New Zealand librarians in lockdown

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.

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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 reviewed and updated key pages on our website for supporting reading and learning at home and made them easy to find.
  • 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

Slides from our first webinar supporting school library staff working at home during lockdown.Services to Schools Capability team members working from home 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.

Table. Figure 1: School library staff communication with colleagues during lockdown (n=113)There was renewed interest from some schools in providing eBooks as part of their future planning.
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.

Virtual story-times

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.

School re-openings

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!

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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).

SCIS celebrates the joy of reading with Australia Reads

SCIS READS

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!

#AustraliaReadsAtHome

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.

Australia Reads logo

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. 

The three programs and their scheduled times are:

Australia Reads Kids – Sydney Opera House Stream

Monday 9th November – 10.30am AEDT

Featuring: Ursula Dubosarsky, Andy Griffiths, Bluey, Sami Bayly, Anna Fienberg, Osher Gunsberg, Peter Helliar, Jacqueline Harvey, Beck Fiener and more.

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 Teens – Sydney Opera House Stream

Monday 9th November – 12.30pm AEDT

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!

WATCH: Australia Reads 2020. The importance of libraries.

Author Jacqueline Harvey speaking about Australia Reads 2020

Join us and unwind, get inspired and find joy in books! From islands, blue shores, bushland to red heart – Australia Reads.

Louise Sherwin-Stark
CEO of Hachette Australia and the Chair of the Australian Reads Committee

australiareads.org.au

Teaching a bright future

World Teacher Day 2020

Today Australia will celebrate and thank the teaching profession on World Teachers’ Day – Friday 30 October.

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!

Enjoy!

Professional learning during the COVID19 pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The SCIS team have created a free short course. Managing your library collection and catalogue is suitable for new school library staff and for those who would like a refresher. Focusing on collection curation and cataloguing, it helps school library staff get started in organising the resource offerings in their library. The response to this course has been overwhelmingly positive, with comments ranging from ‘Thanks this is so helpful and timely while working from home’ to ‘Back to basics. A good reminder of what makes libraries tick …’

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

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

In response to the COVID19 crisis, the US School Library Journal (SLJ) is offering free access to the digitised edition of their magazine. Take the time to read a quality local library publication – SLANZA’s Collected magazine, or Connections, a quarterly school library journal published by SCIS. Better yet, why not try your hand at writing an article? Writing for Collected and Connections is an excellent way to advocate for your library and share your ideas with colleagues around the world. Now, more than ever, it is important to celebrate the valuable role of school libraries and recognise how they support student learning.

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

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

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

Happy learning!

REFERENCES

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

Libraries, the heart of the school

Caroline Hartley, SCIS Manager, has contributed an article to the Australian College of Educators (ACE) latest edition of Professional Educator.

The article explores how school libraries are reinventing themselves as contemporary places of connection, collaboration and content creation. The trend towards flexible learning spaces that are modular and meet the needs of individuals, groups and classes with multiple creative uses such as maker spaces, coding clubs, and student-led groups, is increasing. Welcoming spaces that support both the curriculum and social development goals of their schools can benefit students in their literacy attainment and reinforce the development of digital citizenship skills.

Magazine article: Libraries, the heart of the school

Please note, Professional Educator is an exclusive publication for Australian College of Educators (ACE) Members. It is also available through a number of the EBSCO databases. If you wish to read more Professional Educator articles, please visit the ACE website (www.austcolled.com.au) where you can apply to join the College and gain access to Professional Educator along with a range of other services and benefits.

Remote teaching and learning: Opportunities for growth

Written by Naomi Heyman, Teacher Librarian, South Grafton Public School

I can’t wait to fast-forward a year, when COVID-19 is a distant memory. A ‘Remember when’, a ‘Thank goodness that is over’, a ‘Look how far we’ve come’. I look forward to a time when we will be back to normal, and all the more grateful for everything that we have.

Amid the current climate and uncertainty that COVID-19 brings, there is a sense of calm within me that knows everything will be ok. But, also a sense of calm that comes with my schedule being almost wiped clear — aside from teaching, supporting staff to teach their classes, and running a tech-filled, warm and welcoming, 21st-century library! This small, guilty pleasure comes from the cancellation of our vast array of extra-curricular activities, special events, sports carnivals, training, music practice, and various meetings. It brings with it a sense of serenity — a holistic outlook that enables a more dedicated focus to teaching preparation, practice and reflection.

It’s not a good thing to admit — hence why I call it a guilty pleasure. It’s most definitely not a good reason for these cancellations. But, nonetheless, knowing that after a full day of teaching, I can return to my family — because our meeting has been cancelled, or because there is no sporting practice today — is invigorating. It’s like I have been given permission to put some balls down in the hectic juggle of life. This sense of calm that I have comes from a selfishly personal perspective.

