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.
Part A: Overview
Role of the Library
The overarching role of the P* Library is to provide outstanding library services for M* School’s, W* and SS* community. M** is a multi-campus Anglican school educating over 1,800 students from Prep to Year 12. The P* Library is located within the N* P* Centre for L* and L* (CLL). The CLL, designed to be the learning hub of the school, links the middle and senior school campuses. W (Years 7 – 8) and SS (Years 9 – 12) community comprises of over 1,120 boys (boarders and day students) and 160 plus teaching and ancillary staff.
The purpose of the P* Library is outlined in the Library Mission Statement (M* School, 2013). This document underpins the provision of library services.
In summary, the library aims to provide the following fundamental services:
To support teaching and learning by providing a welcoming, flexible learning environment.
The library’s physical space is well-designed to accommodate multi-use and flexible learning. Spread across three levels of the CLL, the library provides a range of reading, learning and study zones. There are two seminar rooms, four open plan teaching and study areas, three private study pods, a theatrette and many small study areas interspersed between the print stacks. These areas suit a variety of user needs, providing areas for group work, individual research, quiet reading or class lectures and presentations. Spaces that require bookings are managed by library staff.
The furniture is predominantly flexible. All tables and seating can be arranged to accommodate small or large groups. The reading zones provide moveable, modular couches to encourage reading in small or large groups.
All areas in the CLL, including the P* Library, provide secure Wi-Fi access to the school network and internet in order to support the BYO device mobile learning environment. Many charging points are located throughout the building.
To nurture and encourage the importance of reading for pleasure and for information.
A major service provided by the library team is to develop, deliver and promote a range of reading programs and activities throughout the school. Library staff organise and manage events to support wider reading in the school community, for example, book clubs, house competitions, guest speakers, visiting authors, Children’s Book Week activities. The library provides extensive fiction, magazine and non-fiction print collections to support recreational reading and curriculum driven reading programs.
To collaborate with teachers to develop and implement a comprehensive information literacy program.
Another important service provided by the library is that of fostering an information literate M** community. Library staff liaise with heads of faculty, directors of curriculum and teachers to develop & deliver information literacy programs across the school.
To provide a library collection which supports staff and student needs for curriculum and recreational use.
P* library provides a strong, well balanced collection of library resources. It offers rich and diverse multi-format collections which pertinently support curriculum, reading programs and recreational use. The library holds a large print collection which comprises reference, non-fiction, fiction, picture books, graphic novels, magazines, and teacher reference resources. There is also a substantial rare book collection. The library’s non-print collections include audiobooks and DVD’s. Library services extend the range of print and non-print collections by offering an extensive digital collection of eResources which include: a digitised video library (Clickview), eBooks, online encyclopedias and a range of subscription databases and website directories.
Access provided to the collections
P* library provides both physical and virtual access to its collections. The library is open before, during and after school for students and staff to access the permanent collections. Library staff are on hand to assist with the location and retrieval of resources including reservations and restricted collections. 70% of the print collection is stored in a compactus at the lower level of the CLL. Items stored here can only be retrieved by library staff.
P* Library sits at the forefront of new learning technologies within the school. The library is continually working to improve access to its resources and recently upgraded to the latest web based version of its Library Management System (LMS) and Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC). The upgrade has improved the functionality of the OPAC. A federated search option provides catalogue access to encyclopedia articles, journal articles, databases and digitised videos.
The Library has recently developed a new library website. Students and staff can access the website, at school or from home, via a link on the school portal. The library home page provides access to the catalogue as well as links to an eBook library, a digitised video library, website directories, subscription databases and research guides.
Staffing and Management
The P* Library functions extremely well due to a well-appointed, well-structured team of qualified and experienced professionals. The library is managed by the Director of Library Services (DLS). The DLS reports to the Director of Teaching and Learning at MGS. The DLS oversees general operations of the library, manages the library budget, is a member of the Curriculum Board, liaises with heads of faculty and ICT Department and supervises library staff. The DLS is assisted by the Deputy Director of Library Services. Both the DLS and the deputy are qualified teacher librarians. There is one other qualified Teacher Librarian (TL) on the library team. All the teacher librarians at M** are required to teach at least one other method for year levels 7 – 9 and so, teach Geography, History and English. Four qualified Library Technicians are responsible for the daily operations of the library and its systems.
