I forgot to include a link to my E-Portfolio on this blog. It is basically a culmination of all my learning during my Masters of Teacher Librarianship. Feel free to check it out, I think it looks pretty awesome.
ETL505 has given me a deep appreciation for SCIS and all it offers school libraries, as I now know how much time and effort goes into describing just one resource, and all the aspects that need to be considered to create a complete record (Heino, 2014).
ETL505 was primarily concerned with helping people find information in a world of abundant sources. Everyday people are turning away from libraries as information sources, instead preferring the simplicity and speed of a Google Search (Fast & Campbell, 2004). A major question asked by information professionals today is ‘How can I compete?’ The profusion of information available makes it difficult for people to find the best information. This can be an invisible problem. Many are satisfied with what they find on Google, but would be less satisfied if they knew what they had missed (Hider, 2012). This is why professional cataloguing is so important. Library catalogues need to distinguish themselves from simple search tools in order to compete, and using tools like RDA facilitate this by providing detailed descriptions of all their resources so users can accurately find library resources using a variety of search terms.
One of a teacher-librarian’s primary functions is to help patrons gain access to the quality information available in the library. This is a multi-faceted process. Patrons need to know what is available, how to find it themselves, and when/how to ask for help. Without this knowledge, they are likely to ‘just Google it.’ Teacher-librarians are in the unique position to be able to turn this trend around. As library advocates we can teach students from primary school onwards to turn to the library for their information needs before reaching for Google. We can do this by:
- Providing students with a professionally managed catalogue that follows the guidelines in SCIS (2011) while keeping in mind user needs
- Teaching students information literacy skills including using the catalogue, Dewey and online search skills
- Being available for students’ information needs and proactively seeking students who need help
- Actively promoting library resources to the school community
These four points meet aspects of the ALIA/ASLA professional excellence standards for Teacher Librarians (ALIA/ASLA, 2004), further emphasising the need for proactivity in these areas.
This may sound relatively simple in theory, but in practice there are many questions and issues to address.
The major issue for public school libraries is the slow progression from OASIS to Oliver, as well as monetary and time constraints on what teacher-librarians can practically do:
- OASIS is an old and unappealing system. Even the Student Portal catalogue isn’t usefully organised and is unappealing to children. Until Oliver is introduced, this is an unavoidable problem.
- SCIS subject headings are limiting, and teaching students to use their controlled vocabulary can be quite dry. Teacher-librarians can either add to the SCIS records themselves using a time-consuming broader search vocabulary in the notes, or purchase add-ons which make searching easier. This latter course, however, would be quite expensive and decisions would need to be made about library priorities.
- Purchasing integrated systems such as Prima can be costly and can result in metadata loss, which could then lead to information loss.
At this stage in my career I don’t think I am qualified to answer these questions, but ETL505 has given me an excellent foundation on which to build my opinion on the direction of school libraries and information resource description.
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)/Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2004). Standards for professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx
Fast, K., & Campbell, D. (2004). “I still like Google”: University student perceptions of searching OPACs and the web. Proceedings of the American Society of International Science and Technology. 41(1), 138-146. DOI: 10.1002/meet.1450410116
Heino, E. (2014, October 8). Working on assignment 2. In A Maze of discoveries [Blog Post]. Retrieved from: https://eheino.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/working-on-assignment-2/
Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet Publishing.
Schools Catalogue Information Services [SCIS]. (2011). Guidelines to using SCIS subject headings. In SCIS subject headings. Retrieved from http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/SCISSLguidelines.pdf
I never understood until now just how much work went into creating a library catalogue. For my assignment I have to assign SCIS Subject headings to five items described to us, and to explain the thinking behind the SCIS assigned Dewey numbers on ten other items.
Each question is taking me between 45mins and 2 hours to complete because there is so much information to work through, and so many things to consider. I have been going back and forth between SCIS and Dewey documents that explain the nuances of their systems, and SCIS and WebDewey themselves, madly trying to make sure I haven’t missed anything and I am making the correct decisions.
