mrs c in the library

Reflections of a Teacher Librarian

The future of children’s literature

Reflecting on the historical developments of children’s literature, I am still at odds with myself as to whether I should be lamenting the solidity of printed literature or excited by the prospect of the digital age of children’s literature.  In pondering this, I am reminded of the concern of society when oral storytelling made way for print. With every change there comes some uncertainty, some level of wistfulness for the familiar and fear of the unknown. However, the developments that we are now seeing in multimedia offerings in children’s literature are probably not easily understood by non-digital natives. As an early adopter of most technology, it is difficult for me to not be excited by the prospect of the ever increasing digitisation of children’s literature. As a Teacher Librarian with limited capacity in a small school library and the ever increasing need to make budgets stretch further, there is even more impetus to want to drive some of the change towards this type of content. So then, what is my vision for the future of children’s literature? I have a few concerns about the five trends raised by McLean (2013): 1) The rise of the empowered author; 2) The rise of the empowered consumer; 3) The rise of the empowered child; 4) New patterns of content emergence; and 5) Drivers of choice are stable but delivery is not), but I am also excited by some of these. Most of my concern relates to the quality of the literature being produced as a result of these five suggested trends. Empowered authors allows direct engagement with the children reading their stories. This is a very positive aspect of social media and its benefits. Children no longer have to wait for teachers/Teacher Librarians or parents to choose the authors that they engage with through author visits, signing or Writer’s Workshops. Children can follow their favourite author’s blogs, learn about the writing process, watch illustrators and learn how to create stories and images and become involved at the level that they wish. This truly is a worthy future development to facilitate and one that is consistent with my vision for the future. The rising empowerment of consumers and children and new patterns of content emergence is where most of my concerns lie. As the mother of a teen, I have seen first hand how the developing fan-fiction genre, easily accessible to children with an internet connection or using apps such as WattPad can affect the quality of children’s writing. This new pattern of content emergence is largely pushed to children through peers and social media, including YouTube personalities. Although I am not one for encouraging restrictions on literature, caution must be taken that students’ reading breadth is wide and varied to include Eragon, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and anything by Roald Dahl, along with the many and varied other reputable children and young adult authors. This is not a new dilemma however, and can be easily tempered by being aware of popular versus quality literature, as a parent and teacher, and balancing the two with nudges in the right direction. Which of course brings us to the question of the drivers of change. We are now seeing consumer demand (and publisher support?) leading to the development of ‘like’ minded stories, particularly when they translate well onto the big screen. Did ‘SickLit’ as a genre even exist before “The Fault in our Stars”? There is now a plethora of SickLit in every book shop and Library. I believe that this will continue to be the major drive for change. The same is true with children’s reading habits. Their familiarity with devices and ability to navigate what seems to older generations, quite complex actions to access the apps they want, will continue to drive change towards e-books. Their ease of accessibility, usually lower price point, portability, the list goes on… makes e-books the choice of the future for a generation of children that have grown up with a smart phone in their hand as babes in strollers. This is where teachers need to wedge themselves in both sides of the story camp and use their influence to guide students to good quality stories and texts in the format that is best for that story or text. User preference for format will always be varied. For me there is nothing like opening a box of new books, smelling their fresh pages, feeling the texture of the words on the page and exploring the images and how they interact with the words. On the other hand, the convenience of being able to carry around a whole library of text books for study, novels for pleasure, and fiction and information texts for my children’s education and entertainment, all in one device, is immeasurable. For the time being though, e-book versions of picture books are still very sub-standard and cannot compare to print. In preparation for an upcoming author visit, one recent purchase of an e-book that I made really highlighted how poorly picture books can transfer into e-versions. Although the print version of the picture book “Marlo can fly” by Robert Vescio is a heartfelt read and beautifully illustrated, the electronic version of the same book is clunky, limited to single page spreads and requires going back and forth between each page. Although this hasn’t put me off purchasing e-books for personal use, it is definitely a consideration when purchasing for classroom use and teaching. Where this format is beginning to excel is in the more unique, interactive elements that this format supsherlock_screen1plies. For example, “Sherlock: Interactive Adventure” (HAAB, 2015) is the next level of the choose your own adventure genre, requiring not only reading and comprehension of text but also decision-making and problem solving with a strong narrative throughout. Interestingly enough though, one of the latest developments in e-books is the ‘Bridging Book’BridgingBook (“Bridging Books”, 2014) which combines both a printed book and a device to display the full content of the story along with additional story features. Will they co-exist happily like the Bridging Book gimmick? Johnathon Gunston’s (2014) article ‘Will printed books disappear? Stephen King on the future of the traditional paperback’ highlights the depth of this debate. Tim Waterstone, Founder of UK bookstore chain ‘Waterstone’, claims that print will never be dead and e-books are a passing fad, but author Stephen King argues that print fiction is dead, mainly because of the lower price point for the same story delivered electronically. What is clear is that there is a place in the world for both formats. They stand alone according to personal preferences and situations but they can equally weave and intertwine to enhance the magic of stories in ways that we have only ever dreamed of before. As Krystina Madej (2003) points out, “Each medium – oral tradition, print, radio, the movies, television, video – has added its own sound to the orchestra of storytelling as it has evolved. Each is important in its own right. Each influences, is used by, and depends on, the others.” (pg. 2).


