The who, what, why, where and how of the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS).
Every day our customer service team speaks to staff from schools across Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the world. Whether it be on the phone, via email, or in person, there are some questions that are more commonly asked than others. That’s why we’ve written this 101 guide on the five facts people most want to know about SCIS.
1. Who/what is SCIS?
The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is primarily a cataloguing service for your school library. Our service is a layer of data called catalogue records – these are like a digital version of the physical catalogue cards that libraries used to use many years ago. Our catalogue records can be imported into the software you use to manage your library (referred to as a Library Management System or LMS for short). Our records contain information about all your books and resources, and this helps you and your students to find resources when you search by keyword, subject, author, title, publisher or publication date.
We service almost 80 percent of schools in Australia, over 40 percent of schools in New Zealand, and our services are being taken up by a growing number schools across Great Britain and other parts of the world. We’re owned and run by an Australian not-for-profit company called Education Services Australia.
Creating catalogue data is laborious work, but it’s essential to students being able to find the information they need when they search in your library. Our cataloguers are all qualified librarians who skilfully sift through resources by hand to ensure our data is accurate and high-quality.
2. Why would my school need SCIS?
If you ask any qualified librarian, they will tell you that cataloguing takes a huge amount of time and effort. Each resource catalogued must be examined and classified with a set of terms that are consistent across records, otherwise your resources become increasingly hard to find in your database. For example if your library uses the subject heading “World War II” on one history book but then uses “World War 2” for another, both books might not appear in in the same search. Our service spares you all the time and effort of creating this complicated and essential data yourself, and your school can ask us to catalogue new resources for you whenever you like.
Many people don’t realise that failing to catalogue resources with accurate, consistent information makes managing, stocktaking and weeding your collection very difficult.
Additionally, having one over-arching, cohesive catalogue can be of great help even if you don’t have a centralised library – quality cataloguing is still important when your resources are split up between classrooms. If one class is doing an assignment on volcanoes and students can’t locate any of the relevant resources in any other classrooms, there can be some significant consequences, including:
Your students missing out on fundamental learning and research opportunities
You and your colleagues being forced to spend additional time locating resources physically rather than digitally
The valuable resources you have spent time and money acquiring sit on a shelf unused.
All school staff benefit from SCIS records as they help to save school staff time (which is a precious resource in all schools) and help provide the correct resources to your students.
3. What products does SCIS offer?
SCIS offers two main products: SCIS Data and Authority Files.
SCISData provides you with access to our catalogue record database of over 1.6 million high-quality catalogue records. With a SCISData subscription, you can search and download as many of these as you like – and this includes records for digital products in addition to physical books.
Authority Files are files that generate ‘see’ and ‘see also’ references for searches in your catalogue, meaning that if you search for books about ‘bugs’ you can also return results on books that include ‘insects’ as their subject. Authority Files create important, verified connections between related subjects, names and series.
These two products together create a powerful combination and streamline your school library services. This saves you time and allows you to focus more on what matters: connecting with your students.
In addition to our two subscription products, SCIS also offers professional learning opportunities and library barcode scanners. Our professional learning sessions are designed to help you learn to manage your resources effectively and optimise your students’ learning experiences. And, of course, our barcode scanners will assist you at the circulation desk to ensure all loans and returns are processed smoothly and efficiently!
4. Does SCIS provide any free support?
SCIS assists in connecting an enormous variety of teachers, school staff, parent volunteers and library professionals. We endeavour to provide this vast community with the best support we can. We publish a termly magazine in print and online called Connections, where you can find out the latest school library news. Connections publishes pieces written by practising educators, teachers, library staff, authors and industry figures, offering a wide variety of views to reflect the variety of our audience.
Additionally, we often share news and updates across our social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Vimeo. Our Vimeo page offers all viewers free advice that can help you make the most of your SCIS subscription.
And lastly, we have a wonderful blog – which you’re reading right now! We post all sorts of news from educators, publishers and our own news on this site. We welcome all manner of contributions to this blog, so if you have any ideas, please feel welcome to write to us about it!
5. Is SCIS the software I use when I’m searching in my library?
SCIS is not what’s known as a Library Management System (LMS). When you’re using your system, the interface is not what we’ve created. There are a number of wonderful vendors who create all sorts of different Library Management Systems you can use, and we work with all of them.
Our data sits ‘under the hood’ of your LMS. It powers your searches for resources, provides data consistency that makes them findable, and gives you back the time it would take to catalogue your resources manually. That’s the magic of SCIS, we work so seamlessly within your Library Management System that we’re practically invisible!
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that using time efficiently and having well-organised resources underpin a school librarian’s ability to support their community.
Resourcing can present a particular challenge to primary school librarians when managing their libraries. Robyn Byrne from Traralgon Primary School (Stockdale Road) explains how SCIS helps her overcome these challenges.
‘Unfortunately, many primary school libraries are now managed by a sole education support staff member, with no formal training and in a part-time capacity. My school is no exception, so I have benefited greatly from having a SCIS subscription.’
With standing orders, books received through a rewards program and purchases from local stores and booksellers, the school acquires a substantial number of new books.
‘Cataloguing of the books – with the limited hours the library is staffed and with my hit and miss knowledge of cataloguing – is only possible due to SCIS. It works with our library system, and I would say 99.5% of my requests are matched, ensuring those books are out on the shelves in a timely manner and catalogued in a consistent way,’ says Byrne.
