Ten things we love about SCIS

Here at the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), our mission is to make our users’ life easier. Our data is designed to work seamlessly within your library management system, using high-quality data to build a brilliant user experience. To support your work, we also have the SCIS Data website (scisdata.com) – with a stack of nifty features that will improve your library catalogue and save you time and money.

List: Ten things we love about SCIS

1. Cataloguing (of course!)

The SCIS database has approximately 1.6 million high-quality, consistent catalogue records.

As part of a SCIS subscription, libraries can also request cataloguing for new materials that they have not been able to locate a record for in SCIS Data. We encourage you to place an online cataloguing request at my.scisdata.com/CreateCatalogueRequest. Good news! We have recently revamped the service to make it quicker and easier to submit these requests. You can use this service to request the cataloguing of websites and other online resources you think would be useful to you and the wider school library community.

Sometimes, you might have a query about a record or maybe you’ve found a mistake. Simply email help@scisdata.com and our cataloguing team will investigate.

Remember we are a cataloguing community, so feedback helps not only you, but also nearly 10,000 other users around the world.

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

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

2. Cover images

Text-only catalogue displays are a thing of the past. While the old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is wise, the reality is that the cover of a resource makes it look more appealing and does affect reader choice. Using cover images to supplement the text-based catalogue record is an effective method of catching the reader’s eye as they browse through the virtual shelf.

SCIS subscribers are able to download most of the cover images displayed in SCIS Data into their own library-management systems. Subscribing schools may not pass cover images on to a third party, but for their own use they may include them:

  • on the school’s online library catalogues
  • on the school’s website, including blogs, wikis, online newsletters and intranet
  • elsewhere within the school.

Resources recently catalogued in SCIS

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

3. Digital content

At the time of writing, there are over 80,000 records on SCIS Data for digital resources (websites, apps, ebooks and digital videos), and this number grows every month. We also catalogue apps, ebooks and digital videos. We catalogue resources that are curriculum-related, educational and recreational.

SCIS has made catalogue records for nearly 400 free Project Gutenberg titles (scis.edublogs.org/2020/05/06/literatures-greatest-works-are-yours-for-free). SCIS Data offers subscribers the option to download collections (https://help.scisdata.com/hc/en-us/articles/360051763433-What-are-the-Download-Collections-) of records from four resource providers: ClickView digital video library; Wheelers ePlatform One; World Book eBook Series; and the National Library of New Zealand (Topic Explorer and EPIC Resources).

The hard work has been done – importing digital content is a quick and easy way to grow your collection.

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

4. Collection development

When a teacher approaches you about finding resources for their upcoming unit, where is the first place you look? Perhaps you perform a quick internet search to see if it can direct you to any relevant resources. Maybe you check a publisher’s website. Yet, if we encourage students to use the library catalogue based on its inclusion of trusted, credible and educational resources, why not use a catalogue ourselves?

Let’s say the history teacher has approached you to help her find World War I resources for her Year 9 class. If you pop over to the SCIS catalogue, you can start with a basic search – perhaps simply ‘World War I’ – and, from the results page, refine your search. Filtering by your specific learning area, subject and audience level will provide you with the most relevant resources catalogued by SCIS. The advanced search option allows you to limit your search further by either fiction or non-fiction – and, if it’s fiction you’re looking for, to narrow your search by specific genres.

The Featured categories on the SCIS Data search page provide a quick and easy way to source resources and records for websites, apps, ebooks and digital videos. The SCIS catalogue also has the ability to build lists. Rather than downloading one record at a time, you can curate lists within the SCIS catalogue. This is particularly helpful for schools using SCIS as a resource selection tool.

SCIS Data includes additional information via our subscription to Syndetics. Where the information is available, the record consists of summaries and annotations, author notes, authoritative reviews, and series information. Through our subscription to LibraryThing for Libraries, we can also provide community-generated content, including recommendations, tags, and links to other editions and similar items. Although this additional information is not included in the downloaded record, it can help with searching and selection of records.

