Introduction: - This report details my professional teacher-librarian placement at St Matthews Catholic Primary School, Cornubia Brisbane. The school’s population is 574 students extending from Prep to grade 6 with 38 teaching and admin staff.
Owing to the Teacher Librarian working a five day fortnight the placement was spread over a month, Not having worked in a school library, it was requested from the school principal for permission to work as a volunteer within the school library on a continuous basis from 20th July 2015 till 20th August 2015 incorporating the ten-day placement with the schools Teacher-librarian.
Overview of the library - The roles of this library is based on providing an equitable literacy experience to all 574 students on a class and individual basis, as well as facilitate the efforts of the classroom teachers. The library is open continuously from 8.00am to 3.30pm five days a week, The teacher-librarian, library teacher or library aid are available to support staff and students access to materials both inside and outside of class time.
The library goes to great lengths to inculcate and support a love of reading in their students by making available a diverse quantity of quality fiction and non-fiction texts. These texts are chosen, to complement the students’ interests through an extensive selection that cater for diverse variations in learning styles and abilities; students are encouraged take ownership of their library by suggesting fiction texts to be added to the library collection as well as vote on existing texts to be either kept or removed from the collection.
The library provide support and collaboration with classroom teachers to plan, implement programmes; starting from being involved in each grades initial preparation and planning meeting and providing support and a wide variety of curriculum resources to cater for the programmes decided upon.
Users - An educational library has a well-defined client base, the library this school library is no exception and is well utilised by both staff and students. Each class, from preps through to grade six is rostered to access the library during their weekly library lesson, and can also access the library during the play period of lunch if they choose, however library staff are not in attendance at this time and a general teacher is rostered to supervise the students during this period of time. Lunchtime students are generally accessing library iPads, laptops or desktop computers to work on school assignments or projects, play on school-sanctioned game apps or websites.
All students are encouraged to take part in the Premiers’ Reading Challenge, both the TL and classroom teachers encourage students to enter with the successful students photo inserted within a star and placed on a wall in the library, this small demonstration of fame has encouraged many more to complete their list, as well as becoming a focal point on any library visit.
Teacher resources are held within the library and are available for access during the school day. Teaching staff regularly makes contact with the TL looking for particular texts for their lessons, or to pick up pre-prepared guided reading packs for students access within the classroom.
Collections - The school operates OLIVER as its Library Management System (LMS) for all operational functions – circulation, acquisitions, serials and cataloguing (through Resource Description Access (RDA) via Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS). All resources are processed, catalogued, barcoded, provided with an accession number and covered with contact (as required) before being either placed in the collection for borrowing or being circulated to the classrooms.
Apart from new items for teaching staff there is no reservations available for students all loans are based upon a first come first served basis.
The libraries main collection is comprised within the subsequent areas:
Junior Fiction – comprising of suitable reading level picture books and big books for children from Prep to Grade Two. These items are stored in a series of low, wheeled boxes, at a height appropriate for smaller children to peruse and choose from, these items are not shelved in any order. Age levelled guided material is held on shelving at the back of the library area and are conveyed to the main area for teacher directed borrowing.
Intermediate Fiction - comprising of simple chapter books and novel-sized stories that are intended for students from Grade Three to Grade Four and are held on the libraries main fiction shelves.
Senior Fiction - comprising of more challenging texts, are mostly accessed by students in Grades Five & Six. This collection also includes a small collection of graphic novels.
Popular Series Texts – these texts are kept on a separate shelf and also on racks in series and gender order. As stated previously, students are encouraged to recommend texts to be added to the library collection and as such the library receives the most requests for additions to this collection.
Non-Fiction - comprising of texts designed to complement particular units of work and catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal System within the general collection. Being a Catholic school, religious texts are a significant portion of the general collection.
Teacher Resources - stored in the library back room these resources encompass guided readers, ephemera, maps and globes, iPads, Laptops, speakers, cameras, science and geography kits.
Technology – The library building houses the schools computer lab and issues the schools laptops and iPads that are used both inside and outside the library.