Collection development and professional learning
Joumana Soufan from Lalor North Primary School moved to a position in her school library last year and recently started to explore SCIS. She’s found it helpful for cataloguing but has also enjoyed the collection development tools that SCIS provides.
‘I have been enjoying looking for new apps that maybe useful to use for the library. I recently discovered that the Canva app is free to all school staff, which is a big bonus! I have been busy creating posters and resources for upcoming events. I have also just become aware that there are heaps of free e-books, so I’ll be busy downloading some as soon as I get time.’
‘I recently attended the workshop on making the most of SCIS,’ she says. ‘It was a very informative and really enjoyed it.’
SCIS provides school librarians with community through the Connections school library journal and its social media pages. Robyn Byrne has found this particularly beneficial.
‘I work alone in the school library so look forward to Connections, the SCIS publication, to keep me up-to-date with what is happening in other school libraries, get inspiration and information. Connections, the recent SCIS workshop I attended, and my local SLAV branch meetings are a great support network for me.’
Now serving school libraries across Australia and internationally for almost 40 years, SCIS is working hard to continue supporting librarians in a changing world, through quality cataloguing and cultivating a community of practice that helps librarians bring more to their schools. If you wish to know more about how SCIS can help your school library, email email@example.com.
The 14th of February is Library Lovers’ Day, which is always a wonderful day of celebration in the annual calendar. This year, however, we think it’s of special significance. It’s been two long years of loving our libraries from afar much more than we’ve been able to love them up close and personal. That’s why this Library Lovers’ Day we thought we’d write a valentine to our school libraries, reflecting on the things we’ve missed about visiting them over these past two years of COVID life (sigh).
1. The promise
Whenever you walk into a school library you walk into a visible, palpable realm of future possibilities. Every book on the shelf is an adventure waiting to come alive in your hands, every hand-curated display is a chance to delve deeper into a genre or subject you love. There’s such a visceral, spiritual feeling of possibility when you walk through library doors, that’s unique to such a place of variety, depth, knowledge and wonder. This year we’ll aspire to savour it each time we walk into a library.
2. The innovation
A school library is – and always has been – a wonderful place to promote lateral thinking. Librarians are always thinking ‘outside of the box’ and running carefully considered events and activities covering the smallest, most ‘niche’ subjects you could imagine, as well as the biggest, boldest, world-changing ideas of today and the future.
3. Support for teachers
We’ve always felt that school libraries provide an essential support for classroom teachers at the coalface. Whether it’s providing and curating resources, helping them set up and understand new technology or simply helping rush through some last-minute photocopying, libraries are always there in times of teacher need.
4. A safe space for students
Growing up is fraught with challenges and the school environment can be difficult for students to navigate at times, for a host of reasons. The school library has always been a place where students can feel safe and supported. Whether it be by the warm and welcoming staff, by getting lost in a good book, or simply by having a quiet, serene place to go, the library is always there, giving us connection, culture, stories and sanctuary.
5. Librarians and students: a dynamite combo
The thing we’ve missed most of all about being in school libraries is the wonderful symbiosis between students and librarians. The nurturing, one-on-one support that students receive from librarians and the nourishing joy librarians feel as they see a student thrive and grow through a collection they’ve so carefully curated for such a purpose is truly magical.
Wherever you are in the world, take a moment today to reflect on what a library means to you. We hope you remember the special personal, significance that libraries have to you today. We also hope that as the world opens up again, we can all visit a library, carrying with us an invigorated respect and appreciation for the important role they play in our lives.
Finding the best learning resources for your school is a task that requires a complex range of skills and connections with various and specific stakeholders. Teacher librarians have these skills and work hard to pair the right learning materials for their teachers and students.
The Educational Publishing Awards of Australia can be a great way to connect with the latest trends and innovative offerings from Australian publishers, who collectively produce roughly 2000 new titles per year. The Awards, known as the EPAAs (said Eeepars), are built on the principles of education research and innovation, and showcase the titles launched to the education market in the previous year.
An important aspect of the EPAAs, which relies on the participation of teacher librarians, is the Publisher of the Year survey. The survey collects valuable information about publishers’ product quality, field services, company services, marketing and innovation. Data is analysed and the publisher voted as “the best” is celebrated at the Awards ceremony. This information is used to improve the industry for the benefit of teachers and students.
One teacher librarian who has followed the EPAAs for a long time and completes the survey each year is Tasmanian based, Dr Jillian Abell. Dr Abell says she uses the Awards as a way to get a good overview of current new resources.
“The EPAAs are invaluable to teachers in their selection and evaluation of recommended resources,” Abell says. “In addition, as a teacher librarian, I followed the Awards to learn more about reputable trends in educational publishing for each of the disciplines/key learning areas and age-appropriate learning materials. I would purchase as many as I could, and certainly disseminate the information to staff. For example, it is always a trusted way to get an overview of new resourcing, such as peer-reviewed materials to support First Nations.”
Understanding what a teacher librarian does is helpful for Australian publishers. Dr Abell explains, “Teacher librarians develop extensive cross-curriculum knowledge and expertise for the skilful selection and evaluation of resources to be purchased across all educational levels and areas of learning support. They are experienced with identifying reputable and new works of interest through authors’ reviews, editors’ notes and Australian publishers’ blurbs. They understand the market trends, publication costs and quality of the digital or multi-modal resources. They can predict how a resource might be used by teachers and students and the wider school community.”
