Josephine Barclay credits SCIS Data and Infiniti with reducing the time it takes to catalogue resources, leaving her free to assist students in other valuable ways.

Broadening the librarian’s role

Josephine said that since implementing SCIS Data, she’s been able to extend her role. She’s now more than the school librarian who just catalogues all the books – as cataloguing no longer takes much time.

‘I work a lot with the sixth forms. I assist with Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), History and English coursework and generally help students learn how to research, create bibliographies and use citation tools. I locate quite complex books to help students see what research has been done already. Then they can use the references from the books to look further on websites.’ Josephine also helps students plan and edit their work, ‘I am playing to my strengths now’.

Simple and intuitive to use

Josephine finds their library catalogue to be simple and intuitive and says it is easy for her students to use. She explains: ‘Our students know how to use the Infiniti catalogue and can show others how to do it.’

Infiniti is on the school portal now, so students can log on and search the catalogue from wherever they are, using their phones. Josephine provides students with the foundational skills to find what they’re looking for. She says that students can be really excited about locating a new book.  Then they come and see Josephine and she will assist them to locate the book on the shelves. Josephine notes ‘That’s the way they like to do things!’ Josephine likes them to come and talk to her about what they are looking for so she can help them personally.

Says Josephine, ‘Students are very good at finding websites but not so good at searching in books, and I maintain they’ve got to use properly researched books. I help them locate and read through books they need for their coursework.’ Students are also encouraged to make book recommendations for purchase.

Students help with cataloguing

Josephine has also taught some students to catalogue books using the library management system because it is so well-integrated and simple to use. She explained the process: ‘Using Infiniti, students first scan the barcode, then we go to SCIS and the record usually comes up. If it doesn’t, I deal with that book later.’

Josephine previously sourced records through the British Library. It didn’t always provide the correct details, so she had to do a lot on her own. ‘All I use now is SCIS,’ she says, ‘and sometimes the Scottish Library, which is quite useful for books that have gone out of print.’

‘I can find most items in SCIS’, she adds. ‘I would say the hit rate is above 80 per cent.’

Josephine’s students usually catalogue literature and young adult fiction, but can do any books that are on the SCIS site. ‘I might give them a big pile of books and get them to put the stickers and the security labels in’ says Josephine. ‘Then they take turns to learn how to catalogue – and they learn that really, really quickly.’

Josephine thinks it’s great that students can do cataloguing. And, of course, she makes sure it’s done properly. ‘At the beginning of the year, when I’ve got loads of books to process, I know that they can do 50 books each. And they enjoy it – there’s a sense of satisfaction.’

Supporting librarians to do their job

SCIS has definitely saved Josephine a lot of time. ‘It’s a bit like having an assistant librarian,’ she says. ‘And I can trust it to let the children use it and I know the records are accurate.’

‘I find the book summaries very useful. I’m planning to put some on the outside of the books, using my own handwriting. Then students can see why I think it’s a good book and what they’ll find in it. And I know I can trust what you’ve written about it, which really important for people who work on their own.’

For librarians who work on their own, it is not always easy to find someone to talk to about library matters. ‘I want to keep abreast of things,’ says Josephine, ‘but I work on my own and that makes it difficult.’ She finds that the Connections journal helps her stay in touch, and inspires her with ideas from librarians around the world.

Josephine happily recommends cataloguing through SCIS and Infiniti to other librarians. ‘I tell them if the children can do it, they can do it! I genuinely find it takes a lot off my workload.’

‘I talk to them about how SCIS helps me get cataloguing done really quickly so that so I have time do other things. The fact that your system helps me do that is great.’

The time saved by using SCIS allows Josephine to devote more time to the parts of her role that she finds most rewarding. She states, ‘I actually see it as allowing librarians to do their job.’

A cataloguing subscription means that library staff like Josephine have more time to support their school community and offer enriching programs and services.

Josephine’s verdict

Josephine says that she would recommend SCIS to others — ‘A SCIS subscription allows me to carry on with the parts of my role that I find most rewarding.’

To see which other library systems SCIS works with, please visit our Library management systems page.

What are special book numbers?

Mavis Heffernan, SCIS Cataloguer, explores special book numbers. 