I can’t imagine working for SCIS and having to make these decisions for the thousands of items that must pass through there every day. It must be a maddening process, and I am so appreciative now of the work those people do to make the teacher librarian’s job easier. Imagine how impossible it would be to keep up with the workload if each TL had to make these decisions themselves for each item? I am sure the catalogue would be nowhere near as accurate, and staff and students would find it much more difficult to find the information they are looking for.
This assignment is definitely going to help me if I ever have to create an entry from scratch like I was involved in doing on my Placement earlier this year. I now know exactly where to look to make sure I am making the right decisions for my students.
Module 5 was all about the Dewey Decimal System. Finally something I am already familiar with.. sort of!
The more I got into this module the more bewildered I became. Dewey is hard!
Although complex, Dewey is the system used by most libraries basically because that is the way it has been for a long time. People generally know how to find things using Dewey, so changing it now would be annoying for users, as well as librarians.
So this module taught me how to construct a Dewey number, and it certainly is complex! Each number represents something about the item, from the very broad, to the very specific. The more numbers after the decimal point, the more precise the number is in defining the topic.
It is reasonably easy to construct a number with 3 digits, but working out what comes after the decimal point and where to find it is where the ‘fun’ begins.
Here is an example of a complex Dewey number:
That number is for an item on Thai Recipes, and was part of our last exercise. To make a number you can search in WebDewey for key words that describe the item, and then find the number that matches the item the closest. There can be a bit of experimenting involved in this to find the exact number. Sometimes the number isn’t there completely, and you need to build further by using the tables.
Fortunately we weren’t required to start from scratch with making numbers, and instead were using the search functions in webdewey to find the answers to the questions, and select a number to meet the description. It was quite difficult though, and I sometimes found it difficult to work out where the answers came from. The tables are still a mystery to me, I’m not entirely sure how they work even after having completed all the exercises. Hopefully that won’t be a key component of the assignment!
The study visit to a variety of Melbourne libraries was a very rewarding experience for me. I learnt a great deal about how different styles of libraries function, and what changes are being made to future-proof the library for the next generation.
Although the libraries I visited were all quite different, I found there were a number of commonalities across all of them. The first and most prevalent of these was that they all had a strong focus on what the users want from the library, and providing that first and foremost, rather than bowing to expectations of what a library ‘should’ be. The best demonstration of that was Library @ the Dock, which reached out to their users during the planning process, as well as now it is open to find out what users want, and then providing those services to the community. The result is a dynamic space which is well used by the local community as well as tourists and people who work in the area. On the other end of the spectrum, the Library of the Federal Court continues to have a strong print collection despite the general trend towards online resources, because that is what the judges that use the library require of it. Even online resources are regularly printed and then kept in that form in the library to be used again.
Another common trend among the libraries was an understanding of and willingness to change to meet the needs of future generations. The majority of the libraries appeared to be in a state of change, whether it be through restructuring the library to be more efficient (Ashurst, NML) or changing the space itself to increase user satisfaction (RMIT, Library @ the Dock). In general the staff appeared to be quite enthusiastic about the changes that were happening in their libraries, and indicated that the changes were having a positive impact on their patronage. Learning about these changes and their effects filled me with ideas to take with me to my own library one day, and to suggest to my mentor librarian at my placement school, particularly from visiting Library @ the Dock.
The major area of difference was the services provided by the libraries. Although the primary goal was the same, to provide information to their patrons, the manner in which this was done varied quite significantly between the libraries. This was mostly because of the range of libraries I visited, but being able to see these differences and how useful they were to the library’s particular users was a valuable experience, even if some of the services weren’t really transferable to a school library context. I found it particularly interesting learning about how archives and special libraries work compared to the school and university libraries I’m used to. For example, the Federal Court Library librarians prepare authorities for cases, as well as directing judges and lawyers to useful judgements. This contrasted with the Ashurst librarians, whose primary function was purely to direct the lawyers to information, not provide any analysis of the information at all. Both libraries had a lax lending policy, trusting the user intrinsically to return documents when they are finished with them. Other libraries such as the SLV and PROV saw themselves more as repositories of historical information.