Teachers' Hub - HarperCollins Australia

The Fat and Juicy Place

Please join HarperCollins Publishers in congratulating renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft who has been nominated for the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen award.

Bronwyn is an acclaimed Aboriginal artist and designer and a descendant of the Djanbun clan of the Bundjalung nation. Bronwyn’s artistic career has been expansive and diverse and ranges from fashion design to children’s book illustration.

Bronwyn has illustrated a number of children’s book for HarperCollins, including the award-winning The Fat and Juicy Place by Diana Kidd, Stradbroke Dreamtime by Oodgeroo Noonuccal and The Whalers, Minah and Dirrangan.

Bronwyn also illustrated Sun Mother Wakes the World: An Australian Creation Story by Diana Wolkstein, which was published by HarperCollins US in 2004 and named in the New York Public Library’s annual list for Children’s Book – 100 titles for Reading and Sharing.

In 1994 Bronwyn was the Australian candidate for the UNICEF Ezra Jack Keats International Award for Excellence…

View original post 57 more words


Serial in the afternoon

On the afternoon of the 2nd day of my placement, the Serials Librarian described and demonstrated her role in selecting, acquiring, processing and managing the Library’s serials collection. Now, some school libraries have a large collection of magazines and periodicals across a range of subject areas but my school library only has a small range of children’s popular mini- mags, such as D-Mag. Although they are part of the collection, they have not been accessioned and they can be borrowed but this is done offline using the borrower’s name and the issue number. They have limited use and are mostly used for recreational reading during lunch times. The decision to no longer acquire these texts was based on their lack of longevity of content and durability of the format. However, after seeing some of the many options and popular serials acquired by the public library I am reconsidering this decision. Whilst the majority of serials purchased by the public library are designed to meet the broad interest of the general public, a variety of ethnicities and cultural groups, in the school setting, interests are more narrow, assisting in the selection process. Whilst wanting to continue to avoid serials with limited content longevity, serials such as Australian Mad magazine present topics of interest to the primary school audience in a graphic format that appeals to students. This is definitely worth investigating when I return to my school library.

Same, same OR Different?

This week I began a Work Placement at my local Council City Library. I am immensely grateful to the people who make work experience and placements possible because it is a major disruption to the normal flow of their work and in this case, my workplace supervisor has only just returned from two weeks leave. So rather than catching up with copious amounts of emails, prioritising and developing a plan of attack for her backlog of work and reacquainting/catching up with colleagues, Andrea was taking me on a Work Health and Safety induction and tour of the Library facilities.

This Council-run Library is well-organised, well-serviced and, on the first day back after a 4-day long weekend, was well attended. One of the staff mentioned that it was usually their busiest day of the year and it sure looked like it! The returns machine was running on over-drive, with destination bags being filled every few minutes and staff rushing to sort and trolley, ready for shelving across the three floors of the Library. I sympathised with them but couldn’t help feeling envious of the level of automation that a large public library can afford, compared to my rush to return, shelve and borrow books class by class in the school library and make sure you save enough time for a targeted learning experience for my students. Like all libraries though, there are never enough trolleys and trying to get books shelved to meet demand is always an issue.

One of the ways of managing workflow is to increase the level of self-service and this public Library has had self-serve kiosks running for a few years. The Circulation desk is still always staffed by one Librarian to do manual borrowing and assist patrons with the self-serve kiosks. They are also supported by one or two additional Librarians rostered in the returns room at the same time. Like most Teacher Librarians, especially those of us providing Release from Face to Face having additional support for returns and borrowing is sometimes a luxury so training our students to self-serve is a sensible and necessary step, if not to ease the pressure on ourselves but to prepare students for the real world. Self-service for computer use and other services such as photocopying and printing is also encouraged in the public library and this area seems to require significant support from Librarians rostered on each of the floors.