On the relationships between educators and publishers: “The collaboration and valued connections are well-developed over time through publishers’ generosity in showcasing and invitations to educators to be part of an awards process. After all, this process is an important part of teachers and teacher librarians meeting many of their Australian professional teaching standards (AITSL) and engaging with each other to select and use appropriate resources and participate in professional learning networks,” Dr Abell says.
2020 was certainly a disruptive year for the education sector, but while educational publishers responded to the pandemic by opening up access to resources to transition learning online, new resources were also finalised and made available.
The Educational Publisher Awards of Australia 2021 will showcase these resources from 2020.
The EPAA event will be held on 9 September 2021.
The Publisher of the Year survey, where book prizes are on offer, will open in late May.
Dr Jillian Abell AALIA, FACE, FACEL is President, Network of Educational Associations of Tasmania (NEAT); Director, Australian Professional Teaching Association (APTA); Chair, Tasmania Branch of the Australian College of Educators (ACE).
Congratulations to Anne Girolami Learning Leader – Information Services Mercy College, Coburg, Victoria
The winner of the ASLA Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year 2021 was announced on 13 April 2021 at the ASLA/SLASA National Conference by Kerry Pope, ASLA Vice President and presented by Caroline Hartley, SCIS Manager. The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is the proud sponsor of this prestigious Award. This National Award recognises and honours an Australian Teacher Librarian who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession of school librarianship. Through their high level of achievement in professional knowledge, professional practice and professional engagement they have had a positive impact on teaching and learning in their school.
Principals, professional colleagues and members of the school community were encouraged to nominate their Teacher Librarian for this award. This year there were 7 nominations from across Australia for this award. All nominations received were of an extremely high standard.
The ASLA Board and Members congratulate Anne, on this significant achievement and thank her for her outstanding contribution to our profession. Anne’s passion for school libraries and Teacher Librarians has been a driving force in her career and she has devoted many hours to this cause. She has over 30 years of experience as a Teacher Librarian in School Libraries and loves sharing her knowledge and expertise with colleagues.
Anne’s work at Mercy College has been exceptional. Anne is a key member of the Curriculum and Pedagogy Team and meets regularly with her School Leaders. She works enthusiastically with the Library Team to deliver services and programs that are at the heart of learning and teaching and that are adhering to best practice in library standards. She continually shares her love of reading and literature with her students. Anne works hard with staff to analyse data and identify student needs. She works closely with teachers and support staff to build their capacity to prepare students for life-long learning. Anne is highly respected and valued by her Principal, the students, staff, parents and members of her school community.
Anne has made a significant contribution to ASLA over many years, as an active and committed member. She has served as an ASLA Board Director, presented at ASLA Conferences, reviewed policies and reported at ASLA Annual General Meetings.
Anne has led a number of joint working parties with ASLA and ALIA, responsible for reviewing and writing National Policies for Teacher Librarians. Anne was Chair of the ASLA Policy and Advisory Project Team (PAPT) to produce Evidence Guides for Teacher Librarians in the areas of Proficient and Highly Accomplished Accreditation to support AITSL’s Professional Standards for Teachers. These documents have proved to be invaluable and are referred to constantly by Teacher Librarians undertaking accreditation today. In 2019 – 2020, Anne chaired the team reviewing and updating Table 6 in the combined ASLA/ALIA publication ‘Learning For The Future’. Recommendations of minimum information services staffing were thoroughly researched and documented.
With Anne’s calm, intelligent and thoughtful leadership approach, these Working Parties progressed diligently and consistently with the task at hand, resulting in the production of current, relevant and outstanding documents for Australian Teacher Librarians.
Anne is to be highly commended for her extraordinary and exemplary work in advocacy. She has been a Fellow of ALIA since 2020 and is a long-term convenor of ALIA Schools, working hard for the promotion and development of school libraries in Australia. She is an active member of the School Library Coalition and the FAIR Great School Libraries Campaign. Anne Girolami is an extremely worthy recipient of this Award for 2021.
In the latest SCIS Publisher Spotlight, Story Box Library explores innovating reading and learning with stories.
Digital learning is complementing traditional teaching methods with innovations. While classroom time is key in children’s development and learning, platforms like Story Box Library (SBL) bring stories to student’s fingertips.
Designed to be used by educators across a variety of ages and curriculum requirements, Story Box Library’s growing collection of stories and resources bring engaging learning options to any classroom.
Story Box Library’s Education Specialist Jackie Small says, “Story Box Library’s unique format of traditional storytelling presented digitally with the inclusion of support features provides educators with essential multimodal texts that convey meaning through written, spoken, visual, audio and gestural languages.”
“Resources such as SBL are essential because they meet a need for a society that has become increasingly multi-modal.”
Partnering with educators to enhance education
Saving time for educators, subscribing schools can now search SCIS to find stories from the entire Story Box Library (SBL) collection. This means all SBL titles, including storyteller images, can be downloaded and incorporated into school systems.
Along with MARC records and the corresponding ISBN numbers, SBL collections seamlessly integrate into school cataloguing systems. The SBL digital resource is now even easier to access for educators and students in Australia.
