="Title" content="Issues and challenges of a small library">

Friday, March 24, 2006

Getting the students to read what they borrow

Listserve Conversations

Below is an email message sent to OZTL listserve and my reply. Of course the borrowing of books is something that concerns librarians - making sure that students get access to the books and borrow something they really wish to read.
-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, 23 March 2006 9:53 AM
Subject: [OZTL_NET] Borrowed books not being read

Because we are a growing school (over 600) I actually have less aide time in the library. The aide spends all her time shelving returns that have not been read.

Some teachers say every child must borrow three books. Others make the children return their books every week even though they can keep their books for two weeks.

I am thinking of reducing the number of books children can borrow to two but that seems a backward step. What is your loan limit (primary school) for children? Our limit is three.

How do you get children to actually read the books they borrow? The number of children that actually reborrow a book after a week is one or two per class. I love children borrowing but I know most of them do not read the books.

What do you do if the teacher says children must borrow three books? return every book each week? The return trolley is so depressing when it is full of books that have not been read by the Year 4-7 children.

Looking forward to your suggestions.
Queensland SS

My Reply
I allow our children to borrow only one book. ....before you gasp....we are a small school of 140 students and I am on campus 2 days a week. Only this year have I managed to have my aid in the library before school on the days I am not there. So effectively the library is open every day except every second Friday before school and every afternoon after school, and on the lunch breaks when I am on campus.
We could not keep up with the reshelving of the books if I allowed 3-4 books per child - Aside from not having enough stock to rotate. With the library open every day, I cannot see there is a reason to take multiple books out at once. (especially fiction) I do allow more books on special circumstances, when I know that the children are researching, but for fiction I allow only one item at a time. Think how many fiction books you can read at once?
All children are on site everyday and the library is open on enough occasions during the week to allow the children to borrow when they have completed a book. Many children come in to have their fiction titles renewed if they have not finished them.
Today I sent out 14 overdue notices, which is still 10% of my student population and 14 more students than I had time to chase up. I would not have time follow to students with multiple loans. To my way of thinking it is a way of working smarter, with the limited amount of hours available.

Ms A.

This reply also came to the list to address the concern.
-----Original Message-----
Sent: Friday, 24 March 2006 8:18 AM
To: OZTL_NET@listserv.csu.edu.au
Subject: [OZTL_NET] Borrowed books not being read

I raised a similar question on the NZ school library listserv recently.
A couple of things I found helpful from the replies were based on the ideas of creating a culture where borrowing books was an expectation rather than "compulsory." Also that helping students find the right book in the first place is important. One school was fortunate enough to have an assistant who could work with more reluctant borrowers for this purpose, though providing this kind of personalised service may be more difficult elsewhere.


Skilling Work Colleagues

On the job training
Our literacy coordinator and learning support teacher are instigating an across the school language program, and with this they have purchased quite a number of books to support the program and class reading.

They were good enough to buy contact to replenish our supplies, and our budget will not stretch to any incidentals and unplanned for items. Before these books could be processed I needed to know how they would be used in the classroom and how often teachers would need to access them and for how long. Would they be allocated to a class for a whole year, or would teachers use them with any year level on multiple occasions throughout the year? After meeting with them it was decided they would be stored in their levels as one collection with the other reading materials. Teachers would take what they needed to support teaching and return after use.

Each of these books is small (about 10 pages), but the size of an object does not lessen its processing time. Each item would have to be individually catalogued and bar-coded as they would not be used as whole sets. It was decided not to fully contact each one, as it is a time consuming task and teachers wanted to use them as soon as possible, so contact would only go over the barcode areas. The reading collection books are not given Dewy classifications or spine labels and in the past if they were on SCIS, the cataloguing details were just accepted whether they were fiction or non fiction. They are differentiated from the main collection by a dot in the top right hand corner of the book. These particular books were not on SCIS so had to be manually catalogued. My aid is confident to use SCIS downloads and leave me to edit any items afterwards, but the individual cataloguing she felt was beyond her. There were too many items for me to do in a short timeframe, so it was time she learnt how to do some basic cataloguing with my assistance. Together we catalogued one item, and luckily they are all by the same author and publisher, so after doing one item she will be able to copy this cataloguing data to create the rest of the records. The replicate tool was something she was already familiar with so the multiple items will be no problem. We added a couple of creative subject headings in anticipation of the queries the program managers are likely to ask of us in the future. The reading collection does not have a separate GMD, such as reading text, but it does have a location of Reading Resources so it is possible to search the collection by location to find the items if necessary. They could also be searched by series, but there are 5 different series names used in this reading set. We could search by Author, but the author of these books has also written other titles. By far the easiest search to perform and one that all users are able to do is by subject heading. We added 2 new subject headings to help us in the future searches of all the titles in this reading set. This way they can be found simply on the OPAC with no administrator privileges to perform the search.

