SCIS (Schools Catalogue Information Service) was created with the aim of providing schools with access to a database of consistent catalogue records created according to agreed national standards, in order to reduce the cost and duplication of effort of cataloguing resources in schools. Since its inception, SCIS has been responsible for improving the quality and consistency of cataloguing materials for schools.
In today’s educational landscape, nurturing inclusivity in schools is of increasing importance. At SCIS, we’re deeply committed to fostering diversity and respect within the educational community, and we have recently taken a significant step in this direction by enhancing SCIS Authority Files.
We have now integrated AustLang terms into SCIS Authority Files. AustLang is an extensive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language database that utilises the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) catalogue of language terms.
SCIS Authority Files play a central role in supporting learning and exploration through library catalogue searches, providing ‘see’ and ‘see also’ results to help users find the information they need.
Why is this development so crucial? The inclusion of AustLang terms means that school communities will see search results categorised by terms that appropriately name Australian languages, helping them understand how to respectfully refer to the resources they are looking for.
For educators, it offers a valuable resource, in line with the Australian Curriculum v.9, to help teach the importance of cultural diversity and respect to their students. It also encourages teachers to incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander terms in their teaching, embedding a deeper understanding of Australia’s diverse culture into education.
Over 5000 schools across Australia use SCIS Authority Files. AustLang headings are now available to subscribing schools through our September Authority Files release. This update can be downloaded via our website, or automatically imported through our API for Accessit, Oliver and Athenaeum users.
If you or your school community have any questions or would like further information about SCIS Authority Files, please feel free to contact us. If you don’t currently subscribe to SCIS Authority Files, you can contact our friendly customer service team at email@example.com to find out more. For schools renewing their SCIS subscriptions ahead of 2024, there’s never been a better time to add Authority Files.
As a teacher librarian in a diverse school community, I am acutely aware that my worldview has been shaped by my upbringing in country South Australia. In June 2023, I had the opportunity to further my worldview by attending and presenting at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago. The experience of meeting with 20,000 librarians from across the world was humbling. As we discussed our joys and challenges, there were many similarities. I felt while I was geographically outside my comfort zone, I was professionally in a familiar place.
One of the most interesting parts of my trip was my exposure to the book challenges and bans currently being experienced in schools and public libraries across the United States. On my first night in Chicago, I attended ‘A Rally for the Right to Read’. The title was not hyperbole; the right to read freely and widely in much of the US is at risk. The keynote was delivered by Dr Ibram X Kendi, Professor in Humanities at Boston University and the author of How to be an Antiracist, one of the most banned texts in school districts in 2021–22. However, this was not the most transformative moment for me – this moment came when a panel of school librarians and a rural mum/graduate student spoke. Jamie Gregory was the 2022 South Carolina School Librarian of the Year, an accolade which in turn brought undue attention to a simple tweet in support of a book, which then led to a tirade of online and offline abuse.
Becky Calzada is the District Library Coordinator in Leander ISD; her district was one of the first to experience the full brunt of book challenges, a title she is not proud of. She has taken it upon herself to guide others and even spoke to this little Australian, delivering valuable advice. In her words, ‘It starts with one book!’ and ‘Don’t give them to airtime they desire.’ The final panel member was Leila Green Little, a rural mum and graduate student in library studies who, along with six friends, have become plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against her county, which has resulted in a preliminary injunction requiring the return of books to the shelves of the public library. The case is ongoing, as is the fight against book bans.
The following day I joined a Chicago School Library Tour with school librarians from the US, Singapore, Kenya and Peru. We visited school libraries serving different communities, with various designs and programs, but one quality was similar: the passion of the staff that work within them. At University of Chicago Lab School, one of the most interesting parts was exploring the Senior Library, replete with old wooden shelves and stained-glass windows. There was even a room dedicated to books published by graduates of the school. In contrast, the Catherine Cook School was a vertical school built in an old shoe factory. The furniture and programs were modern, the playground was on the roof, but the staff had the same dedication to literacy we share as professionals across the world. We finished the day with a keynote message from Judy Blume who, in keeping with what seems to be an ongoing theme, has over the years also had her books banned. She delighted the audience with a passion for ensuring teenagers access books which represent real problems.
After the joy of observing the practice of others, the next morning it was my turn to share. I presented on ‘Finding a New Normal: Library Policies and Practices’, sharing the pivots we took as a school library during the pandemic and the enduring legacy of these changes. I shared that many opportunities had opened up for invigorated programs and practices, but the pandemic also unearthed inequities within our services. No longer will we assume equal access to books and online resources in the homes of our students.
I spent the rest of the conference attending presentations and workshops on topics as diverse as supporting social development with literature, cataloguing, digital literacy and community connections.
There were many highlights of my trip, presentations on the breadth of library topics, meeting the Librarian of Congress, Rick Riordan, and even visiting the Field Museum. I left the conference and the country with a suitcase full of new release books from publishers, along with a box mailed home, but also a toolbox of knowledge and experiences I can draw upon for my career. If you ever have the opportunity to attend an international conference, I encourage you to seize it. Our practice is not a solo act – we are better when we draw on the knowledge and experiences of others, and a global worldview can only enrich this further.
Accessit users can now automatically import Authority Files into their library management system via our API. This new feature saves time for library staff who no longer need to manually import the files.
Authority Files enhance your catalogue records by incorporating “see” and “see also” references. These references serve as a helpful tool for you and your school community, facilitating easier discovery of relevant resources. It’s like adding an intuitive search assistant to your catalogue!
