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.
Here at the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), our mission is to make our users’ life easier. Our data is designed to work seamlessly within your library management system, using high-quality data to build a brilliant user experience. To support your work, we also have the SCIS Data website (scisdata.com) – with a stack of nifty features that will improve your library catalogue and save you time and money.
1. Cataloguing (of course!)
The SCIS database has approximately 1.6 million high-quality, consistent catalogue records.
As part of a SCIS subscription, libraries can also request cataloguing for new materials that they have not been able to locate a record for in SCIS Data. We encourage you to place an online cataloguing request at my.scisdata.com/CreateCatalogueRequest. Good news! We have recently revamped the service to make it quicker and easier to submit these requests. You can use this service to request the cataloguing of websites and other online resources you think would be useful to you and the wider school library community.
Sometimes, you might have a query about a record or maybe you’ve found a mistake. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and our cataloguing team will investigate.
Remember we are a cataloguing community, so feedback helps not only you, but also nearly 10,000 other users around the world.
Text-only catalogue displays are a thing of the past. While the old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is wise, the reality is that the cover of a resource makes it look more appealing and does affect reader choice. Using cover images to supplement the text-based catalogue record is an effective method of catching the reader’s eye as they browse through the virtual shelf.
SCIS subscribers are able to download most of the cover images displayed in SCIS Data into their own library-management systems. Subscribing schools may not pass cover images on to a third party, but for their own use they may include them:
on the school’s online library catalogues
on the school’s website, including blogs, wikis, online newsletters and intranet
At the time of writing, there are over 80,000 records on SCIS Data for digital resources (websites, apps, ebooks and digital videos), and this number grows every month. We also catalogue apps, ebooks and digital videos. We catalogue resources that are curriculum-related, educational and recreational.
SCIS has made catalogue records for nearly 400 free Project Gutenberg titles (scis.edublogs.org/2020/05/06/literatures-greatest-works-are-yours-for-free). SCIS Data offers subscribers the option to download collections (https://help.scisdata.com/hc/en-us/articles/360051763433-What-are-the-Download-Collections-) of records from four resource providers: ClickView digital video library; Wheelers ePlatform One; World Book eBook Series; and the National Library of New Zealand (Topic Explorer and EPIC Resources).
The hard work has been done – importing digital content is a quick and easy way to grow your collection.
When a teacher approaches you about finding resources for their upcoming unit, where is the first place you look? Perhaps you perform a quick internet search to see if it can direct you to any relevant resources. Maybe you check a publisher’s website. Yet, if we encourage students to use the library catalogue based on its inclusion of trusted, credible and educational resources, why not use a catalogue ourselves?
Let’s say the history teacher has approached you to help her find World War I resources for her Year 9 class. If you pop over to the SCIS catalogue, you can start with a basic search – perhaps simply ‘World War I’ – and, from the results page, refine your search. Filtering by your specific learning area, subject and audience level will provide you with the most relevant resources catalogued by SCIS. The advanced search option allows you to limit your search further by either fiction or non-fiction – and, if it’s fiction you’re looking for, to narrow your search by specific genres.
The Featured categories on the SCIS Data search page provide a quick and easy way to source resources and records for websites, apps, ebooks and digital videos. The SCIS catalogue also has the ability to build lists. Rather than downloading one record at a time, you can curate lists within the SCIS catalogue. This is particularly helpful for schools using SCIS as a resource selection tool.
SCIS Data includes additional information via our subscription to Syndetics. Where the information is available, the record consists of summaries and annotations, author notes, authoritative reviews, and series information. Through our subscription to LibraryThing for Libraries, we can also provide community-generated content, including recommendations, tags, and links to other editions and similar items. Although this additional information is not included in the downloaded record, it can help with searching and selection of records.
SCIS Authority Files (scisdata.com/products/authority-files) provide a rich search experience to make the most of your resources. Authority Files link terms between records, to display the ‘see’ and ‘see also’ references. A subscription to SCIS Authority Files allows you to download Subject, Name and Series Authority Files from the SCIS website, and upload them to your library management system – where you’ll truly see the magic of metadata with a rich search and discovery experience for your students.
