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.
Congratulations to Anne Girolami Learning Leader – Information Services Mercy College, Coburg, Victoria
The winner of the ASLA Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year 2021 was announced on 13 April 2021 at the ASLA/SLASA National Conference by Kerry Pope, ASLA Vice President and presented by Caroline Hartley, SCIS Manager. The Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is the proud sponsor of this prestigious Award. This National Award recognises and honours an Australian Teacher Librarian who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession of school librarianship. Through their high level of achievement in professional knowledge, professional practice and professional engagement they have had a positive impact on teaching and learning in their school.
Principals, professional colleagues and members of the school community were encouraged to nominate their Teacher Librarian for this award. This year there were 7 nominations from across Australia for this award. All nominations received were of an extremely high standard.
The ASLA Board and Members congratulate Anne, on this significant achievement and thank her for her outstanding contribution to our profession. Anne’s passion for school libraries and Teacher Librarians has been a driving force in her career and she has devoted many hours to this cause. She has over 30 years of experience as a Teacher Librarian in School Libraries and loves sharing her knowledge and expertise with colleagues.
Anne’s work at Mercy College has been exceptional. Anne is a key member of the Curriculum and Pedagogy Team and meets regularly with her School Leaders. She works enthusiastically with the Library Team to deliver services and programs that are at the heart of learning and teaching and that are adhering to best practice in library standards. She continually shares her love of reading and literature with her students. Anne works hard with staff to analyse data and identify student needs. She works closely with teachers and support staff to build their capacity to prepare students for life-long learning. Anne is highly respected and valued by her Principal, the students, staff, parents and members of her school community.
Anne has made a significant contribution to ASLA over many years, as an active and committed member. She has served as an ASLA Board Director, presented at ASLA Conferences, reviewed policies and reported at ASLA Annual General Meetings.
Anne has led a number of joint working parties with ASLA and ALIA, responsible for reviewing and writing National Policies for Teacher Librarians. Anne was Chair of the ASLA Policy and Advisory Project Team (PAPT) to produce Evidence Guides for Teacher Librarians in the areas of Proficient and Highly Accomplished Accreditation to support AITSL’s Professional Standards for Teachers. These documents have proved to be invaluable and are referred to constantly by Teacher Librarians undertaking accreditation today. In 2019 – 2020, Anne chaired the team reviewing and updating Table 6 in the combined ASLA/ALIA publication ‘Learning For The Future’. Recommendations of minimum information services staffing were thoroughly researched and documented.
With Anne’s calm, intelligent and thoughtful leadership approach, these Working Parties progressed diligently and consistently with the task at hand, resulting in the production of current, relevant and outstanding documents for Australian Teacher Librarians.
Anne is to be highly commended for her extraordinary and exemplary work in advocacy. She has been a Fellow of ALIA since 2020 and is a long-term convenor of ALIA Schools, working hard for the promotion and development of school libraries in Australia. She is an active member of the School Library Coalition and the FAIR Great School Libraries Campaign. Anne Girolami is an extremely worthy recipient of this Award for 2021.
‘My job is to help the teachers with their teaching and the children with their learning. I do that in whatever way I can.’
School: Pymble Public School
Type: Primary K-6
Cataloguing subscription: SCIS Data + Authority Files
Library management system: Oliver Library Software
Size of collection: 18,000
The teacher librarian’s role
Kathryn is the only trained teacher librarian in the school. She has help in the library from another teacher who teaches classes and assists with circulation but does not assist with management tasks. There is also clerical support one day per week.
Kathryn runs the library herself. She buys and manages resources and assists teachers where she can, such as by recording programs to meet curriculum needs. One of her roles is to provide support for classroom teachers to provide specialist information services and teaching programs.
‘I see my job is to help the teachers with their teaching and the children with their learning. I do that in whatever way I can.’
As a New South Wales government school, Kathryn’s library uses the Oliver library management system. She says that 15,000 items are standard library resources – books, posters, charts, big books, teacher reference materials. A further 3000 items, such as the computer software, the DVDs and the textbooks are in the school resources section – students can’t see these on the catalogue. Technology items, such as laptops, are not loaned through the library.