Overall I am coming away from the study visit with a breadth of knowledge about the librarianship profession I had little understanding of prior to the visit. The experiences I have had over the week have left me full of inspiration and hope for my future career, and I can’t wait to get started.
Last Day! And they definitely saved the best til last.
Library @ the Dock
What an inspirational library! It was the physical manifestation of everything we have been learning about 21st century libraries. What I will definitely take away from this visit is that it really is possible to put everything we have been learning about into practice (with money). This library really reached out to the community and brought them what they wanted – spaces to connect, learn and create, and the facilities to make that possible. I loved the idea of including technology lessons that reached out to people of all levels of experience, and the provision of iPads within the library as well. The children’s area was also inspirational, with lots of nooks for children to read, as well as interactive areas for them to learn and play. I would love to use lots of these ideas in my own library one day.
Evaluation Rating 5+/5
Absolutely no weaknesses to this visit. I think that all teacher librarians should come here when thinking about restructuring their library, if only to have a look around and see what is happening here. I am filled with ideas that I would love to put into practice one day, particularly after seeing the children’s area of the library. It was also inspirational seeing that this library was run mostly by young people, with not much experience. Seeing what they can do made me more confident in my ability to make a difference too. The presenters were so enthusiastic and full of ideas, I wanted to move to Melbourne and join them!
Public Records Office of Victoria
I chose to visit the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) to discover more about another aspect to librarianship: archiving. This visit was very successful in that respect, and it taught me about the differences between archives and libraries. Archives approach their collections in a different way: they deal with protecting large collections of individual items, rather than approaching each individual item separately like libraries do. I found it interesting that individual items may not be looked at for years after arriving at the archive; they are more interested in cataloguing groups of items so the public know where to find them when necessary. I also found it incredible to think about the sheer volume of information stored there, particularly compared to the 1% that has been digitised thus far.
Evaluation Rating 3.5/5
The presenter at PROV was very knowledgeable and passionate about his work, and was willing to share his thoughts and opinions on both the value and future of the profession as well as on the work he did himself. The visit probably wasn’t that useful to me as a teacher librarian as there wasn’t a lot presented that I could use in my work, but it definitely provided me with extensive knowledge of another area of information studies, which is valuable in itself. I loved touring the facilities and seeing firsthand how archiving works, and it sparked my interest in perhaps volunteering with the NSW Public Records Office in the holidays to widen my areas of experience.
Ashurst Australia Library
The Ashurst librarians had a very clear understanding of their role within the Ashurst Law firm: to help the lawyers find information for their clients in the most efficient way possible. They used this role as the rationale informing other aspects of their job like collection and professional development. The two things I found most interesting about this library were that they charged their client by the minute based on how long it took to find something, and that they had to be very careful about how they phrased answers to requests, as staff didn’t have a law background, and thus weren’t allowed to interpret the information found. These aspects emphasised to me that this was a corporate library, with a very specific and important role to its company.
Evaluation Rating 3.5/5
From a teacher librarian perspective, this visit was not particularly useful, as I think the needs of Ashurst’s users are very different to school libraries, requiring the librarians to respond in a different way to information requests. On the other hand, it was good to see a library that was intrinsically valued for the role it performed and where staff relationships were strong. It was also interesting to observe a library run by younger people, and see how they conceived and approached the job compared to the older librarians in other libraries. However, it would have been better if the speakers had shown us some concrete examples of what they do and how they do it rather than just talking about it.
No Photos in here either, again it was more like an office. We didn’t really get to look around in here either.
RMIT Swanston Campus Library
This was the most valuable visit to me as a teacher librarian. It enabled me to paint a complete picture of the information needs of current university students, and highlighted the changes in university libraries in the 10 years since I was an undergraduate. I learnt that physical loans are dropping significantly every year, and that students today are much lazier about searching for information than they were 10 years ago, expecting to get results without the effort of learning library systems. The library combats this with a strong marketing program, which successfully teaches students how to use the library to complete assignments to a higher standard through YouTube clips and social media. I thought this was a great idea, which could also be utilised by underperforming public libraries.