How good is that?

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

5. Authority Files

SCIS Authority Files (scisdata.com/products/authority-files) provide a rich search experience to make the most of your resources. Authority Files link terms between records, to display the ‘see’ and ‘see also’ references. A subscription to SCIS Authority Files allows you to download Subject, Name and Series Authority Files from the SCIS website, and upload them to your library management system – where you’ll truly see the magic of metadata with a rich search and discovery experience for your students.

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

6. Help (really)

SCIS prides itself on responsive, proactive customer service. Our team of customer service and cataloguing professionals are on hand to answer your questions. Visit our contact page (scisdata.com/contact-scis) to submit a question. Explore the SCIS Help articles (help.scisdata.com/hc/en-us) or watch the SCIS Help videos (vimeo.com/user4095009) and learn how to make the most of your subscription. Or stay up to date with the latest SCIS news by visiting our news carousel at scisdata.com. We are here to help.

7. Shopping cart

The SCIS shopping cart allows you to request and download your invoice, or pay online.

Our shopping cart also allows users to add in SCIS extras before renewing their annual invoice – such as barcode scanners (scisdata.com/barcode-scanners), professional learning and Authority Files. Ordering is nice and simple, and should you decide you need something extra when you renew your SCIS subscription (like a barcode scanner for stocktake!) you can have everything on one invoice to pass on to your accounts team.

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

8. Professional learning

Attend a SCIS webinar (scisdata.com/professional-learning) and learn how SCIS Data makes resource management simple – helping school libraries by providing high quality catalogue records, improving content searching and discovery, and developing digital collections.

The free SCIS short course ‘Managing your library collection and catalogue’ (scis.edublogs.org/2020/03/31/free-scis-short-course-managing-your-library-collection-and-catalogue) is suitable for new school library staff and for those who would like a refresher. Published on the SCIS Blog, the course focuses on collection curation and cataloguing, it helps school library staff get started in organising the resource offerings in their library. The response to this course has been overwhelmingly positive, with comments ranging from ‘Thanks, this is so helpful and timely while working from home’ to ‘Back to basics. A good reminder of what makes libraries tick …’

9. Community

We’ve been publishing our magazine Connections (scisdata.com/connections) since 1992, and we’re pretty proud of it. For the first time in our history all back editions are available online – a fascinating record of changes in the library industry over several decades.

All Connections articles are written by members of the school library community. Writing for Connections is an excellent way to advocate for your library and share your ideas with colleagues around the world. Now, more than ever, it is important to celebrate the valuable role of school libraries and recognise how they support student learning. So, if you have a great article you would like to share, please email connections@esa.edu.au.

Connections school library magazine

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

The SCIS team is passionate about school libraries. In addition to Connections magazine, we offer the school library community a number of ways to keep up to date with what is happening at SCIS and with industry trends and information. Subscribe to the SCIS Blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn @scisdata or Instagram @scis.data.

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

10. Friends

SCIS cataloguers add approximately 3,700 catalogue records to the database each month, keeping it relevant and current. The resources catalogued come from a range of sources, including publishers, booksellers and school libraries. These hot-off-the-press titles are our best means of creating a quality record that is accurate and compliant with international cataloguing standards. This is important, considering each record is likely to be downloaded by nearly 10,000 school subscribers around the world. It’s rare to have a day when we don’t receive a small parcel or large box of books delivered to one of the six SCIS cataloguing depots.

SCIS also works with providers of library management systems to ensure the most efficient delivery of SCIS products and services. And we support university and TAFE educators in training and developing future librarians with essential cataloguing skills by offering complimentary access to SCIS Data.

Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.*

*Thank you Misty Copeland for the excellent quote!

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.

SCIS Data case studies

Stack of books

Read these SCIS Data customer case studies to learn how school library staff use the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) to save time and money and enhance their library service.

SCIS Data case study: Josephine Barclay, King’s College Taunton, UK

‘SCIS is like a trusted library assistant that builds my catalogue with accurate records, and allows me to focus on supporting the students.’