Kathryn and the English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) teacher worked together to create a collection of books in languages other than English. ‘We’ve got a Community language section which has the non-English books. These are books in some of the languages represented within our school community’.
Everything in the library is catalogued. Kathryn lends nothing that isn’t on the system, although she admits that she sometimes lends her stapler but says, ‘It’s out and back for the day!’
SCIS for over 30 years
Kathryn has been in school libraries for 30 years and has used SCIS in every one. When she first started, SCIS records were on microfiche. Kathryn found the support from SCIS particularly useful as a new teacher librarian. ‘I knew that my books would be in the right place because the books were being catalogued by proper cataloguers.’ Later to automate her small school library Kathryn used Rapid Retrospective, from SCIS, to import the record. ‘We just sent in the ISBNs and SCIS sent us the records. Straight into the computer.’
At another school, Kathryn had dial-up internet in the library. She used to get to school at 7:00 am, Sydney time, while other parts of Australia were still asleep, to do the SCIS orders. ‘SCIS was so much faster at 7:00 in the morning!’ Kathryn managed the process to add extra SCIS subject headings using the Authority File to suit her students. She really enjoyed this work and didn’t regret the early starts!
SCIS hit rate
The hit rate in SCIS Data is normally around 98 per cent, except for items like a Harry Potter book in Chinese, or another of their community languages, that hasn’t necessarily been catalogued. If a record is not available, Kathryn normally checks the following week, but also sometimes sends items in to SCIS to be catalogued.
Kathryn finds the people at SCIS to be incredibly helpful when there are issues. She especially enjoys the conversations she’s had with SCIS cataloguers who share her fascination with the process.
Kathryn says, ‘Our collection is all beautifully arranged, thanks to SCIS. Even if I don’t always agree with all SCIS standards I can easily adapt them for our collection.’
Using the catalogue
Students use the catalogue to find resources in the library. It can be difficult to teach them how to use the catalogue successfully as they only have half an hour library lessons once a week, and that includes borrowing time and a teaching program.
Students who want to spend time searching the catalogue have access at home and the opportunity to come in at lunchtimes or in the morning every day. Students can access curated lists of educationally focused websites via the library catalogue (curated by the Department, using SCIS Data).
The catalogue is a well-used by Pymble Public School students.
A great collection in a small space
Due to its small size the library is used as a dedicated, traditional library space, rather than as a common area for games, puzzles and computer games or other pursuits. It also houses the school computer server (Kathryn is the computer coordinator) and a teaching space. The teaching area includes a SMART Board and a document camera that Kathryn finds particularly useful.
Kathryn is justly proud of her library. ‘We have an absolutely stunning collection.’ There are sections for community languages and graphic novels with fiction and non-fiction areas. The library includes a senior section for years 5 and 6, and a junior fiction section. Sets of readers for history, geography, science and sets of novels, dictionaries and home readers also have their place in the library.
Kathryn has become an expert at managing the space she has to the best effect. She says, ‘Everything is where it is because that’s the only place it can possibly go.’
‘The service and data provided by SCIS allow me to deliver a well-catalogued collection with minimal expenditure of time and effort. SCIS frees me to do the more important work of a teacher librarian – support my staff and students.’
The publishing and writing industry has changed a lot since I entered it in 1975.
In the early ’80s, I published Australia’s first high adventure fantasy novels from a small office attached to a secondhand bookshop. I even typeset books on a hulking IBM machine that had dials to tell you when to go to the next line. One dial was colour-coded, the other had numerals. If a line ended on, say, yellow and the number 8, I would type y8 at the end of the line. When I’d finished a page of such rows, I’d hit a button, and the page would print out ‘justified’. The tricky part was that the dial might land between yellow and blue. Type a b when it should’ve been a y, and that line would be out of whack.
To save typing out the entire page again – there might be five lines incorrectly spaced – we would type out the lines, cut them out and paste them over the printed page (I tell students that’s where cut and paste comes from). If there were typos – they could be many – we’d type out the word and paste that over the typo. Tricky to get straight, so sometimes we’d type a few words out so the line would be easier to superimpose over the error/s.
I mention the above because today designers with InDesign can do all that for you and it comes out (mostly!) perfect. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, we had to re-type the entire manuscript on a machine like the above. And that was costly. An 80,000-word novel would cost around $1,000 to get typed – a stack of money back then.
