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

“The school library is essential to every long-term strategy for literacy, education, information provision and economic, social and cultural development.” – School Library Manifesto

Welcome to the world of the school library and lesson 1 of the SCIS short course! This lesson was created for new school library staff but is perfect for library staff 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.

Running a school library is a challenging yet rewarding role. You are about to take on the responsibility of developing and nurturing inquisitive young minds, preparing them to become open-minded adults with an appreciation for what a library has to offer.

No longer is the library just a room with books. Librarians do not read books all day — they don’t have the time. And walking around shushing users is no longer the done thing.

Today, a library is a place for both research and leisure. It is where reliable information and works of imagination can be freely accessed and enjoyed by all. Library users have the opportunity to encounter diverse ideas and cultures all in one place. For school students, many of whom have limited chance to travel, the school library provides a safe environment from which they can have a window to the rest of the world and the wider society.

As the person who runs the school library, you are here to inspire students; equip them with the skills for research and enquiry; help them develop and sustain love and enjoyment of reading and learning; and teach them to evaluate and use information in all forms, formats and mediums. By the time your students graduate, they should have the information literacy skills needed to locate relevant and reliable information in order to be effective problem solvers and high functioning creators.

First steps

Have a look at your library. What is the current state of your library?

  1. The collection – is the content relevant? Are the resources being used?
  2. The literacy programs – are there any? If so, are they effective? Are the students engaged?

The best way to gauge this is to obtain feedback from your school community. Talk to the teachers and students. Ask them how they view and use the library. Perhaps even run a survey.

You may find that your library is well used and considered to be a valued space. In that case, excellent. The question then becomes: how do you maintain and improve the library’s sense of value within the school community so that it continues to remain well regarded?

Alternatively, you may find that your library is underused and undervalued. In this case, it is even more critical to seek insight from teaching staff and students to learn where the library has come up short. Ascertain what should be done to bring your library closer to where it needs to be. The goal here is to work towards making the library a tool that contributes to student learning and teacher success, as well as providing a space that members of the school community can use for enjoyment.

Overall, the main activities that create value for your school library are collection curation, literacy programs, support for teaching staff and students, and advocacy for your library by engaging with school management and administrators, parents, and the wider school/school library community.

Things to consider

Collection management policy

When you first assess your library, the collection should be part of this evaluation. It will be helpful to check whether the library collection is based upon the curriculum and needs of your school; and whether it reflects the interests of the school community as well as the wider educational community. The library collection should show diversity, with works created domestically and internationally, and covering a wide range of themes. A collection development policy documents how the library will meet these objectives. We will discuss this further in lesson 2.

Teenager looking at books on library shelf

Resources

In addition to books, resources can come in a variety of formats including digital media such as websites, apps and ebooks. Each user’s need is different and a variety of formats ensures that the wider audience is catered for.

Tip: Include educational websites as part of your collection! They do not take up physical space and the only cost involved is the time taken to add them to your library catalogue. Depending on your library catalogue, resources like this can even be accessed 24/7.

Not to be forgotten, your school library is also a place for enjoyment and so materials for that purpose should be included in the collection. Your students should be consulted for this as they make up the majority of your users. While you perform research into their interests and culture, it is also a great opportunity to improve their engagement with the library.

Engaging spaces

Have a look at how your resources are placed in the library. Think about the steps your users would take to locate a resource and assess whether the current layout flows naturally in accordance with these steps. At the same time, your school library should also feel inviting. Its physical space and appearance should attract your users to visit even when they have no particular need. Ideally, there should be areas for the collection, quiet study and research, group study, informal reading, instruction, and library administration. Take into consideration lighting and display. Of course, drastically changing the layout of your library when you are just starting out is not really recommended, however it is possible to make small adjustments here and there with these requirements in mind. Sometimes one colourful display can make all the difference.

Two children playing chess in school library

Activity

Create a survey for teachers and students to complete. This is a great way to gauge how the school library is currently viewed. Examples of questions to ask include:

  • How often do you come into the library in a week? Exclude the times when you come in because lessons are held here.
  • Do you usually find what you’re looking for when you come into the library?
  • What do you usually do when you come into the library?
  • Complete this sentence: The library is__________________.
  • What improvements would you like to see in the library?

