In the latest SCIS Publisher Spotlight, Story Box Library explores innovating reading and learning with stories.
Digital learning is complementing traditional teaching methods with innovations. While classroom time is key in children’s development and learning, platforms like Story Box Library (SBL) bring stories to student’s fingertips.
Designed to be used by educators across a variety of ages and curriculum requirements, Story Box Library’s growing collection of stories and resources bring engaging learning options to any classroom.
Story Box Library’s Education Specialist Jackie Small says, “Story Box Library’s unique format of traditional storytelling presented digitally with the inclusion of support features provides educators with essential multimodal texts that convey meaning through written, spoken, visual, audio and gestural languages.”
“Resources such as SBL are essential because they meet a need for a society that has become increasingly multi-modal.”
Partnering with educators to enhance education
Saving time for educators, subscribing schools can now search SCIS to find stories from the entire Story Box Library (SBL) collection. This means all SBL titles, including storyteller images, can be downloaded and incorporated into school systems.
Along with MARC records and the corresponding ISBN numbers, SBL collections seamlessly integrate into school cataloguing systems. The SBL digital resource is now even easier to access for educators and students in Australia.
In keeping up with technological demand and developments of our changing world, SBL offers a complementary learning opportunity for educators and schools. Enhancing classroom learning and saving teachers time, teachers can engage students in a lifelong love of learning, reading and inspire curiosity, creativity and play.
Stories connect us to the rest of the world. While students discover stories in a safe, online space, their reading and literacy skills improve. Stories help children and young minds not only establish language and literacy skills but also create frameworks of the wider world, their community, friends, family, and their identity.
“Stories are thoughtfully curated based on thematic and literary value,” says Jackie.
“This makes them perfect springboards into a wonderful world of discovery and learning both in English and other key learning areas.’
Innovative classroom tools for all educators
Story Box Library’s additional expert-designed classroom resources help teachers save time in the classroom, assist in class preparation, and align with the Australian Curriculum. Designed to be used alongside story reads, and adapted seamlessly to any educator’s specific needs, SBL’s education resources make learning fun. Built-in features like playlist and search filter functions allow educators to find and save stories according to themes, topics, or their own personalised requirements.
“I like to think of our additional resources as creative seeds for educators,” Jackie says.
“They provide them with diverse and engaging ideas that provide children with opportunities to listen to, view, speak, write, create, reflect and compare texts within our library while also developing other skills such as metacognition, social skills, and critical and creative thinking.”
Based on unique themes, story structures and language features of each story, Classroom Ideas are flexible, adaptable and easily accessible for any Educator’s specific needs. Downloadable PDFs feature practical discussion questions and activity ideas aligned with curriculum areas. Stories also come with Student Task Sheets, which are grouped by themes and designed to be used independently by students. Students are provided with three task options towards meeting achievement standards via downloadable PDFs.
Recently released, SBL’s new Graphic Organisers and Thinking Tools assist students into becoming critical readers, designed to provide opportunities for deeper learning. With more in development, the first release of resources includes a Y-Chart, Character Profile, Story Map, Plot Summary, List Template, T-Chart, Venn Diagram, Menu Planner, Recipe Planner and an Interview Planner.
Connected to a world of stories
With one login, the entire school community of teachers, students and their families access to a world of diverse, high-quality stories. SBL is safe, secure and trusted by educators around the globe, and helps create curious and understanding young minds.
Story Box Library is working with partners like SCIS to inspire young minds, assist educators, and encourage a lifelong love of reading and learning.
Story Box Library is a subscription based educational website, created for children to view stories by local authors and illustrators, being read aloud by engaging storytellers. With a world of stories and educational resources, it’s Storytime, Anytime!
www.storyboxlibrary.com.au| @storyboxlibrary | Story Box Library
‘My job is to help the teachers with their teaching and the children with their learning. I do that in whatever way I can.’
School: Pymble Public School
Type: Primary K-6
Cataloguing subscription: SCIS Data + Authority Files
Library management system: Oliver Library Software
Size of collection: 18,000
The teacher librarian’s role
Kathryn is the only trained teacher librarian in the school. She has help in the library from another teacher who teaches classes and assists with circulation but does not assist with management tasks. There is also clerical support one day per week.
Kathryn runs the library herself. She buys and manages resources and assists teachers where she can, such as by recording programs to meet curriculum needs. One of her roles is to provide support for classroom teachers to provide specialist information services and teaching programs.
‘I see my job is to help the teachers with their teaching and the children with their learning. I do that in whatever way I can.’
As a New South Wales government school, Kathryn’s library uses the Oliver library management system. She says that 15,000 items are standard library resources – books, posters, charts, big books, teacher reference materials. A further 3000 items, such as the computer software, the DVDs and the textbooks are in the school resources section – students can’t see these on the catalogue. Technology items, such as laptops, are not loaned through the library.
Kathryn and the English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) teacher worked together to create a collection of books in languages other than English. ‘We’ve got a Community language section which has the non-English books. These are books in some of the languages represented within our school community’.