The Collection is distributed across the three floors according to tradition (fiction versus non-fiction) as well as non-traditionally (junior non-fiction is distributed between adult non-fiction on the third floor and the Children’s collection, on the second floor). The distinction between the two is made by the specialist Children’s Librarian who determines whether a non-fiction title, targeted for children would also be useful for youth and adults, perhaps who are new to English or struggle to read. This professional judgement also comes in to play in the school library setting when determining whether a chapter book should be classed as a junior novel or placed in the Fiction chapter books sections, or whether a picture book should be shelved in the general collection or located in the Teacher’s Reference section as part of a teaching unit. Here we rely on our understanding of our patrons’ preferences for location and reflect on their queries when searching for specific resources, to tailor our libraries to their patrons. Library Management Systems (LMS) can provide us with the data we need to make these decisions. This public library uses the Spydus software which is a very user friendly interface when compared to the LMS I currently use (thankfully planned to be upgraded this year to a more user/ patron friendly system).

The decision to identify, and perhaps separate texts found on the Premier’s Reading Challenge (PRC) Book Lists is also managed in a variety of ways in school and public libraries across Australia. For some schools, the PRC is not a focus. Their students have access to a wide variety of good quality books, but for others, their families do not have these resources readily available, and so Teacher Librarians place greater emphasis on students being able to readily identify and select books from these booklists, encourage borrowing from them by requiring younger students to borrow at least one of their borrowing quota from these sections and supporting students and families in logging their reading of these texts with the reward of a Certificate at the end of each Challenge period. This is my current situation and the increase in interest in the Library, student participation in the Challenge and overall improved student engagement in Library programs has been encouraging. This supports continued expansion of these sections and ongoing refinement of identification processes for these texts. So of course I asked: “Does the public Library have separate locations for Premier’s Reading Challenge books?”

Just as the capacity for the Teacher Librarian to make significant changes in the Library program, collaborate and support other teachers and impact on literacy outcomes is dependent on Principal support and understanding of the impact that trained Teacher Librarians can make in schools, Public Libraries reflect Corporate approaches and ideas. Similar to schools, a change in leadership can see some programs supported and others let go. In the case of PRC locations in this public library, titles on the PRC Book Lists were/are identifiable to patrons by an appropriate sticker on the spine of the book. This was completed as part of the accessioning process in years past, was discontinued a few years ago but is now being undertaken retrospectively. However, all of these texts are located within their appropriate general collections to assist the general populations of patrons in selecting the most appropriate resources for their needs rather than meet criteria for a reward. I feel that this is most appropriate in the public library as its patronage is far broader than the school library setting and just by attending a local library, children are more likely to develop a love of reading for pleasure anyway, without the enticement of a Certificate

This brings me to Community Involvement and my assistance to the Children’s Program Officer, Mandy, yesterday. The Children’s Program focuses on pre-school engagement throughout the school term , but this Program really revs up in the School Holidays. I was fortunate enough to assist Mandy with setting up, performer liaison and participant management for a Puppetry Workshop, performed by Emily Beale, the owner, creator and performer of Bamboo Theatre. Throughout the school term, Emily delivers interactive performances to primary and secondary schools on a wide variety of issues including anti-bullying, personal growth and change and netiquette. Emily’s puppetry workshop though was a fun-filled, interactive, hands-on two hour workshop for children. As the Council books events such as these well in advance for publication in the Library’s “What’s On” booklet which is distributed at the beginning of each year, these school holiday events are always popular and often booked to capacity. Yesterday was no different with just over 50 children attending the show to learn the techniques of puppetry and create their own sock puppet. What really struck me about this workshop though, was how the processes that the children took to develop their puppets’ characters strongly supported oral story-telling. Putting on my teacher’s hat, and reflecting on the new NSW English Curriculum, the children were also scaffolded to develop and expand their creative and imaginative minds, in preparation for their sock puppets’ performance.

Not only do programs such as these continue to support children’s learning, they are also very effective in bringing families into the Library. Once there, children and parents read, play, draw and, most importantly, borrow texts.