Part B: User Needs
As the central learning hub of the school, the P Library is working exceptionally well to support teaching and learning at M**. The library effectively serves the technological, educational and recreational needs of the M** community through excellent services, collections and programs.
The library provides outstanding services to students and staff. Consequently the physical space, collections and resources are very well used. Up to 15 classes use the library each day. Subject disciplines using the library and resources range from English, History, Humanities, LOTE and Design Technology. Teacher librarians are currently working to develop stronger curriculum connections with Maths & Science departments.
M** has a strong technology focus. Information Communication Technologies are considered a vital part of the student’s education at M** and it is expected that these tools are integrated into all aspects of the curriculum. M** has established a mobile computing programme which applies to students in Year 5 and above. Students from Years 9 to 12 are required to have their own devices as part of the school’s BYOD program. Years 7 & 8 currently in transition from notebook computers to personal tablet devices, including iPads. As mentioned in the overview, library services sits at the forefront of new learning technologies within the school. Knowledgeable and proficient library staff develop and maintain systems to assist with the retrieval of information and resources to sustain M** student’s mobile learning needs. Library technicians manage the online systems provided by the library and actively work to improve the functionality of Clickview, the OPAC and the library website by regularly attending professional training sessions and communicating with system providers and ICT staff. The DLS meets weekly with the Director of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to discuss ICT issues associated with library use, technology, services and systems. Teacher librarians are proficient in the use of teaching and display technology e.g., interactive whiteboards, Apple TV, iPads etc. TL’s at M** assist students and staff with access to online resources by being available at lunch and recess every day. TL’s continually work to improve student access to P Library resources (physical, digital and electronic). TL’s collaborate with teachers in class or in the library, demonstrating and instructing how to access information and resources using online library systems and technology. TL’s are currently developing online research guides using LibGuides, an online content management system, to facilitate student access to pertinent information resources that support curriculum and learning at M**.
P* Library does exceptionally well to support staff and students with programs and collections that meet curriculum and recreational needs. M** has recently instigated a whole school Wide Reading Programme, designed to instil in students a life-long understanding of the value of reading. This program is greatly supported by the library and is an excellent example of teacher librarians collaborating with heads of faculty and English teachers to develop collections and deliver reading opportunities and projects to support the program. W and Year 9 students are timetabled in the library, one English period per cycle, for silent reading. Library staff work independently or with teachers to create and implement strategies, projects and activities that encourage wider reading and response to literature. Fiction and recreational reading collections are expanded to support the program. Library staff recently overhauled the P* fiction collection, updating series, replacing old, purchasing new and multiple copies of popular titles in order to engage and satisfy all students. The library organises and hosts events to support the program. Visiting authors, guest speakers, House competitions e.g., Readers Cup, Book Clubs (voluntary/ student led) and Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge are all offered by the library and are enthusiastically entered and attended by students.
Part C: Activities & Programs
Whilst on my placement at M** I was able to observe and be involved in a wide range of library activities and programs. Over the 10 days, I was scheduled time with all library staff. This provided a range of opportunities to experience and participate in many of the daily activities of the library and learn more about school library services.
Most of my time was spent with the Director of Library Services, discussing and observing the varied nature of her role, participating in activities inside and outside the realm of library. The DLS is actively involved in many areas of the M** community. Overseeing & managing three MGS libraries is the core function of the DLS. Additional to this, the DLS is a member of the Curriculum Board, co-editor of the school magazine, House Tutor and Year 9 Geography teacher. During my time spent with the DLS I attended House meetings, House tutor groups & associated co-curricular activities (debating, theatre sports and a football match), I also sat in on meetings with ICT staff and magazine editors. I observed Year 9 Geography classes and was able to view curriculum documents, resources and assessment tasks. I participated in lunch & recess library supervision and tram duty. Through these activities I got to meet many students and staff. I learnt that being involved in activities outside the library, is an important way to get to know the organisation as a whole, to engender collegial respect and form positive relationships and connections with all members of the school community.