Everything in the library is catalogued. Kathryn lends nothing that isn’t on the system, although she admits that she sometimes lends her stapler but says, ‘It’s out and back for the day!’
SCIS for over 30 years
Kathryn has been in school libraries for 30 years and has used SCIS in every one. When she first started, SCIS records were on microfiche. Kathryn found the support from SCIS particularly useful as a new teacher librarian. ‘I knew that my books would be in the right place because the books were being catalogued by proper cataloguers.’ Later to automate her small school library Kathryn used Rapid Retrospective, from SCIS, to import the record. ‘We just sent in the ISBNs and SCIS sent us the records. Straight into the computer.’
At another school, Kathryn had dial-up internet in the library. She used to get to school at 7:00 am, Sydney time, while other parts of Australia were still asleep, to do the SCIS orders. ‘SCIS was so much faster at 7:00 in the morning!’ Kathryn managed the process to add extra SCIS subject headings using the Authority File to suit her students. She really enjoyed this work and didn’t regret the early starts!
SCIS hit rate
The hit rate in SCIS Data is normally around 98 per cent, except for items like a Harry Potter book in Chinese, or another of their community languages, that hasn’t necessarily been catalogued. If a record is not available, Kathryn normally checks the following week, but also sometimes sends items in to SCIS to be catalogued.
Kathryn finds the people at SCIS to be incredibly helpful when there are issues. She especially enjoys the conversations she’s had with SCIS cataloguers who share her fascination with the process.
Kathryn says, ‘Our collection is all beautifully arranged, thanks to SCIS. Even if I don’t always agree with all SCIS standards I can easily adapt them for our collection.’
Using the catalogue
Students use the catalogue to find resources in the library. It can be difficult to teach them how to use the catalogue successfully as they only have half an hour library lessons once a week, and that includes borrowing time and a teaching program.
Students who want to spend time searching the catalogue have access at home and the opportunity to come in at lunchtimes or in the morning every day. Students can access curated lists of educationally focused websites via the library catalogue (curated by the Department, using SCIS Data).
The catalogue is a well-used by Pymble Public School students.
A great collection in a small space
Due to its small size the library is used as a dedicated, traditional library space, rather than as a common area for games, puzzles and computer games or other pursuits. It also houses the school computer server (Kathryn is the computer coordinator) and a teaching space. The teaching area includes a SMART Board and a document camera that Kathryn finds particularly useful.
Kathryn is justly proud of her library. ‘We have an absolutely stunning collection.’ There are sections for community languages and graphic novels with fiction and non-fiction areas. The library includes a senior section for years 5 and 6, and a junior fiction section. Sets of readers for history, geography, science and sets of novels, dictionaries and home readers also have their place in the library.
Kathryn has become an expert at managing the space she has to the best effect. She says, ‘Everything is where it is because that’s the only place it can possibly go.’
‘The service and data provided by SCIS allow me to deliver a well-catalogued collection with minimal expenditure of time and effort. SCIS frees me to do the more important work of a teacher librarian – support my staff and students.’
Melissa Wastney, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura, introduces school libraries to Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano, an online platform and literary community for readers aged 12-19.
The looks hook people in, but the blurb brings it home (literally, I always leave bookshops with a lot of books.)
This book deserves all of the praise it receives; it is a beautifully told, undeniably raw, and extremely emotional read…
Once I had read this I was able to understand that although New Zealand claims to be diverse and accepting, racism affects our day to day lives, whether you are able to see it or not…
– Quotes from some recent Hooked on Books reviews.
At Read NZ Te Pou Muramura we want to encourage all of us to read more, and at the same time acknowledge the social aspects of literature; how books bring us closer to each other.
In the words of American writer Patricia Hampl, ‘’If nobody talks about books, if they are not discussed or somehow contended with, literature ceases to be a conversation, ceases to be dynamic. Most of all, it ceases to be intimate. Reviewing makes of reading a participant sport, not a spectator sport.’’
Building a community of readers who discuss books, and growing the next generation of critics is what Hooked on NZ Books He Ao Ano is all about.
Established four years ago by Peppercorn Press to complement their print journal NZ Review of Books, Hooked on Books is an online platform and literary community for readers aged 12-19.
Read NZ adopted the programme in 2020 and would love your help to find enthusiastic young readers to review the latest New Zealand books for us.
How does it work?
First, we match readers with new books: mostly novels, but also non-fiction, poetry and essays. Our reviewers live everywhere from Invercargill to Kaitaia.
We ask for the reviews to be emailed back within a month, and the reader gets to keep the book.
Our editor works with the reviewer to edit the piece so it’s the best it can be. This can sometimes involve a week of revisions and emails but is always an encouraging and supportive process.
We publish the final version of the review on the Hooked on NZ Books website, and share it with our wider community. The best review from each month is published on the official Read NZ website.