So current technology saves both time and money. But it also makes us work faster and harder. In the decades I mentioned (and into the ’90s) I might have received ten letters a week. People used to be careful and say everything they needed to in those letters because it would be two weeks before expecting to receive a reply. It’s just too easy to dash off an email without thinking. My ten letters (that’s a maximum guess) are now 40 emails in a day. If I count all the spam etc., I get two dozen emails before midday. So time is no longer on our side. My modest effort in the decades mentioned was so simple. I’d give the printer the laid-out sheets of text and, voilà!, it would come back as a printed book. I would have the stock delivered to the distributor. I’d send out review copies, and that was it. Nowadays, social media can easily be a job in itself, and all the digital and print-on-demand (POD) platforms would fill another job. Admin and reading email could well give another person a job.
One of the upsides is that the internet is a great leveller. I’ve always been a micro-press. That is a one-person show. Needless to say, I’ve had small distributors that don’t have the market penetration of the bigger distributors. The internet puts Ford Street’s website up against even the biggest publishers’ sites. With their great SEO, major publishers may come first in search engine results, but we’re still there beside them. Brick-and-mortar shops only have limited space on their shelves. Understandably, they’ll take the big-name authors over lesser-known authors. So this means you’ll be lucky to see Ford Street titles in many bookshops – but on the net, you’ll see all of Ford Street’s books and every other micro press’s books. So too, with digital publishing. I see no reason why smaller presses shouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with the major publishers’ digital books when it comes to distribution and display.
It’s funny how people have the perception that if a micro-press publishes a book, it can’t be any good. ‘Hey, if it were good a bigger publisher would’ve published it.’ Right? Wrong. In recent years this micro-press won the Gold INKY award, the Family Therapist’s Award and the big one, the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Picture Book of the Year award.
What do I like about being a micro-press?
It means I choose what I publish, and if I find a promising but unpolished manuscript I can choose to work with the author and hopefully turn it into a gem. This kind of editorial nurturing was more common to publishing in the past, but it seems to me that this rarely happens within most large publishing houses now, driven as they are by marketing teams and strong competition to sell ‘units’. A-list authors have to come from somewhere, though. A-list authors rise from B-lists. Knock out the B-list and exactly where the A-listers are supposed to come from?
For me, every author/illustrator is on my A-list.
I do not have to appease a marketing team.
Distribution. Publishers who distribute other publishers’ books present their books first. So if a bookseller runs out of time or their budget is gone, lesser-known publishers may not be represented in bookshops.
Competition from high-discount book stores. Major publishers mostly dominate sales to high discount stores. Books sold in places like K-Mart are often sold as loss leaders to draw in customers. Regardless, the more books you print, the cheaper the cost per book. No matter that they’re sold at a 70% discount, big sales are still profitable.
Cashflow. Creatives, printers, designers, editors, scanners are all paid upfront. But from the moment a book goes to all the above, to the moment it brings in money, can be eight months to a year. So if you’re a micro-press publishing 15 books, that’s a lot of money tied up before you can expect recompense.
Lack of staff. A micro-press owner needs to be a jack-of-all trades.
Export (distribution problems).
Inability (time/money) to visit major book fairs: Bologna, London and Frankfurt.
Speaking as an author … what are the challenges?
Low pay. Most authors, like me, have manuscripts lying about that took up to a year to write but have never been published. So that’s no pay for a year’s work. But that’s all part of the gig.
You have no benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay, an employer’s super scheme.
Isolation. COVID-19 has shown that solitary life doesn’t suit everyone.
Contracts. Agents don’t usually send out manuscripts. Some charge 15% commission of their authors’ ELR/PLR/CAL income.
And the benefits?
Self-employed, no travelling to work.
ELR/PLR/CAL/workshops for helpful advice.
Most people don’t realise that authors/illustrators generally make more money from school/library/festival visits than they do from their actual writing. An 80,000-word novel can take up to a year to write. The average advance might be $4,000. Spread that out on an hourly basis, and you’ll see creatives are working on a low wage. But then take into account royalties, PLR/ELR/CAL and presentations in various venues, and it works out pretty well.