SCIS Data case study: Ruth Maloney, Tonbridge Grammar School, UK

‘I wouldn’t have such a high functioning system if I didn’t have SCIS, because it’s like having an assistant librarian whose job is just to catalogue, and who does that job really well. It’s an essential part of the library catalogue for me.’

SCIS Data case study: Chris Archbold, Riccarton Primary School, NZ

‘SCIS makes a consistent catalogue. If all the primary schools around New Zealand are using SCIS, they are all getting the same information. This means that students can move from school to school and know that they are still going to get good, consistent search results.’

SCIS Data case study: Caroline Roche, Eltham College, UK

‘Yesterday, a student asked for a book on Emmanuel Macron. It will be delivered today, and I will be able to catalogue it within five minutes because SCIS is quick. I’ll have it in her hands this afternoon.’

For more information about the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) please contact help@scisdata.com.

SCIS Data case study: Josephine Barclay, King’s College Taunton, UK

‘SCIS is like a trusted library assistant that builds my catalogue with accurate records, and allows me to focus on supporting the students.’

School: King's College Taunton
Type: Independent co-educational secondary day and boarding school (aged 13-18)
Enrolment: 470+
Cataloguing subscription: SCIS Data + Authority Files
Library management system: Infiniti
Size of collection: 10,000+

King’s College is part of King’s Schools, Taunton along with its prep school King’s Hall. The schools provide continuous day and boarding education for girls and boys aged 2 to 18 years. King’s College pursues academic excellence with a commitment to good teaching and effective learning. Librarian Josephine Barclay credits SCIS Data and Infiniti with reducing the time it takes to catalogue resources, leaving her free to assist students in other valuable ways.

Broadening the librarian’s role

Josephine said that since implementing SCIS Data, she’s been able to extend her role. She’s now more than the school librarian who just catalogues all the books – as cataloguing no longer takes much time.

‘I work a lot with the sixth forms. I assist with Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), History and English coursework and generally help students learn how to research, create bibliographies and use citation tools. I locate quite complex books to help students see what research has been done already. Then they can use the references from the books to look further on websites.’ Josephine also helps students plan and edit their work, ‘I am playing to my strengths now’.

Simple and intuitive to use

Josephine finds their library catalogue to be simple and intuitive and says it is easy for her students to use. She explains: ‘Our students know how to use the Infiniti catalogue and can show others how to do it.’

Infiniti is on the school portal now, so students can log on and search the catalogue from wherever they are, using their phones. Josephine provides students with the foundational skills to find what they’re looking for. She says that students can be really excited about locating a new book.  Then they come and see Josephine and she will assist them to locate the book on the shelves. Josephine notes ‘That’s the way they like to do things!’ Josephine likes them to come and talk to her about what they are looking for so she can help them personally.

Says Josephine, ‘Students are very good at finding websites but not so good at searching in books, and I maintain they’ve got to use properly researched books. I help them locate and read through books they need for their coursework.’ Students are also encouraged to make book recommendations for purchase.

Students help with cataloguing

Josephine has also taught some students to catalogue books using the library management system because it is so well-integrated and simple to use. She explained the process: ‘Using Infiniti, students first scan the barcode, then we go to SCIS and the record usually comes up. If it doesn’t, I deal with that book later.’

Josephine previously sourced records through the British Library. It didn’t always provide the correct details, so she had to do a lot on her own. ‘All I use now is SCIS,’ she says, ‘and sometimes the Scottish Library, which is quite useful for books that have gone out of print.’

‘I can find most items in SCIS’, she adds. ‘I would say the hit rate is above 80 per cent.’

Josephine’s students usually catalogue literature and young adult fiction, but can do any books that are on the SCIS site. ‘I might give them a big pile of books and get them to put the stickers and the security labels in’ says Josephine. ‘Then they take turns to learn how to catalogue – and they learn that really, really quickly.’