Read NZ CEO Juliet Blyth says the purpose of Hooked on NZ Books is to grow the audience for home-grown literature, to provide another space for young writers to be published and to nurture the next generation of critical readers in Aotearoa.
“Our reviewers have the opportunity to respond personally and critically to the latest reads while together building an online resource about NZ books and a genuine platform for their voice.
“Anyone can say that they loved or loathed a book, but it’s much harder to say why. Reviewing is important because well-argued reviews can influence what gets published and what gets read,” she says.
We at Read NZ would love your help to identify young readers and writers aged around 13 – 19 to participate.
We welcome enquiries from school librarians and teachers, but we’re also happy to work directly with young readers.
create a freely available, online database of children’s books by and about Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples;
encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be engaged in their learning through increased cultural understanding;
provide a resource that supports incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures into learning environments;
map books against the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum;
offer teaching resources related to these books to support children’s learning;
enhance the quality of culturally appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning activities; and
support teachers to integrate contemporary and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into their work with children.
Our project coincides with the need and the right environment for this Resource. Movements around the world are highlighting the importance of #OwnVoices to create books. Publishers are ramping up their publishing programs of children’s books to reflect a wider diversity of voices. Grants, fellowships, mentorships and awards in this area have increased. At the same time, organisations are prompting individuals from wide-ranging backgrounds to participate in story making. Initiatives like the Spinifex Writing Camps, developed by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, are bringing together published children’s writers and illustrators to work with Aboriginal children in communities across Australia. Initiatives such as these encourage youthful voices to write and illustrate their own stories. The NCACL Resource reflects these changing times.
This project reflects expanding publications in this area. Recent publishers like Children’s Ground and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, along with the long-standing major publishers in this area, Magabala Books and Fremantle Press, are examples. Over 30 books in this area are in publishers’ programs for 2020. The new Resource highlights this growth.
After mapping out this project’s goals, activities and deadlines, 35 individuals across Australia, chosen for their broad expertise, joined a collective to comment on the books selected. Moderators guided these individuals and considered their commentary, while the Project Team and an external Reference Group monitored the project as a whole. An essential task included determining the functional requirements of the Resource, that is, what do we want the Resource to do? Our database designer, 372Digital, then considered these and created the database. At every development, NCACL’s Website Manager guided the database’s implementation.
The Resource has all the usual search filters for finding a specific author, title, publisher, publication date, audience and subject plus an annotation for each book. Added strengths include linking books to the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum, free teaching resources presented as hyperlinks for each book, identification of a location, the cultural groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ language in the books, where these could be identified. The Resource also offers free text searching of annotations. This provides access to such topics as writing techniques and styles as well as artistic media and techniques. Any words featured in the annotation are searchable.
A special feature is the facility to share your search results by a once-off registration which appears at the top of every NCACL webpage — look for Login/Register. Thereafter, searchers can choose their book ‘favourites’ and share these with colleagues using a variety of social media such as email, Twitter, Facebook and Messenger. Favourites can also be printed out for personal use.
DEMONSTRATING THE RESOURCE
There are currently over 300 children’s books in the Resource. To provide an insight into strengths and potentials for teacher librarians and teachers, in particular, one Australian Curriculum level and subject area will be examined along with the books retrieved. The aim here is to demonstrate searching strategies, techniques for broadening and narrowing the selection, depth and scope of books retrieved. One example of a particular curriculum and year level will demonstrate the potential of the Resource.
The example chosen is Year 6 HASS — History. This curriculum area covers ‘experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including the status and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, migrants, women and children’. The Australian Curriculum code for this area is ACHASSK135.
RETRIEVING BOOKS USING THE CURRICULUM CODE ACHASSK135
This particular Australian Curriculum Code retrieves 19 books with the audience level ranging from five years through 12 years of age. Each book will have its own audience range. The range reflects what we know about children and books — that a child’s chronological age does not always correspond with their reading and comprehension age.
Publication dates for these books range from the earliest, The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia by Aboriginal Children to the latest, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History. The collection of 19 books includes Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal creators working together and/or independently. A variety of publishers are presented including small (One Day Hill) and large (Allen & Unwin), longstanding (Magabala), mainstream (Walker Books), specialist (Omnibus and Little Hare), community-based (Kadjina Community) and educational (Era Publications and Board of Studies NSW).
This set of books reflects a range of styles and genres, with a concentration on stories which enable young people to experience the lives of others. Autobiographies such as Tucker and The Shack That Dad Built and biographies such as Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History, Old Tucker Man, Yinti, Desert Cowboy and Jandamarra enable young people to experience the lives and times of others.
IDENTIFYING LANGUAGE AND PLACE
Several of the books in this collection identify a specific location and/or language spoken by those living in the area. For example, the language identified in Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, is the Western Arrernte language (C8). The location for this story is (NT SF53-13). These alphanumeric codes are provided by AUSTLANG, developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). AUSTLANG uses alphanumeric codes to identify both language and place. These relate to a map available from AIATSIS either in hard copy or through their website’s online map. The title Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English identifies this story’s language as English, Walmajarri/Walmatjarri language (A66) (WA SE51-16) and its location as Western Australia (WA). Many of the 300-plus books in the Resource identify both location and language. To find other books relating to place and people, the subject filter includes these in an alphabetical list.