However, through a professional lens, life is becoming more complicated. As the schedule is cleared of meetings, special events, sporting carnivals and networking opportunities, the role of teacher librarian evolves to include an additional dimension of resource provision, an understanding of our students’ home lives, and the stark reality that school is the best part of many children’s worlds. How do we maintain a student’s connection to school, and to the classroom?

grey laptop computer near white lined paper on table
Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

The professional implications of an event such as COVID-19 creates a relatively new dimension to teaching preparation and implementation. Digital platforms, such as Google Classroom for remote access learning, are fantastic tools that can be embedded with live broadcast Skype or Zoom sessions and recorded YouTube clips to facilitate the continuation of learning from home. Teacher librarians need to be able to guide teaching and executive staff on the operation of these, and assist in establishing this facility for students.

Resource collation tools such as Del.icio.us, Diigo, Livebinders, Pearltrees, Pinterest, Scoop.it, StumbleUpon, and Google Sites are another great, user-friendly option. Many teacher librarians already use these in some form. I created Library with Mrs Heyman (sites.google.com/a/education.nsw.gov.au/librarywithmrsheyman/home) a few years ago, primarily as a resource collation tool, and a one-stop-shop for students to facilitate and enhance their library learning time. They are all familiar with and well-trained in navigating this site, and accessing the information they need from the numerous options in the side menu. Staff are utilising it as well, and colleagues further afield in my networking groups are also referring to it for inspiration and teaching.

These technology-dependent remote learning options are great for most of our school population with supportive, enthusiastic parents. However, there will always be a percentage who are disadvantaged with regard to access and connectivity. To create an inclusive remote access learning program, a paper and pencil option must also be provided.

In this highly connected, technologically driven era, I wonder if we should ask ourselves: ‘How do we keep children connected to their social world?’ Or do we use this opportunity to look inward — to focus on life skills and home skills that our increasingly busy lives have deprioritised? Encouraging students to learn how to plant a vegetable garden, change a bike tyre, breed chickens, research sustainable power options for their home, sew, cook, fish, play board games, learn a language or a musical instrument, and simply read for pleasure — these are some of the many activities that could beautify the tapestry of our lives. If we dedicate some time to these, we may be able to look back upon this time and say with great pride, ‘Look how far we have come’

Digital content curation: How to do it right!

Written by Dr Kay Oddone 

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.

How do we curate content?

There are many tools available that enable us to quickly compile lists of digital resources. You can read about how to select the best tool for the job here: linkinglearning.com.au/choosing-a-curation-tool.

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!

A word about content curation and copyright

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) Flickr photo shared by Austin Kleon

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

Free SCIS short course: Managing your library collection and catalogue.

Hello all! The amazing SCIS team have created a free short course for new school library staff (and for those that would like a refresher). Focusing on collection curation and cataloguing, we will help you get started in organising the resource offerings of your library. We have created 7 SCIS Blog posts, each containing a lesson in managing your library collection and catalogue. Click on the links below and explore at your own pace.

We are so pleased to take you on this journey!

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

We’ll start slow, and take you through the basics of a library: what it is, and what it can be. Ideal for those of you who have just stepped into the role of librarian. But this is also a nice refresher, and a chance for those of you who have been working in a library for some time, to take a step back from your current practices and think about the basics.

Lesson 2: Managing your collection – what does your library collect?

Now we start to get into the juicy stuff! This lesson looks at the library collection policy and why it is so important. We cover sourcing and acquisition — building up your library collection — along with the necessary evils, otherwise known as weeding and stocktake.

Lesson 3: Introduction to cataloguing – unleash your library collection

This lesson dives right into the heart of cataloguing. We discuss why we need to follow cataloguing standards, what standards you’ll need to be aware of, and how to make standards work for your library.

Lesson 4: Descriptive cataloguing – describing your collection and finding resource information

We’ll start looking at the ways you can describe your library collection, and where you can find information on a particular item. We also look at how most people perform searches, and the important fields to consider when cataloguing.

Lesson 5: Subject cataloguing and authority files – why it is important to keep control

This lesson uncovers the benefits of controlled vocabularies. We also delve into authorities and authority files: what they are, and how they can make your collection more discoverable to staff and students.

Lesson 6: Organising your collection –classification, Dewey and call numbers

Here is where you can start to make your library work for you and your school. We discuss the importance of classification, describe the difference between full and abridged Dewey, and provide an overview of call numbers and genre classification.

Lesson 7: The value of your library collection – now that I’ve set up my library, what’s next?

Our final lesson ties everything together. We’ll look at how to evaluate and advocate your library, suggest activities for engagement and networking, and touch on creating efficiencies. In a nutshell, we discuss how you can make the most of your time to serve the needs of your school.