Like many authors, my way around financial shortcomings is to have several jobs. It certainly makes my life varied!
– Paul Collins
Book cover supplied by Ford Street Publishing.
Stay tuned! We have more great articles aimed at promoting the importance of the published word scheduled for 2021.
The Australian Publishers Association’s Alex Christopher talks to Cengage publisher, Simone Calderwood, to learn more about the landmark series Our Land, Our Stories, how it was developed and its reception in the classroom.
Perspectives from Australian Indigenous peoples on topics such as the Stolen Generations, the Frontier Wars and racial stereotyping are now available to be experienced in primary school classrooms across the country through a new resource — developed in partnership with Nelson Cengage and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The resource, titled Our Land, Our Stories, features contributions from leading Indigenous writers such as Bruce Pascoe and Lisa Fuller and incorporates stories written by children and their families from communities across Australia.
“Our Land, Our Stories is a whole-school, primary school series that explores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. It includes rare and historically important photographs, artwork and audio-visual resources from AIATSIS’s vast collection. It comprises three sets of resources for lower, middle and upper primary. All components link explicitly to the Australian Curriculum and the Cross-Curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories and more specifically, to Country/Place, Culture and Peoples.
“The series components include: three teacher resource books, nine big books and 45 cards for each stage of lower, middle and upper primary. QR codes are included and these enable both students and educators to watch videos, see photographs and most importantly, hear language that further extends students’ understanding of a specific topic. Each teacher resource book also includes a copy of The Little Red Yellow Black book written by Bruce Pascoe and AIATSIS.
“Our Land, Our Stories was in development for about three and a half years and the idea for the series came about through AIATSIS reaching out to Nelson Cengage as they wanted to have a visible presence in the primary educational space. Nelson Cengage were thrilled to work in partnership with AIATSIS as we knew that this government organisation is the caretaker of an amazing database of significant photographs, artworks and audio visual materials that we could include in the series. We also knew that the partnership with AIATSIS would also lend authenticity to the series as they were involved in every element of its production, checking every work for accuracy and ensuring that the content was culturally appropriate and persons depicted were represented accurately.
“We wanted to create a resource that aligned with the Australian Curriculum but also enabled educators to see how the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures could be applied to every learning area in the Australian Curriculum, not just Humanities and Social Sciences. The intention of the series is to represent the voices of First Nations peoples from all across Australia, from remote, regional and urban areas, to celebrate contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and address prevailing misconceptions.
The resource is aimed at both Indigenous and non-indigenous students – for indigenous students, they can read these books and cards and see themselves reflected in the stories. For non-indigenous students, it is an opportunity for them to read about the importance of Country and cultures to First Nations peoples and to find out about the significant achievements and contributions of many Indigenous people. The teacher’s books empower educators to teach about First Nations peoples, cultures and histories with confidence and throughout the teacher’s books, the various protocols and discussion points are outlined and explored. And we haven’t shied away from those topics at the upper primary level that some educators may wish to explore with students but may not know how to do so – the books and cards look at our history from an Indigenous perspective and explore many sensitive topics.
“The writing process was an interesting one! As the publisher, I really wanted to ensure that we had a vast range of authors from all over Australia as traditionally many resources such as this have tended to focus on stories from peoples from the Northern Territory – but I wanted this series to be broader. For the lower primary big book stories, we commissioned three children and their families to write the stories and these three children come from very different places. Josie and her family are from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and myself and an AIATSIS photographer, spent a week with Josie and her family. We then travelled to a remote area in Western Australia to Yilka Country to hear Orlando’s story and finally we travelled to the Sunshine Coast and spent time with Shae and her community to hear her story.
“I also reached out to a number of different writers around the country and was thrilled that writers such as Bruce Pascoe, Professor Gary Foley, Shelley Ware, Lisa Fuller, Elder Carolyn Briggs, Professor John Maynard. Nayuka Gorrie and so many more were able to contribute to the series.
“Our Land, Our Stories has now been available for about a year and educators have embraced it wholeheartedly and often exclaim that there is nothing like it in the educational marketplace. It has been very successful as educators realise the many ways that it can be used in the classroom and the components can be used from lower to upper primary, even in secondary school classrooms.
