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!

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!

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

Welcome to lesson 7 of the SCIS short course! So, what’s next?

Now that you understand the basics of cataloguing and collection management, it’s time to look further afield. Your school library exists to improve student learning and information literacy. You know this, but do your users know this? Are the school’s decision-makers aware of this? Do the students’ parents understand this value provided by their school library? Is your library all that it can be?

Evaluation

The best way to find out is to perform a comprehensive evaluation of your library. The survey you conducted back in lesson 1 was intended as a basic feedback tool to gauge your library’s popularity and its perceived value. Now that you have a handle on the basics of your library, it is time to perform a more thorough evaluation. This is an all-round evaluation of your library’s information literacy and literacy programs, staffing, budget and funding, collection and resources, technologies, and facilities.

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) School Library Guidelines contain an evaluation checklist in Appendix D on which you can model your evaluation. Evaluation activities can include student, teacher and/or parent surveys; and analysis of records from the library’s circulation and cataloguing system. The results of your evaluation should help you to see exactly where your school library’s strengths and weaknesses are. You will then be able to form a plan of action to promote the strengths and improve the weaknesses. You will also be able to gain a greater understanding of your library and its offerings, as well as the educational and teaching needs of the students and teachers. These types of evaluations, large and small, should be done periodically to enable you to always understand, be aware and sufficiently respond to the changing needs of your users as well as the needs of the school.

Advocacy

Advocacy for your library involves long-term planning and continuous activities, but it is so worth the time. This will help you to establish relationships with decision-makers and garner support from those who can influence the decision-makers. Ask yourself: how do the members of your school community think about your school library? Is it just a room with books? Or is it an essential space that supports teaching and learning? Build relationships with school management and administrators. Be loud and proud of what your library is offering. Let people see its worth. To give weight to your case, perhaps refer to international research that demonstrates the contribution of school libraries to student achievement, as well as statements to this effect made by respected international organisations. The IFLA website[i] provides links to some great content that you may find useful. See also the latest advocacy campaign called Students need school libraries.

While advocacy should be directed at school administrators and parents i.e. those who make decisions and those who can influence these decision-makers, don’t forget to market and promote the products and services of your library to your users — your staff and students. Have a plan for marketing your library, and periodically review and adjust to suit changes in users’ trends and needs. Enlist the support of school administration in order to engage their interest and participation, and to ensure your marketing plan is carried out effectively.

Engagement

One of the outcomes of marketing and advocacy for your library is to engage the interest of the entire school community. You want them to be aware of your library, and have a vested interest in what your library has to offer. To that effect, use every opportunity available to you to engage and build your relationships with all levels of the school community.

If you find yourself short-staffed, recruit students and parents to become volunteer helpers. They can assist you with tasks such as making displays, shelving returned items, keeping shelves tidy, and so much more. It is a way that gains you helping hands while making your library’s presence known to the school and its wider community.

Use social media to communicate news about your school library. Social media provides great platforms on which to advertise events and programs held at the library, share results of library surveys you’ve run, and showcase the personality of you and your library staff.

Perhaps consider stocking some resources for parents and caregivers as a way of showing relevance to the learning needs of the whole school community.

Run events of interest in your library. Ideas could include inviting authors as guest speakers, holding library-themed exhibitions, celebrating international library and literacy days, and running reading, media and information literacy programs (opportunity to collaborate with teachers here). The possibilities are as endless as the opportunities to be creative.

Networking

In addition to your own school community, it is also useful to connect with other school librarians and public and academic libraries. Networking ideas include:

  • follow social media pages to see what others are doing and generate inspiration for yourself
  • attend library-related professional learning sessions where, besides acquiring new skills, it’s a great way to meet other school library professionals who can share their knowledge and practises with you
  • find out what school library/library associations there are for your region, and become a member to gain access to industry news, contacts, and information
  • join library listservs for firsthand knowledge of the current issues and concerns that are being discussed by your peers.

These activities will help you to build a support network of colleagues who understand your role and, more importantly, what you are trying to achieve.

Create efficiencies

By now, you may have come to recognise that a school librarian’s role is quite varied and takes up a lot of time and energy. So to free up your time, you may wish to invest in services and equipment that help automate certain processes and procedures. For example, there are services available that can catalogue your newly acquired resources for you. If an average working day is 7.25 hours and it takes 16 minutes to create one catalogue record, then you will be using up 19 working days to create 500 records. On the other hand, if you take up a subscription with the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), you’ll be done with the 500 records in a matter of minutes, and then you can spend the extra 19 days doing other things that may have more impact on teaching, learning and library advocacy.