Conclusion

So, now we’ve covered the basics of a school library, and how it can become a valuable space for educators and students — if it isn’t already. We’ve provided you with some simple steps you can take right now, to assess your library, and start making those small changes to bring your library closer to where it needs to be. In lesson 2, we’ll look at your collection and how you can create a collection policy. We’ll also discuss sourcing and acquisition, weeding, and stocktake.

References

Further reading

  • Schultz-Jones, B. & Oberg, D. 2015. Global action on school library guidelines. The Hague, Netherlands: De Gruyter Saur.School library guidelines (n.d.) Hobart: Libraries Tasmania. https://libraries.tas.gov.au/school-library/Pages/school.aspx

SCIS short course: Managing your library collection and catalogue.

Hello all and welcome to the SCIS Blog for 2020! We wanted to start the year with something a little different. 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.

Each week for the next seven weeks, we will create a blog post that contains a lesson in managing your library collection and catalogue. To receive the email simply subscribe to the SCIS Blog.

In the meantime, here is a rundown of what to expect throughout this course.

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.

We are so pleased to take you on this journey!

Why do we ask for book images?

Written by Deb Cady, SCIS Cataloguing Team

It’s a good day.  You’ve just sent off your request to SCIS for items to be catalogued and moved on to another project.  And then – you get an email asking for images to be sent.  First, you sigh.  Then you say “Oh, sugar!”  Then you think to yourself “But why????”

SCIS relies on a number of sources to catalogue books from an online request.  When we contact you for images, it generally means the ISBN has not been catalogued ANYWHERE in the world.

In order to make the highest quality records for these books, SCIS needs to view certain information about each title.  This information is on the publishing history (or copyright) page.

Example of copyright page.

This page tells us the date, publisher, ISBN and other key information so we can complete your request.  It is, generally, the single best image you can send with any cataloguing request.

Often these requests are made because the resource is part of a special print run. Special prints runs might be books sold through newspapers, a single store, or distributor (Aldi, Big W, QBD, McDonalds, etc.) and are not advertised on the publishers’ webpages.

SCIS knows that it is not always easy for you to send images to us.  It’s not something we ask lightly.  We ask for it because we really need it to provide a quality cataloguing service.

More information on SCIS cataloguing can be found on the SCIS Help page.

Happy cataloguing!

SCIS Recommends

The unprecedented and devastating fires across many parts of Australia have caused untold grief and loss and will continue to have long-lasting traumatic effects on those directly and indirectly involved.

Inspired by the Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries list of books about dealing with disaster for children, here are 20 resources selected by the SCIS team to help school library staff support students and assist conversations about bushfire and natural disasters.

List of books from SCIS catalogue List of books from SCIS catalogue List of books from SCIS catalogue List of books from SCIS catalogue

New and revised SCIS Subject Headings

The purpose of SCIS Subject Headings is to provide a controlled language approach suitable for subject access to the library catalogue for primary and secondary school students. This list is used by SCIS cataloguers when selecting or devising appropriate subject headings for educational and curriculum resources catalogued onto the SCIS database. The list can be used by schools that subscribe to SCIS to assist their library staff in conforming to SCIS standards when adding subject headings to local resources.

The following changes have recently been made to SCIS Subject Headings in SCIS Data.

New SCIS subject headings

  • Fake news

Use for works on and about disinformation in print and online media that are deliberately written to attract and mislead readers by exploiting entrenched biases.

Changed subject headings

  • Aboriginal peoples – Dreaming
  • Characters and characteristics
  • Characters and characteristics in films
  • Characters and characteristics in literature
  • Creation
  • Literature – 20th century
  • Literature, Medieval
  • Literature, Modern 

Changed non-allowed terms:

  • Fictional characters
  • Fictitious characters
  • Adaptation, Literary
  • Literature, Modern – 20th century

The full reference structure for each of these headings can be found in https://my.scisdata.com/standards.

New and revised SCIS Subject Headings

The purpose of SCIS Subject Headings is to provide a controlled language approach suitable for subject access to the library catalogue for primary and secondary school students. This list is used by SCIS cataloguers when selecting or devising appropriate subject headings for educational and curriculum resources catalogued onto the SCIS database. The list can be used by schools that subscribe to SCIS to assist their library staff in conforming to SCIS standards when adding subject headings to local resources.

Below is an overview of the new and revised subject headings approved by the SCIS Information Services Standards Committee (ISSC) from 1st January – 1st July in 2019. The changes have been made to SCIS Subject Headings in SCIS Data https://my.scisdata.com/standards

New subject headings

Anxiety disorders

Use for works on medical conditions characterised by persistent, excessive worry.

