School libraries have been in the news lately, but not for the best of reasons. Many schools across Australia are choosing to reduce their library services, or even shut their school libraries completely. This is causing outrage across the library community and beyond, as well-resourced libraries are linked closely to academic success and student wellbeing. The current Australian Children’s Laureate Leigh Hobbs has announced on social media that he is investigating the decline of school libraries in Australia and intends to focus his efforts on turning this disturbing trend around. Hopefully he will have some sway because school libraries are worth fighting for.
We are lucky at Glen Eira College to have a warm, inviting library space filled with an array of digital and print materials that are well-utilised. The library staff encourage students and staff to ask for help when they need it and request any resources we don’t already have. The school leadership supports our library by giving us funds to purchase the best materials, hiring qualified and passionate library staff, and being a great champion of the library within our school community. We are proud to declare that the library is the hub of the school.
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) recently released a document entitled 10 Ways That Libraries Power High Performance Schools. We are working hard to achieve each of these targets at Glen Eira College, as outlined below.
1. Modern Learning Environments
The Glen Eira College library is a welcoming, flexible and dynamic space that accommodates all types of learning. Just this week a teacher mentioned to me that the library was working incredibly well for their needs, and the needs of their class. That kind of feedback is exactly what we want to hear!
2. Digital Hubs
Our school library gives all staff and students access to various e-resources and technologies including online databases, loan laptops, and Clickview. We are particularly proud of our brand new library system Access-it which encourages the students to become more information literate.
3. Research Skills
Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, but a librarian will find you the right one. I work with classes, groups and individual students every week to locate resources, assess sources for reliability, create bibliographies for assignments, and hone down research skills for tertiary study and beyond. This term I have been working with Year 7s and 8s on research projects covering diverse topics like Body Systems and Vikings.
4. Reading for Pleasure
Sadly and surprisingly, this is something that can be overlooked in school libraries today. Glen Eira College is one that breaks that mould. Not only are students encouraged to read for pleasure during English classes, but we also have a strong participation in the Premiers’ Reading Challenge, library staff that read fanatically to be able to make recommendations, a healthy budget for our fiction collection and a growing and enthusiastic lunchtime Book Club.
5. Curriculum Support
Not only do we supply teachers with the textbooks and digital resources that they need, but we make sure to stay abreast of the curriculum ourselves so we can help enrich students’ classroom learning. Our Library Technician Ms Megan Gatt prioritises the processing of new curriculum materials so these items are available promptly for our staff and students.
6. Cyber safety
We aim to give expert advice and access to support networks for students in all aspects of cyber safety, including online bullying. We monitor computer use in the library and have resources for parents who may be concerned about the appropriate use of social media.
7. Celebrating Diversity
The library is an inclusive sanctuary for those who need it at school. We support students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socio-economic backgrounds by providing relevant books, running events that promote harmony and understanding, and making everyone feel welcome and included.
8. Participation and Access
Our library supports students with disabilities by enabling access to all. We offer a safe space with approachable staff, and materials to support students with all kinds of needs. Our Library Monitor group also work to improve our library from a student point-of-view, and this diverse group is open for all students to join.
9. Special Programs
It feels like we are celebrating something new every week in the library! So far this year we’ve had displays and competitions for reading-related programs, ANZAC Day, Diversity Week, International Women’s Day, to name a few. We also have plenty of upcoming events including Book Week, NAIDOC Week, Banned Books Week and a Book Club excursion to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.
10. Building Community
Our library hosts meetings, Homework Help sessions, student artwork exhibitions, informal study groups, Book Club, Comic Book Club, and many, many more widespread events and programs. The library is a focal point for community within the school, and we intend to keep it that way.