SCIS prides itself on responsive, proactive customer service. Our team of customer service and cataloguing professionals are on hand to answer your questions. Visit our contact page (scisdata.com/contact-scis) to submit a question. Explore the SCIS Help articles (help.scisdata.com/hc/en-us) or watch the SCIS Help videos (vimeo.com/user4095009) and learn how to make the most of your subscription. Or stay up to date with the latest SCIS news by visiting our news carousel at scisdata.com. We are here to help.
7. Shopping cart
The SCIS shopping cart allows you to request and download your invoice, or pay online.
Our shopping cart also allows users to add in SCIS extras before renewing their annual invoice – such as barcode scanners (scisdata.com/barcode-scanners), professional learning and Authority Files. Ordering is nice and simple, and should you decide you need something extra when you renew your SCIS subscription (like a barcode scanner for stocktake!) you can have everything on one invoice to pass on to your accounts team.
8. Professional learning
Attend a SCIS webinar (scisdata.com/professional-learning) and learn how SCIS Data makes resource management simple – helping school libraries by providing high quality catalogue records, improving content searching and discovery, and developing digital collections.
The free SCIS short course ‘Managing your library collection and catalogue’ (scis.edublogs.org/2020/03/31/free-scis-short-course-managing-your-library-collection-and-catalogue) is suitable for new school library staff and for those who would like a refresher. Published on the SCIS Blog, the course focuses on collection curation and cataloguing, it helps school library staff get started in organising the resource offerings in their library. The response to this course has been overwhelmingly positive, with comments ranging from ‘Thanks, this is so helpful and timely while working from home’ to ‘Back to basics. A good reminder of what makes libraries tick …’
We’ve been publishing our magazine Connections (scisdata.com/connections) since 1992, and we’re pretty proud of it. For the first time in our history all back editions are available online – a fascinating record of changes in the library industry over several decades.
All Connections articles are written by members of the school library community. Writing for Connections is an excellent way to advocate for your library and share your ideas with colleagues around the world. Now, more than ever, it is important to celebrate the valuable role of school libraries and recognise how they support student learning. So, if you have a great article you would like to share, please email email@example.com.
The SCIS team is passionate about school libraries. In addition to Connections magazine, we offer the school library community a number of ways to keep up to date with what is happening at SCIS and with industry trends and information. Subscribe to the SCIS Blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn @scisdata or Instagram @scis.data.
SCIS cataloguers add approximately 3,700 catalogue records to the database each month, keeping it relevant and current. The resources catalogued come from a range of sources, including publishers, booksellers and school libraries. These hot-off-the-press titles are our best means of creating a quality record that is accurate and compliant with international cataloguing standards. This is important, considering each record is likely to be downloaded by nearly 10,000 school subscribers around the world. It’s rare to have a day when we don’t receive a small parcel or large box of books delivered to one of the six SCIS cataloguing depots.
SCIS also works with providers of library management systems to ensure the most efficient delivery of SCIS products and services. And we support university and TAFE educators in training and developing future librarians with essential cataloguing skills by offering complimentary access to SCIS Data.
Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.*
*Thank you Misty Copeland for the excellent quote!
Dr Hilary Hughes, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education, QUT, offers advice for librarians seeking to write impactful and engaging articles for a professional journal.
Most of us have an inner writer that we promise to let free ‘one day’ – why not today? As you plan your school library program, a key goal could be: write at least one article for a journal like Connectionsor the SCIS Blog.
This article considers the problem of how to write an impactful and engaging article for a professional journal? It offers library staff encouragement and practical strategies for setting out on the writing track. After highlighting the personal and professional benefits of writing for publication, it explains how to write articles that provide insight and enjoyment for readers. It also provides a simple model for a clearly structured article.
Benefits of writing for a journal
Writing for a journal brings many benefits, both personal and professional. As a creative outlet, writing can boost your own wellbeing and the greater good of school libraries. You can make a lasting impact by authoring an article that opens a window on contemporary school libraries. Through your article you can report and explain current professional practices, highlight positive outcomes, debate challenges, and perhaps influence further innovation (Buzzeo, 2011; Hibner & Kelly, 2017). You can demonstrate how librarians are energetic, forward-looking, thoughtful, socially-minded professionals (and help banish the tired stereotypes!)