Evaluation Rating 5/5
This visit was a very well-rounded experience as it gave us information about everything from front of house, to collection development, to marketing. I feel that as a result of this visit, I have a very good understanding of how university libraries are run, and how they contrast from school libraries, yet complement student development. There were no real weaknesses to this visit for me, all the speakers were engaging, passionate and willing and able to answer any questions asked of them.
Library of the Federal Court
I learnt a lot from my visit to the Library of the Federal Court, and it was quite interesting comparing this special library to the NML yesterday. Unlike NML, they still rely heavily on paper resources, as the primary users are judges that need to take documents with them to court. It was also interesting to learn that the collection is generally not weeded at all, as even old law reports, some as old as the 18th and 19th centuries, are needed relatively regularly to create authorities for cases. The lending methodology was also quite different to other libraries I have been to. Although the public can visit and borrow resources, they must leave a deposit to ensure its return as there are no due dates, and all items can be recalled if a judge needs them.
Evaluation Rating 5/5
I thought visiting the Federal Court Library was a very valuable experience. The librarian was very knowledgeable and seemed keen to share the secrets of his collection with us. I loved being allowed to look at and touch such old documents, and learning about how these old documents are still relevant today. There were no real weaknesses to the visit; being in such a large group in such a full library made it hard to hear and see at times, but that was in no way the fault of the library itself. Perhaps having this library as one that smaller groups visit would be a good idea, but I definitely recommend it for other study visits.
I am loving this study visit already. Today we went to the State Library of Victoria and the National Meteorological Library. I am just going to copy and paste my Reflections onto my blog as I think they pretty much sum up my thoughts on the day.
State Library of Victoria
I had only been to the State Library of Victoria (SLV) to view an exhibition, so I learnt a great deal from this visit. It was particularly interesting comparing the functions of this library to public libraries. Unlike public libraries, State libraries are legal deposit libraries, whose main function is to collect items for posterity. I learnt that SLV is a non-borrowing library, and 90% of the collection is in storage, only retrieved upon request from users. It was interesting learning about the way that volunteers are utilised in the library; I didn’t know that tours were given by volunteers and that people who donate collections get to be involved in curating them.
Evaluation Rating 4/5
The biggest strength of this visit was touring the facilities. Without the tour I never would have known what resources the library offered, or had the confidence to explore it myself, as it can be quite an intimidating place on first visit. I would love to spend more time there now I know how easy it is to request things, and even just to look at what is on offer in the rooms, particularly the small gallery. Cathy Miller’s talk about the volunteers was also valuable. However, I thought Sarah Slade’s speech would have been more interesting if it was focussed on how they digitally preserve things rather than about the group that evaluate how successful they do it, as that is something I have always wondered about.
National Meteorological Library
The National Meteorological Library (NML) is designed to provide information primarily to the Bureau of Meteorology to help them make better decisions about climate-related issues. Unlike the SLV, the collection is very specialised, with the majority of its resources located at 551.5 in the UDC, which reflects its aforementioned goal. This library is open to the public, however I think the complicated series of steps required to enter would discourage most people from visiting. As I had never visited such a specialised library before, Rosa’s presentation provided me with a vast amount of new information about how small libraries are run, as well as what the meteorological library itself is all about.
Evaluation Rating 4/5
Although this library is far removed from the school libraries I am used to, I found visiting the National Meteorological Library to be a very valuable experience. Rosa’s presentation was engaging and very comprehensive and it gave us a great understanding of how it is run, and the decisions that need to be made by such a small staff in order for it to be successful. I think it would have been even better had we been taken on a tour of the physical collection, as small as it is, and told about what patrons use the information for and how it is used. However, I definitely appreciated that some of their rare items were taken out of storage for us to look at individually, as this made the visit a richer experience.
No Photos in here, it wasn’t a particularly photogenic place, it looked more like an office.