Whichever way you decide to run your school library, just remember one thing: what you are doing is a great job – it is a job that is crucial and relevant to the learning needs and development of the next generation.

Activity

Under each of these areas: evaluation, advocacy, engagement, networking, efficiencies, note one task/goal/thing you can achieve in the next month.

Make a second list of tasks that you would like to achieve in the next term, semester or year. Keep the list handy to remind you of the larger/end goals you have for your school library.

Conclusion

Congratulations on completing our short course! We’ve covered a lot during the past seven weeks, from library basics to managing and organising your collection, and cataloguing resources. We hope you’ve come away inspired, and full of ideas to turn your school library into a vibrant hub that improves student learning and information literacy.

We hope you found the content useful, and we look forward to hearing about the experiences and challenges you’ve faced in your school library. If you have any questions about this course, or Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), please do not hesitate to contact us.

Good luck and all the best to you!

References

Further reading

  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 99: School libraries supporting literacy https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-99/school-libraries-supporting-literacy
  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 100: Guerrilla book fair: getting staff involved in your school library https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-100/guerrilla-book-fair-getting-staff-involved-in-your-school-library
  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 103: Ten ways to advocate for your role as a teacher librarian
    https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-103/ten-ways-to-advocate-for-your-role-as-a-teacher-librarian

[i]IFLA School Library Advocacy kit, https://www.ifla.org/publications/school-library-advocacy-kit

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

Library books on shelf with Dewey number

Welcome to lesson 6 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

What is classification?

Once an item has been described and assigned subject headings, it needs to be classified. A classification system enables materials to be arranged according to a designated order. When users search the library catalogue, the classification will direct them to the correct area on the shelves to locate items. Most often items on the same subject will be grouped together.

One of the most widely used classification systems is the Dewey Decimal System.

Dewey Decimal System (DDC)

The Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC) assigns a three-digit number to each area of knowledge so that materials can be shelved in numerical order with materials on the same subject together. Within each area, subjects can be further defined by adding additional numbers after a decimal point.

The ten main classes defined by the DDC System are:

Dewey number Class
000 Computer science, information and general works
100 Philosophy and psychology
200 Religion
300 Social sciences
400 Language
500 Science
600 Technology
700 Arts and recreation
800 Literature
900 History and geography

DDC is a hierarchical system. This means that all topics within each of the main classes are part of the broader topic above them. In general, the longer the number, the more specific the topic it represents.

For example:

Dewey number Topic
700 Arts and recreation
790 Recreation and performing arts
796 Athletic and outdoor sports and games
796.3 Ball games
796.33 Inflated ball drive by foot
796.336 Australian-rules football

Editions of DDC

DDC is available online, by subscription or print-on-demand.

Call numbers

Libraries use call numbers to label their materials for shelving. A call number for nonfiction resources is usually made up of the classification (DDC) number, and then other information to help users find the item on the shelf, such as letters from the author name, or a location prefix. A location prefix refers to the section of the library in which the item is shelved, such as Nonfiction, Reference, Fiction, or Teacher Reference. The call number suffix may be based on the author’s name and allows items with the same classification number to be shelved in alphabetical order so that they can be easily found.

REF ← Prefix for Reference Area
636.708 ← Classification Number
RIC ← Suffix based on the first three letters of the author name

Using DDC as a component of a call number ensures that materials on similar topics are shelved together and supporting browsing for items of interest.

Genre

Fiction collections have traditionally been shelved in alphabetical order, according to the author’s surname, without a classification number. In recent years, many libraries have started to split the fiction collection up into ‘genres’. This means that the books are shelved in small sections, with the same type of books shelved together. Within each section, the books may still be shelved in alphabetical order.

This ensures similar fiction materials are stored together, and helps students and teachers to find the books that they like.

Things to consider

  • Determine the genres that you want to use. You don’t have to make up a list yourself; you can use authorised genre lists from agencies such as SCIS or Library of Congress as a guide.
  • Review the space you have, and plan how you will rearrange your shelving and signage.
  • Decide how you will label the books, and reflect their location in the catalogue.