Book numbers are the set of three letters found in the SCIS call number. SCIS records all contain call numbers:

  • Fiction items are given the collection code F and a Book number
  • Non-fiction resources are given a classification number using Dewey Decimal Classification and a Book number

 

 

Book numbers usually comprise the first three letters of the first filing word of the main entry, i.e. author or title (where there is no author or only an editor).

However, special book numbers are employed for certain classes of material. Some special book numbers serve as a shelving device for biographies or to place works such as commentaries and adaptations with the original text. Other special book numbers are a result of alphabetical sub-arrangement within Dewey classes.

Special book numbers are used in the following cases:

Works about the subject

  • Individual biography, Family biography, Musical group biography

SPR (Bruce Springsteen by Marty Monroe)

BRO (Everyman’s companion to the Brontes by Barbara Lloyd)

  • Commentaries and critical works

BEA (The complete guide to the music of The Beatles, by John Robertson)

BRO (Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, by Frances McCarthy)

  • Abridgements and adaptations of literary works, including film adaptations

AND (The ugly duckling [by Hans Andersen] retold by Brenda Parkes

MIT (Gone with the wind [videorecording of the motion picture based on the book by Margaret Mitchell])

Dewey instructions for sub-arrangement

Special Book numbers are used in all ADDC15 and DDC23 classes where the Dewey Editors give the instruction to sub-arrange alphabetically. For example specific named automobiles, specific television programs, specific computers, computer programming languages and computer programs. Also, special book numbers are provided in the schedules for DDC23 numbers for William Shakespeare:

629.2222 MG (Specific named automobiles, e.g. MG) DDC23

791.4572 STA (Specific television program, e.g. Star Trek) DDC23

004.165 MAC (Specific named computer, e.g. Macintosh) ADDC15 and DDC23

H (Lamb’s tales from Shakespeare) DDC23

P3 (The merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare) DDC23

Extraordinary special book number – ABL

It is SCIS policy to use this special book number for works where the book number would, if title main entry and covering topics on Australian Aboriginal peoples, be ABO:

305.89915 ABL (Aboriginal studies)

635.089915 ABL (Aboriginal bush gardens: teacher and student information and examples)

We hope this offers an insight into how the SCIS team creates high quality, consistent catalogue records for school libraries. Happy cataloguing!

Remote teaching and learning: Opportunities for growth

Written by Naomi Heyman, Teacher Librarian, South Grafton Public School

I can’t wait to fast-forward a year, when COVID-19 is a distant memory. A ‘Remember when’, a ‘Thank goodness that is over’, a ‘Look how far we’ve come’. I look forward to a time when we will be back to normal, and all the more grateful for everything that we have.

Amid the current climate and uncertainty that COVID-19 brings, there is a sense of calm within me that knows everything will be ok. But, also a sense of calm that comes with my schedule being almost wiped clear — aside from teaching, supporting staff to teach their classes, and running a tech-filled, warm and welcoming, 21st-century library! This small, guilty pleasure comes from the cancellation of our vast array of extra-curricular activities, special events, sports carnivals, training, music practice, and various meetings. It brings with it a sense of serenity — a holistic outlook that enables a more dedicated focus to teaching preparation, practice and reflection.

It’s not a good thing to admit — hence why I call it a guilty pleasure. It’s most definitely not a good reason for these cancellations. But, nonetheless, knowing that after a full day of teaching, I can return to my family — because our meeting has been cancelled, or because there is no sporting practice today — is invigorating. It’s like I have been given permission to put some balls down in the hectic juggle of life. This sense of calm that I have comes from a selfishly personal perspective.

However, through a professional lens, life is becoming more complicated. As the schedule is cleared of meetings, special events, sporting carnivals and networking opportunities, the role of teacher librarian evolves to include an additional dimension of resource provision, an understanding of our students’ home lives, and the stark reality that school is the best part of many children’s worlds. How do we maintain a student’s connection to school, and to the classroom?

grey laptop computer near white lined paper on table
Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

The professional implications of an event such as COVID-19 creates a relatively new dimension to teaching preparation and implementation. Digital platforms, such as Google Classroom for remote access learning, are fantastic tools that can be embedded with live broadcast Skype or Zoom sessions and recorded YouTube clips to facilitate the continuation of learning from home. Teacher librarians need to be able to guide teaching and executive staff on the operation of these, and assist in establishing this facility for students.