Thank you and enjoy!

Lesson 7: The value of your library collection – now that I’ve set up my library, what’s next?

Welcome to lesson 7 of the SCIS short course! So, what’s next?

Now that you understand the basics of cataloguing and collection management, it’s time to look further afield. Your school library exists to improve student learning and information literacy. You know this, but do your users know this? Are the school’s decision-makers aware of this? Do the students’ parents understand this value provided by their school library? Is your library all that it can be?

Evaluation

The best way to find out is to perform a comprehensive evaluation of your library. The survey you conducted back in lesson 1 was intended as a basic feedback tool to gauge your library’s popularity and its perceived value. Now that you have a handle on the basics of your library, it is time to perform a more thorough evaluation. This is an all-round evaluation of your library’s information literacy and literacy programs, staffing, budget and funding, collection and resources, technologies, and facilities.

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) School Library Guidelines contain an evaluation checklist in Appendix D on which you can model your evaluation. Evaluation activities can include student, teacher and/or parent surveys; and analysis of records from the library’s circulation and cataloguing system. The results of your evaluation should help you to see exactly where your school library’s strengths and weaknesses are. You will then be able to form a plan of action to promote the strengths and improve the weaknesses. You will also be able to gain a greater understanding of your library and its offerings, as well as the educational and teaching needs of the students and teachers. These types of evaluations, large and small, should be done periodically to enable you to always understand, be aware and sufficiently respond to the changing needs of your users as well as the needs of the school.

Advocacy

Advocacy for your library involves long-term planning and continuous activities, but it is so worth the time. This will help you to establish relationships with decision-makers and garner support from those who can influence the decision-makers. Ask yourself: how do the members of your school community think about your school library? Is it just a room with books? Or is it an essential space that supports teaching and learning? Build relationships with school management and administrators. Be loud and proud of what your library is offering. Let people see its worth. To give weight to your case, perhaps refer to international research that demonstrates the contribution of school libraries to student achievement, as well as statements to this effect made by respected international organisations. The IFLA website[i] provides links to some great content that you may find useful. See also the latest advocacy campaign called Students need school libraries.

While advocacy should be directed at school administrators and parents i.e. those who make decisions and those who can influence these decision-makers, don’t forget to market and promote the products and services of your library to your users — your staff and students. Have a plan for marketing your library, and periodically review and adjust to suit changes in users’ trends and needs. Enlist the support of school administration in order to engage their interest and participation, and to ensure your marketing plan is carried out effectively.

Engagement

One of the outcomes of marketing and advocacy for your library is to engage the interest of the entire school community. You want them to be aware of your library, and have a vested interest in what your library has to offer. To that effect, use every opportunity available to you to engage and build your relationships with all levels of the school community.

If you find yourself short-staffed, recruit students and parents to become volunteer helpers. They can assist you with tasks such as making displays, shelving returned items, keeping shelves tidy, and so much more. It is a way that gains you helping hands while making your library’s presence known to the school and its wider community.

Use social media to communicate news about your school library. Social media provides great platforms on which to advertise events and programs held at the library, share results of library surveys you’ve run, and showcase the personality of you and your library staff.

Perhaps consider stocking some resources for parents and caregivers as a way of showing relevance to the learning needs of the whole school community.

Run events of interest in your library. Ideas could include inviting authors as guest speakers, holding library-themed exhibitions, celebrating international library and literacy days, and running reading, media and information literacy programs (opportunity to collaborate with teachers here). The possibilities are as endless as the opportunities to be creative.

Networking

In addition to your own school community, it is also useful to connect with other school librarians and public and academic libraries. Networking ideas include:

  • follow social media pages to see what others are doing and generate inspiration for yourself
  • attend library-related professional learning sessions where, besides acquiring new skills, it’s a great way to meet other school library professionals who can share their knowledge and practises with you
  • find out what school library/library associations there are for your region, and become a member to gain access to industry news, contacts, and information
  • join library listservs for firsthand knowledge of the current issues and concerns that are being discussed by your peers.

These activities will help you to build a support network of colleagues who understand your role and, more importantly, what you are trying to achieve.

Create efficiencies

By now, you may have come to recognise that a school librarian’s role is quite varied and takes up a lot of time and energy. So to free up your time, you may wish to invest in services and equipment that help automate certain processes and procedures. For example, there are services available that can catalogue your newly acquired resources for you. If an average working day is 7.25 hours and it takes 16 minutes to create one catalogue record, then you will be using up 19 working days to create 500 records. On the other hand, if you take up a subscription with the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), you’ll be done with the 500 records in a matter of minutes, and then you can spend the extra 19 days doing other things that may have more impact on teaching, learning and library advocacy.

Whichever way you decide to run your school library, just remember one thing: what you are doing is a great job – it is a job that is crucial and relevant to the learning needs and development of the next generation.