The Subjects search filter is a drop-down menu, which offers a simple way to find subjects of interest. Concentrating on the curriculum area studied in Year 6 HASS — History, several subjects are repeated in these 19 books, usually with different
Below are just a few of the subjects included in this modest collection of 19 books: agriculture, aquaculture, biographies, children as artists, children as authors, colonisation, injustice, livestock, outlaws, Papunya (South Central NT), and Warlpiri people (C15) (NT SF52-04). Should a subject be of particular interest, other books with this same subject can be located through the Subject filter’s drop-down menu.
Sometimes the subjects are broad. For example, ‘Social life and customs’ is a broad subject listed for a few of the Year 6 HASS — History books.
Searching this subject throughout the entire Resource retrieves 28 books. This broader subject may retrieve a collection of books which a teacher or teacher librarian wishes to explore further.
Two other interesting subjects featuring in the Year 6 HASS — History curriculum books include: children as artists (31 books) and children as authors (30 books). These offer the possibility of retrieving books that feature children as creators. Considering Year 6 HASS — History curriculum, these books offer children as writers and illustrators along with their interpretations of history in such books as Papunya School Book of Country and History and The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia.
Young children are able to more easily understand history, time periods and adults’ life experiences by reading biographical works such as Kicking Goals with Goodsey and Magic and Pilawuk: When I Was Young. Autobiographical books serve a similar purpose with books such as Tucker and The Shack That Dad Built. Reading and studying these books enables young people to experience the lives of others in different times and places.
Invariably there are young people fascinated by the meaning of words, including those in different languages and details of specific environments. The HASS — History collection includes two examples. One is a dictionary of words and phrases, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases and the second example is a picture book, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu that identifies the Aboriginal seasons, plants and animals in this particular location. Another book, Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English, is bilingual, with both Walmajarri and English featured along with 14 short stories about life in the Kadinina Community.
SEARCHING FOR HISTORICAL SUBJECTS
This particular Australian Curriculum code suggests historical events and documents will form the basis for some of the stories. These can be retrieved
through the Subjects drop-down menu. For example, words reflecting specific historical times and documents occur as subjects in this particular collection of books:
Aboriginal Australian soldiers Alfred’s War
Colonisation Old Tucker Man
Wik Judgement My Place
Stolen generation Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know) and Pilawuk: When I Was Young
SEARCHING BY FREE TEXT
At the top of the web page, there is a long search bar. The words inside say Search by Title and Annotation. Entering words in this search bar will pick up words located anywhere in the books’ annotations. For example, words about artistic style and media, writing styles, and genres may appear in the annotation but not in the subjects. Checking the annotations of several of these books featuring Year 6 HASS — History curriculum, the following words can be retrieved in the Search by Title and Annotation: naïve style, maps, photographs, song, rhyme and allegory. This is a small sample, but it is an indication of wide-ranging topics available in the Resource. Topics such as these may capture the child’s imagination as well as extend the curriculum being studied.
EXPLORING TEACHING AND OTHER RESOURCES
Each book includes a range of external hyperlinks that offer teaching and other resources, usually four or more, to explore each book. These are extraordinarily diverse. These links explore different aspects of each book, enhance understanding of the content and, most importantly, many are highly engaging and can be used in the classroom or at home. Sources vary widely and include newspaper and magazine articles, YouTube, oral history, animations, artworks, musical presentations, dance, educational activities and other enriching experiences intended to extend the books in multiple ways. These reach children with different interests and abilities. Some of these resources are aimed at adults to inform them or for the adult to interpret for the child.
Listed below are some of the types of resources available.
Musical and play productions
Readings and performances of the books
Curriculum plans and activities
Extension activities featuring art, music, dance, writing and other creative activities
Films, videos and recordings
Information, visual and written, about place and communities
Take Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu as an example. The types of resources for this book include:
a Guardian newspaper article outlining ways to use this book with young people;
an ABC program featuring a digibook, with short clips prompting students to consider the relationship between Indigenous people and the land around them;
a question and answer session with Bruce Pascoe; and
a teachers’ guide featuring learning activities linked to the Australian Curriculum.
Resources such as these extend the book, inspire young people and encourage an inquiring mind.
Teaching and learning is a collegial activity which involves sharing resources with friends and colleagues. The Resource is designed for sharing ‘favourites’. Located at the top right of each web page there is a Login/Register button. By completing the required details, you are then able to ‘choose’ books which are your ‘favourites’, compile these as a list and send them via a hyperlink to a friend or colleague who then can download these details. You can also share your favourites on the usual social media platforms. This sharing facility ensures that the Resource reaches people far and wide, easily and quickly.