Activity

Take a look at your current collection, and how resources are shelved and displayed in your library. Do you already use classification, Dewey and/or call numbers? If so, fantastic! Are you satisfied with the order and layout you have chosen? Do any sections or shelves need review? If you don’t already use genre to group items, is this something you might consider?

If your library is not yet organised, how can you begin to implement these important changes? Consider what we’ve discussed here, review your current resources, and come up with a plan to classify and shelve them in a way that will best serve the needs of your users.

Conclusion

Classification helps you to keep your library organised, and ensure that resources can be easily found by educators and students in your community. We’ve explored Dewey, and provided an overview of call numbers and genre classification. Next week is our final lesson, where we bring everything together.

Further reading

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

Welcome to lesson 5 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

Subject cataloguing is the process of assigning terms that describe what a bibliographic item is about.

Cataloguers perform subject analysis for items in their library, most commonly selecting terms from an authorised list of subject headings, otherwise known as a ‘controlled vocabulary’. Controlled vocabularies often take the form of a ‘thesaurus’, which is used to link similar and related terms. In addition to this, a thesaurus also shows hierarchical relationships between terms. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to this as ‘subject headings’ throughout this lesson.

Do I need to use a controlled vocabulary?

The decision not to use a controlled vocabulary is not something that would be noticed by most library users. The impact of controlled subject headings is subtle, yet it has a profound impact on your catalogue’s ability to retrieve results. It is an ‘unknown unknown’ for users, who do not know about items that their search does not retrieve.

The most common examples of uncontrolled vocabularies are social media tags or user-generated tags — in both examples, users are free to choose any term they wish. It is important to note the limitations of working with an uncontrolled vocabulary.

Consider how controlled vocabularies would help to clear up any confusion in the following situations:

  • Synonyms (two words with the same meaning)
  • Homographs (different words with the same spelling).

Without a controlled vocabulary, one cataloguer may assign the subject ‘Insects’ to a record, and another may assign the subject ‘Bugs’ to a similar record. This would result in discrepancies between search results, meaning that the two different subject headings will return two different sets of resources.

Subject heading lists will likely include preferred and non-preferred headings. A controlled vocabulary would choose an authorised, or preferred, subject heading such as ‘Insects’. It may also display ‘Bugs’ as a non-preferred term.

Please note, more than one subject heading can be assigned to a record.

How do people search?

Library catalogues usually provide two main types of search:

  1. A ’basic’ or keyword search that allows the user to type in a search term or phrase and then search across the whole database. This will often bring back too many search results, which then have to be narrowed down or filtered.
  2. An ’Advanced search’, which allows the user to do a much more specific, or targeted search by selecting particular fields. Typical fields include author, title, series, subject or ISBN. This allows for greater precision in your search results.

How do users benefit from subject headings?

There are several benefits of using subject headings, rather than keywords, in advanced searches. Although it can be assumed that most novice catalogue users will use keyword search rather than subject search, it is important that we communicate the benefits of the latter in order to enhance our library users’ information retrieval skills. This, in turn, means they will make the most of your high-quality cataloguing.

Subject searches expand their understanding of what is available

By performing a subject search rather than a keyword search, users can gain a broader understanding of the resources available in the library. For example, say a user enters the search query ‘Super heroes’ — but the preferred term is ‘Superheroes’. Users will be pointed toward the correct term and will see a broader range of subject headings that may assist their search.

Look at the following image as an example. If a user performs a subject search on ‘Flowers’, they will be directed to a range of resources tagged with that subject heading. But before they do, they might be interested in seeing what other options are available. While the user started their search broadly, they might be interested in browsing narrower terms that they didn’t think to search on — or perhaps a related search that might be of interest to them.

Example of subject search

Subject headings as access points

In the Resource Description and Access (RDA) standard, subject headings are presented as access points, which allow users to follow an efficient path for resource discovery. If we go back to the idea of the key functions of the library catalogue that we explored in lesson 3, we can understand that subject access points support both greater discoverability and navigation.

RDA supports the inclusion of access points, which, together with authorised subject headings and name headings, allows users to refine their searches. Of course, without authorised terms here, the catalogue’s ability to point users toward relevant resources is hindered; say one person has used the subject heading ‘bugs’ and another has used ‘insects’ — a user will only find one or the other, not both.