Activity

Under each of these areas: evaluation, advocacy, engagement, networking, efficiencies, note one task/goal/thing you can achieve in the next month.

Make a second list of tasks that you would like to achieve in the next term, semester or year. Keep the list handy to remind you of the larger/end goals you have for your school library.

Conclusion

Congratulations on completing our short course! We’ve covered a lot during the past seven weeks, from library basics to managing and organising your collection, and cataloguing resources. We hope you’ve come away inspired, and full of ideas to turn your school library into a vibrant hub that improves student learning and information literacy.

We hope you found the content useful, and we look forward to hearing about the experiences and challenges you’ve faced in your school library. If you have any questions about this course, or Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), please do not hesitate to contact us.

Good luck and all the best to you!

References

Further reading

  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 99: School libraries supporting literacy https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-99/school-libraries-supporting-literacy
  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 100: Guerrilla book fair: getting staff involved in your school library https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-100/guerrilla-book-fair-getting-staff-involved-in-your-school-library
  • Schools Catalogue Information Service, Connections 103: Ten ways to advocate for your role as a teacher librarian
    https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-103/ten-ways-to-advocate-for-your-role-as-a-teacher-librarian

[i]IFLA School Library Advocacy kit, https://www.ifla.org/publications/school-library-advocacy-kit

Lesson 6: Organising your collection – classification, Dewey and call numbers

Library books on shelf with Dewey number

Welcome to lesson 6 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

What is classification?

Once an item has been described and assigned subject headings, it needs to be classified. A classification system enables materials to be arranged according to a designated order. When users search the library catalogue, the classification will direct them to the correct area on the shelves to locate items. Most often items on the same subject will be grouped together.

One of the most widely used classification systems is the Dewey Decimal System.

Dewey Decimal System (DDC)

The Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC) assigns a three-digit number to each area of knowledge so that materials can be shelved in numerical order with materials on the same subject together. Within each area, subjects can be further defined by adding additional numbers after a decimal point.

The ten main classes defined by the DDC System are:

Dewey number Class
000 Computer science, information and general works
100 Philosophy and psychology
200 Religion
300 Social sciences
400 Language
500 Science
600 Technology
700 Arts and recreation
800 Literature
900 History and geography

DDC is a hierarchical system. This means that all topics within each of the main classes are part of the broader topic above them. In general, the longer the number, the more specific the topic it represents.

For example:

Dewey number Topic
700 Arts and recreation
790 Recreation and performing arts
796 Athletic and outdoor sports and games
796.3 Ball games
796.33 Inflated ball drive by foot
796.336 Australian-rules football

Editions of DDC

DDC is available online, by subscription or print-on-demand.

Call numbers

Libraries use call numbers to label their materials for shelving. A call number for nonfiction resources is usually made up of the classification (DDC) number, and then other information to help users find the item on the shelf, such as letters from the author name, or a location prefix. A location prefix refers to the section of the library in which the item is shelved, such as Nonfiction, Reference, Fiction, or Teacher Reference. The call number suffix may be based on the author’s name and allows items with the same classification number to be shelved in alphabetical order so that they can be easily found.

REF ← Prefix for Reference Area
636.708 ← Classification Number
RIC ← Suffix based on the first three letters of the author name

Using DDC as a component of a call number ensures that materials on similar topics are shelved together and supporting browsing for items of interest.

Genre

Fiction collections have traditionally been shelved in alphabetical order, according to the author’s surname, without a classification number. In recent years, many libraries have started to split the fiction collection up into ‘genres’. This means that the books are shelved in small sections, with the same type of books shelved together. Within each section, the books may still be shelved in alphabetical order.

This ensures similar fiction materials are stored together, and helps students and teachers to find the books that they like.

Things to consider

  • Determine the genres that you want to use. You don’t have to make up a list yourself; you can use authorised genre lists from agencies such as SCIS or Library of Congress as a guide.
  • Review the space you have, and plan how you will rearrange your shelving and signage.
  • Decide how you will label the books, and reflect their location in the catalogue.

Activity

Take a look at your current collection, and how resources are shelved and displayed in your library. Do you already use classification, Dewey and/or call numbers? If so, fantastic! Are you satisfied with the order and layout you have chosen? Do any sections or shelves need review? If you don’t already use genre to group items, is this something you might consider?

If your library is not yet organised, how can you begin to implement these important changes? Consider what we’ve discussed here, review your current resources, and come up with a plan to classify and shelve them in a way that will best serve the needs of your users.

Conclusion

Classification helps you to keep your library organised, and ensure that resources can be easily found by educators and students in your community. We’ve explored Dewey, and provided an overview of call numbers and genre classification. Next week is our final lesson, where we bring everything together.

Further reading