In keeping up with technological demand and developments of our changing world, SBL offers a complementary learning opportunity for educators and schools. Enhancing classroom learning and saving teachers time, teachers can engage students in a lifelong love of learning, reading and inspire curiosity, creativity and play.
Stories connect us to the rest of the world. While students discover stories in a safe, online space, their reading and literacy skills improve. Stories help children and young minds not only establish language and literacy skills but also create frameworks of the wider world, their community, friends, family, and their identity.
“Stories are thoughtfully curated based on thematic and literary value,” says Jackie.
“This makes them perfect springboards into a wonderful world of discovery and learning both in English and other key learning areas.’
Innovative classroom tools for all educators
Story Box Library’s additional expert-designed classroom resources help teachers save time in the classroom, assist in class preparation, and align with the Australian Curriculum. Designed to be used alongside story reads, and adapted seamlessly to any educator’s specific needs, SBL’s education resources make learning fun. Built-in features like playlist and search filter functions allow educators to find and save stories according to themes, topics, or their own personalised requirements.
“I like to think of our additional resources as creative seeds for educators,” Jackie says.
“They provide them with diverse and engaging ideas that provide children with opportunities to listen to, view, speak, write, create, reflect and compare texts within our library while also developing other skills such as metacognition, social skills, and critical and creative thinking.”
Based on unique themes, story structures and language features of each story, Classroom Ideas are flexible, adaptable and easily accessible for any Educator’s specific needs. Downloadable PDFs feature practical discussion questions and activity ideas aligned with curriculum areas. Stories also come with Student Task Sheets, which are grouped by themes and designed to be used independently by students. Students are provided with three task options towards meeting achievement standards via downloadable PDFs.
Recently released, SBL’s new Graphic Organisers and Thinking Tools assist students into becoming critical readers, designed to provide opportunities for deeper learning. With more in development, the first release of resources includes a Y-Chart, Character Profile, Story Map, Plot Summary, List Template, T-Chart, Venn Diagram, Menu Planner, Recipe Planner and an Interview Planner.
Connected to a world of stories
With one login, the entire school community of teachers, students and their families access to a world of diverse, high-quality stories. SBL is safe, secure and trusted by educators around the globe, and helps create curious and understanding young minds.
Story Box Library is working with partners like SCIS to inspire young minds, assist educators, and encourage a lifelong love of reading and learning.
Story Box Library is a subscription based educational website, created for children to view stories by local authors and illustrators, being read aloud by engaging storytellers. With a world of stories and educational resources, it’s Storytime, Anytime!
www.storyboxlibrary.com.au| @storyboxlibrary | Story Box Library
‘My job is to help the teachers with their teaching and the children with their learning. I do that in whatever way I can.’
School: Pymble Public School
Type: Primary K-6
Cataloguing subscription: SCIS Data + Authority Files
Library management system: Oliver Library Software
Size of collection: 18,000
The teacher librarian’s role
Kathryn is the only trained teacher librarian in the school. She has help in the library from another teacher who teaches classes and assists with circulation but does not assist with management tasks. There is also clerical support one day per week.
Kathryn runs the library herself. She buys and manages resources and assists teachers where she can, such as by recording programs to meet curriculum needs. One of her roles is to provide support for classroom teachers to provide specialist information services and teaching programs.
‘I see my job is to help the teachers with their teaching and the children with their learning. I do that in whatever way I can.’
As a New South Wales government school, Kathryn’s library uses the Oliver library management system. She says that 15,000 items are standard library resources – books, posters, charts, big books, teacher reference materials. A further 3000 items, such as the computer software, the DVDs and the textbooks are in the school resources section – students can’t see these on the catalogue. Technology items, such as laptops, are not loaned through the library.
Kathryn and the English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) teacher worked together to create a collection of books in languages other than English. ‘We’ve got a Community language section which has the non-English books. These are books in some of the languages represented within our school community’.
Everything in the library is catalogued. Kathryn lends nothing that isn’t on the system, although she admits that she sometimes lends her stapler but says, ‘It’s out and back for the day!’
SCIS for over 30 years
Kathryn has been in school libraries for 30 years and has used SCIS in every one. When she first started, SCIS records were on microfiche. Kathryn found the support from SCIS particularly useful as a new teacher librarian. ‘I knew that my books would be in the right place because the books were being catalogued by proper cataloguers.’ Later to automate her small school library Kathryn used Rapid Retrospective, from SCIS, to import the record. ‘We just sent in the ISBNs and SCIS sent us the records. Straight into the computer.’
At another school, Kathryn had dial-up internet in the library. She used to get to school at 7:00 am, Sydney time, while other parts of Australia were still asleep, to do the SCIS orders. ‘SCIS was so much faster at 7:00 in the morning!’ Kathryn managed the process to add extra SCIS subject headings using the Authority File to suit her students. She really enjoyed this work and didn’t regret the early starts!
SCIS hit rate
The hit rate in SCIS Data is normally around 98 per cent, except for items like a Harry Potter book in Chinese, or another of their community languages, that hasn’t necessarily been catalogued. If a record is not available, Kathryn normally checks the following week, but also sometimes sends items in to SCIS to be catalogued.
Kathryn finds the people at SCIS to be incredibly helpful when there are issues. She especially enjoys the conversations she’s had with SCIS cataloguers who share her fascination with the process.
Kathryn says, ‘Our collection is all beautifully arranged, thanks to SCIS. Even if I don’t always agree with all SCIS standards I can easily adapt them for our collection.’