** the school name has been changed for anonymity
My placement was completed in the Wattleville Public School Library, which services the school community of Wattleville Public School, a primary school with over 500 students and 35 staff.
Role of the Library
The role of this library is to ensure all students have equitable access to resources regardless of their socio-economic status, as well as to facilitate the work of the classroom teachers. The teacher-librarian makes herself available to staff and students from 8.30am to 3.30pm to enable users to access materials both inside and outside of class time.
The library aims to:
- Instil and sustain a love of reading in its students by providing a rich variety of quality fiction and non-fiction texts and texts that complement the students’ interests;
- Provide a wide variety of curriculum resources to cater for differences in learning and teaching styles; and
- Collaborate with classroom teachers to plan, implement and evaluate guided inquiry programs that will enable students to acquire skills to collect, critically analyse and organise information.
The library meets these aims relatively well, however it could provide better access to digital resources, particularly online resources and eBooks, which are not currently included in the collection. Guided Inquiry could also be better integrated across the school, however the teacher-librarian is working tirelessly to ensure this happens in years to come.
Wattleville Library is well used by both staff and students.
Students access the library during their weekly library lesson, and can also access it during the first half of lunch if they choose. Students in Early Stage 1 can borrow one book at a time, Stage 1 can borrow up to two at a time, while Stages 2 and 3 can borrow up to three concurrently. All students can access the catalogue via their DET login. All students are encouraged to take part in the Premiers’ Reading Challenge, with library use increasing during this time as students endeavour to read enough books to meet the challenge.
The majority of lunchtime student users are accessing the library to use the available technology (iPads and laptops) to play on school-approved apps or websites. Some older students use the laptops to do research for school assignments or to complete presentations.
Staff use the library to gain access to teacher resources, as well as texts that supports their curriculum. Staff regularly approach the teacher-librarian looking for particular texts for their lessons, or to get a variety of fiction for students to access in the classroom during quiet reading time.
Some parents use the library in the afternoons to borrow books for younger siblings of students; however, this is a very small number of parents, the majority of whom volunteer their time in the library, and it is not an advertised feature of the library at present.
The teacher-librarian in this library ensures that all resources come through the library before being distributed to classrooms. This way she is aware of where all resources are at all times, and can retrieve items when necessary.
The library has six major collections, as follows:
This consists of picture books that are of an appropriate reading level for children from Kindergarten to Year 2. They are stored on shelves that are easy for young students to reach, and a number of books are displayed to encourage interest in the collection. A selection of Junior Fiction is kept in a bin for Kindergarten students to access. These students are restricted to borrowing from this bin, unless the teacher-librarian approves a particular student to do otherwise. Books are selected for this bin on the basis of them being quick and easy for parents to read to their children before bed.
This consists of simple chapter books and novel-sized stories that are aimed at children from 7-10 years. Many books in this section are popular series that are kept in their own boxes and are based on the children’s interests. The library receives the most requests for additions to this collection, and thus it is a growing collection.
These books are more challenging, and are mostly accessed by students in Stage 3. Popular authors in this collection are Andy Griffiths, Paul Jennings, J.K. Rowling and Jeff Kinney. This collection also includes Senior Picture Books.
Non-fiction is catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal System. Students regularly borrow books about dinosaurs and other animals. Jokes and puzzles are also borrowed regularly. The teacher-librarian has identified books in this collection that are useful for particular units of work and has them separated in boxes of resources for that unit.
These are stored in a separate room at the back of the library. Teachers borrow books from here about once a term before returning them. The library regularly receives requests for hard copies of teacher resources rather than online resources so this collection is still growing. Teacher Resources also includes a large Big Book Collection.
Unlike many other schools in the area, the guided readers are in the process of being catalogued through the library. All readers are covered with contact, and a barcode and accession number is attached to each set of books which are then shared between classrooms.
Use of Technology
This library is slowly making the transition to an information hub. It has 28 laptops and 25 iPads that are used both inside and outside the library. Although they are not technically part of the collection, it is the teacher-librarian’s responsibility to ensure all technology is returned to the library at the end of the day for safe storage.
