The Melbourne Study Visit highlighted the diversity and richness of library and information agencies and emphasised the variety of opportunities available to us as students of Information Services. As a student who has only worked in school libraries, I found it extremely valuable to experience a broad range of library services and clientele and to listen to librarians talk about the challenges and rewards of working in this profession. I learned that across the sector there are many common challenges being faced by library and information agencies. Most organisations are finding it necessary to develop strategies to market and advocate the value of their role & services, many are struggling with funding and managerial support. This is very pertinent for those working in schools and it was helpful to see how others were handling these issues, adapting to change and working to improve communication, foster collaboration and form closer relationships with stakeholders and users. It was a great opportunity to meet other students, to talk about our experiences and ponder our future roles in the profession. I am reminded of the importance of connection and collaboration and intend, once my studies are complete, to keep the connections going through listservs, social media groups, association memberships and attendance of professional conferences. The learning that comes from these experiences is invaluable.
East Melbourne Library
In the introduction to East Melbourne Library I was surprised to learn that Melbourne Library Service (MLS) was a relatively new initiative of Melbourne City Council and that the MLS Strategic Plan (2008-2018) was established to meet the needs of a rapidly changing and growing city community. I learned that the aim of MLS is to provide state-of-the-art, public access, “community hubs” for City of Melbourne residents, students, workers and visitors. There are 6 libraries in the service and each branch is uniquely designed to meet the varied needs of its local and sometimes transient community. Of the 6 libraries, astonishingly, 3 have opened in the past 4 years due to community growth and development whereas East Melbourne Library opened due to the local Historical Society’s need for a community space. Our host discussed the challenges associated with the building and design of each new library and highlighted the importance of professional and community consultation. Library design can have an enormous impact on library services and it was useful to hear that some designs and ideas were successful and others not, particularly in the case of East Melbourne which is designed to be an ecologically sustainable space. I liked hearing that library teams were learning from taking risks as well as listening to and responding to client needs and feedback. This is relevant to school libraries where current pedagogy has prompted new ideas and thinking about library spaces and design. In many cases, school libraries are considered to be the learning hub of the school community. Like public libraries, school libraries must not remain static, they must continue to be innovative and responsive to the needs of users. For example, like City Library, school libraries may need to prioritise space over unused collections. As a teacher librarian it was important to make this connection. The discussion also developed my understanding of the necessity of effective strategic planning for library change and development, particularly with regard to collections and space.
William Angliss Institute Learning Resource Centre
I had the opportunity to visit William Angliss Learning Resource Centre (WALRC) during my Diploma of Library & Information studies. I completed my placement there in 2007 while it was still called the Cyber Centre. At that time, it was a busy tertiary library full of books, magazines, journals and many desk top computers to access the network. I was surprised to see that the space had been opened out and enlarged to accommodate many more banks of desk top computers. In the age of mobile computing and BYO device I thought this quite retrograde especially considering all the work being done on the new library website, online content management system and discovery layer. As it turns out, the institute is having ongoing problems with Wi Fi access and IT services. Library staff spend a lot of time trouble shooting for students and assisting with IT issues. Access to school networks is fraught with issues relating to security and privacy and it was valuable to see that other institutions are grappling with these problems. It was also relevant to read that Single Sign On and space re-design are future highlights of the libraries current strategic plan.
Another area of interest was the impact of government budget cuts and funding on library services and the controlling role of institute CEO’s. As in schools, when funds are reduced the library team is the first to undergo a restructure, reducing staff hours and salary. The role of the library and the work of the librarian is unknown and unappreciated by upper management and teaching staff therefore the need for library staff to advocate their role, report and apply evidence based practice is vital. With the institutes introduction of higher education subjects in 2016 there will be massive challenges ahead for the WALRC team to provide adequate services to meet student needs. A common problem for many who work in school libraries.
Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre
Prior to this visit, I was completely unaware of the Melbourne Discovery Centre and was pleased to discover that we were visiting an information agency, not another library in the traditional sense. I loved the Discovery Centre and learned that it is a free information service provided by Museum Victoria. The services offered by the Discovery Centre are similar to library reference services. Like librarians, museum staff respond to enquiries from the general public. I learned that public enquiry can range from object identification, general research, donation offers and image requests to coordinating public access to Museum Victoria’s collections. Discovery Centre staff may need to refer to their own exhibits or Melbourne Museum reference collections, library resources and museum specialists when handling reference enquiries and, like librarians, they provide a referral service to other organisations if unable to satisfy the client requests. It was thought-provoking to ponder the commonality of reference services.
As a teacher librarian I valued the Discovery Centre’s educational philosophy to support and facilitate independent research. The website is a wonderful resource, providing access to a vast range of information and pathways to research enquiries. I was interested to learn that much of the self-published content on the website was generated from popular enquiry and continues to grow, so much so, that there is need to find a larger content management system. Curating online collections, providing and facilitating access to digital information and online resources is a key role of the teacher librarian and school library services. Use of social media and blogging to share and access information is still new to schools libraries. I found it significant to learn that there are common issues between school libraries and other information agencies when providing information and commentary via blogs and social media. It was useful to know that others are grappling with the need to have controlled procedures in place to manage, privacy, copyright and propriety.