Using the catalogue
Students use the catalogue to find resources in the library. It can be difficult to teach them how to use the catalogue successfully as they only have half an hour library lessons once a week, and that includes borrowing time and a teaching program.
Students who want to spend time searching the catalogue have access at home and the opportunity to come in at lunchtimes or in the morning every day. Students can access curated lists of educationally focused websites via the library catalogue (curated by the Department, using SCIS Data).
The catalogue is a well-used by Pymble Public School students.
A great collection in a small space
Due to its small size the library is used as a dedicated, traditional library space, rather than as a common area for games, puzzles and computer games or other pursuits. It also houses the school computer server (Kathryn is the computer coordinator) and a teaching space. The teaching area includes a SMART Board and a document camera that Kathryn finds particularly useful.
Kathryn is justly proud of her library. ‘We have an absolutely stunning collection.’ There are sections for community languages and graphic novels with fiction and non-fiction areas. The library includes a senior section for years 5 and 6, and a junior fiction section. Sets of readers for history, geography, science and sets of novels, dictionaries and home readers also have their place in the library.
Kathryn has become an expert at managing the space she has to the best effect. She says, ‘Everything is where it is because that’s the only place it can possibly go.’
‘The service and data provided by SCIS allow me to deliver a well-catalogued collection with minimal expenditure of time and effort. SCIS frees me to do the more important work of a teacher librarian – support my staff and students.’
Melissa Wastney, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, introduces school libraries to Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano, an online platform and literary community for readers aged 12-19.
The looks hook people in, but the blurb brings it home (literally, I always leave bookshops with a lot of books.)
This book deserves all of the praise it receives; it is a beautifully told, undeniably raw, and extremely emotional read…
Once I had read this I was able to understand that although New Zealand claims to be diverse and accepting, racism affects our day to day lives, whether you are able to see it or not…
– Quotes from some recent Hooked on Books reviews.
At Read NZ Te Pou Muramura we want to encourage all of us to read more, and at the same time acknowledge the social aspects of literature; how books bring us closer to each other.
In the words of American writer Patricia Hampl, ‘’If nobody talks about books, if they are not discussed or somehow contended with, literature ceases to be a conversation, ceases to be dynamic. Most of all, it ceases to be intimate. Reviewing makes of reading a participant sport, not a spectator sport.’’
Building a community of readers who discuss books, and growing the next generation of critics is what Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano is all about.
Established four years ago by Peppercorn Press to complement their print journal NZ Review of Books, Hooked on Books is an online platform and literary community for readers aged 12-19.
Read NZ adopted the programme in 2020 and would love your help to find enthusiastic young readers to review the latest New Zealand books for us.
How does it work?
First, we match readers with new books: mostly novels, but also non-fiction, poetry and essays. Our reviewers live everywhere from Invercargill to Kaitaia.
We ask for the reviews to be emailed back within a month, and the reader gets to keep the book.
Our editor works with the reviewer to edit the piece so it’s the best it can be. This can sometimes involve a week of revisions and emails but is always an encouraging and supportive process.
We publish the final version of the review on the Hooked on NZ Books website, and share it with our wider community. The best review from each month is published on the official Read NZ website.
Read NZ CEO Juliet Blyth says the purpose of Hooked on NZ Books is to grow the audience for home-grown literature, to provide another space for young writers to be published and to nurture the next generation of critical readers in Aotearoa.
“Our reviewers have the opportunity to respond personally and critically to the latest reads while together building an online resource about NZ books and a genuine platform for their voice.
“Anyone can say that they loved or loathed a book, but it’s much harder to say why. Reviewing is important because well-argued reviews can influence what gets published and what gets read,” she says.
We at Read NZ would love your help to identify young readers and writers aged around 13 – 19 to participate.
We welcome enquiries from school librarians and teachers, but we’re also happy to work directly with young readers.
The publishing and writing industry has changed a lot since I entered it in 1975.
In the early ’80s, I published Australia’s first high adventure fantasy novels from a small office attached to a secondhand bookshop. I even typeset books on a hulking IBM machine that had dials to tell you when to go to the next line. One dial was colour-coded, the other had numerals. If a line ended on, say, yellow and the number 8, I would type y8 at the end of the line. When I’d finished a page of such rows, I’d hit a button, and the page would print out ‘justified’. The tricky part was that the dial might land between yellow and blue. Type a b when it should’ve been a y, and that line would be out of whack.
To save typing out the entire page again – there might be five lines incorrectly spaced – we would type out the lines, cut them out and paste them over the printed page (I tell students that’s where cut and paste comes from). If there were typos – they could be many – we’d type out the word and paste that over the typo. Tricky to get straight, so sometimes we’d type a few words out so the line would be easier to superimpose over the error/s.
I mention the above because today designers with InDesign can do all that for you and it comes out (mostly!) perfect. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, we had to re-type the entire manuscript on a machine like the above. And that was costly. An 80,000-word novel would cost around $1,000 to get typed – a stack of money back then.