To follow up this event I had the opportunity to assist with the Library’s promotion and publicity activities. The Library’s blog is maintained on and off by two different Collections Librarians who have been mainly focused on the upgrade of the Library website over the past few months and have only had time to add brief snippets to the blog during this period. I was given the task of drafting a short piece about the Puppetry Workshop for the blog and took some photos to add to it. Similar to the school library setting, Photography Permission had to be sought from the performer and there was discussion about gaining permissions from parents but, given parents’ reluctance in the past to sign permission forms, I decided to only take images where children could not be identified. This process is much easier in the school setting as Photography permission is sought and confirmed at the time of enrolment and at the beginning of each year. It is also a much smaller pool of subjects to choose from, so for school librarians, promotion and publicity issues are somewhat simplified. However, I sympathise with the Librarians in finding the time to plan and deliver community engagement activities and promote school library events. My school library publicity and promotion strategy is still in development and I have focused on well-placed promotion of PRC participation, updating the New Books signage and location, small, targeted special weeks displays and used Book Week to encourage families into the library for morning storytime events. Whilst public libraries are able to develop strong social media strategies for publicity and promotion, school libraries are restricted in these areas due to necessary age restrictions associated with social media. However, my school library has created a Twitter profile, targeting parent’s rather than students, and this will be developed to form a significant part of our social media strategy for the next two years.

Overall, Day 1 was a very productive start to my Work Placement.

Day Two was just as exciting. I was placed with the Processing section and the Periodicals Librarian. Again, the level of automation that the much larger scale of the public library requires is overwhelming. Similar to school libraries use of the Schools Catalogue Information Service for outsourcing cataloguing activities, the public library outsources cataloguing to a few private companies. These companies not only provide MARC records for each of the titles purchased from suppliers, but they also place relevant call number stickers, professionally cover (yay, no more contact bubbles!) and include RFID stickers on each item. They arrive at the Processing section boxed, with Invoices, ready for checking off, activating, quality control and allocation to the main Library or Branch Libraries. Those sectioned for Branch Libraries will then be picked up for delivery each couple of days to the Branches, along with items reserved by patrons at Branch Libraries. It is clear that processing involves very similar activities regardless of the size of the Library but the volume of the public library necessitates a broader range of these activities to streamline the process, especially given that resources are spread across sites. Before heading off to the far less familiar Periodicals section, I ‘borrowed’ a “Living Book”.

Living Books originated as real books that were often written by one person with a specific interest in a topic and written in a conversational, narrative style. The Living Books program at this Public Library formed part of the ‘Courage to be Free’ display and school program where people who had specific experiences during World War II could be ‘borrowed’ or booked for a small group talk about their experience. I had the opportunity to meet Mimi, a Jewish World War II survivor who talked for almost an hour about her experiences from the age of 20 months to 9 years old, throughout which time her family hid and were hidden from the Germans. moving throughout unoccupied France and then as an immigrant, settling in Auburn in Sydney’s western suburbs. This type of first hand experience through oral stories is easily integrated into the school library setting and I hope to be able to offer such opportunities to my students in the future.

ETL505- Local People, Far Places LibGuide

The LibGuide, Local People, Far Places is for Year 3 and 4 students at a culturally diverse primary school. These students will undertake a cross-discipline unit about the local environment with their class teachers. To infuse information literacy skills in this unit I expand on the local environment concept and introduce an additional global focus element. The development and construction of the LibGuide incorporates specific learning objectives and draws on learning theories and approaches, search strategies, and evaluation criteria examined in The Information Environment.

Local People, Far Places addresses Australian Curriculum General Capabilities, Level 3 (By the end of year 4) on the Learning Continuum. In working through this Guide students will interpret maps (Numeracy); identify the effects of choices in the construction of images (Literacy); develop a creative, digital representation (Information and Computer Technology capability); and identify and describe their intercultural understanding (Education Services Australia, n. d.).

The resources were chosen to specifically target these key objectives within the Information Skills Process (ISP) (Curriculum K-12 and NEALS, n. d.). I considered Bloom’s new taxonomy (BNT) and have attempted to focus on the Meta-cognitive aspects of Understanding through to Creating (Dalton, 2003). The key resource in this Unit is the fictional text, “Mirror = Mira’t” by Jeannie Baker (2010) . This text was chosen for this group of students for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is an excellent example of the wordless, pictorial construction of the product that students are to create. Secondly, it provides students with an example text that represents their cultural domain. Pritchard (2009) suggests that cultural relevance, coupled with authentic learning tasks ensures both effective learning and high engagement. As a large proportion of these students are of Middle Eastern backgrounds they can relate to both cultural contexts presented in this text.