Releasing the new titles
During lessons with the students I showed them the new titles we had processed; most of these had come from Australian Standing Orders. Judging from the teacher and student reaction it was a good move. The picture books were of high quality and the narratives were of varying levels so there was something of interest for all. They were very enthusiastic to borrow and browse the new titles.

More manual processing
I am still making my way through the uncatalogued items - most of these are kits and bits and pieces that have come astray from kits and no one seems to know where they belong. Most of the bits need repackaging and taking out of the old and broken hang up bags. I am repacking where possible using clear document wallets so I can store them on the Teacher Reference shelves and they will be found and used. This is a bit of a challenge and is very time consuming. I am thinking through ideas at the moment about how to present the Teacher Reference materials better and make it easier to find and so see it used more. There will be more about this as I come up with solutions.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Unshelved is a comic strip about blogs in libraries. To find the comics scroll down the page a bit and have a look at the archive link. To keep up with other blogs I am interested in I use RSS feeds and the one I use is Blogbridge. I am not going into RSS feeds here because it is a bit off the topic of this blog. There's plenty of information on this just by doing a 'Google' and Blogbridge will turn up there.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Positive Meeting

9th March, 2006

The meeting with the Principal was very positive, with me being allowed to attend network meetings. I rolled my NCT into it so I would be able to go. At the staff meeting that is closest to the next meeting I will explain to staff where I am going and how I am using the time to get there.

I am also going to the ICT meetings. These are after school and it was suggested I should encourage the teacher who works with the classes in ICT implementation to go with me. I think it will be useful for him as he will meet others in the district that are doing a similar role as he is. I suggested that I should teach him as much as he is able to cope with in the management of the network and server when it arrives, but there is an expectation that I will manage most of this. I am OK with this as it gives me an opportunity to set up an intranet and the virtual library idea to make it work and also have a library focus.

I left my planning with the principal as he was most keen to look at it during the week. He also noticed that the year 3,4,5,6 & 7 were all covering biographies in some way. It will be good to map some trends over the course of a year to see the repetitions and see if we can put some emphasis on particular writing skills in certain years instead of this sort of overlap. I am keen to begin writing narratives with the children, as there is a story writing competition that the students will be able to enter which coincides with Book Week in August. That will be a good focus for term 2.

We did not get to the topic of budget and allocations. I will work on that, but he was keen to hear about the virtual library idea, and what sorts of things would be placed on our site and how parents and community could use it. I am going to add this idea to our gaming fund submission to get the resources. I will need some IT support in the set up of this, because I will need a dynamic website and the OPAC will be the database backend to it.

Cataloguing kits
Aside from that I catalogued a box of resources that did not have ISBNs. I was able to get the basic cataloguing data from the SCIS OPAC by searching by title. Most of the resources were kits and SCIS does not do kits very well – especially to cater for teachers, who may only wish to take only one or two items from a kit. In any case all the contents of the kit have to be attached to the outside of the kit so we can track what is missing easily. All items have to be marked that they belong to a particular kit so if they go astray we know which kit they belong to. No wonder kits get left until the last to be done.

Ordering Resources
I ordered $100 worth of books through Bookclub and managed to get ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ and the ‘Bum Thief’ set. I wonder what the reaction will be to those? I bought my son the full set for Christmas a couple of years ago. Many have the impression that librarians’ and teachers’ kids are good readers and are model students. I have a son who is a reluctant reader and a very reluctant school attender. On receipt of the ‘Bum Thief’ books, the whole set was read before school returned and have been re-read since. I think that has to be a recommendation!
The library collection is very conservative. There is absolutely nothing controversial in it – not even the ‘Far out Brussel Sprout’ book of children’s poetry – and I thought everyone would have had that!