Resource collation tools such as Del.icio.us, Diigo, Livebinders, Pearltrees, Pinterest, Scoop.it, StumbleUpon, and Google Sites are another great, user-friendly option. Many teacher librarians already use these in some form. I created Library with Mrs Heyman (sites.google.com/a/education.nsw.gov.au/librarywithmrsheyman/home) a few years ago, primarily as a resource collation tool, and a one-stop-shop for students to facilitate and enhance their library learning time. They are all familiar with and well-trained in navigating this site, and accessing the information they need from the numerous options in the side menu. Staff are utilising it as well, and colleagues further afield in my networking groups are also referring to it for inspiration and teaching.

These technology-dependent remote learning options are great for most of our school population with supportive, enthusiastic parents. However, there will always be a percentage who are disadvantaged with regard to access and connectivity. To create an inclusive remote access learning program, a paper and pencil option must also be provided.

In this highly connected, technologically driven era, I wonder if we should ask ourselves: ‘How do we keep children connected to their social world?’ Or do we use this opportunity to look inward — to focus on life skills and home skills that our increasingly busy lives have deprioritised? Encouraging students to learn how to plant a vegetable garden, change a bike tyre, breed chickens, research sustainable power options for their home, sew, cook, fish, play board games, learn a language or a musical instrument, and simply read for pleasure — these are some of the many activities that could beautify the tapestry of our lives. If we dedicate some time to these, we may be able to look back upon this time and say with great pride, ‘Look how far we have come’

Digital content curation: How to do it right!

Written by Dr Kay Oddone 

COVID-19 has transformed daily life in a matter of weeks.

We are working from home, communicating online and wondering when everything will go back to normal.

One of the few positive aspects of this pandemic has been the almost overwhelming outpouring of online resources, strategies and tools that have been shared at an intense rate among educators in Facebook groups, via Twitter and through countless other digital networks.

Teachers the world over are scrambling to adjust to a new reality where face-to-face classrooms do not exist. Transitioning to online learning is challenging at any time, and for everyone, however many have been asked to adopt a whole new way of teaching over a period of days (and sometimes even hours).

As teacher librarians, our job has always been to curate resources and to generate usable collections of credible and useful sites and tools to support the teachers at our school. Now, more than ever, content curation has become a focal point. Teacher librarians are trained to quickly and effectively critically analyse and evaluate learning materials in a way that teachers may not. That being the case, it is more vital than ever before to assist them to navigate the tsunami of information flooding every communication channel by creating curated content.

As teacher librarians, our job has always been to curate resources and to generate usable collections of credible and useful sites and tools to support the teachers at our school.

How do we curate content?

There are many tools available that enable us to quickly compile lists of digital resources. You can read about how to select the best tool for the job here: linkinglearning.com.au/choosing-a-curation-tool.

Using these tools effectively requires skills in ‘content curation’. Traditionally, the term ‘curator’ refers to someone who looks after objects in a museum exhibition. A popular definition of content curation is the act of selecting and collating digital content and organising it so that it may be better used to meet a particular need. Beth Kanter has an excellent primer on content curation, where she hastens to point out that curation is not simply an aggregation of links; it is a process of strategic collection, where what is left out is just as important as what is included. It is also an editorial process, where context-specific knowledge is added to each digital resource, and then delivered via a tool that best suits the needs of the identified audience.

This sounds more complex than it is. It simply means finding quality digital content, evaluating it for a particular purpose, adding extra information for those most likely to use this context for that particular purpose, and sharing it with those users via the most suitable platform.

 

How do we avoid the pitfalls?

One vital difference between curation in the past and dealing with digital content is the sheer amount of information, and the need to avoid filter bubbles and the temptation to simply collect everything. Joyce Seitzinger describes some of the traits to avoid when curating very succinctly, in her presentation, ‘When educators become curators’.

 

She describes these traits as follows:

The hoarder: One who collects everything indiscriminately, who doesn’t organise their content, and who doesn’t share — this is really closer to simple aggregation than curation.

The scrooge: One who similarly hoards their information — although they may organise their collection, they don’t share either — one of the key purposes of educational content curation!