Streaming technology

Use for works about transferring data (such as audio or video material) in a continuous stream, including use in education.

Recessions

Use for works on a significant decline or slowdown in economic activity that goes on for more than a few months. For works on a severe decline in economic activity that lasts for many years, see Depressions, Economic. For works on situations where the value of assets drop off rapidly, causing a collapse in the economy, see Financial crises.

Financial crises

See also names of specific financial crises*, e.g. Global Financial Crisis, 2008-2009.

Use for works on situations where the value of assets drop off rapidly, causing a collapse in the economy. For works on a significant decline or slowdown in economic activity that goes on for more than a few months, see Recessions. For works on a severe decline in economic activity that lasts for many years, see Depressions, Economic.

Global Financial Crisis, 2008-2009

Children–Mental health

Surveillance

Kolkata (India)

Removed subject heading Calcutta (India)

Revised subject headings

  • Anglican church
  • Church
  • Churches
  • Cults
  • Methodist church
  • Protestant churches
  • Sects
  • European Union
  • Child psychiatry
  • Depressions, Economic

The dreaded case of duplicate ISBNs

A few weeks ago, the SCIS team were at a ‘Making the most of SCIS’ workshop and our conversation turned, as it often does, to ISBNs. If you love discussing ISBNs as much as we do, here – republished in full – is one of our most popular blog posts. Enjoy!

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The dreaded case of duplicate ISBNs

Doreen Sullivan
SCIS Cataloguing team leader

Have you ever had this experience? You search for or download the record for an ISBN and a completely different title is returned. Huh? How could SCIS have gotten it so wrong?

In most cases, this is not a mistake. The fact is, sometimes publishers print the same ISBN on more than one of their publications. Although ISBNs are meant to be unique to each title edition, it is surprisingly common for publishers to give the same ISBN to different books.

These are known as ‘duplicate ISBNs’ or ‘ISBN duplicates’, and they are frustrating for all concerned. It means that the same ISBN could show in two or more SCIS records.

When a SCIS cataloguer creates a record with a known duplicate ISBN, they will include a note like this: ‘Duplicate ISBN. Linked to SCIS record no. 911499’. But if you’re simply downloading a record, chances are you won’t see the note field.

You can set your profile to ‘Prompt me to choose from a list’ when ISBN duplicates appear. If you have this setting enabled and we’ve catalogued both items — the same ISBN but two different titles — the SCIS system will inform you of the duplication when you go to download the record directly from SCIS. Then you can select the title you need.

If you need more information to make your choice, we recommend performing an ISBN search on the SCIS catalogue, which will provide the SCIS number for each record. You can then download the record using the relevant SCIS number.

And if SCIS hasn’t catalogued two records — you can only see one title and it’s not the one you want — please contact us at help@scisdata.com so we can look into the issue for you.

First published September 28, 2017

To change your ISBN duplicate settings in your SCIS profile, please follow the prompts in the article, My Quick Scan result does not match the item ordered.

For more information on downloading SCIS records, please see our brief video, Downloading records in SCIS.

Diacritics in SCIS records

2019 is the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages. It is therefore timely that SCIS records can now include diacritics, ensuring that resources in indigenous languages such as the Māori language (te reo Māori) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ languages are recorded accurately in SCIS Data.

Continue reading Diacritics in SCIS records

Is there life beyond MARC?

SCIS forges into a new frontier

The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is working with several major school library management system vendors in Australia and New Zealand to revolutionise how library catalogue records are distributed to schools.

Continue reading Is there life beyond MARC?

The dreaded case of duplicate ISBNs

Doreen Sullivan
SCIS Cataloguing team leader

Have you ever had this experience? You search for or download the record for an ISBN and a completely different title is returned. Huh? How could SCIS have gotten it so wrong?

In most cases, this is not a mistake. The fact is, sometimes publishers print the same ISBN on more than one of their publications. Although ISBNs are meant to be unique to each title edition, it is surprisingly common for publishers to give the same ISBN to different books.

These are known as ‘duplicate ISBNs’ or ‘ISBN duplicates’, and they are frustrating for all concerned. It means that the same ISBN could show in two or more SCIS records.

Continue reading The dreaded case of duplicate ISBNs