Most importantly, these books offer stories by and about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Interweaving stories and history: these deepen our respect and understanding of each other.
The Resource is a database of children’s books aimed at young people from birth through 12 years of age. For this article, the curriculum area Year 6 HASS — History is used to demonstrate the rich potential of the Resource created by the NCACL. Exploring even this small collection of 19 books demonstrates that the Resource offers wide-ranging topics and stories, with the potential to reach children with various interests and abilities. There are innumerable types of stories, some told in Aboriginal languages, many located in specific communities, many written in different styles and illustrated with wide-ranging artistic media. The choice is wide. Most importantly, these books offer stories by and about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Interweaving stories and history: these deepen our respect and understanding of each other.
Abdulla, Ian 2014, Tucker, Omnibus Books, Norwood, SA.
The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia, 1977, Rigby in association with Island Heritage.
Austin, Debbie (as told to her by her uncle, Banjo Clarke), Old Tucker Man, One Day Hill, Camberwell East, Vic.
Bin Salleh, Rachel 2018, Alfred’s War, illus Samantha Fry, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Brian, Janeen 1996, Pilawuk: When I Was Young, Era Publications, Flinders Park, SA.
Freeman, Pamela 2018, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History, illus Sophie Beer, Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette Australia.
Greenwood, Mark 2013, Jandamara, illus Terry Denton, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Heiss, Anita, Goodes Adam & O’Loughlin Michael 2016, Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic, Piccolo Nero, Carlton, Vic.
Kamholtz, Damien 2006, Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, illus by children, Openbook Australia, Adelaide, SA.
Laurel, Yangkana (Madeline) 1999, Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English, Kadjina Community, Fitzroy Crossing, WA.
Lowe, Pat 2000, Yinti, Desert Cowboy, illus Jimmy Pike, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Lucas, Diane 2005, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu, illus Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Muir, Aunty Joy & Lawson Sue 2018, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases, Black Dog Books/Walker Books Australia, Newtown, NSW.
Nawili, Rak & others, 1995, Rak Nawili, Board of Studies NSW, North Sydney, NSW.
Papunya School & Nadia Wheatley 2001, Papunya School Book of Country and History, illus Papunya School and Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
Pascoe, Bruce 2019, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.
Randall, Bob & Hogan Melanie 2011, Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know), ABC Books, Sydney, NSW.
Russell, Elaine 2004, The Shack That Dad Built, Little Hare Books, Surry Hills, NSW.
Wheatley, Nadia 2018, My Place, illus Donna Rawlins, Walker Books Australia, Newtown, NSW.
This article was first published in ACCESS, Vol. 34, No. 4, November 2020. Reproduced here with permission. ACCESS is the professional journal of the Australian School Library Association Inc. (ASLA).
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.
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!
Here at the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), our mission is to make our users’ life easier. Our data is designed to work seamlessly within your library management system, using high-quality data to build a brilliant user experience. To support your work, we also have the SCIS Data website (scisdata.com) – with a stack of nifty features that will improve your library catalogue and save you time and money.
1. Cataloguing (of course!)
The SCIS database has approximately 1.6 million high-quality, consistent catalogue records.
As part of a SCIS subscription, libraries can also request cataloguing for new materials that they have not been able to locate a record for in SCIS Data. We encourage you to place an online cataloguing request at my.scisdata.com/CreateCatalogueRequest. Good news! We have recently revamped the service to make it quicker and easier to submit these requests. You can use this service to request the cataloguing of websites and other online resources you think would be useful to you and the wider school library community.
Sometimes, you might have a query about a record or maybe you’ve found a mistake. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and our cataloguing team will investigate.
Remember we are a cataloguing community, so feedback helps not only you, but also nearly 10,000 other users around the world.
Text-only catalogue displays are a thing of the past. While the old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is wise, the reality is that the cover of a resource makes it look more appealing and does affect reader choice. Using cover images to supplement the text-based catalogue record is an effective method of catching the reader’s eye as they browse through the virtual shelf.
SCIS subscribers are able to download most of the cover images displayed in SCIS Data into their own library-management systems. Subscribing schools may not pass cover images on to a third party, but for their own use they may include them:
on the school’s online library catalogues
on the school’s website, including blogs, wikis, online newsletters and intranet
At the time of writing, there are over 80,000 records on SCIS Data for digital resources (websites, apps, ebooks and digital videos), and this number grows every month. We also catalogue apps, ebooks and digital videos. We catalogue resources that are curriculum-related, educational and recreational.
SCIS has made catalogue records for nearly 400 free Project Gutenberg titles (scis.edublogs.org/2020/05/06/literatures-greatest-works-are-yours-for-free). SCIS Data offers subscribers the option to download collections (https://help.scisdata.com/hc/en-us/articles/360051763433-What-are-the-Download-Collections-) of records from four resource providers: ClickView digital video library; Wheelers ePlatform One; World Book eBook Series; and the National Library of New Zealand (Topic Explorer and EPIC Resources).