Josephine thinks it’s great that students can do cataloguing. And, of course, she makes sure it’s done properly. ‘At the beginning of the year, when I’ve got loads of books to process, I know that they can do 50 books each. And they enjoy it – there’s a sense of satisfaction.’

Supporting librarians to do their job

SCIS has definitely saved Josephine a lot of time. ‘It’s a bit like having an assistant librarian,’ she says. ‘And I can trust it to let the children use it and I know the records are accurate.’

‘I find the book summaries very useful. I’m planning to put some on the outside of the books, using my own handwriting. Then students can see why I think it’s a good book and what they’ll find in it. And I know I can trust what you’ve written about it, which really important for people who work on their own.’

For librarians who work on their own, it is not always easy to find someone to talk to about library matters. ‘I want to keep abreast of things,’ says Josephine, ‘but I work on my own and that makes it difficult.’ She finds that the Connections journal helps her stay in touch, and inspires her with ideas from librarians around the world.

Josephine happily recommends cataloguing through SCIS and Infiniti to other librarians. ‘I tell them if the children can do it, they can do it! I genuinely find it takes a lot off my workload.’

‘I talk to them about how SCIS helps me get cataloguing done really quickly so that so I have time do other things. The fact that your system helps me do that is great.’

The time saved by using SCIS allows Josephine to devote more time to the parts of her role that she finds most rewarding. She states, ‘I actually see it as allowing librarians to do their job.’

A cataloguing subscription means that library staff like Josephine have more time to support their school community and offer enriching programs and services.

Josephine’s verdict

Josephine says that she would recommend SCIS to others — ‘A SCIS subscription allows me to carry on with the parts of my role that I find most rewarding.’

To see which other library systems SCIS works with, please visit our Library management systems page.

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

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

Welcome to lesson 5 of the SCIS short course! Let’s get started …

Subject cataloguing is the process of assigning terms that describe what a bibliographic item is about.

Cataloguers perform subject analysis for items in their library, most commonly selecting terms from an authorised list of subject headings, otherwise known as a ‘controlled vocabulary’. Controlled vocabularies often take the form of a ‘thesaurus’, which is used to link similar and related terms. In addition to this, a thesaurus also shows hierarchical relationships between terms. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to this as ‘subject headings’ throughout this lesson.

Do I need to use a controlled vocabulary?

The decision not to use a controlled vocabulary is not something that would be noticed by most library users. The impact of controlled subject headings is subtle, yet it has a profound impact on your catalogue’s ability to retrieve results. It is an ‘unknown unknown’ for users, who do not know about items that their search does not retrieve.

The most common examples of uncontrolled vocabularies are social media tags or user-generated tags — in both examples, users are free to choose any term they wish. It is important to note the limitations of working with an uncontrolled vocabulary.

Consider how controlled vocabularies would help to clear up any confusion in the following situations:

  • Synonyms (two words with the same meaning)
  • Homographs (different words with the same spelling).

Without a controlled vocabulary, one cataloguer may assign the subject ‘Insects’ to a record, and another may assign the subject ‘Bugs’ to a similar record. This would result in discrepancies between search results, meaning that the two different subject headings will return two different sets of resources.

Subject heading lists will likely include preferred and non-preferred headings. A controlled vocabulary would choose an authorised, or preferred, subject heading such as ‘Insects’. It may also display ‘Bugs’ as a non-preferred term.

Please note, more than one subject heading can be assigned to a record.

How do people search?

Library catalogues usually provide two main types of search:

  1. A ’basic’ or keyword search that allows the user to type in a search term or phrase and then search across the whole database. This will often bring back too many search results, which then have to be narrowed down or filtered.
  2. An ’Advanced search’, which allows the user to do a much more specific, or targeted search by selecting particular fields. Typical fields include author, title, series, subject or ISBN. This allows for greater precision in your search results.

How do users benefit from subject headings?