A significant portion of my placement at M** was spent with teacher librarians. I was able to observe and be involved in the Years 7 – 9 Wide Reading Programme, Year 8 History Guided Inquiry Project, Prep to Year 6 library activities and other research classes held in the library. These sessions were invaluable to my current studies. Being involved in these activities showed me how effective, rewarding and meaningful collaborative teaching can be. In guided inquiry or research classes, teacher librarians at M** work with curriculum co-ordinators and teachers to plan, design & implement projects that imbed information literacy, research and referencing skills. I observed teacher librarians working with students, one to one, monitoring their progress through the different phases of inquiry, intervening where necessary to help students formulate questions, locate & evaluate information. During years 7 – 8 wide reading sessions, the teacher librarians listen to students read, discuss their reading, recommend other reading and report their observations to the teacher. With this shared information, teacher librarians and teachers are well-informed about their student’s literacy levels, achievements and outcomes. Also, teacher librarians are getting to know and develop congenial relationships with their students. Experiencing these activities and strategies has inspired me to endorse and develop collaborative projects like these in my future career as a teacher librarian.
During my placement I spent a number of hours with each of the library technicians, observing and assisting with daily procedures e.g., desk duties, library bookings, serials management and cataloguing. I observed a lot of time spent on catalogue maintenance and collection work since the recent system upgrade. I realised the impact of such professional knowledge on the efficacy of library systems and services. Library staff are continually working to improve the way in which their resources and collections are organised and accessed by their users. Teacher librarians use their knowledge of curriculum, collections and online resources to develop comprehensive reading lists, research guides and pathfinders in order to help students independently search for information and resources. Using and developing LibGuides gave me the opportunity to discover the significance of targeted content management and how, as a library service, this can promote and enable the use of resources as well as enhance student learning.
Part D: Reflection
Having the opportunity to visit the library at M** has been an invaluable experience. The placement has consolidated my knowledge and ideas on how, and what is required, for an effective school library to function. The school library, its staff and its programs need to be valued and understood by the school community, particularly by school leadership, if it is to function at the highest level. It is important that library staff are well-trained, knowledgeable professionals, capable of delivering the library services required by a school community. Finally, it is crucial that library staff be involved in, and get to know, the wider school community in order to foster collegiality and promote collaborative relationships and partnerships.
The library and its staff are highly valued and supported by staff and leadership at M**. This became quite evident during my time spent with the DLS in P* Library and the TL’s at GH (junior school campus). I learnt from the DLS, that many changes have influenced library services and school support since her appointment.
First of all, negligible policy documentation existed for the library. The DLS began a team project to create official documentation regarding M** Library services. Procedures Guidelines and Policy Guidelines were written to include position descriptions for library staff, Collection Development Policy, Information Literacy Policy, Library & Information Services in Schools Policy, as well as links to affiliated Associations Manifesto’s and Statements. A Library Mission Statement was written and made available on the school network and summarised on the library website. The Library’s vision, mission and services were made clear and available to all stakeholders in the school. Discussion with the DLS regarding this documentation highlighted to me the significance of policy development in terms of validation and rationalisation of library staffing, budget and services, particular when change is required.
Furthermore, the DLS established a number of powerful strategies to foster communication, teamwork and connections for library staff and the wider school community. As a member of the school curriculum board the DLS keeps abreast of current curriculum and pedagogy ensuring that library services and programs are well-informed and relevant. Regularly scheduled meetings with library staff and the Director of ICT promote communication and action to ensure successful delivery of library services. Teacher librarians and library staff are strongly encouraged to join MGS staff in the common room (at lunch or recess), to participate in House activities or to attend co-curricular events with staff in order to develop collegial rapport. I observed the positive impact of these approaches in a variety of situations at M** and hope to adopt similar collaborative and uniting strategies in my future role as a teacher librarian.