As students use the LibGuide they will build on their information literacy skills to Define their problem by gathering general knowledge about the world and specific countries using General References such as print Atlases or the Fact Monster website.  The Locating and Selection facets of the ISP is partly constructed for students through the LibGuide but students will gain experience in these important steps by making choices from the book selections, web resources and search engine depending on their focus country and the reading level of the resource. Students will further develop their Selection skills by working through the activities at the “Difference Differently” (Together for Humanity Foundation Ltd, n. d.) website to create a survey for a local community member from their chosen country and make decisions about the relevance of the information and images they find to create their product. Once they have Selected their resources, students will then Organise them for Presentation, leading to the final assessment of the effectiveness of their digital book as an explanation of their learning. The LibGuide resources provide a broad orientation of the topic for students as well as progressively more narrow topics to guide their thinking and searching.

At the professional level of development of the Guide, I used a variety of strategies to find the information required and assessed the value of each finding against specific criteria. Drawing on recommended texts across channels such as the Premier’s reading Challenge (New South Wales Depatment of Education and Communities, 2013) and using the Subject headings facility of the Schools Catalogue and Information Service (Schools Catalogue Information Services, 2014) cross-referenced with my school OPAC, suitable Atlases, Books and websites were identified. LibrarySpot (2014) also proved useful in identifying a suitably “easy-read” alternative to print atlases for students with lower reading abilities. Kathy Schrock’s “5W’s of website evaluation” (Schrock, 2014)  was invaluable as I assessed the resultant websites for reliability, validity and authoritativeness and heeded good web design principles to reduce distractions with unnecessary images and brief text. The majority of the resources chosen are government sites and therefore represent a good example of ‘trusted’ sites for students. Finally, a readability check of the resources allowed me to categorise them according to reading ease from Easy to Harder to Hardest for students to choose from. The readability check often proved considerably higher than what I expected but those chosen match the range of their abilities.

The experience of researching and creating this LibGuide has been very engaging. Whilst I was frustrated at times by the readability levels of the most interesting and engaging resources I had found, it revealed the importance of matching ability to resource to ensure success.

Overall, this exercise demonstrated the importance of closely matching Curriculum and student needs to resources, and ensuring that the resources chosen are accessible and available.  It also revealed that checking for reliability, validity and authoritativeness is an important task that sets and demonstrates high expectations for students when they conduct research.

(Revised Word Count = 793)


The cloak of invisibility (ETL 505)

Cloak of Invisibility
The Making of Harry Potter 29-05-2012 Image by Karen Roe. CC by 2.0

It seems apt to make a literary reference from “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (Rowling, 1997) when discussing the future of the description and organisation of materials in school libraries. As users’ preferences for how they find, identify, select, obtain and navigate information, change, professional description, rather than becoming obsolete will transform under a cloak of invisibility.

The implications of the information age, as it has become widely touted (Castells, 2010), apply across disciplines and contexts. The resultant information overload means that information management- the organisation of information so that it is useful for users, but more importantly, so that users can access it effectively- has become even more important. Similarly, information quality is an important consideration. As Hider (2012) states, “…like air, some information resources may be better than others. Their content may be more accurate, more relevant, or more intelligible” (px1).

We are, of course, talking about metadata – the theme that runs throughout my most recent studies in ‘Describing Educational Resources’. Hider (2012) defines metadata as organising information by describing the process and the product and as I have stumbled through the basics of resource description tools, applying metadata, describing and classifying resources, I have gained an enormous appreciation for the work required by professional cataloguers. But we are now at a point in history where cost and scalability are increasingly impacting on the perceived value of professional description as a profession.