Choosing which subject headings to use

Your library users should be at the forefront of your mind when choosing which subject headings to prescribe to your catalogue; it is important that the subject headings align with the vocabulary that they would use. Luckily for cataloguers, there are a number of subject heading lists available for you to choose from, many of which have been created specifically for use in certain fields.  Two lists commonly used in the school library environment are SCIS Subject Headings List and Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT).

Each cataloguing authority that creates these subject headings often has an additional product called ‘authority files’ that allows the catalogue and, ultimately, the users, to reap the benefits of
authorised subject and name headings.

What are authority files?

An authority is the authorised or preferred form for a heading — most often names and subjects — in a controlled vocabulary. An authority file is an index of all authority records of any given agency or library. When your library users perform subject searches, authority files also act as ‘recommended searches’. It can point users to the correct subject heading and help them understand how to narrow or broaden their search.

The inclusion of authority files in your library catalogue ensures compliance with RDA standards. As part of the RDA standard, data used in records to describe ‘an entity’ associated with that resource — be it a concept, person, family, or corporate body — should help users find, identify, clarify and understand each entity.

Look at the example below. The authority record for ‘Superheroes’ leaves no confusion as to how to use this subject heading. This not only helps make the cataloguer’s job easier but also the library users.

Superheroes authority file

SCIS Subject Headings List (SCISSHL) or Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) have authority files available for you to subscribe to. Please note, your subject headings and authority files should come from the same source.

Activities

Become familiar with different search options offered by OPACs and observe the usefulness of controlled vocabularies. Go to an OPAC in your library system or any other catalogue.

  • Do a basic keyword search for a term eg Houses, then go to advanced search, select subjects and search for the same term. Compare the results.
  • Find a ‘Browse search’ option for subjects. Browse for any term e.g. Houses. This browse list is populated from the system’s authority list of subject headings. Can you ascertain which subject heading list the terms come from?

Some library management systems use tag clouds and others use facetted searches to display the controlled vocabularies. Look for examples of these in your system or any other catalogue.

Conclusion

So now you have an understanding of the importance of controlled vocabularies, subject headings, and authority files in the library catalogue. Each one significantly enhances the consistency, value, and usability of your library management system and search functionality. You have seen how people search for resources and how different search interfaces produce varying results. Next week we’ll explore classification, Dewey, and call numbers.

Further reading

  • Schools Catalogue Information Service: Subject Authority: avoiding the unknown unknown http://scis.edublogs.org/2017/03/27/subject-authority-avoiding-the-unknown-unknown/

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

Hands of librarian holding books

Welcome to lesson 4 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

Libraries use descriptive cataloguing to describe the resources within their collections so that they can be found by users. A library catalogue helps your users to discover what is in the library collection, helps them select the resource that meets their need, and directs them to where the resources can be found or accessed. This includes ’physical’ materials, such as books and DVDs on the shelves, as well as online resources, ebooks, apps and websites.

Cataloguers use a number of international standards to create consistent records so that related resources can be found, identified, selected and obtained. International standards also ensure that users can navigate and explore the catalogue database to find other resources of possible interest.

Doing your own cataloguing takes a lot of time. Rather than creating a brand new record from scratch every time a resource needs to be added to the collection, many libraries prefer to obtain their records from outside, saving them a lot of time. We will look at this a little more in lesson 7.

The level of cataloguing addresses how completely a record is catalogued. Full cataloguing generally takes more time as it includes verification with international standards.

Describe your library collection

In lesson 3, we introduced you to cataloguing. The information, or metadata, that the catalogue record contains provides access to the materials. Consistent and accurate cataloguing means that your users can find all of the information that the library holds to match their search.

Descriptive cataloguing is when standardised sets of rules such as RDA: Resource Description and Access are applied so that the title, authorship, publication data, and the physical extent of a work (for example, how many pages a book might have) are easy to find.

As well as the cataloguing standard used, such as RDA, libraries use an international standard called MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloguing). This gives each part of the catalogue record a number, or MARC field. For example, the 100 field contains the author’s name, and the 245 field contains the title.

Descriptive cataloguing focuses on what the resource is — whether it is a book 300 pages long, or a DVD in black and white — whereas subject cataloguing focuses on what the item is about; for example, a book about pet care.

Fields in a catalogue record

The most important fields in a catalogue record are listed in the table below.