The catchphrase ‘publish or perish’ indicates the importance of writing for the sustainability of the profession and your own career, whether in schools or higher education (Schaberg, 2016). Library staff are often abuzz with creative ideas and make significant contributions to student learning and wellbeing, yet so often these seem to go unnoticed. By writing about your innovative library programs and services, and their positive outcomes, you raise general awareness of the value of the librarian role and offer models for other librarians to follow.
Good journal articles get people thinking and talking. They can be a powerful form of advocacy that showcases school library activities and their benefits for students and the whole school community.
From a personal perspective: “Publishing is proof that you take your profession seriously, that you give it time and thought, and that you are an active and engaged participant in your profession” (Buzzeo, 2011, p. 13). Through journal articles, you can reach a wide audience beyond your immediate school. They allow you to value–add work you’ve already done, for example by reworking a university assignment, report or workshop presentation. Through your writing, you may become known as an expert on a particular topic(s). Building a professional profile in this way may broaden your employment options and lead to invitations to speak at conferences or present workshops (Rankin, 2018).
The process of writing articles supports your professional development. It can provide a focus for reflection on your librarian practice and improve your ability and confidence to argue a convincing proposal. Writing is also a great basis for collaboration. Depending on the topic, you might write with other library staff, teaching colleagues, parents, academics or even students. The sharing of different information and viewpoints through collaborative writing could expand awareness of school libraries with co-authors beyond the library community.
Write for insight and delight
Having set your writing resolution, what will you write about? Like a novelist, you can explore your experience and what is happening around you. No two librarians or libraries are the same, so you have plenty of material to draw upon which could include:
The design, implementation and evaluation of an innovative school library program
Evidence-based library practice – findings and implications
Selection and implementation of a new library management system
(Re)design of the library – process and outcomes
Aim to provide your readers with insight and delight, so that they gain new information or understanding, as well as enjoyment, from your article. The trick is to make the content interesting and relevant. An effective article goes beyond describing what you did and how to why you did it and ways it could be applied in other school contexts. The inclusion of real-life examples, vivid small stories or pithy quotes capture readers’ attention, while practical tips or a practice framework help them see the applicability of your findings. Well-presented photos and diagrams can further enliven a written piece.
A catchy title is great for grabbing readers’ interest, especially if it teases a little while still conveying the essence of the content. That is why Trent Dalton’s ‘Boy swallows universe’ (2018) is such a clever title. Closer to librarian territory, these two Connections article titles exemplify reader-enticing titles: ‘Even better than the real thing? Virtual and augmented reality in the school library’ and ‘Ten easy tips to be a library rockstar’. You can also be creative with section headings, as long as they are also indicative of the section content.
A well-signposted structure for the whole piece and clearly expressed line of argument is important for holding readers’ attention beyond the title and introduction. Like an inquiry learning project, it is generally effective to build the argument around an explicit question or problem statement. Developing an article outline before the writing begins helps maintain focus on the problem. Take care also to bookend the discussion with an interesting and informative introduction that sets the scene and indicates the purpose of the article, and a strong conclusion that explicitly summarises the main points and resolves the argument. Where possible, end the article on a high note to inspire readers. For example, this article concludes by proposing that: “As highlighted, writing journal articles can be an enjoyable creative activity that is personally and professionally rewarding”, rather than saying something similarly accurate but more negative like “Writing journal articles is challenging and producing publishable articles requires a great deal of hard work”.
Help readers navigate the article by presenting a brief overview of the content in the introduction that indicates the main sections or points covered. Meaningful section headings are also useful guides to the unfolding argument. Let each paragraph address one (only) main idea introduced with a topic sentence, i.e. a sentence that clearly signals what the paragraph is about. (For sample topic sentences, see the first sentence of this paragraph and the following one).
