Professional learning during the COVID19 pandemic

SCIS’s Carmen Eastman has contributed an article to the latest edition of the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (Te Puna Whare Matauranga a Kura) Collected Magazine.

The article explores professional learning trends and opportunities for school library staff. Read the article below or visit slanza.org.nz/collected.html to read this and many more great articles in ‘The role of the librarian during challenging times’ issue.

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The COVID19 pandemic has shone a light on our standard work practices. Organisations of all sizes, from all industries, have and will continue to face challenges. There is no doubt that the way we work has changed forever.

Early in the pandemic, businesses around the world postponed and cancelled in-person meetings in response to the crisis. Workplace learning was emerging as one of the earliest and hardest-hit business activities. Then we saw a shift. There was a substantial increase in the use of digital delivery globally across all segments of the workforce. Organisations began using digital learning to increase collaboration among teams working either remotely or across different time zones, as they completed courses together and collaborated in virtual formats such as videoconferencing and instant messaging (McKinsey & Company et al., 2020).

With more people having to work from home to contain the spread of COVID19, many found that they had a chance to tick off items on their perennial to-do list (training.com.au & Syed, 2020). Many others used this time to invest in upskilling and achieving their professional development goals by learning online.

During the COVID19 crisis, the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) recorded a dramatic increase in the uptake of professional development materials. The SCIS professional learning webinar Subject Headings and Authorities in SCIS (May 2020) was our most popular to date, as people sought resources that would help them better connect with their school community and improve their knowledge, skills and practise.

The dynamic and changing library and information environment demands that teacher librarians and school library staff continue to develop and broaden their knowledge and skills so that they can anticipate and respond to the needs of the school community (Australian Library and Information Association, 2019).

Perhaps you have noticed that certain skills would be beneficial to have in your current role. Maybe you are thinking of ways to future-proof your skillset, given the ever-changing nature of our world around us. Whatever your motivation, now could be an excellent time to learn new skills (training.com.au & Syed, 2020).

Continuing professional development (CPD) involves maintaining, enhancing and extending your knowledge, expertise and competence. It includes:
• keeping up-to-date with technical developments in your area(s) of specialisation
• extending your knowledge into other relevant fields
• honing existing skills and developing new ones
• developing an understanding of the practical application of new skills and knowledge
• applying your learning and accumulating experience.

There are many CPD opportunities available to professionals who are willing to think creatively and analytically about their current role and career aspirations. There are three broad categories to consider:
1. formal CPD
2. informal work-related CPD
3. activities external to your work that contribute to your CPD.

FORMAL CPD
Formal CPD includes:
• full and part-time tertiary study including both accredited and non-accredited courses
• conferences and seminars (as either a delegate, speaker, or panel member)
• webinars and online courses
• undertaking research
• writing papers and delivering work-related presentations
• participation in staff development training courses/activities provided by employers
• formally arranged mentoring (Professional Managers Australia, 2019).

Naturally, SLANZA’s online professional development (PD) opportunities come to mind! It is also worthwhile considering conferences and seminars in related industries. For example, several education conferences have shifted to online delivery, opening up opportunities to attend global conferences such as the ACEL Global Leadership Conference 2020.

Online courses are often less expensive than more traditional courses onsite at a university. The emergence of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) offers librarians another online education option. Any online course allows you to plan your study time around the rest of your day – you can study when at your most productive (Wiley & Wenborn, 2018).

The SCIS team have created a free short course. Managing your library collection and catalogue is suitable for new school library staff and for those who would like a refresher. Focusing 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 …’

INFORMAL WORK-RELATED CPD
Informal work-related CPD refers to other activities associated with your work that contribute to your development as a professional but are not necessarily designed as CPD. Informal CPD can include:
• discussions with colleagues
• sharing knowledge and information at meetings
• participation in work-related committees
• reading, researching information via the internet; reviewing books or articles for professional purposes
• participation in activities associated with a professional association of which you are a member
• active involvement in a professional association – such as SLANZA of course! (Professional Managers Australia, 2019).

Do you have the time to shadow a colleague? What better way to learn than from the people around you? Your colleagues are likely to have insight and knowledge in related areas that you can learn from and practise. Find someone who has a skillset that you are interested in gaining and ask them if they are willing to share their expertise. Additionally, shadowing offers a broader knowledge of various jobs and functions within your team. It can provide insight into additional skills you may want to acquire as you watch your colleagues put them into practice (Wiley & Wenborn, 2018).