Our team of expert cataloguers create name, subject, and series linkages, thereby broadening your search results to encompass resources that may not directly match your search term but are still relevant. For instance, when searching for “Stars,” you might also come across resources related to Astrophysics, Nebulae, Planets and Solar Systems . This expanded search experience empowers your school community to find more specific or related resources on the topics they search for.
If you’re an Authority Files subscriber and already use the SCIS API, setting up the new automatic import is straightforward. See the instructions below:
Navigate to Cataloguing -> Imports -> Import MARC Authorities
Select option ‘Import from SCIS API’
Select ‘Authority Type’ – (Subject / Name / Series)
Once the setup is complete, manual imports become a thing of the past, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of Authority Files effortlessly. In Accessit, these benefits are immediately evident in the ‘See Also’ tab of your search display, as depicted in the screenshot below:
We’re thrilled to offer Accessit users the opportunity to enhance their catalogues with our automatic Authority Files import! If you’re an Accessit user and an Authority Files subscriber, we highly recommend setting up the automatic import today. SCIS extends its gratitude to Accessit for working with us to implement this feature, which helps simplify library management.
Authority Files enhance your catalogue records by creating “see” and “see also” references, helping you and your school community discover relevant resources. Think of it as making your catalogue smarter!
Our expert cataloguers create name, subject, and series reference linkages that extend your search results to include resources that may not directly match your search term, but are still relevant (E.g. “Disasters” will also show you Shipwrecks or Disaster Relief so you can find more specific or related resources). This creates a “rich” search experience and provides easier access to the resources you’ve carefully curated to aid learning and development.
Oliver V5 users can set up the SCIS API to import Authority Files automatically using parameters 7324 -7327 to set up the import. See below information:
7324, ‘SCIS Authorities Automatic Import’,enables the new automatic import.
7325, ‘SCIS Authorities Automatic Import Options’,the same options as available when manually importing a MARC Authority file.
7326, ‘SCIS Authorities Automatic Import Frequency’, how often the process is run as part of nightly housekeeping. This defaults to every 6 months.
7327, ‘SCISAuthorities Automatic Import Type’, the same options as available when manually importing a MARC Authority file.
In addition to the new parameters, two existing parameters (7320 and 7321) are also used for this functionality:
7320, ‘SCIS Username’,available from SCIS for use with their API.
7321, ‘SCIS Password’,available from SCIS for use with their API.
Once set up, there will be no need to import manually, and you can simply enjoy the benefits of Authority Files through features like Oliver’s cataloguer display. This display provides clickable links to broader, narrower, and related terms, as well as series references. See the example screenshot below:
We’re excited that Oliver V5 users will now be able to enrich their catalogues through Authority Files without needing to lift a finger! If you’re an Oliver V5 user and Authority Files subscriber, we highly recommend setting up automatic Authority Files import today. SCIS would like to thank Softlink for implementing this new feature, making library management easier.
Education is an important part of reconciliation. Making sure your school community has access to resources that can help them learn about our shared culture and history supports and strengthens our ability to build a better community for all Australians.
To help you expand your library collection to include more new resources about and by First Nations people, here are six resources we’ve catalogued over the last year.
Law is culture, and culture is law. Given by the ancestors and cultivated over millennia, Indigenous law defines what it is to be human. Complex and evolving, law holds the keys to creating resilient, caring communities and a life in balance with nature.
Marcia Langton and Aaron Corn show how Indigenous law has enabled people to survive and thrive in Australia for more than 2,000 generations. Nurturing people and places, law is the foundation of all Indigenous societies in Australia, giving them the tools to respond and adapt to major environmental and social changes. But law is not a thing of the past. These living, sophisticated systems are as powerful now as they have ever been, if not more so.
Country tells us when …
Tsheena Cooper, Mary Dann, Dalisa Pigram-Ross & Sheree Ford ; translation by the Mabu Yawuru Ngan-Language Centre
Some cultures around the world have four seasons that they look out for on a calendar; summer, autumn, winter and spring. The Yawuru mob don’t have four seasons that are told through a calendar. They have six seasons and Country tells the Yawuru people when they have arrived by what can be felt, seen, tasted, smelled and heard.
The Voice to Parliament Handbook: All the detail you need
Thomas Mayo & Kerry O’Brien, cartoons by Cathy Wilcox
Indigenous leader Thomas Mayo and acclaimed journalist Kerry O’Brien have written this handbook to answer the most commonly asked questions about why the Voice should be enshrined in the Australian Constitution, and how it might function to improve policies affecting Indigenous communities and genuinely close the gap on inequalities at the most basic level of human dignity.
Looking after Country with fire: Aboriginal burning knowledge with Uncle Kuu
Victor Steffensen, illustrations by Sandra Steffensen
Join Uncle Kuu as he takes us out on Country and explains cultural burning. A timely story of understanding Australia’s ecosystems through Indigenous fire management, and a respectful way forward for future generations to help manage our landscapes.
‘History is not weighted on the scales, it is felt in our bones. It is worn on our skin. It is scarred in memory. ‘The Queen reigned for seventy years. She came to the throne at the height of Empire and died with the world at a tipping point.’
What comes next after the death of what Stan Grant calls ‘the last white Queen’? From one of our most respected and award-winning journalists, Stan Grant, The Queen is Dead is a searing, viscerally powerful, emotionally unstoppable, pull-no-punches book on the bitter legacy of colonialism for Indigenous people.
William Cooper’s passionate struggle against the dispossession of Aboriginal people and the denial of their rights, and his heroic fight for them to become citizens in their own country, has been widely commemorated and celebrated. By carefully reconstructing the historical losses his people suffered and endured, this book reveals how the first 70 years of Cooper’s life inspired the remarkable political work he undertook in the 1930s.
“‘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
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
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
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.