“I feel immensely proud to have been part of this series as I truly believe it has the potential to change how people think about our history. It also enables students to understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are diverse, rich and multi-faceted. “The winning of the two EPAA awards was a wonderful acknowledgment of Our Land, Our Stories by the Australian Educational Publishing Industry!”
Organised by the Australian Publishers Association (APA), the prestigious annual Educational Publishing Awards reward excellence and innovation in the industry. The event offers colleagues and industry professionals the opportunity to network and celebrate achievements. Awards are judged by a panel of peers, and each year teachers and booksellers vote for the coveted Publisher of the Year award.
Kiwi kids love animals and this year the SPCA Reading Challenge brings together books and creatures in a fun summer competition. Melissa Wastney, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, introduces New Zealand school libraries to the SPCA Reading Challenge.
Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (formerly NZ Book Council) has joined forces with SPCA to get kids reading more books over the holidays.
The SPCA Reading Challenge is an interactive website. Children aged 5 and up are invited to register for free and choose an animal team to ‘play’ for. Players log the books they read over the summer, along with a star rating and short review. A leader board keeps track of the teams as they move up and down the rankings accordingly.
Launching on December 14, the SPCA Reading Challenge will run until January 22.
The initiative follows two previous competitions – the Super Smash Reading Challenge in 2019, which teamed T20 cricket and books, and the Stay Home Book Club which ran over the national lockdown period in 2020.
Guided by children’s feedback, the SPCA Reading Challenge features an improved book logging system and teams arranged by age groups.
Paper Plus gift cards are up for grabs every day of the competition. There are lots of books to be won too, thanks to the support of Wellington publisher Gecko Press. To win a specially-curated bundle of books about animals, children can send in a picture of themselves reading to a pet, farm, or wildlife animal, or even a stuffed animal friend. The top readers in each team will also win Paper Plus gift cards at the end of the competition.
Read NZ Te Pou Muramura CEO Juliet Blyth says the reading challenge is a fun new way to address the well-documented ‘summer slide’ in learning over the holidays.
“We’re so excited to be running the Reading Challenge again this summer. We want more children to read more, to experience the joy of reading and hopefully encourage other whānau members to pick up a book too,” she says.
“Research tells us over and over again that reading for pleasure is the single most important factor in a child’s educational success, and our competition is a great way to support reading over summer so that when children return to school in the new year, their learning hasn’t suffered as a result of the long break.”
“At Read NZ we think it’s really important that children find reading fun, and our partnerships with the SPCA, Paper Plus and Gecko provide plenty of opportunities to read and learn about animal welfare and win cool prizes.”
SPCA National Education Manager Nicole Peddie welcomes the initiative and says SPCA feel fortunate to be involved in the exciting challenge for Kiwi kids.
“With the right books summer reading can be a fun and enjoyable activity for children to sustain the reading levels they’ve worked so hard to achieve over the school year and we think animals, be them companion, farmed, wild, even prehistoric or mythical, are a cool topic to read about!”
“Animals are not only interesting to read about, but they also make wonderful, supportive reading buddies. We know that practice makes perfect. However, many children dislike reading aloud in front of their classmates, even their family sometimes. However, an animal companion won’t judge a child’s mistakes and will calmly listen to and enjoy their company.”
“As such, practising reading with an animal companion, even a toy version, can help children associate reading with pleasure. When reading becomes enjoyable, children are likely to do it more often, improving both their skill and confidence along the way. Plus, most animals enjoy this calm and relaxing interaction too,” says Nicole.
Read NZ is grateful for the generous support of Paper Plus and Gecko Press for the prizes on offer.
As we look back on 2020 and plan for the new year, we revisit Miriam Tuohy’s Synergy article ‘New Zealand librarians in lockdown‘. In this article, Miriam discusses the responses from their library community to the restrictions they encountered and outlines what we can take away from these most unusual experiences.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made this year a particularly tough one. We’ve all had to do extraordinary things in circumstances that are both challenging and still evolving. In New Zealand our Covid-19 elimination strategy saw the whole country shut down in late March, with schools closed and everyone outside of essential services working from home. After a brief return to almost-normal life, restrictions were put in place again to contain another outbreak of Covid-19 in our largest city.