So current technology saves both time and money. But it also makes us work faster and harder. In the decades I mentioned (and into the ’90s) I might have received ten letters a week. People used to be careful and say everything they needed to in those letters because it would be two weeks before expecting to receive a reply. It’s just too easy to dash off an email without thinking. My ten letters (that’s a maximum guess) are now 40 emails in a day. If I count all the spam etc., I get two dozen emails before midday. So time is no longer on our side. My modest effort in the decades mentioned was so simple. I’d give the printer the laid-out sheets of text and, voilà!, it would come back as a printed book. I would have the stock delivered to the distributor. I’d send out review copies, and that was it. Nowadays, social media can easily be a job in itself, and all the digital and print-on-demand (POD) platforms would fill another job. Admin and reading email could well give another person a job.
One of the upsides is that the internet is a great leveller. I’ve always been a micro-press. That is a one-person show. Needless to say, I’ve had small distributors that don’t have the market penetration of the bigger distributors. The internet puts Ford Street’s website up against even the biggest publishers’ sites. With their great SEO, major publishers may come first in search engine results, but we’re still there beside them. Brick-and-mortar shops only have limited space on their shelves. Understandably, they’ll take the big-name authors over lesser-known authors. So this means you’ll be lucky to see Ford Street titles in many bookshops – but on the net, you’ll see all of Ford Street’s books and every other micro press’s books. So too, with digital publishing. I see no reason why smaller presses shouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with the major publishers’ digital books when it comes to distribution and display.
It’s funny how people have the perception that if a micro-press publishes a book, it can’t be any good. ‘Hey, if it were good a bigger publisher would’ve published it.’ Right? Wrong. In recent years this micro-press won the Gold INKY award, the Family Therapist’s Award and the big one, the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Picture Book of the Year award.
What do I like about being a micro-press?
It means I choose what I publish, and if I find a promising but unpolished manuscript I can choose to work with the author and hopefully turn it into a gem. This kind of editorial nurturing was more common to publishing in the past, but it seems to me that this rarely happens within most large publishing houses now, driven as they are by marketing teams and strong competition to sell ‘units’. A-list authors have to come from somewhere, though. A-list authors rise from B-lists. Knock out the B-list and exactly where the A-listers are supposed to come from?
For me, every author/illustrator is on my A-list.
I do not have to appease a marketing team.
Distribution. Publishers who distribute other publishers’ books present their books first. So if a bookseller runs out of time or their budget is gone, lesser-known publishers may not be represented in bookshops.
Competition from high-discount book stores. Major publishers mostly dominate sales to high discount stores. Books sold in places like K-Mart are often sold as loss leaders to draw in customers. Regardless, the more books you print, the cheaper the cost per book. No matter that they’re sold at a 70% discount, big sales are still profitable.
Cashflow. Creatives, printers, designers, editors, scanners are all paid upfront. But from the moment a book goes to all the above, to the moment it brings in money, can be eight months to a year. So if you’re a micro-press publishing 15 books, that’s a lot of money tied up before you can expect recompense.
Lack of staff. A micro-press owner needs to be a jack-of-all trades.
Export (distribution problems).
Inability (time/money) to visit major book fairs: Bologna, London and Frankfurt.
Speaking as an author … what are the challenges?
Low pay. Most authors, like me, have manuscripts lying about that took up to a year to write but have never been published. So that’s no pay for a year’s work. But that’s all part of the gig.
You have no benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay, an employer’s super scheme.
Isolation. COVID-19 has shown that solitary life doesn’t suit everyone.
Contracts. Agents don’t usually send out manuscripts. Some charge 15% commission of their authors’ ELR/PLR/CAL income.
And the benefits?
Self-employed, no travelling to work.
ELR/PLR/CAL/workshops for helpful advice.
Most people don’t realise that authors/illustrators generally make more money from school/library/festival visits than they do from their actual writing. An 80,000-word novel can take up to a year to write. The average advance might be $4,000. Spread that out on an hourly basis, and you’ll see creatives are working on a low wage. But then take into account royalties, PLR/ELR/CAL and presentations in various venues, and it works out pretty well.
Like many authors, my way around financial shortcomings is to have several jobs. It certainly makes my life varied!
– Paul Collins
Book cover supplied by Ford Street Publishing.
Stay tuned! We have more great articles aimed at promoting the importance of the published word scheduled for 2021.
create a freely available, online database of children’s books by and about Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples;
encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be engaged in their learning through increased cultural understanding;
provide a resource that supports incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures into learning environments;
map books against the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum;
offer teaching resources related to these books to support children’s learning;
enhance the quality of culturally appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning activities; and
support teachers to integrate contemporary and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into their work with children.
Our project coincides with the need and the right environment for this Resource. Movements around the world are highlighting the importance of #OwnVoices to create books. Publishers are ramping up their publishing programs of children’s books to reflect a wider diversity of voices. Grants, fellowships, mentorships and awards in this area have increased. At the same time, organisations are prompting individuals from wide-ranging backgrounds to participate in story making. Initiatives like the Spinifex Writing Camps, developed by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, are bringing together published children’s writers and illustrators to work with Aboriginal children in communities across Australia. Initiatives such as these encourage youthful voices to write and illustrate their own stories. The NCACL Resource reflects these changing times.
This project reflects expanding publications in this area. Recent publishers like Children’s Ground and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, along with the long-standing major publishers in this area, Magabala Books and Fremantle Press, are examples. Over 30 books in this area are in publishers’ programs for 2020. The new Resource highlights this growth.