La Trobe University Library
The visit to La Trobe University Library was valuable for many reasons but the highlight was listening to the library manager talk about the recent restructure, why it was necessary and the impact it was having on library services. During my studies I have learnt that one of the most important roles of the teacher librarian is outreach and advocacy; that it is important for TL’s to step out of the library and form relationships with leadership, faculties and teaching staff in order to understand and then demonstrate how your services can be of value to the school. La Trobe Library’s restructure came from the need to re-evaluate what the library does for the university. It was inspiring to hear that the library decided to no longer stand alone as an organisation within the university; that it would aim to align more diligently with the university and community, work closely with staff and students, form stronger partnerships with faculties and provide services where students are – online. Traditionally, in school libraries, it was expected that students and staff come to you. Now, many teacher librarians are going out into the school community; they are going into classrooms to team teach, attending staff meetings and curriculum planning sessions, becoming members of curriculum committees, participating in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, offering systems, digital & information literacy & technology training, collaborating and forming partnerships – the list goes on. It was extremely valuable to see how the university library team were using similar strategies to engage with the community and demonstrate the value of their services. I learned about the significance of an effective communication strategy, the importance of student centred help services, about the value of providing diverse learning spaces and the library’s significant plans & contributions to online learning.
As a future teacher librarian I wondered what knowledge a visit to RACV Library would bring. What would I learn from a private, specialised library that I could apply to a school library? The answer was collection development and services. Like school library collections, private library collections are built to specifically meet organisation and client needs, they are quite distinctive and patron driven. The RACV Library collection caters for a diverse range of interests for its 30,000 + members, yet the collection is very much tailored to meet the needs of an older, more traditional demographic; patrons who want to borrow or spend time reading printed materials such as newspapers and magazines, coffee table books on travel, motoring and gardening or view tourism maps. It was useful to see how the collection was organised for ease of use, particularly where the same Dewey number used. In the sports car section, the labelling was tailored to identify different models of cars for quick identification (e.g., MERC 622.2, FER 622.2) a strategy I might consider using when organising future school library collections. I thought it interesting that the value added services provided to patrons by the RACV Library were all about keeping the profile up in the club. How similar it is that school libraries need to provide these extra services in schools. RACV Library staff organise events, excursions, book & travel groups; they offer technology & online training, information literacy and research programs all for the purpose of value adding. I realised how important these services are and how, particularly in schools, they support and endorse the role of the library.
State Library of Victoria
As a Melbournian, I have visited the State Library of Victoria (SLV) many times, as a student doing research, as a mum taking her son for a visit, as a book lover attending the Children’s Book Festival and as a student of Library and Information Services. I have always valued the library’s history and role in providing public access to its beautiful spaces and extraordinary collections. I knew about some of the programs and services the library offered, particularly with regard to education and online learning. However, I was completely unaware of the library’s role in supporting public libraries throughout Victoria. I was fascinated to learn about the library’s partnerships and contributions to the Victorian Public Library network and the library’s involvement in research projects like “Libraries Building Communities” and publication of reports like “Victorian Public Libraries 2030”. I loved listening to how the SLV is helping regional and metropolitan libraries deliver improved library services to Victorian communities and how, through cooperation, collaboration, training, joint projects and advocacy the SLV is building a powerful public library network. The discussion prompted me to think about the importance of partnerships and connection with other libraries. What sort of relationships could I encourage or foster as a teacher librarian working in schools? The term “joint use library” was new to me. Finding out that Carolyn Springs Public Library is utilised as the local secondary school’s library (and that the principal of the school resides there) was surprising yet it inspired me to think about more sharing space and resources, particularly when funding is limited. School libraries that have limited services and collections, particularly online resources could make connections with local library services to improve their service and facilitate access to resources. Teacher librarians could encourage students and staff to become members of their state and local library or mutual benefit, collaborate with local libraries on joint projects and events.
The Age Library
Visiting The Age Library strengthened my understanding of the vitality and relevance of the public library service, particularly in marginalised communities. It was inspiring to see such a busy, well used library that catered for such a diverse and ever changing community. Working in private school education, it was powerful to be reminded of the core purpose of libraries – free & equitable access to information facilities, technology, resources and services. Hume Libraries are providing excellent services to their patrons. Like most government agencies, Hume Libraries develop, publish and follow a detailed strategic plan and have done so in the document “Learning Together 2030”. I was interested to learn that the library service is required by Hume City Council to continually evaluate its service and has recently published a review entitled “Being the Best We can”. This document outlines certain challenges and areas for development like community outreach, promotion of library services, and use of social media and how to best employ evidence based practice. School libraries are often required to align with their school’s mission and provide statements that document their role, vision and purpose. It is important to make these documents available to all stakeholders. As a teacher librarian it is necessary to rationalise and be accountable for many aspects of school library services, facilities, programs and budget, therefore it is important to develop policies and strategic plans that are forward thinking and purposeful; that will guide and outline their delivery of services to the school community. It was helpful to make these connections about justification, responsibility and accountability of services. In schools, we also aim to provide pertinent and excellent services and programs to our school community. I needed to be reminded that it is important for a library not to remain static but to constantly review its practises and services to best fulfil its purpose.