Type of information MARC Field Description
Author 100 The name of the main author, for works by individuals. If there is no author, this field is left out. If the author is a corporation or a meeting, then a different field is used. An individual author’s names is usually formatted to show the surname first.
Title 245 The title, sub-title and statement of responsibility of the work.
Publication details 264 Publisher and place of publication. Older records will contain this information in a 260 field.
ISBN 020 International Standard Book Number. This is an identifying number that is assigned to each book by its publisher.
DDC 082 Dewey Decimal Classification number. This field contains the DDC number and information about what edition of Dewey was used.
Description 300 Physical description, number of pages (for books with numbered pages), and information about whether the item is illustrated.
Summary 520 A brief summary of what the item is about.
Subject 650 Topical subject heading, taken from a thesaurus or controlled vocabulary. This field contains additional information to identify which controlled vocabulary was used.
Genre 655 Genre heading for the resource. This field contains additional information to identify which controlled vocabulary was used.

Most of the fields in the above record are considered part of the description of the resource, providing information to help the user identify and select the resource that best meets their needs.

The DDC, Subject and Genre fields relate to what the resource is about. The standards used to create these will be covered in lessons 5 and 6.

How do people search?

  1. A “basic” or keyword search that allows the user to type in a search term or phrase and then search across the whole database. This will often bring back too many search results, which then have to be narrowed down or filtered.
  2. An “Advanced search”, which allows the user to do a much more specific, or targeted search by selecting particular fields. Typical fields include author, title, series, subject or ISBN. This allows for greater precision in your search results.

Cataloguing digital resources

Digital content is an important part of library collections. By including records for digital materials in the library catalogue, you make it easier for your students and teachers to find all the information they need from a single search point — the library catalogue. Records are catalogued using the same standards and subject headings that are applied to print-based materials so that resources of all formats for the same topics will be found.

Activity

As has been mentioned before, each library management system will display the cataloguing data differently, even though underpinning all records are the cataloguing standards mentioned earlier.

Study the OPAC display in your library management system. Identify where and how your systems display the following data:

  • Title (and statement of responsibility)
  • Author’s name
  • Publication details
  • Description
  • Summary
  • ISBN

Go to your library management system’s cataloguing module. Can you see your catalogue record in the MARC format (see example in lesson 3)? If you can, locate the following descriptive fields and identify the actual data it contains.

020                       ISBN

100                       Author name

245                       Title

264 (or 260)        Publication details

300                       Description

520                       Summary

Compare the MARC record with what your users can see in OPAC.

Conclusion

In this lesson, we have explored how you can describe the resources in your library collection. We provided an overview of important fields used in a catalogue record and how they are displayed in an OPAC. Next week, we’ll take look at controlled vocabularies, subject headings, and authority files.

Further reading

Kelsey, Marie, 2018, Cataloging for School Librarians, 2nd edition. Blue Ridge Summit: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018.

Lesson 3: Introduction to cataloguing – unleash your library collection

Welcome to lesson 3 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

What is a catalogue?

Your school library catalogue is the access point between your library users and your library collection. Library catalogues include metadata about the items in your library collection, both physical and digital, that allows library users to perform search and find resources relevant to their information needs. An effective catalogue should be able to help users find, identify, select and obtain catalogued items while navigating the catalogue itself. The key to this is consistent metadata that classifies and describes your library’s resources. Metadata put simply, is data about data — or, in our case, bibliographic information about resources held in libraries.

As an example, let’s say a library user wants to learn more about insects. There is a book sitting on your shelf titled Totally amazing facts about creepy-crawlies that matches your student’s information needs. Despite insects not being in the title or the summary, your library catalogue should be able to direct your user to that book. If your catalogue only included metadata about book title, author and ISBN, there would be no way to connect a catalogue search of ‘insects’ to the specified book. A standards-based approach to cataloguing will strengthen your catalogue’s ability to show users relevant resources, ensuring searches don’t miss important items.

Why do we need to follow standards?

We mentioned the need for consistency in library catalogues, and this is largely achieved through cataloguing standards. The benefits of following standards are that:

  • you do not need to create your own set of rules for describing items
  • you are future-proofing your library catalogue
  • you can import or copy records from other catalogues
  • your catalogue records will remain consistent.

Which standards do I need to be aware of?

Below is a rundown of existing standards that may impact your library’s cataloguing.

RDA

The current international library cataloguing standard is Resource Description and Access (RDA). For this, your school will need a subscription to the RDA Toolkit. This will give you full access to RDA standards, which includes data elements, guidelines and instructions for creating high-quality metadata. By subscribing to a descriptive cataloguing standard such as RDA, the functions of your library catalogue will be strengthened.