Staffing and Management: - The library personnel consist of three members; the teacher-librarian works a five-day fortnight consisting of every second Wednesday and each Thursday and Friday. Her main roles comprise of managing the library budget; curriculum planning; sourcing appropriate and requested items; cataloguing, literacy instruction, collection management and weeding.
Her job share partner’s five-day fortnight comprises every second Wednesday and each Monday and Tuesday. As she does not hold any library qualifications her main role comprises of literacy instruction.
The Library aid and works Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week and has been in the role for almost 20 years. Her main roles are to issue, return and shelve items; process items from purchase through to covering, cataloguing and accessioning.
There is a overlapping of some roles, however most decisions are arrived at as a consultative team.
Ongoing professional and personal development is well supported by a range of in-house programs and external workshops. Each Wednesday general staff meeting includes at least one development session, presented by various staff that have attended courses, workshops and seminars and are encouraged to share their new knowledge at team meetings.
Meeting needs of its users - While not currently teaching and with the experience of school libraries terminating at High school, there is inadequate familiarity of school libraries to compare and contrast the placement school against. However with 25 years of library occupation involving the tutoring of students within TAFE libraries it is perceived that the staff of St Matthews library excel in meeting the requirements of its users.
The Students of St Matthews have been provided with access to fiction texts in conjunction with in library classes that inspire, appeal to their curiosity and are at an appropriate reading level to nurture continued fascination in reading.
The Premier’s Reading Challenges shortlisted books feature prominently in the teacher-librarians regular purchases. Otherwise, regular purchases of new books reflect students’ interests some of which the students themselves request or recommend, provide a collection that is in daily turnover by students.
However the libraries non-fiction collection is in need of updating as sizeable segments are dated and apart from required class assignments specific texts do not appear to be stimulating enough to be accessed by the students.
The libraries electronic collection, which can be accessed from home, is also deficient, while providing access to online resources and eBooks for staff and students, this service is only moderately utilised by staff and not at all by students. It does include an eBook collection; which can contribute in supporting the learning needs of students with reading difficulties as well as enticing students who cannot relate to physical texts. Nonetheless the teacher-librarian stated that the complete lack of use by students could possibly be attributed to the initial difficulty in providing a secure and uncomplicated student login. This problem is on the agenda to be rectified in the foreseeable future
Information literacy is of particular interest to me; through user education classes we can, as teachers-librarians, initiate our students to lifelong learning by giving the future skills that are essential for acquiring knowledge. Being unable to observe any programed sessions due to the time of the year; however current observations showed that all library staff model educative behaviour on a time of need basis in most customer dealings. All students can access the school Online Public Access Computer (OPAC) at home or within the library via their student logins but this service is rarely utilised and only two students were observed utilizing this system across the four weeks of the practicum.
Promotion of new resources is crucial to ensure teaching staff is kept well informed of the libraries holdings and to continue the attraction students have to favourite authors and series. To this point small collections of new resources are displayed by grade order, at the entrance to the library to notify both staff and students.
The general colour scheme and lack of student centred decoration (during the practicum) suggest an absence of vivacity that would further attract and appeal to students.
Apart from these points, the library does a respectable job in addressing the needs of staff and students. All staff have equitable access to the libraries resources, is able to arrange requests for specific items with full expectation of the library purchasing these for future use.
The library has conveyed in numerous ways that the library belongs to the students, by asking for and receiving their opinion on purchases and text to be weeded, the consequence of this cooperation is a consumed and constructive collection. The detail that each person entering, student or staff, was greeted by name presents a friendly, neutral atmosphere that was obviously appreciated.
Activities - Owing to previous library experience the practicum was not as unfamiliar and daunting as it could have been, apart from making the transition from Library of Congress to Dewey Decimal and learning the complexities of the school LMS Oliver I felt at home from day one and was given various supervised and unsupervised undertakings across the period of the practicum.
One of the first projects I was involved in was considering prospective opinions and benefits of altering the borrowing matrix for the students.
Each class within the school is rostered to attend the library each week as part of their regular school program; lessons are established with consultation between the class teacher and the teacher librarian at the beginning of the term. Consequently I had a set rota of classes each day to at first observe, later to assist with and subsequently to instruct.