There are several benefits of using subject headings, rather than keywords, in advanced searches. Although it can be assumed that most novice catalogue users will use keyword search rather than subject search, it is important that we communicate the benefits of the latter in order to enhance our library users’ information retrieval skills. This, in turn, means they will make the most of your high-quality cataloguing.

Subject searches expand their understanding of what is available

By performing a subject search rather than a keyword search, users can gain a broader understanding of the resources available in the library. For example, say a user enters the search query ‘Super heroes’ — but the preferred term is ‘Superheroes’. Users will be pointed toward the correct term and will see a broader range of subject headings that may assist their search.

Look at the following image as an example. If a user performs a subject search on ‘Flowers’, they will be directed to a range of resources tagged with that subject heading. But before they do, they might be interested in seeing what other options are available. While the user started their search broadly, they might be interested in browsing narrower terms that they didn’t think to search on — or perhaps a related search that might be of interest to them.

Example of subject search

Subject headings as access points

In the Resource Description and Access (RDA) standard, subject headings are presented as access points, which allow users to follow an efficient path for resource discovery. If we go back to the idea of the key functions of the library catalogue that we explored in lesson 3, we can understand that subject access points support both greater discoverability and navigation.

RDA supports the inclusion of access points, which, together with authorised subject headings and name headings, allows users to refine their searches. Of course, without authorised terms here, the catalogue’s ability to point users toward relevant resources is hindered; say one person has used the subject heading ‘bugs’ and another has used ‘insects’ — a user will only find one or the other, not both.

Choosing which subject headings to use

Your library users should be at the forefront of your mind when choosing which subject headings to prescribe to your catalogue; it is important that the subject headings align with the vocabulary that they would use. Luckily for cataloguers, there are a number of subject heading lists available for you to choose from, many of which have been created specifically for use in certain fields.  Two lists commonly used in the school library environment are SCIS Subject Headings List and Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT).

Each cataloguing authority that creates these subject headings often has an additional product called ‘authority files’ that allows the catalogue and, ultimately, the users, to reap the benefits of
authorised subject and name headings.

What are authority files?

An authority is the authorised or preferred form for a heading — most often names and subjects — in a controlled vocabulary. An authority file is an index of all authority records of any given agency or library. When your library users perform subject searches, authority files also act as ‘recommended searches’. It can point users to the correct subject heading and help them understand how to narrow or broaden their search.

The inclusion of authority files in your library catalogue ensures compliance with RDA standards. As part of the RDA standard, data used in records to describe ‘an entity’ associated with that resource — be it a concept, person, family, or corporate body — should help users find, identify, clarify and understand each entity.

Look at the example below. The authority record for ‘Superheroes’ leaves no confusion as to how to use this subject heading. This not only helps make the cataloguer’s job easier but also the library users.

Superheroes authority file

SCIS Subject Headings List (SCISSHL) or Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) have authority files available for you to subscribe to. Please note, your subject headings and authority files should come from the same source.

Activities

Become familiar with different search options offered by OPACs and observe the usefulness of controlled vocabularies. Go to an OPAC in your library system or any other catalogue.

  • Do a basic keyword search for a term eg Houses, then go to advanced search, select subjects and search for the same term. Compare the results.
  • Find a ‘Browse search’ option for subjects. Browse for any term e.g. Houses. This browse list is populated from the system’s authority list of subject headings. Can you ascertain which subject heading list the terms come from?

Some library management systems use tag clouds and others use facetted searches to display the controlled vocabularies. Look for examples of these in your system or any other catalogue.

Conclusion

So now you have an understanding of the importance of controlled vocabularies, subject headings, and authority files in the library catalogue. Each one significantly enhances the consistency, value, and usability of your library management system and search functionality. You have seen how people search for resources and how different search interfaces produce varying results. Next week we’ll explore classification, Dewey, and call numbers.

Further reading

  • Schools Catalogue Information Service: Subject Authority: avoiding the unknown unknown http://scis.edublogs.org/2017/03/27/subject-authority-avoiding-the-unknown-unknown/