The hard work has been done – importing digital content is a quick and easy way to grow your collection.
When a teacher approaches you about finding resources for their upcoming unit, where is the first place you look? Perhaps you perform a quick internet search to see if it can direct you to any relevant resources. Maybe you check a publisher’s website. Yet, if we encourage students to use the library catalogue based on its inclusion of trusted, credible and educational resources, why not use a catalogue ourselves?
Let’s say the history teacher has approached you to help her find World War I resources for her Year 9 class. If you pop over to the SCIS catalogue, you can start with a basic search – perhaps simply ‘World War I’ – and, from the results page, refine your search. Filtering by your specific learning area, subject and audience level will provide you with the most relevant resources catalogued by SCIS. The advanced search option allows you to limit your search further by either fiction or non-fiction – and, if it’s fiction you’re looking for, to narrow your search by specific genres.
The Featured categories on the SCIS Data search page provide a quick and easy way to source resources and records for websites, apps, ebooks and digital videos. The SCIS catalogue also has the ability to build lists. Rather than downloading one record at a time, you can curate lists within the SCIS catalogue. This is particularly helpful for schools using SCIS as a resource selection tool.
SCIS Data includes additional information via our subscription to Syndetics. Where the information is available, the record consists of summaries and annotations, author notes, authoritative reviews, and series information. Through our subscription to LibraryThing for Libraries, we can also provide community-generated content, including recommendations, tags, and links to other editions and similar items. Although this additional information is not included in the downloaded record, it can help with searching and selection of records.
SCIS Authority Files (scisdata.com/products/authority-files) provide a rich search experience to make the most of your resources. Authority Files link terms between records, to display the ‘see’ and ‘see also’ references. A subscription to SCIS Authority Files allows you to download Subject, Name and Series Authority Files from the SCIS website, and upload them to your library management system – where you’ll truly see the magic of metadata with a rich search and discovery experience for your students.
SCIS prides itself on responsive, proactive customer service. Our team of customer service and cataloguing professionals are on hand to answer your questions. Visit our contact page (scisdata.com/contact-scis) to submit a question. Explore the SCIS Help articles (help.scisdata.com/hc/en-us) or watch the SCIS Help videos (vimeo.com/user4095009) and learn how to make the most of your subscription. Or stay up to date with the latest SCIS news by visiting our news carousel at scisdata.com. We are here to help.
7. Shopping cart
The SCIS shopping cart allows you to request and download your invoice, or pay online.
Our shopping cart also allows users to add in SCIS extras before renewing their annual invoice – such as barcode scanners (scisdata.com/barcode-scanners), professional learning and Authority Files. Ordering is nice and simple, and should you decide you need something extra when you renew your SCIS subscription (like a barcode scanner for stocktake!) you can have everything on one invoice to pass on to your accounts team.
8. Professional learning
Attend a SCIS webinar (scisdata.com/professional-learning) and learn how SCIS Data makes resource management simple – helping school libraries by providing high quality catalogue records, improving content searching and discovery, and developing digital collections.
The free SCIS short course ‘Managing your library collection and catalogue’ (scis.edublogs.org/2020/03/31/free-scis-short-course-managing-your-library-collection-and-catalogue) is suitable for new school library staff and for those who would like a refresher. Published on the SCIS Blog, the course focuses on collection curation and cataloguing, it helps school library staff get started in organising the resource offerings in their library. The response to this course has been overwhelmingly positive, with comments ranging from ‘Thanks, this is so helpful and timely while working from home’ to ‘Back to basics. A good reminder of what makes libraries tick …’
We’ve been publishing our magazine Connections (scisdata.com/connections) since 1992, and we’re pretty proud of it. For the first time in our history all back editions are available online – a fascinating record of changes in the library industry over several decades.
All Connections articles are written by members of the school library community. Writing for Connections is an excellent way to advocate for your library and share your ideas with colleagues around the world. Now, more than ever, it is important to celebrate the valuable role of school libraries and recognise how they support student learning. So, if you have a great article you would like to share, please email email@example.com.
The SCIS team is passionate about school libraries. In addition to Connections magazine, we offer the school library community a number of ways to keep up to date with what is happening at SCIS and with industry trends and information. Subscribe to the SCIS Blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn @scisdata or Instagram @scis.data.
SCIS cataloguers add approximately 3,700 catalogue records to the database each month, keeping it relevant and current. The resources catalogued come from a range of sources, including publishers, booksellers and school libraries. These hot-off-the-press titles are our best means of creating a quality record that is accurate and compliant with international cataloguing standards. This is important, considering each record is likely to be downloaded by nearly 10,000 school subscribers around the world. It’s rare to have a day when we don’t receive a small parcel or large box of books delivered to one of the six SCIS cataloguing depots.
SCIS also works with providers of library management systems to ensure the most efficient delivery of SCIS products and services. And we support university and TAFE educators in training and developing future librarians with essential cataloguing skills by offering complimentary access to SCIS Data.
Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.*
*Thank you Misty Copeland for the excellent quote!
Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitise and archive the world’s cultural works and make them available in ebook form for free. To date, it has over 60,000 free ebooks on its database. On average it adds 50 new ebooks each week.
It’s collection features mostly older literary works for which U.S. copyright has expired. Most were published before 1924, with some published in the decades after.
Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Homer, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, the Brothers Grimm, Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, and Emily Bronte are all available in multiple ebook forms for free.
In addition to novels, poetry, short stories and drama, the database also has cookbooks, reference works and issues of periodicals. You can also find a smaller collection of sheet music, audiobooks, still pictures, and moving pictures, including footage of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
Although Project Gutenberg primarily has works of literature from Western culture, there are also significant numbers in many other languages. Non-English languages most represented are French, German, Finnish, Dutch, Italian, and Portuguese.
You can use the Search box to look for a particular title or browse titles by a favourite author.
The Bookshelves allow you to browse by genre, age group, and topic. And if you are undecided where to begin there are Top 100 lists of titles to get you started.
Project Gutenberg and SCIS
SCIS has made catalogue records for nearly 400 of these titles.
The best way to locate them in SCIS Data is to do an advanced search of the phrase ‘Project Gutenberg’, choosing Publisher field, and the exact phrase from the drop-down options.
Each record contains a convenient link to the resource on the Project Gutenberg database. Once at the resource, you should find multiple ebook formats to access.
COVID-19 has transformed daily life in a matter of weeks.
We are working from home, communicating online and wondering when everything will go back to normal.
One of the few positive aspects of this pandemic has been the almost overwhelming outpouring of online resources, strategies and tools that have been shared at an intense rate among educators in Facebook groups, via Twitter and through countless other digital networks.
Teachers the world over are scrambling to adjust to a new reality where face-to-face classrooms do not exist. Transitioning to online learning is challenging at any time, and for everyone, however many have been asked to adopt a whole new way of teaching over a period of days (and sometimes even hours).
As teacher librarians, our job has always been to curate resources and to generate usable collections of credible and useful sites and tools to support the teachers at our school. Now, more than ever, content curation has become a focal point. Teacher librarians are trained to quickly and effectively critically analyse and evaluate learning materials in a way that teachers may not. That being the case, it is more vital than ever before to assist them to navigate the tsunami of information flooding every communication channel by creating curated content.
As teacher librarians, our job has always been to curate resources and to generate usable collections of credible and useful sites and tools to support the teachers at our school.
Using these tools effectively requires skills in ‘content curation’. Traditionally, the term ‘curator’ refers to someone who looks after objects in a museum exhibition. A popular definition of content curation is the act of selecting and collating digital content and organising it so that it may be better used to meet a particular need. Beth Kanter has an excellent primer on content curation, where she hastens to point out that curation is not simply an aggregation of links; it is a process of strategic collection, where what is left out is just as important as what is included. It is also an editorial process, where context-specific knowledge is added to each digital resource, and then delivered via a tool that best suits the needs of the identified audience.
This sounds more complex than it is. It simply means finding quality digital content, evaluating it for a particular purpose, adding extra information for those most likely to use this context for that particular purpose, and sharing it with those users via the most suitable platform.
How do we avoid the pitfalls?
One vital difference between curation in the past and dealing with digital content is the sheer amount of information, and the need to avoid filter bubbles and the temptation to simply collect everything. Joyce Seitzinger describes some of the traits to avoid when curating very succinctly, in her presentation, ‘When educators become curators’.
She describes these traits as follows:
The hoarder: One who collects everything indiscriminately, who doesn’t organise their content, and who doesn’t share — this is really closer to simple aggregation than curation.
The scrooge: One who similarly hoards their information — although they may organise their collection, they don’t share either — one of the key purposes of educational content curation!
The tabloid (or National Enquirer): One who indiscriminately collates everything together, and generously shares this aggregation, whether others want/need it or not!
The robot: One who uses tools to share automatically, with no context-related additions or value-adding — in this case, the curation is really no better than providing a list of Google search results.
Avoiding these pitfalls is what differentiates the effective content curator from those simply ‘collecting’ content.
What are the benefits?
Aside from creating a resource that will be gratefully received by an overwhelmed teacher, a curated collection has many long-lasting benefits that far outweigh simply listing sites or gathering countless links.
A curated collection has many long-lasting benefits that far outweigh simply listing sites or gathering countless links.
Firstly, with so much content being generated daily on social media, resources not curated could easily never be found again. When content is officially published, details such as the title, author’s name, subject headings, ISBN etc (ie the metadata) are attached — either printed on the item or electronically attached. This makes it easy to find and re-find.
User-created content may not have this type of metadata and, if it does, it might not be meaningful for searching. It might be a photograph with no title, a recipe for chilli that someone has shared on Tumblr with the hashtags ‘#yummy’ and ‘#dinnernextmonday’, or a list of sites posted in a Facebook conversation. Curating these resources and adding meaningful annotations and tags will mean that they can be searched for time and time again.