RDA is the content standard, instructing cataloguers on what information should be recorded, and how.

MARC

MARC, or MAchine-Readable Cataloging, is a standard to support machine-readable data. Where RDA focuses on the what, or the content, we can look at MARC as providing the means of communicating that content: it is a code input into the catalogue record to ensure computers can read and understand the data. While RDA can indeed support MARC, it should be noted that they are two separate standards.

Your library management system should be able to infer information from MARC data that allows it to be displayed in user-friendly ways.

For example, look at the two images below. The first is the raw MARC data, written in machine-readable code:

Raw MARC data written in machine readable code:

This image is how the user sees it:

Library catalogue record

Notice that in the second image, there are ‘Additional terms’. These have been inferred from the MARC data, by way of machine-readable code, in order to create more meaning for our catalogue users. This is made possible by consistent, standardised metadata.

Z39.50

Z39.50 — sometimes referred to as z-cataloguing — is a protocol that allows users to search and import library records from remote databases directly within their library management systems. Examples of databases that might be useful for schools are SCIS, Libraries Australia or the Library of Congress.

Z39.50 is not a ‘standard’ that library staff need to adhere to in the same respect as RDA or MARC; most of the work here is done by library vendors in creating Z39.50-compliant systems.

It is, however, useful to know about, and worth checking if your library system has Z39.50 capabilities. If you have a subscription to any of the abovementioned databases, Z39.50 will simplify your cataloguing process.

Library management system

The type of system used in libraries to store catalogue records is known as a library management system. This system will allow you to:

  • create catalogue records
  • import catalogue records from other systems
  • provide a search interface for your community (this is called an OPAC — Online Public Access Catalogue — or Discovery Layer)
  • lend materials
  • order materials
  • and more.

Library management systems can assist you with many of the tasks we have covered in previous lessons: evaluating the existing collection, weeding and stocktaking. All library management systems assist you with creating and presenting catalogue records to the user. Most library management systems comply with the standard explained above.

Making standards work for your library

All of the information available through the RDA and MARC standards can feel overwhelming when you are facing decisions about your own cataloguing. You will not need to learn or understand them all, as in most cases you will be able to import or copy existing records external catalogue databases. This will be discussed further in lesson 7.

Nevertheless, it is recommended that you understand how your library management system uses and displays catalogue metadata, and which metadata fields (MARC fields) are mandatory. In addition, libraries will make local decisions on how they wish data to be recorded, which then impacts on how the records are presented to users in the OPAC. Any cataloguing decisions should be made keeping the needs of your users in mind.

In lesson 2, we touched on the need to document processes within your school library. It is recommended that you create your own guidelines for cataloguing. Of course, this does not need to be a comprehensive document, but one that keeps a record of which standards you follow, and which metadata fields are mandatory for your library management system.

Conclusion

This week we introduced this idea of cataloguing, and why we need to follow standards in order to support access to your library collection. We provided an overview of what a library management system is in relation to collection management. Over the next three weeks, we will delve a little deeper into library cataloguing standards, looking at descriptive cataloguing, subject cataloguing and classification. We’ll use both RDA and MARC as the frameworks in which we explore these topics.

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

Teenager taking book off library shelf

Welcome to lesson 2 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

It is very important to document all of your procedures and policies. This will help you with consistency, and also ensure that your school community understands how the library works. One of the most important policy documents in the library is the collection policy.

In a nutshell, the collection policy outlines what your school will catalogue, while your library’s procedures detail the process on how you manage and catalogue your collection. Both documents are important for the effective running of a school library.

A collection is a term given to the resources that you make available for your community in your library. The collection may contain a variety of different formats, including print and non-print materials, and online resources.

Managing the collection to provide access for students and teachers is a very important part of your role. Key to this is understanding your school community and the curriculum that the library is supporting.

In lesson 1, we briefly touched on the collection policy, and why it is important. In this lesson, we’ll break down collection policies and go over acquisitions, weeding and stocktake, all key activities required in order to effectively manage your collection.

Collection policy

A collection policy is a document that sets out the framework and principles for the library’s selection of resources and how they will be managed. It outlines the policy for selecting materials to include in the collection, as well as the criteria for removing materials. The policy will be complemented by procedural documents that outline how to undertake certain processes.