Laptops and iPads are used during lunch time in the library, and Stage 3 students are responsible for the distribution, collection and proper use of the technology during this time. These students love the responsibility of the role and take pride in doing a good job. There are also a number of desktop computers that can be used at any time to access the library catalogue via their student logins.
Inside the library the laptops are used for guided inquiry lessons with Stage 3 students. Students search the internet for relevant information on a subject, then complete a presentation using Keynote or Prezi which is presented at the end of the term. Guided inquiry is a work in progress in this library. There is not a website evaluation policy that is used across the school, and many students struggle with the steps of the inquiry process, resulting in average presentations at the end of the process. However the teacher-librarian is working with Stage leaders to increase the use of guided inquiry in the curriculum and steady improvement should come with time.
The teacher-librarian also uses an Interactive Whiteboard to present her lessons for Stages 1-3.
Generally speaking, this library does a good job of meeting the needs of its users, however it could be doing more.
Students need access to quality fiction and non-fiction texts that are stimulating, meet their interests and are at an appropriate reading level for them in order to sustain their interest in reading. They also need access to quality curricular materials that aid and add to their learning in these areas.
The Wattleville library collection meets these needs quite well, particularly in its fiction collection. For example, the teacher-librarian has separated the collection into three reading levels – junior, middle and senior fiction in an attempt to provide students easy access to texts at their reading level. She also regularly purchases new books that reflect students’ interests and requests, such as Billy B Brown and Hey Jack books for Stage 1 students that are ready for novels, and Lego picture books for the younger boys. She also regularly purchases new publications on the Premier’s Reading Challenge book lists as they have already been reviewed as quality fiction. The collection is also weeded regularly of old books and those that are not borrowed to make room for new purchases, leaving enough space on the shelves for lots of display books, and shelves that can be browsed easily. The result is a rich fiction collection which is used extensively by most students.
However, such a rich fiction collection has come at the price of its non-fiction collection. Although extensive, large portions of it are quite old or out of date, resulting in students choosing to borrow little from it. Small sections have been updated, such as animals and dinosaurs, but other areas such as sport and music are small or outdated. The teacher-librarian is aware of the issue and is working to change it at present.
The library is also lacking an electronic collection. It does not include an eBook collection, and websites have not been catalogued either. The inclusion of eBooks in the collection would assist the library in meeting the learning needs of students, particularly those with reading difficulties, as many eBooks have text-to-speech conversion. They also have the potential to engage students who are not interested in reading at present through the interactivity of many eBooks.
By cataloguing websites with curricular content and benefits, staff can save time by accessing the catalogue and being sure that the websites included in the catalogue are full of quality content and are at a level appropriate to their students. Without the catalogue, staff must find these resources themselves, time that could be better spent designing quality lessons.
Apart from that, the library does a good job in meeting the needs of staff. The teacher-librarian is particular about ensuring all new teacher resources purchased by KLA teams are catalogued through the library before being distributed to classrooms. This ensures that all staff have equitable access to this material, and goes a long way to preventing materials being lost. The library also takes requests from teachers for particular teacher resources or curricular texts and purchases these for the library.
Wattleville Library is a reliable repository of resources for staff, as demonstrated by the regular visits from staff throughout the day requesting materials. Although it could be doing more, staff and students clearly view the library as an excellent source of fiction, non-fiction and teacher resources, and are generally satisfied with what is available.
My placement came at a pivotal time for Wattleville Library. A wheelchair ramp had just been installed and important decisions were being made about the new design of the library to accommodate the ramp, without losing much (or any) shelf space. The teacher-librarian discussed with me potential ideas for the arrangement of shelving both temporarily and long-term, and took my ideas into consideration when making her decisions. We rearranged the books on the temporary shelving several times to decide what the best spacing for Junior and Middle fiction was, endeavouring to make it visually appealing for the children whilst maintaining a logical order.