Secondly, while effective searching will return a lot of content, Google will simply not find everything. You may be searching for an item that is sitting somewhere Google doesn’t access — not only lots of social media content but also sites that require a login, like a journal database or library catalogue. You may have seen it once — briefly appearing on your Twitter stream, perhaps when the author published it — but this is the only time you will see it unless you go directly back to that source. Curating useful items makes them discoverable by all of your library users! Even if you can’t link directly to the source within the database, linking to the paywall gives you enough information to access it again if you decide that you really need it.
Finally, digital curation allows you to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and to take advantage of the wonderful sharing that is happening by giving you the opportunity to create a resource that will continue to support teachers even after calm has been restored.
Digital content curation goes beyond a simple save and is far more than just collecting. It is when we strategically select an item to be added to a collection, which is being compiled for a specific purpose. Collecting is additive but, interestingly, curation is subtractive — what you leave out is almost more important than what you include. A great way to think about collection and curation is described by Frank Chimero in his post about sorting a mass.
Consider collection as a bowl of loose pearls and curation as a pearl necklace. Collection is like a bowl of pearls. The individual pearls may be of great value, but they are pretty useless just gathered together in the bowl. Curation is what happens when particular pearls are selected from the bowl, and strung into a beautiful necklace. The pearls now have a purpose — they have been carefully selected and added to the necklace in a particular order. The necklace, which has fewer pearls than the bowl, but which can be publicly admired and worn, is worth more than the sum of its parts.
When we curate content, we add an annotation to each item, to explain to others why this piece was chosen, and how it fits within the collection. This makes the individual items more meaningful for others and brings the collection together as a whole resource.
When you have a collection of random links, the individual items may be useful, but the list itself means nothing. A carefully curated collection is a resource that stands alone. It can be useful to you — when you go back to these resources, your annotation will remind you of why you saved it and how it will be useful — and it will be of value to others if they are seeking an overview/introduction/entry into a topic. Creating a curated collection also makes a group of resources easily shareable and useable — it will ‘travel’ with you as it will (more often than not) exist online, and be publicly accessible to you and others whenever you need it.
Applying curation principles also allows us to create a resource that a teacher can pick up and use with confidence, as they know that the links included have been carefully selected to suit their teaching context.
I’ve written a lot on curation over the years, and the reason is that I believe that as our collections morph into a digital-physical hybrid, curation will become just as, if not more important than collection development. It will allow us as teacher librarians to remix physical and digital resources to become accessible to our community in new ways. COVID-19 has transformed the world in so many ways, but for teacher librarians, it has offered us an amazing opportunity to show everyone not only what value we can add, but also that students (and teachers) need school libraries! Now more than ever!
COVID-19 has transformed the world in so many ways, but for teacher librarians, it has offered us an amazing opportunity to show everyone not only what value we can add, but also that students (and teachers) need school libraries! Now more than ever!
Although curation is not ‘theft’, all of the tips that Austin Kleon shares in his book, Steal like an artist — itself a treatise on reusing online content ethically — apply to ethical content curation.
Always link directly back to the source when curating. This is automatically taken care of when you use a curation tool such as elink. However, I believe that it is good practice that if you find a site that references a great idea or image, rather than simply linking to that site, take the trouble to go back to the original creator’s publication of that idea, and link to there. An example:
A popular blog shares a post about a great resource they have discovered, which is created by a third party. Rather than linking to the blog post when curating the link about the great resource, take the time to go back to the third party’s original post and curate this link. Therefore, the creator gets correct attribution, rather than the blogger who wrote about it.
This is particularly important when curating from pages that include articles like ‘10 great tools for x’ — these are aggregations themselves of original work and not the original creation.
Copyright is all about protecting the income of the creator; therefore, ensure that nothing you publish in a curated list directs users away from the original, particularly if the original is a source of income for that creator. Always ensure that you attribute or reference where you sourced the original content from (again, something most content curation tools do automatically, but good to remember) and, wherever possible, ensure there is no way that users of your collections might mistake others’ work for your own.
Curating widely from various sources, rather than wholesale replication of others’ work on your own pages is also good practice, not only to avoid the risk of plagiarism but also to ensure you are providing a resource with a breadth of perspectives and information.
How are you curating resources that you discover? Let’s keep the discussion going!
Updated 6 April 2020.
Dr Kay Oddone is an educator who has spent over twenty years working in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary contexts. As Head of Libraries at Australian International School in Singapore, she leads the four school libraries on the campus, and is also the Secondary School Teacher Librarian, supporting over 1000 students and approximately 250 staff. She is passionate about digital literacies, critical digital pedagogies and open educational practices, and has published research on how teachers enhance their professional learning through online personal learning networks. Kay loves reading, nerding out online and travelling, and spends her free time walking her Jack Russell, Ruby, and discovering restaurants in her new neighbourhood. She can be found on Twitter @KayOddone and blogs at www.linkinglearning.com.au