Professional description, using controlled vocabularies creates high quality resource description. It is highly effective but very costly. Compare this to computerised content-based (CB) retrieval and social metadata (SM) tools and it is clear that these latter two are considerably cheaper and highly scalable, plus, users, especially primary school students, are very familiar with them. However, they may seem attractive on the surface but the trade-off is in quality. If they do not produce quality resources for the information seeker, they are not effective. This is most important when considering the age and intellectual capacity school library users. If users are seeking conceptual information, especially in a non-text medium, CD and SM tools provide little assistance. If users have a general idea of the topic they need information about but do not know all of the terminology associated with it, CD and SM tools are not yet able to uncover the full range of associated information (Hider, 2012). However, professional description and its tools could meet the requirement of quality as well as effectiveness in retrieving the full range of information required by users. Through subject headings and cross-referencing, professional description tools offer users alternatives to narrow their search and they manage conceptual metadata concerning multi-modal mediums exceptionally well using controlled vocabularies. Rather than having to teach the skills of OPAC searching, internet searching and social curation separately, being able to teach one system that combines all three would produce the most effective results. As McCutcheon (2009) suggests, “the one with the most tools wins”, and whilst it would be unnecessary to explicitly teach students controlled vocabularies, this complementary approach could use a cloak of invisibility over controlled vocabularies connected seamlessly to user-preferred CB and SM tools, providing the necessary quality and effectiveness of information resources to meet our students’ needs.


Castells, M. (2010). The rise of the network society (2nd ed., Vol. 2). West Sussex (UK): Wiley and Blackwell.

Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet.

McCutcheon, S. (2009). Keyword vs controlled vocabulary searching: the one with the most tools wins. Indexer, 27(2), 62-65.

Rowling, J. (1997). Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury.

Web 2.0 – to tool or not to tool

Web 2.0 tools are representative of the requirements for active participation in the 21st Century and beyond, even more so with the integration of technology required by the recently updated national curriculum here in Australia.  The skills required for use of these tools, such as critical thinking, organisation, creativity and communication are highly valued in today’s work environment and therefore need to be taught in school’s today. They closely match the general capabilities required by the Australian Curriculum.

However, in primary schools, access to many of these sites is limited in accordance with their usage policies.  Many of these sites and tools require students to be 13 years of age or older and therein lies the limitation or barrier to take-up with the majority of classroom teachers I have worked with. It is a cultural shift at the teacher level as well as the student level. Whilst technology is a great motivator and can be used as a tool for engaging students in the environments that they prefer, it can also be a distraction, overwhelming for students who need less distraction and a challenge for teachers to implement because they need to be patient as students overcome the newness of the tool before they can begin to produce the level of work expected.

Teacher Librarians (TL’s) are therefore well-placed to be able to introduce Web 2.0 experiences for students, They can provide blogging as a class or with classes anywhere in the world, using their global networks. They can use wikis as a research tool as well as for research content, and so on. As TL’s see students from a wide variety of age groups they can experiment with Web 2.0 across these and identify and implement them in the library setting then assist class teachers with those most appropriate to specific age groups. Having the time to evaluate and program for Web 2.0 tools is of course a consideration for TL’s, but leveraging professional networks and exploring recommendations from others is always a good start. I recommend starting small, ironing out the kinks relevant to your school, students and technology, expanding from there and then assisting classroom teachers to spread use.

I don’t believe that TL’s can ignore Web 2.0 tools because they are best placed to become the champions of these tools. They can integrate them seamlessly with information literacy processes and digital literacy. The also provide excellent examples for positive digital footprint exploration.

The following links provide reviews/examples of useful Web 2.0 tools to use with students:

Web 20.14: Web 2.0 for 2014

50 web 2.0 tools your students want you to use

TeachersFirst’s BYOD Dream Tools: Free Tools that work on ANY device

Web 2.0 and more

The 100 best web 2.0 tools chosen by you

ETL550 – Why do we need to know about resource description?

If Teacher Librarialibr_catlgns don’t usually create metadata, like catalogue records, why do we need to have an understanding of information resource description?

This is a good question. Most Teacher Librarians in Australian schools have the advantage of subscription to the services of the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), which allows us to download resource records directly to our local Library catalogue. Does this mean that we do not need to know how resources can be described?

Well that’s a big NO! Having an, at least basic understanding of the field of resource description helps the Teacher Librarian to be able to meet the information needs of their users, the students, teachers and parents at the school, as well as provide teaching opportunities for information literacy lessons.

The Teacher Librarian uses their professional knowledge and experience to add to the records provided by SCIS by putting a local spin on them and linking library records to units being undertaken, topics of interest in the school and providing professional development activities around these. The catalogued records can also be further curated at a local level through social media platforms such as Pinterest, Dropbox and Diigo, to name a few. This facilitates end-user efficiency and satisfaction when seeking information.