Towards the end of my placement, a representative from Raeco visited the library to provide a quote on new permanent furniture for the library, including shelving, seating and computer tables. The teacher-librarian allowed me to be involved in this discussion also, and again took my opinion into consideration when deciding on the arrangement of the new shelving, and the colours of the new comfortable seating. It was very rewarding having my opinions valued during this important time, especially when my ideas were used by the teacher-librarian, as they were with the final arrangement of books on the temporary shelving, and the decision to purchase more shelving for one wall of the library to make room for a comfortable reading area for students. Being involved in this process also gave me an understanding of the mechanics of major changes to the library, particularly regarding the discussions and administrative hoops that must be passed before decisions are made and the changes come into effect. I feel confident that as a result of being part of this process at Wattleville I have the ability and knowledge to make similar changes in a library of my own.
My placement also gave me the opportunity to become quite familiar with the workings of SCIS and OASIS. I was responsible for loaning and returning books for students, as well as deleting books from the system after a major cull of resources following the rearrangement of shelving after the ramp installation. My major task for the placement was to use SCIS to download Kindergarten readers onto the OASIS system, entering location, price and supplier details for each item, and processing the books for inclusion in the collection (stamping, recording accession and location details in the back cover and covering books). This was quite a time-consuming task, and it gave me an appreciation for how hard teacher-librarians work in order to keep the library running smoothly and effectively. I was very appreciative of the opportunity to work closely with OASIS, as all the schools in the area still use it, and prior to the placement I felt I knew very little about it. Now, thanks to the tutelage of the teacher-librarian and her assistant, I have an understanding of how it works, and where to find things if I need to perform a particular task. I am also confident that I know how to perform all the basic tasks required to run a library effectively.
Since I don’t work in a school library at present, the placement was a highly valuable experience for me as it allowed me to view and put into practice many of the things I have learnt during my course. Prior to completing my placement, most of what I learnt was only theoretical, and I could only make connections based on what I had seen during my casual classroom teaching experiences and by remembering what the library was like when I was at school. I found that by watching the teacher-librarian teach and run the library, I became confident in my ability to professionally fill in for other teacher-librarians, and ultimately run my own library one day.
The placement assisted my development as a teacher-librarian in a number of ways. The biggest impact was made in the area of collection development and management. When I completed ETL503 last year, everything was purely theoretical. I thought I understood the methodology of developing and managing a collection, but seeing it in action and being able to participate in the decision-making process for weeding resources increased my understanding exponentially. This was mainly because I could see the impact of the decisions on the collection, and the reasons behind why changes were necessary. I observed the borrowing patterns of the children, and noticed that they showed little interest in older books, or those without colourful covers. Themes that appealed to boys and girls hadn’t changed since I was young (eg. adventure, fairies, horses), but they still showed little interest in older books on these themes, particularly in middle and senior fiction. Having seen for myself how children use the library, and what they find interesting, I feel that I could successfully make decisions to improve underperforming libraries by, for example, selecting engaging print and electronic resources and weeding/replacing older ones, organising the physical library in an appealing way (purchasing comfortable seating, creating nooks with the shelving etc) and marketing the resources to the school community.
The placement also reinforced to me the need for teacher-librarians to be leaders within the school. Again, when I completed ETL504 it was all relatively theoretical to me, and it was difficult to comprehend the impact a great teacher-librarian and their library could have on a school. The Wattleville teacher-librarian did a fantastic job at advocating her position and the importance of the library to the teachers and administration. She regularly requested new resources for the library, and had successfully negotiated team-teaching time with Stage 3 teachers for guided inquiry lessons. Because she had made herself known to the staff, the library was well used by everyone, and she was able to secure funding to make the library a better place. Having experienced libraries in other schools where this wasn’t happening, seeing the impact the advocacy of this teacher-librarian had on the school community inspired me to step into a leadership position in my own school one day, and to participate in profession-wide advocacy programs.
My placement at Wattleville Public School Library was a rich and rewarding experience for me. This opportunity has given me the knowledge and confidence to successfully run a school library that benefits a school community to its fullest potential.