In response to the COVID19 crisis, the US School Library Journal (SLJ) is offering free access to the digitised edition of their magazine. Take the time to read a quality local library publication – SLANZA’s Collected magazine, or Connections, a quarterly school library journal published by SCIS. Better yet, why not try your hand at writing an article? Writing for Collected and 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.

EXTERNAL CPD
There are many opportunities to enhance your CPD through activities external to your workplace, for example:
• putting your hand up for a committee role associated with your involvement in a sport or community group
• learning something new that is fun and could help progress your career – for example learning a foreign language
• engaging in an activity that develops you as a person. From martial arts to visual arts, the choices are limited only by your imagination
(Professional Managers Australia, 2019).

You do not always need structure or a class to learn something new. Identify a skill that will support you in your line of work or one that you need to improve and start practising. Working in a library, you are part of a busy environment that requires you to possess a multitude of skills, from the expert knowledge of new technology to strong people skills. That is why, for many, the need for training never ends (Wiley & Wenborn, 2018).

SCIS is a business unit of Education Services Australia (ESA), a not-for-profit company established by all Australian Ministers of Education. ESA supports the delivery of national priorities and initiatives in the schools, training and Higher Education sectors. Not only does SCIS create affordable, high quality, consistent catalogue records for school libraries, but its goal is also to advocate for and support the school library community globally.

Happy learning!

REFERENCES

  • Australian Library and Information Association. (2019). Professional development for library and information professionals | Australian Library and Information Association. www.alia.org.au. https://www.alia.org.au/about-alia/policies-standards-and-guidelines/professional-developmentlibrary-
    and-information-professionals
  • McKinsey & Company, Kshirsagar, A., Mansour, T., McNally, L., & Metakis, M. (2020, March 17). Adapting workplace learning in the time of
    coronavirus. www.mckinsey.com. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-accelerate/our-insights/adapting-workplacelearning-
    in-the-time-of-coronavirus
  • Professional Managers Australia. (2019, April 12). The importance of continuing professional development. www.professionalsaustralia.org.au.
    http://www.professionalsaustralia.org.au/managers/blog/the-importance-of-continuing-professional-development/
  • training.com.au, & Syed, H. (2020, May 28). Upskilling in the Age of COVID-19. www.training.com.au. https://www.training.com.au/ed/upskillingin-
    the-age-of-covid-19/
  • Wiley, & Wenborn, C. (2018, April 13). 4 Professional Development Tips for Busy Librarians. www.wiley.com. https://www.wiley.com/network/
    librarians/library-impact/4-professional-development-tips-for-busy-librarians

Ten things we love about SCIS

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.

List: Ten things we love about SCIS

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 help@scisdata.com 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.

Picture of Mavis cataloguing a delivery of books
SCIS Cataloguer Mavis Heffernan hard at work!

Learn how to make an online cataloguing request: vimeo.com/417043786

2. Cover images

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
  • elsewhere within the school.

Resources recently catalogued in SCIS

Learn more about cover images and SCIS: scisdata.com/connections/issue-109/cover-images-and-scis

3. Digital content

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.

Learn how to download records for websites in SCIS Data: vimeo.com/275765622

4. Collection development

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.

How good is that?

Learn how to use SCIS Data as a selection tool:
scisdata.com/connections/issue-104/scis-as-a-resource-selection-aid

5. Authority Files

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.

Learn more about SCIS Authority Files: scisdata.com/connections/issue-112/scis-is-more

6. Help (really)

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.

Barcode scanner
SCIS has a range of barcode scanners available for purchase within Australia.

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 …’

9. Community

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 connections@esa.edu.au.

Connections school library magazine

As part of our ongoing commitment to the library community, Connections is freely available to anyone, anywhere. To join our mailing list, visit confirmsubscription.com/h/r/F55C1FEDABD5B8D4.

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.

We want to know what’s important to you. Join the SCIS Facebook group and be part of the conversation: facebook.com/groups/570608273802240

10. Friends

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!

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

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

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

Welcome to the world of the school library and lesson 1 of the SCIS short course! This lesson was created for new school library staff but is perfect for library staff that would like a refresher. Focusing on collection curation and cataloguing, we will help you get started in organising the resource offerings of your library.

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

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

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

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

First steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to consider

Collection management policy

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

Teenager looking at books on library shelf

Resources

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

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

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

Engaging spaces

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

Two children playing chess in school library

Activity

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

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

Conclusion

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

References

Further reading

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