The tabloid (or National Enquirer): One who indiscriminately collates everything together, and generously shares this aggregation, whether others want/need it or not!

The robot: One who uses tools to share automatically, with no context-related additions or value-adding — in this case, the curation is really no better than providing a list of Google search results.

Avoiding these pitfalls is what differentiates the effective content curator from those simply ‘collecting’ content.

What are the benefits?

Aside from creating a resource that will be gratefully received by an overwhelmed teacher, a curated collection has many long-lasting benefits that far outweigh simply listing sites or gathering countless links.

A curated collection has many long-lasting benefits that far outweigh simply listing sites or gathering countless links.

Firstly, with so much content being generated daily on social media, resources not curated could easily never be found again. When content is officially published, details such as the title, author’s name, subject headings, ISBN etc (ie the metadata) are attached — either printed on the item or electronically attached. This makes it easy to find and re-find.

User-created content may not have this type of metadata and, if it does, it might not be meaningful for searching. It might be a photograph with no title, a recipe for chilli that someone has shared on Tumblr with the hashtags ‘#yummy’ and ‘#dinnernextmonday’, or a list of sites posted in a Facebook conversation. Curating these resources and adding meaningful annotations and tags will mean that they can be searched for time and time again.

Secondly, while effective searching will return a lot of content, Google will simply not find everything. You may be searching for an item that is sitting somewhere Google doesn’t access — not only lots of social media content but also sites that require a login, like a journal database or library catalogue. You may have seen it once — briefly appearing on your Twitter stream, perhaps when the author published it — but this is the only time you will see it unless you go directly back to that source. Curating useful items makes them discoverable by all of your library users! Even if you can’t link directly to the source within the database, linking to the paywall gives you enough information to access it again if you decide that you really need it.

Finally, digital curation allows you to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and to take advantage of the wonderful sharing that is happening by giving you the opportunity to create a resource that will continue to support teachers even after calm has been restored.

Digital content curation goes beyond a simple save and is far more than just collecting. It is when we strategically select an item to be added to a collection, which is being compiled for a specific purpose. Collecting is additive but, interestingly, curation is subtractive — what you leave out is almost more important than what you include. A great way to think about collection and curation is described by Frank Chimero in his post about sorting a mass.

Consider collection as a bowl of loose pearls and curation as a pearl necklace. Collection is like a bowl of pearls. The individual pearls may be of great value, but they are pretty useless just gathered together in the bowl. Curation is what happens when particular pearls are selected from the bowl, and strung into a beautiful necklace. The pearls now have a purpose — they have been carefully selected and added to the necklace in a particular order. The necklace, which has fewer pearls than the bowl, but which can be publicly admired and worn, is worth more than the sum of its parts.

When we curate content, we add an annotation to each item, to explain to others why this piece was chosen, and how it fits within the collection. This makes the individual items more meaningful for others and brings the collection together as a whole resource.

When you have a collection of random links, the individual items may be useful, but the list itself means nothing. A carefully curated collection is a resource that stands alone. It can be useful to you — when you go back to these resources, your annotation will remind you of why you saved it and how it will be useful — and it will be of value to others if they are seeking an overview/introduction/entry into a topic. Creating a curated collection also makes a group of resources easily shareable and useable — it will ‘travel’ with you as it will (more often than not) exist online, and be publicly accessible to you and others whenever you need it.

Applying curation principles also allows us to create a resource that a teacher can pick up and use with confidence, as they know that the links included have been carefully selected to suit their teaching context.

I’ve written a lot on curation over the years, and the reason is that I believe that as our collections morph into a digital-physical hybrid, curation will become just as, if not more important than collection development. It will allow us as teacher librarians to remix physical and digital resources to become accessible to our community in new ways. COVID-19 has transformed the world in so many ways, but for teacher librarians, it has offered us an amazing opportunity to show everyone not only what value we can add, but also that students (and teachers) need school libraries! Now more than ever!

COVID-19 has transformed the world in so many ways, but for teacher librarians, it has offered us an amazing opportunity to show everyone not only what value we can add, but also that students (and teachers) need school libraries! Now more than ever!

A word about content curation and copyright

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) Flickr photo shared by Austin Kleon

Although curation is not ‘theft’, all of the tips that Austin Kleon shares in his book, Steal like an artist — itself a treatise on reusing online content ethically — apply to ethical content curation.