Similarly, being able to group resources according to the specific delivery requirements of groups of users means that the teacher Librarian must have a clear understanding of the format (or manifestation) of the resource, both at the resource purchasing selection phase, as well as at the discovery phase.

What is most evident to me, in my own practice is the frequency of both students and staff in by-passing the catalogue. For some this may be a time-saving strategy (for them, not me!) and for others it may represent a lack of confidence in undertaking an independent search at the terminal. Either way, it flags an information need for my students and peers that will need to be addressed through explicit teaching and practice.


Image source: Newcastle Region Library:



The role and nature of school library collections

Virginia Walter (2001) suggests that there are many things that Teacher Librarians (TL) are very good at but we fall short when it comes to reflecting on what we do and why, and it is this that serves us best when creating libraries for children now and in the future.

This semester “ETL503 -Resourcing the Curriculum”, has changed that – it required me to identify my strengths and weaknesses in collection development. Coming from a classroom teacher position into the TL field has placed me well for linking teaching and learning to resources. However, the proliferation of online curation tools now available can be confusing for the beginner (check out my post on Pinterest). Thankfully, I think I’ve got a good system now where my Pinterest Boards tie in with Selection, Acquisition, Purchasing and accessioning workflows. I do worry that using this type of tool “in the cloud” leaves me vulnerable to loss of data if it is ever removed.

Johnson (2010) reminds us that the loss of oral stories in Plato’s time has parallels to what is happening with technology at the moment.  For my part, I am excited by what is now available for the learners in my school and how global education trends are making the world a much smaller place. But there are issues with this. The increasing demands of the digital world are forcing our hands in some ways and cutting them off in others. The challenge in trying to provide resources in formats that our users want (and we want to be able to provide) is a complex issue (see “Give me quality over quantity any day”). It’s a bit like chaos theory – whilst Digital Rights Management concerns restrict our access to e-book and audio books, the world finds another way. The changes afoot are moving more towards freely available, open source digital products and how we, as TL’s select, acquire and catalogue these will impact significantly on workflows. Watch this space.

Chaos theory was mentioned in Jurassic Park as an explanation for how the dinosaurs ‘found a way’ to reproduce outside of the laboratory.

Whilst our computer systems and databases are struggling to keep up with cataloguing these new types of resources, the rate of change with the processes involved in identification, selection and acquisition of resources, is also struggling.

With digital resources, identification has become quite complex and time-consuming. Comparing books, e-books, audio books, apps and learning objects for specific teaching and learning purposes far exceeds the administration time available. However, the balance here is in acquisition, which is immediate and requires no stamping, barcoding or covering.

Similarly, we are continually being asked to do more with less in terms of money (see “Show me the money!“) We have to be a collaborator, a steward and a thinker (Lamb and Johnson, 2007). This applies across all aspects of the TL role – we collaborate with others to identify and select appropriate resources, take their suggestions and follow-up ideas (steward), and we think about how everything is connected, take opportunities for joint projects, and use hard data to evaluate our programs and the collection, then make compelling cases for more funding.

The nature of the school library collection is changing. We must change with it by making sound professional decisions and basing them on clear Policies that are derived from user data, library trends and community needs.



Easy acquisitions

In a Library serving over 300 students with a Teacher Librarian and no additional support staff for administrative services such as shelving, accessioning, book covering, and so on, streamlining the acquisition process is vital. The process that I currently follow is:

Flow chart for acquisitions
Flow chart for acquisitions

This process does rely on the Principal and Librarian being mutually respectful of the early decision-making about the approved Library Budget. It also places the onus on the Librarian in making certain that a running budget is maintained each month to track costs and mark off identified purchases, as recommended by ALIA Schools and Victoria Catholic Teacher Librarian’s “A Manual for developing policies and procedures in Australian school library resources centres (2007).

Rather than seeking approval for expenditure with each and every purchase, this process makes reference to the approved budget which simply requires the Principal’s initial for a Purchase Order to be initialised or a payment to be made. It is not perfect, but it works at the moment.


ALIA Schools and Victoria Catholic Teacher Librarian. (2007). A Manual for developing policies and procedures in Australian school library resources centres. Accessed at

Addendum: Of course, this process is relevant for physical resources that follow the same path to our shelves. Digital resources require a different procedure for acquisition, sometimes even specific to the exact format or type. For example, ebooks or audio books purchase as part of the Volume Purchasing agreement for Educational Institutions is quite different to that used for purchasing ebooks via another online supplier or for Teacher Resources. 

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