Since March, school library staff and National Library Services to Schools teams alike have had to adapt what we do, and how we work, to try and meet these challenges while still providing ongoing services and support.
The nationwide lockdown
National Library Services to Schools Covid-19 response
By mid-March, we were talking about possible school closures and how we’d provide support if that happened. When the move to Alert level 4 was announced, we had plans in place. With the challenge of working and learning at home ahead of us, we first had to look at what was going to be possible. Then we could decide what was the most meaningful work we could do. Our top priority was making sure people were OK — looking after our well-being, balancing work and family responsibilities while at home.
…we first had to look at what was going to be possible. Then we could decide what was the most meaningful…
Our existing online services were given a boost.
We extended the hours of our AnyQuestions online service to help students with research and inquiries so they could get help throughout the school day.
We began a major review of Topic Explorer (curated digital resource sets for curriculum support) — more than 90 topic sets have now been updated.
We offered our online professional learning free of charge. Staff from more than 60 schools signed up to learn about collection development, and resources to inspire and inform inquiry learning.
Help with login information for the EPIC databases (funded by the Ministry of Education and managed by the National Library) was in demand during lockdown, and in June we recorded the highest usage rates ever!
We were also able to try new things:
We hosted webinars to support school library staff working from home. Our team kept participants informed, entertained, and most importantly connected during lockdown.
The school library network groups that Services to Schools facilitates were moved online, with socialcatch-ups via Zoom scheduled first. Term 2 network meetings via Zoom included our first-ever national meeting for intermediate (for Years 7-8) schools.
We trialled a new channel for online learning, with a short email course entitled “Your school library is still open”, designed to help schools set up an online presence for their library as quickly as possible.
School library services during lockdown
In preparation for lockdown, school library teams made a huge effort to get as many books as possible out to their students to take home, with record numbers of items issued in the last few days before Alert level 4 came into force.
During lockdown, some school library staff were able to stay in regular contact with their colleagues, students and families but others could not. In Services to Schools’ first webinar for school library staff working at home we polled attendees about communicating with colleagues, and with students and their whānau (families). Email polled higher than all other channels as shown in Figures 1 & 2.
Those who were able to stay connected with their community were mindful of the stresses for children and their families during lockdown and took care to focus on supporting wellbeing and learning where possible, while not overwhelming people with information.
Access to digital resources and technology
There was renewed interest from some schools in providing eBooks as part of their future planning.
Schools with an eBook platform continued to promote this service, and those without encouraged their communities to make use of their local public library eBook systems. There was renewed interest from some schools in providing eBooks as part of their future planning.
Some school libraries with managed sets of devices were able to make these available to students over lockdown. The Ministry of Education embarked on a massive rollout of Wi-Fi and personal devices (as well as print ‘hard packs’ with workbooks) to support learning at home.
School library staff curated free eBooks, audiobooks, and other digital resources for their community, and produced videos and other ‘how-to’ information to promote and encourage their use.
The Coalition for Books worked with the publishing and library sectors here to develop arrangements and guidance for running virtual story-times. Some school library staff made this a regular feature of their support for students during lockdown, reading live on YouTube or joining in class video calls to read aloud.
New Zealand’s Covid-19 alert level system uses the term ‘bubble’ to describe the concepts of self-isolation and social distancing. When schools re-opened at Alert level 3 in late April, some library staff returned to school, working alongside small class bubbles in the library.
A handful of schools set up click-and-collect services to make books available again for students and their families.
On 13 May 2020 New Zealand moved to Alert level 2. Services to Schools lending service centres in Auckland and Christchurch re-opened and our Capability Facilitators were again able to meet face-to-face with school staff. Finally, on 8 June 2020, we moved to Alert level 1 where we stayed for the next 9 weeks.
Auckland schools back to Alert level 3
On 12 August 2020 the Auckland region moved back into Alert level 3, and the rest of New Zealand to Alert level 2, after a new community outbreak. Schools in Auckland were closed, and all non-essential workers were once again working from home. At the time of writing*, the whole of New Zealand is at Alert level 2, with all schools able to open again and most people back at their regular place of work, but with social distancing and gathering sizes restricted.
How librarians can prepare for challenging times
If you think about the key elements of a school librarian’s role, developing the skills to do these well will help us be prepared for future challenges.