Always link directly back to the source when curating. This is automatically taken care of when you use a curation tool such as elink. However, I believe that it is good practice that if you find a site that references a great idea or image, rather than simply linking to that site, take the trouble to go back to the original creator’s publication of that idea, and link to there. An example:

A popular blog shares a post about a great resource they have discovered, which is created by a third party. Rather than linking to the blog post when curating the link about the great resource, take the time to go back to the third party’s original post and curate this link. Therefore, the creator gets correct attribution, rather than the blogger who wrote about it.

This is particularly important when curating from pages that include articles like ‘10 great tools for x’ — these are aggregations themselves of original work and not the original creation.

Copyright is all about protecting the income of the creator; therefore, ensure that nothing you publish in a curated list directs users away from the original, particularly if the original is a source of income for that creator. Always ensure that you attribute or reference where you sourced the original content from (again, something most content curation tools do automatically, but good to remember) and, wherever possible, ensure there is no way that users of your collections might mistake others’ work for your own.

Curating widely from various sources, rather than wholesale replication of others’ work on your own pages is also good practice, not only to avoid the risk of plagiarism but also to ensure you are providing a resource with a breadth of perspectives and information.

How are you curating resources that you discover? Let’s keep the discussion going!

Updated 6 April 2020.

Dr Kay Oddone is an educator who has spent over twenty years working in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary contexts. As Head of Libraries at Australian International School in Singapore, she leads the four school libraries on the campus, and is also the Secondary School Teacher Librarian, supporting over 1000 students and approximately 250 staff. She is passionate about digital literacies, critical digital pedagogies and open educational practices, and has published research on how teachers enhance their professional learning through online personal learning networks. 

Kay loves reading, nerding out online and travelling, and spends her free time walking her Jack Russell, Ruby, and discovering restaurants in her new neighbourhood. She can be found on Twitter @KayOddone and blogs at www.linkinglearning.com.au

Free SCIS short course: Managing your library collection and catalogue.

Hello all! The amazing SCIS team have created a free short course for new school library staff (and for those that would like a refresher). Focusing on collection curation and cataloguing, we will help you get started in organising the resource offerings of your library. We have created 7 SCIS Blog posts, each containing a lesson in managing your library collection and catalogue. Click on the links below and explore at your own pace.

We are so pleased to take you on this journey!

Lesson 1: Help! I’ve taken over a library. What do I do now?

We’ll start slow, and take you through the basics of a library: what it is, and what it can be. Ideal for those of you who have just stepped into the role of librarian. But this is also a nice refresher, and a chance for those of you who have been working in a library for some time, to take a step back from your current practices and think about the basics.

Lesson 2: Managing your collection – what does your library collect?

Now we start to get into the juicy stuff! This lesson looks at the library collection policy and why it is so important. We cover sourcing and acquisition — building up your library collection — along with the necessary evils, otherwise known as weeding and stocktake.

Lesson 3: Introduction to cataloguing – unleash your library collection

This lesson dives right into the heart of cataloguing. We discuss why we need to follow cataloguing standards, what standards you’ll need to be aware of, and how to make standards work for your library.

Lesson 4: Descriptive cataloguing – describing your collection and finding resource information

We’ll start looking at the ways you can describe your library collection, and where you can find information on a particular item. We also look at how most people perform searches, and the important fields to consider when cataloguing.

Lesson 5: Subject cataloguing and authority files – why it is important to keep control

This lesson uncovers the benefits of controlled vocabularies. We also delve into authorities and authority files: what they are, and how they can make your collection more discoverable to staff and students.

Lesson 6: Organising your collection –classification, Dewey and call numbers

Here is where you can start to make your library work for you and your school. We discuss the importance of classification, describe the difference between full and abridged Dewey, and provide an overview of call numbers and genre classification.

Lesson 7: The value of your library collection – now that I’ve set up my library, what’s next?

Our final lesson ties everything together. We’ll look at how to evaluate and advocate your library, suggest activities for engagement and networking, and touch on creating efficiencies. In a nutshell, we discuss how you can make the most of your time to serve the needs of your school.

Thank you and enjoy!