Preparation and Grade One – This program consisted of a series of shortlisted books; Pig Pug, Scary Night, Go to sleep Jessie and Snail and Turtle are friends were the texts I read to the preps and then asked them to rate on likeability; Loved it, Liked it, It was alright, Did not like It, the results to be tallied on the wall.
Reflection – You can never put too much enthusiasm into reading to the younger grades, even young children have their own strong opinions on what they like and do not like.
Grade Two & Three – Was concerned with an established writing review of allocated texts.
Reflection – This project had been established between the Teacher-librarian and and the class teacher and did not allow for interaction apart from assisting in marking of completed work. Even in the same grades there is a marked difference in ability, comprehension and writing dexterity. The task was to supervise two or three students who would benefit from one-to-one tutoring.
Grade Four - classes consisted of a series of shortlisted books; My two blankets, The Stone Lion and Rivertime were the texts read to this class across the practicum, the students were to focus on language; figurative language; synonyms; character development; metaphor; making inference; relevance of illustrations and authors point of view.
Reflection – The children’s understanding of difference between cultures and people was remarkable. Rivertime was such a large involved text (78 pages) that I decided to cover it over two weeks reading it through the use of an epidiascope, the students enjoyed the comic book style of the text and it surprisingly held their interest over the two weeks.
Grade Five - Was concerned with an established writing review of allocated texts and a reading circle, where the students discuss and possibly recommend texts they have read on their own.
Reflection – My assignment was to direct two or three students who would benefit from one-to-one tutoring as well as assisting in marking of completed work.
Grade Six - The major task across the practicum was to work with all three grade six classes in researching and writing up a report on a specified Australian soldier from the WW1 battle of Fromelles, prior to the students trip to the War Memorial, Canberra. This involved preparing a weekly power point listing the causes of WW1, life in the trenches, the battle of Fromelles and assist students in the research required to find their soldier and complete their task.
Reflection – A serendipitous project that allowed me to prepare and deliver on a subject that is of personal interest, the students appreciated and utilised the display I provided.
Apart from working with the above classes I issued, returned and shelved texts on a daily basis; repaired resources and copy catalogued through OLIVER and RDA via SCIS.
The training I received from the teacher-librarian and her assistants, benefited me greatly, when owing to illness, I was asked to fill in for the teacher-librarian and in due course managed (my own) library, if only for one day. I now know that as a result of being part of this process and the studies I have undertaken, I have the ability and knowledge to execute, at least the basic tasks, expected in operating a library effectively.
Evaluation of the placement - This placement was of immense help to my chosen career. As stated previously I have had extensive experience in TAFE libraries, however, as a fairly inexperienced teacher, not currently at a school, this intense process deepened my understanding and altered my perception of the role of teacher-librarian, in many ways this practicum has broadened my comprehension to the scope of the profession and has exposed me to an entirely different mode of library, using distinctive systems and procedures which I believe that I can employ in any future position.
Being based at St Matthews has been an invaluable experience as the staff answered every question, made me feel like a true member of the library and allowed me to ‘practice’ every aspect of library procedure and allowed me the opportunity to gain a “big picture” view of my future profession. My role in this practicum was to assist where required, in as many varied library activities as possible, to support the teacher-librarian and her staff in as many situations as they were willing to trust me with, to observe and examine the running of the library and most importantly to subsequently provide an exceptional service to the staff and students of the school. I found it gratifying in having my opinions requested involving a number of procedures
Owing to the deficiency of school library experience, the placement was a highly valuable experience as it allowed for the formation of correlations between the practicable and the theoretical aspects acquired throughout the evolution of our studies.
A new outlook relating to teacher-librarianship has in some regards also expanded through this practicum. While a library technician (as I am) is engrossed primarily in operational involvements and a teacher (as I am also) is immersed in the development of their students, I have realised that a teacher-librarian (as I hope to be) must reflect strategically, taking into account the holistic viewpoint of the library, the students and staff and the school as an entirety, its not all about the books.