Judicious use of the literature adds weight to the article’s argument. A few well-chosen references, integrated into the discussion to support key points, generally have more impact than a string of ‘possibly relevant’ citations that tend to interrupt the flow. It is more meaningful to lead sentences with a concept rather than a citation. For example: “A library as incubator is a great opportunity for the space to facilitate learning by students and teachers that reflect their passions and interests” (South, 2017) is more compelling than would be: According to South (2017), “A library as incubator is …”. For professional and academic writing, accurate and consistent referencing is a hallmark of authoritative writing.
For a journal like Connections, aim for a professional-scholarly tone. As a rule of thumb, avoid highfaluting academic jargon, especially if you are uncertain what particular terms mean. A clear and lively style, with short(-ish) logically linked sentences, is generally more effective for conveying new or complex ideas. For clarity and immediacy, active voice, first or third person, is generally preferable to passive voice, e.g.: The teacher-librarian (or I) conducted a survey, rather than A survey was conducted; The leadership team decided to fund the project, rather than It was decided to fund the project.
Some of the resources referenced below provide more extensive guidance of relevance to librarians about the writing process, including choosing and communicating with a journal, deciding the topic and crafting the title (de Castro, 2009; Hibner & Kelly, 2017; Murray, 2013; Rankin, 2018).
Free your inner writer
Now it is time to get creative! Rest assured that writing comes more easily to some people than others and always improves with practice. Try to think of it as a fun activity, as an opportunity to share and communicate with others, not as a daunting or dreary solitary task. You might find it helpful to set up a reciprocal arrangement with a critical friend or trusted colleague to read and provide constructive feedback on each other’s work, as suggestions rather than corrections (Dawson, 2017).
There is no right or wrong way to do the writing. Some people find it helpful to get into the habit of writing for half an hour each day at the same time, whereas others prefer longer periods when the mood takes them. If you find it hard to get going at the start of a writing session, try a few minutes of ‘free writing’, jotting down whatever comes into your head, to get the creative juices flowing (University of Richmond Writing Centre, n.d.). If you are still feeling ‘blocked’, allow yourself some time-out and try again later. Forcing yourself to write is generally counter-productive and unnecessarily frustrating.
This article has offered library staff well-proven strategies for writing impactful and reader-enticing journal articles. The key suggestion is to present intended readers with a clearly expressed and logically structured response to a well-defined question or problem statement. As highlighted, writing journal articles can be an enjoyable creative activity that is personally and professionally rewarding.
Our new website SCIS Data was launched in August, complete with a fresh rebrand and exciting new features to support school libraries. We also celebrated the 100th issue of our quarterly magazine, Connections, and to commemorate the milestone, announced that we would digitise and make available the full history of Connections.
We are proud to announce that — for the first time in our history — the entire collection is now available to view and download online.
Here are the highlights from Connections issue 102, which is now available online. To download a PDF of the latest issue, please select this link.
Tinkering, making and building in the school library With the increasing popularity of makerspaces in schools, school libraries are frequently seen as the leaders in hands-on technologies such as coding and robotics. Jackie Child shares ideas for engaging students with computational thinking — and resources to make it as easy as possible for library staff.
Here are the highlights from Connections issue 101, which is now available online. To download a PDF of the latest issue, please select this link.
Leadership is not optional – it’s a job requirement In order to promote libraries as indispensable to the education community, the school library industry needs more leaders. Hilda Weisburg looks at how to step out of your comfort zone and into the leadership role.
What do our students really want? Megan Stuart, teacher librarian at Canterbury College, surveyed her students to discover what drew them into their resource centre — and what it could do to draw them in more.
We continue to hear about the lack of trained library staff in schools, despite ongoing research indicating that the presence of teacher librarians lead to improved learning outcomes. Kay Oddone highlights the many benefits teacher librarians can bring to the wider school, and why their role is integral to the learning of both student and staff.
Jane O’Connell, an independent director at the Children’s Book Council of Australia, looks at how school library and teaching staff can get involved in Children’s Book Week, which will be running from 20–26 August in 2016.
Helen Stower and Margaret Donaghue, from Mt Alvernia College’s iCentre, write about their experiences using social media as a communication platform for their school’s library. They highlight the importance of libraries sharing their stories, and discuss the need to develop social media guidelines in order to minimise potential risks.