After mapping out this project’s goals, activities and deadlines, 35 individuals across Australia, chosen for their broad expertise, joined a collective to comment on the books selected. Moderators guided these individuals and considered their commentary, while the Project Team and an external Reference Group monitored the project as a whole. An essential task included determining the functional requirements of the Resource, that is, what do we want the Resource to do? Our database designer, 372Digital, then considered these and created the database. At every development, NCACL’s Website Manager guided the database’s implementation.
The Resource has all the usual search filters for finding a specific author, title, publisher, publication date, audience and subject plus an annotation for each book. Added strengths include linking books to the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum, free teaching resources presented as hyperlinks for each book, identification of a location, the cultural groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ language in the books, where these could be identified. The Resource also offers free text searching of annotations. This provides access to such topics as writing techniques and styles as well as artistic media and techniques. Any words featured in the annotation are searchable.
A special feature is the facility to share your search results by a once-off registration which appears at the top of every NCACL webpage — look for Login/Register. Thereafter, searchers can choose their book ‘favourites’ and share these with colleagues using a variety of social media such as email, Twitter, Facebook and Messenger. Favourites can also be printed out for personal use.
DEMONSTRATING THE RESOURCE
There are currently over 300 children’s books in the Resource. To provide an insight into strengths and potentials for teacher librarians and teachers, in particular, one Australian Curriculum level and subject area will be examined along with the books retrieved. The aim here is to demonstrate searching strategies, techniques for broadening and narrowing the selection, depth and scope of books retrieved. One example of a particular curriculum and year level will demonstrate the potential of the Resource.
The example chosen is Year 6 HASS — History. This curriculum area covers ‘experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including the status and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, migrants, women and children’. The Australian Curriculum code for this area is ACHASSK135.
RETRIEVING BOOKS USING THE CURRICULUM CODE ACHASSK135
This particular Australian Curriculum Code retrieves 19 books with the audience level ranging from five years through 12 years of age. Each book will have its own audience range. The range reflects what we know about children and books — that a child’s chronological age does not always correspond with their reading and comprehension age.
Publication dates for these books range from the earliest, The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia by Aboriginal Children to the latest, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History. The collection of 19 books includes Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal creators working together and/or independently. A variety of publishers are presented including small (One Day Hill) and large (Allen & Unwin), longstanding (Magabala), mainstream (Walker Books), specialist (Omnibus and Little Hare), community-based (Kadjina Community) and educational (Era Publications and Board of Studies NSW).
This set of books reflects a range of styles and genres, with a concentration on stories which enable young people to experience the lives of others. Autobiographies such as Tucker and The Shack That Dad Built and biographies such as Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History, Old Tucker Man, Yinti, Desert Cowboy and Jandamarra enable young people to experience the lives and times of others.
IDENTIFYING LANGUAGE AND PLACE
Several of the books in this collection identify a specific location and/or language spoken by those living in the area. For example, the language identified in Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, is the Western Arrernte language (C8). The location for this story is (NT SF53-13). These alphanumeric codes are provided by AUSTLANG, developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). AUSTLANG uses alphanumeric codes to identify both language and place. These relate to a map available from AIATSIS either in hard copy or through their website’s online map. The title Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English identifies this story’s language as English, Walmajarri/Walmatjarri language (A66) (WA SE51-16) and its location as Western Australia (WA). Many of the 300-plus books in the Resource identify both location and language. To find other books relating to place and people, the subject filter includes these in an alphabetical list.
The Subjects search filter is a drop-down menu, which offers a simple way to find subjects of interest. Concentrating on the curriculum area studied in Year 6 HASS — History, several subjects are repeated in these 19 books, usually with different
Below are just a few of the subjects included in this modest collection of 19 books: agriculture, aquaculture, biographies, children as artists, children as authors, colonisation, injustice, livestock, outlaws, Papunya (South Central NT), and Warlpiri people (C15) (NT SF52-04). Should a subject be of particular interest, other books with this same subject can be located through the Subject filter’s drop-down menu.
Sometimes the subjects are broad. For example, ‘Social life and customs’ is a broad subject listed for a few of the Year 6 HASS — History books.
Searching this subject throughout the entire Resource retrieves 28 books. This broader subject may retrieve a collection of books which a teacher or teacher librarian wishes to explore further.
Two other interesting subjects featuring in the Year 6 HASS — History curriculum books include: children as artists (31 books) and children as authors (30 books). These offer the possibility of retrieving books that feature children as creators. Considering Year 6 HASS — History curriculum, these books offer children as writers and illustrators along with their interpretations of history in such books as Papunya School Book of Country and History and The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia.
Young children are able to more easily understand history, time periods and adults’ life experiences by reading biographical works such as Kicking Goals with Goodsey and Magic and Pilawuk: When I Was Young. Autobiographical books serve a similar purpose with books such as Tucker and The Shack That Dad Built. Reading and studying these books enables young people to experience the lives of others in different times and places.
Invariably there are young people fascinated by the meaning of words, including those in different languages and details of specific environments. The HASS — History collection includes two examples. One is a dictionary of words and phrases, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases and the second example is a picture book, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu that identifies the Aboriginal seasons, plants and animals in this particular location. Another book, Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English, is bilingual, with both Walmajarri and English featured along with 14 short stories about life in the Kadinina Community.