For myself I bought ‘The Paperbag Princess’ and will make sure I read it to classes every International Women’s Day.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Planning to meet with the Principal

7th March, 2006
I have asked my principal for a meeting this week to discuss some issues that concern me and also to get feedback from him about how he thinks things are going in the library. I have made sure all my planning is up to date and intend to leave it with him for the week as it is also contains a collection of ideas for the future.

Some issues I would like to raise with him are:
  • Allowing me to attend local teacher-librarian network meetings. These occur 6 times per year and for many years I was the coordinator of this group and also set up the listserve. These occur partly in school time and partly outside school hours. I am considering rolling all my NCT into this, as 15 minutes on a weekly basis is not a useful time for me to use effectively.

  • I would also like to attend the ICT meetings held in our region. These are after school. Both of these meetings however occur on our staff meeting day, so that could be part of a stumbling block.

  • I am having issues with a couple of teachers leaving me to their classes while they do other tasks. I know teachers are busy and I would not mind if it occurred once or twice, but it is happening on a weekly basis. My role is not to provide NCT relief.

  • I need access to teachers planning as many of the lessons I am doing are almost off the cuff and I don’t know what is happening with the class until I arrive on the day to teach them. That is not good use of my time nor a useful lesson for the students. Part of the problem is that I am not on site every day and have to pick up on the day that I arrive.

  • Budget – I do not understand how the Key Learning Areas are funded. It appears that each coordinator can purchase to the full extent of their budget without consulting with the library staff time to process the resources, and without allocating funds for plastic and other processing materials.

  • I think our library is in a prime position to take advantage of Innovation Grants from our Education Provider. Our physical size and collection age and size do no cater well for our school or community needs. If we were to have a virtual presence by using more online, digital materials we could cater for both in a more meaningful way. Our OPAC could go online and a website with links for home and school use would be useful, making the library more accessible even on the days when I am not on site. There is a possibility to explore some open source digital content as well. It is certainly something to consider and with support could be done. But we do need a curriculum server to begin this journey.

So I hope this is a successful meeting with positive outcomes.

First Newsletter

My concerns from observation of the children in the information they are bringing to school for their research topics is that they are only using Google as their search tool. For most of this term we have had to rely on the children finding their own information for topics because the library has very limited resources and our computer lab is in the stages of being moved and the room refurbished. This should be complete this week so we can start to get classes into the lab again.

The current set up is that the children work with a staff member who is released from regular class work for one day per week, while a relief teacher comes in to take his class. The work in the computer lab is related in some way to the work that is being done in the classroom. I am not sure at this stage whether it is part of Non Contact Time or whether the class teacher is involved at the same time. Next term we have decided that I will change my teaching day so that I will have access to the lab with the classes I take. My emphasis will be in online searching techniques, using digital formats for notemaking and eventually to presentation techniques in a digital format. I know it will be a case of hasten slowly, as most of this is new to the students and the staff.

I know there will be set up problems with the lab as a curriculum server is still not in place, although we had news last week that there was an initiative from our education provider to upgrade the facilities in small schools to provide such items. We are not sure when it will happen though.  The computers still run XP Home edition and there are a lot of inconsistencies in the set up of each computer. Managing this group of virtually stand alone computers is time consuming, but it has not been my job so far. I hope we can resolve this by the end of the year.

Here is the item I wrote for the first newsletter. Most of the parents have already met me on parade and some have dropped by the library, so I did not go overboard with the introduction.

I am new to the school this year, and so far have spent a lot of time in putting the library back into shape after the holiday move. While space in the library is small, and the book resources limited and we are still getting our network of computers fully functioning the children are relying on finding information from sources outside the school. Some classes have been given internet sites to guide them to information, and I am also suggesting these as general sites to help.

Some online sources for finding information that do not involve using Google.
The Local Shire Council offers to its users its online databases.
Go to the Local Shire Council website at http://www.xxx.gov.au/ (name of council and URL not published) and go to the Leisure and Lifestyle section. Then follow the links to Library services and online databases. You will need the number on your library membership card to access these databases. Of particular interest to your children for doing research will be the Britannica Encyclopedias and there is a Junior version available for the younger students. E-books are also available using the Tumblebooks link.

Another website of use is KidsClick! A directory organised by librarians. It is available at  http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/KidsClick!/

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, but the information is not geared to the reading levels of our students. It is useful if used with parental help. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Although these sites are United States based, the general information they provide is useful most of the time…..and they are kid safe places on the internet.

Ms A. Teacher-librarian