We focus on the needs of our community and include them as we make informed decisions about what library services and resources will work best for them.
We develop and use systems to organise information and stories, to make access easy for our community.
We create safe and welcoming environments where people can read, work and learn together or alone.
We keep up-to-date with literature and information published for children and young people and do our best to make these available to our community.
We keep up-to-date with new technologies, tools and platforms and explore how to use them ourselves and to support others.
Over and above that, there are some key traits I think librarians need to develop – regardless of where we work – to help us deal with challenges.
Resilience: recognise that challenges, uncertainty and change are inevitable. If there is one thing we’ve learned from the Covid-19 pandemic it is the importance of well- being and kindness – looking after ourselves so we can look after others. We need to develop strategies to help bounce back when we’ve been stressed or stretched in new ways. In our work, we need to design services that are flexible and adaptable, that reduce challenges, and give people options that work best for them.
…we need to design services that are flexible and adaptable, that reduce challenges, and give people options that work best for them.
Reflection: when you look back at the challenges you’ve faced in 2020, think about your actions and interactions. Which were the most meaningful, and why was that? How can we focus our attention on those good bits and build them in to our every-day lives and work? How are we different now, and what impact will this have on our roles? Future-focus: what do you think your biggest challenges will be in future? Will they be different to the challenges you have now? When you hear about new ideas, resources and tools, think about their potential impact on your library’s services. It’s important to keep learning all the time – evaluating what we do and looking for ways to improve. Connections: good relationships are fundamental to our work. Maintaining connections and keeping lines of communication open with our communities were so important during lockdown. What we have seen is that it’s often those who are most isolated – whether geographically or socially – who need extra support to connect. How can we strengthen relationships and make our face-to-face and online interactions as positive and impactful as possible?
Changes resulting from the pandemic
Despite the difficulties this year, we have also seen some bright spots, and positive changes. Responding to the pandemic has brought out strengths people and teams didn’t know they had. Creative problem-solving has led to innovative changes in the way we do things. Understanding what really matters to people helped us focus on how we can have the greatest impact.
The weeks of lockdown here gave school library staff time to reflect on how the library is working for their school community – their collections, the spaces, and the services the library offers – and to make plans for change and improvement.
For National Library’s Services to Schools, some of the changes we introduced during lockdown are becoming business-as-usual for us now. Our online learning courses will remain free for the rest of 2020. Webinars will become a regular feature of our PLD programme, as will sector-based Zoom network meetings bringing together intermediate or area schools from across the country, for example.
We expect the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to be with us for some time yet. For example, there may be schools with lower levels of non-government funding (related to a drop in fee-paying international students, or financial hardship in the community) who aren’t able to support their library as they have in the past. In time the flow-on effects of school closures and disruptions will be clearer, and there will be ways for school libraries to help mitigate any learning loss.
At Services to Schools, we will work alongside schools in the months ahead to help them further strengthen the contribution their library can make to student learning and wellbeing. We hope it isn’t too long before we can do that face-to-face with all our school library colleagues!
Miriam Tuohy joined the National Library of New Zealand’s Services to Schools as School Library Development Senior Specialist in 2016. Her involvement in the New Zealand education system spans early childhood education, primary and secondary school and tertiary libraries. Miriam was a member of the School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (SLANZA) National Executive from 2010- 2016 including a year as President in 2015-16. As part of her current role, Miriam has contributed to the publication of Services to Schools framework for school library development, the 2018 and 2019 reports of the nationwide surveys of New Zealand school libraries. She is also involved in developing and delivering professional development for school library staff and teachers, and is a regular contributor to the National Library of New Zealand’s Libraries & Learning blog.
Appendix 1. Feedback
“Really enjoyed attending the meeting. I hope you can continue to offer online meetings. They work much better for us, we were forced to become really good at online meetings over lockdown.”
“Thank you for all the marshalling and organising and guiding us you do. We are much enriched by being a group, with the opportunity to share and communicate.”
“Thank you all of you – I’ve really loved the weekly webinars and they’ve been a lifeline to the library community.”
“I have really enjoyed the webinars and found them really supportive and useful – thank you and your team so much for all the hard work you have put into preparing them.”