SEARCHING FOR HISTORICAL SUBJECTS
This particular Australian Curriculum code suggests historical events and documents will form the basis for some of the stories. These can be retrieved
through the Subjects drop-down menu. For example, words reflecting specific historical times and documents occur as subjects in this particular collection of books:
Aboriginal Australian soldiers Alfred’s War
Colonisation Old Tucker Man
Wik Judgement My Place
Stolen generation Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know) and Pilawuk: When I Was Young
SEARCHING BY FREE TEXT
At the top of the web page, there is a long search bar. The words inside say Search by Title and Annotation. Entering words in this search bar will pick up words located anywhere in the books’ annotations. For example, words about artistic style and media, writing styles, and genres may appear in the annotation but not in the subjects. Checking the annotations of several of these books featuring Year 6 HASS — History curriculum, the following words can be retrieved in the Search by Title and Annotation: naïve style, maps, photographs, song, rhyme and allegory. This is a small sample, but it is an indication of wide-ranging topics available in the Resource. Topics such as these may capture the child’s imagination as well as extend the curriculum being studied.
EXPLORING TEACHING AND OTHER RESOURCES
Each book includes a range of external hyperlinks that offer teaching and other resources, usually four or more, to explore each book. These are extraordinarily diverse. These links explore different aspects of each book, enhance understanding of the content and, most importantly, many are highly engaging and can be used in the classroom or at home. Sources vary widely and include newspaper and magazine articles, YouTube, oral history, animations, artworks, musical presentations, dance, educational activities and other enriching experiences intended to extend the books in multiple ways. These reach children with different interests and abilities. Some of these resources are aimed at adults to inform them or for the adult to interpret for the child.
Listed below are some of the types of resources available.
Musical and play productions
Readings and performances of the books
Curriculum plans and activities
Extension activities featuring art, music, dance, writing and other creative activities
Films, videos and recordings
Information, visual and written, about place and communities
Take Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu as an example. The types of resources for this book include:
a Guardian newspaper article outlining ways to use this book with young people;
an ABC program featuring a digibook, with short clips prompting students to consider the relationship between Indigenous people and the land around them;
a question and answer session with Bruce Pascoe; and
a teachers’ guide featuring learning activities linked to the Australian Curriculum.
Resources such as these extend the book, inspire young people and encourage an inquiring mind.
Teaching and learning is a collegial activity which involves sharing resources with friends and colleagues. The Resource is designed for sharing ‘favourites’. Located at the top right of each web page there is a Login/Register button. By completing the required details, you are then able to ‘choose’ books which are your ‘favourites’, compile these as a list and send them via a hyperlink to a friend or colleague who then can download these details. You can also share your favourites on the usual social media platforms. This sharing facility ensures that the Resource reaches people far and wide, easily and quickly.
Most importantly, these books offer stories by and about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Interweaving stories and history: these deepen our respect and understanding of each other.
The Resource is a database of children’s books aimed at young people from birth through 12 years of age. For this article, the curriculum area Year 6 HASS — History is used to demonstrate the rich potential of the Resource created by the NCACL. Exploring even this small collection of 19 books demonstrates that the Resource offers wide-ranging topics and stories, with the potential to reach children with various interests and abilities. There are innumerable types of stories, some told in Aboriginal languages, many located in specific communities, many written in different styles and illustrated with wide-ranging artistic media. The choice is wide. Most importantly, these books offer stories by and about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Interweaving stories and history: these deepen our respect and understanding of each other.
Abdulla, Ian 2014, Tucker, Omnibus Books, Norwood, SA.
The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia, 1977, Rigby in association with Island Heritage.
Austin, Debbie (as told to her by her uncle, Banjo Clarke), Old Tucker Man, One Day Hill, Camberwell East, Vic.
Bin Salleh, Rachel 2018, Alfred’s War, illus Samantha Fry, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Brian, Janeen 1996, Pilawuk: When I Was Young, Era Publications, Flinders Park, SA.
Freeman, Pamela 2018, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History, illus Sophie Beer, Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette Australia.
Greenwood, Mark 2013, Jandamara, illus Terry Denton, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Heiss, Anita, Goodes Adam & O’Loughlin Michael 2016, Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic, Piccolo Nero, Carlton, Vic.
Kamholtz, Damien 2006, Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, illus by children, Openbook Australia, Adelaide, SA.
Laurel, Yangkana (Madeline) 1999, Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English, Kadjina Community, Fitzroy Crossing, WA.
Lowe, Pat 2000, Yinti, Desert Cowboy, illus Jimmy Pike, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Lucas, Diane 2005, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu, illus Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Muir, Aunty Joy & Lawson Sue 2018, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases, Black Dog Books/Walker Books Australia, Newtown, NSW.
Nawili, Rak & others, 1995, Rak Nawili, Board of Studies NSW, North Sydney, NSW.
Papunya School & Nadia Wheatley 2001, Papunya School Book of Country and History, illus Papunya School and Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Pascoe, Bruce 2019, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Randall, Bob & Hogan Melanie 2011, Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know), ABC Books, Sydney, NSW.
Russell, Elaine 2004, The Shack That Dad Built, Little Hare Books, Surry Hills, NSW.
Wheatley, Nadia 2018, My Place, illus Donna Rawlins, Walker Books Australia, Newtown, NSW.
This article was first published in ACCESS, Vol. 34, No. 4, November 2020. Reproduced here with permission. ACCESS is the professional journal of the Australian School Library Association Inc. (ASLA).