What do you need to create a collection policy?

The collection policy is unique to your own school community. So the first thing to do is to gather information about your school and the collection that you already have. You may have already started thinking about this during lesson 1. You can find information about the school and curriculum from school policy documents, your school’s website and intranet, and from discussions with the teaching staff. Information about the existing collection can be obtained from the library management system. Depending on the system your school is using, you will be able to run reports to provide statistics about the number of loans, and the material already catalogued in the collection.

The sort of information you will need to gather includes:

  • Your school community
    • Type of school
    • Year levels covered – primary, secondary or both
    • Number of campuses (if applicable)
    • The school’s vision and plans
  • The curriculum
    • What are the learning areas that you need to support?
    • Are there any specialty areas?
  • The existing collection
    • Are there any gaps?
    • What are its strengths?
    • How well used is it?
      • What parts of the collection are borrowed the most?
      • What parts of the collection are borrowed the least?
    • How many materials do you have?
    • How old are the existing materials?
  • The budget
    • Who is responsible for the budget?
    • How much is the school able to spend on resources?
    • How is this divided across the different parts of the collection?

What should be included in a collection policy?

Think about the collection that your school needs. What are the vision and goals for the collection?

Once you know what you want to achieve, you can start to build a policy to help you.

The list below is a guide to the sorts of things that you might include in a collection policy:

  • Vision and goals for the library
  • Criteria for selecting resources, including material formats
  • Procedures for withdrawing (weeding) materials from the library
  • Policy for websites and online material
  • Policy on donated materials
  • Policy on lost items
  • Procedure for dealing with complaints about materials in the collection
  • Copyright

Acquisitions

Acquisitions is the process of ordering and receiving resources into your library collection.

Ordering

Your school may have a procedure and system in place for purchasing, or you may order directly through an ordering module in your library management system. It is important to check and understand what the school’s requirements are for purchasing. It is a good idea to keep a record of all orders in the library management system so that you can keep track of your purchasing.

Receiving

Receiving is the process of adding the resource into your collection, finalising the purchasing process once the order has been received, and processing the invoice.

Barcoding

When new materials are received in the library, they are tagged for circulation. Libraries may use barcode labels or RFID tags for this purpose. These tags identify each item individually so that you can track them.

Libraries use barcode scanners to circulate barcoded material and to scan ISBNs from book covers during the receiving process.

Weeding

Weeding is the process of deselecting or removing material from your collection. Your collection policy can include the criteria that you use for this.

Things to consider are:

  • Is the material up to date? Is the information still current?
  • Current editions: Is there a later edition of the work that updates it?
  • Is the material being used? Circulation (loan/borrowing) reports from your library management system can tell you what items are not being borrowed
  • Is the material still in a useable condition? Is it damaged, dirty or ugly?
  • Is the material still relevant to your school and its curriculum?
  • Disposal of weeded material. Do you run a second-hand bookstall, donate weeded resources to charity or place in a recycling bin?

Stocktaking

Stocktaking is a process that checks the materials in your collection, against your holding records, and it is a good way to identify lost materials. It also ensures an accurate record of existing resources for insurance purposes.

For many school libraries, stocktaking is an annual task. Other libraries identify a particular part of the collection to do each year, on a rotating basis. A date is set for the start of stocktake, and then all materials that are in the library are scanned. Once the scanning is complete, you can run reports from your library management system. From these reports, you can identify all materials that have not been scanned since the start date. This will show you what is missing.

Activity

If your library doesn’t already have a collection policy, now would be a great time to create one! You can begin by gathering information about your school community, the curriculum, your existing collection and budget, as indicated above. Templates and guides on writing policies are found in the resources listed below.

Already have a collection policy set up? Fantastic! We suggest you read through and ensure it is still relevant and meets the needs of your community.

Undertake collection analysis and evaluation using the SCHOOL LIBRARY COLLECTION RUBRIC in A manual for developing policies and procedures in Australian School Library Resource Centres.

Take some time to review your acquisitions, weeding, and stocktaking processes. What are your policies around donated materials and lost items?

Conclusion

In this lesson, we’ve covered the basics of a collection policy and explained its importance. We’ve offered some suggestions for what to include in your collection policy, along with an overview of acquisitions, weeding and stocktake. In lesson 3 we dive into the cataloguing process by looking at cataloguing standards.

Further reading

Collection policy

Stocktaking