“Thank you for producing this brilliant series of webinars. I have enjoyed them, have investigated almost all the links and plan to put some into action as soon as I have organised whatever happens at school when I eventually return. I am in my 7th week off school, with no way I can access my library or programme, so can do little except the PD you are offering.”
“Thanks for your amazing webinars over the last 4 weeks. I have been really inspired and have enjoyed the very professional presentations.”
* On the 26/11/2020 - when the SCIS Blog republished this article - New Zealand was at Alert level 1.This article first appeared in Synergy, online journal of the School Library Association of Victoria (SLAV).
Louise Sherwin-Stark, CEO of Hachette Australia and the Chair of the Australian Reads Committee, invites Australians of all ages and from all walks of life to share and celebrate the joys of reading. And together we say a big thank you to Australia Reads authors Danielle Binks, Jacqueline Harvey, and Virginia Trioli for their amazing support of the school library community!
There’s no denying that this year has been a challenging one. But, despite the hardships, it is encouraging to discover that reading has been a source of escapism, entertainment and comfort for many Australians during this time.
A July 2020 report into the impacts of COVID 19 showed that:
20% of Australians say they are reading more books due to lockdowns.
Gen Z are reading more books than pre-COVID and their reading has increased more than older generations.
This increased engagement with reading has been fairly steady since March.
In terms of reading more on a permanent basis post COVID, 12% of Australian say they will. Interesting, as the waves of isolation continue, the habit forming is increasing.
Rediscovering books and reading is what Australia Reads is all about. Its an important campaign supported by the whole book industry, running from the 1st to the 12th November. Our aim is to encourage all Australians to pick up a book and enjoy the benefits of reading.
This year we are excited to be hosting three virtual events that will highlight the need to stop and read on Thursday 12th November for Australian Reading Hour.
Ambassadors Peter Helliar, Dervla McTiernan and Will Kostakis will join a stellar line up of amazing Australian authors who are contributing to an incredible three programs for kids, teens and adults each of which you will all be able to screen directly into your classroom or library.
Featuring: Will Kostakis, Rawah Arja, Cath Moore, Amie Kaufman, Danielle Binks, Garth Nix, Alex Dyson, Lisa Fuller and more.
Each author will give students an insight into their writing process, character development and how reading encourages emphathy and increases connection.
One lucky school will also have the chance to win a prize pack of special edition Australia Reads books!
To register for the program, head to the Sydney Opera House Digital Events pages HERE. This program is available free of charge to all Australian schools.
Australia Reads Main Event – YouTube Live Premiere Event
Wednesday 11th November – 12.30pm AEDT
Featuring: Judy Nunn, Peter Fitzsimons, Peter Helliar, Michael Robotham, Dervla McTiernan, Tanya Plibersek, Andy Griffiths, Nikki Gemmell, Anita Heiss, Kevin Sheedy, Virginia Trioli and more.
To watch the Main Event broadcast simply log on to the Australia Reads YouTube Channel HERE, subscribe and click on the bell to set a reminder for the program.
Of course, school library staff understand that books – in whatever shape, size, or form – are a great way to unwind, to learn new things, discover new stories, and feel all kinds of emotions. Please take the time to watch this incredible video of Australia Reads authors Danielle Binks, Jacqueline Harvey, and Virginia Trioli celebrating the value of school libraries!
Teachers (with support from parents and carers) have ensured education continues across the country this year, despite major challenges. It’s reinforced the significant role teachers play in the lives of children and students, their families and communities.
Say a big thank you to teachers and celebrate the bright future of teaching. Post a photo in your sunglasses on social media, either on your own or with family or friends. Use these tags on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn: #thankteachers #brightfuture @aitsl
World Teachers’ Day is held internationally in early October. As it falls during the school holidays for many parts of Australia, we celebrate a little later.
Of course, the SCIS team would like to extend a very special thank you to all of the excellent teacher librarians in the SCIS community!
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.
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 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.
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.
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-
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-
Professional Managers Australia. (2019, April 12). The importance of continuing professional development. www.professionalsaustralia.org.au.
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-
Wiley, & Wenborn, C. (2018, April 13). 4 Professional Development Tips for Busy Librarians. www.wiley.com. https://www.wiley.com/network/