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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

School Library Social Capital Goals for 2021

As we start our 2021 in Australia, it is good practice to set you and your team some goals for 2021. 

They might be to increase senior readership or increase understanding of the research process, but it is also important to continue to build our social capital within our school community. We can get so bogged down in what we are doing that we become invisible because we are so busy.

Building social capital is also about building reputation and positioning our school library as the essential service that we are.

The majority of teachers in our school
don't see how hard the Library staff work
to keep the curriculum resources accessible by everyone.

So consider the following ideas as possible goals for your school library.

We will touch base with EVERY pre-service teacher in our school to promote the role of the school library and library science professionals.

An easy one to measure, what % of pre-service teachers did we speak to? Create a pack of pamphlets advocating the school library and the role of how library professionals might support them with their teaching . How can you help them resource their lessons. Return on investment for this goal isn't one that you will see, but perhaps the pre-service teachers will develop an appreciation for school libraries and will engage with them when they get their first contract.

We will make sure that the school library is "on the radar" by being present or being on the agenda of every curriculum meeting in the school.

The agenda item should ask for a "call to action". The completion of a survey or something to add value to that curriculum area. Regular updates to my team on what is happening in each learning area. Popping book pamphlets into pigeon holes isn't going to engage teachers to engage with your service.

When you are a one-man-band this can be difficult, but how can you use curriculum meetings to engage with teachers and identify area where the school library can help them?

The School Library team will continue to develop their social capital by working collaboratively on knowing our teachers and their teaching and learning needs.

How can you build school library organisational knowledge of what teachers are teaching and where their needs are? Do we need to use a customer relationship database to keep tabs on our conversations or sometime more simplistic like a google doc? How can we build our social capital in the various curriculum areas? How can your team address this goal?

I am sure that discussions with your team will uncover many other social capital goals that you can engage with.

Good luck for 2021.

the state of teacher Librarians in schools it has been

Friday, January 1, 2021

How did we build School Library social capital in a covid-lockdown environment?

Reflecting back on 2020, it has been interesting to look at my role and how it has grown throughout the year. 

It was only five years ago that I was just starting out as a Teacher Librarian, however I did have 20 years of teaching and leadership roles behind me. I was blessed to find a great School Library leadership role with a fabulous team in a school with a Principal that is supportive of what we are trying to achieve.

It has been interesting to watch the profession and how it has changed throughout 2020. 

School Library leadership roles, that had once been held by teacher librarians have been watered down into Education Support roles, but they still have curriculum development requirements tacked onto the job description. Those schools that liquidated their TL roles the year before found they didn't have any support from their library staff during lockdown. Many of those school libraries have just disappeared from the "radar" of educators in their schools.

I was adamant that in 2020, I was going to promote my role as a teacher librarian and what we are doing in the school library. 

A school specific school library Instagram wasn't going to happen easily, but I wanted to seperate what I was doing on my @konstantkaos Instagram from my active school library work. 

@LovemySchoolLibrary was formed. Instagram is a great way of documenting what you are doing in your school library and celebrating what you are achieving. Using tools such as Prinkl to print out posters which show what you have achieved throughout the year.

One goal of 2020 was to set up my own "school library" instagram.

When the first lockdown hit us, I was adamant that the School Library would not become invisible

Library staff are good at just hunkering down and getting the work done, but when things move online you tend to become invisible. Invisible departments can't argue for more money or resources come budget time.

So what did we do:

  1. We set up a Libguide for the school community.
  2. We set up a weekly newsletter for staff which then evolved into a Libguide newsletter.
  3. We made sure that we were included in the fortnightly newsletter that went home to parents.
  4. We set up a Borrow Bag "click and collect" system for students so they could borrow physical books.
  5. We made sure that the wider reading experience went online so that students would continue to have contact with the school library.
I think that this promotion of library services and development of social capital held us in good stead when it came to capital work applications at the end of the year. 2021 finds us setting up our own Tinker or Makerspace and hopefully giving our Library Foyer and circulation desk a make-over.

The "Students need School Libraries" website invited feedback from school libraries on what they did during Covid. Check out our response.

As we move forward into 2021, what will your social capital goals be? What will you put in place to make yourself more visible to the school community?

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Street Library Update

The completed street library is a bit of a monster, we wanted to be able to move it around the school. So the base actually has bricks in it to keep it stable and lockable castors.

We had a design competition during the CBCA "book week" celebration and worked with the Visual Communication teacher to write up a design brief so she could use it as a task in class. If you want a copy of the entry form, just get in touch via twitter @konstantkaos.

We ended up getting about 15 entries which I thought was good given everything else that was going on in the school at the time.

The winning designs were two year 10 girls and they have worked together to morph their designs together for a final design.

From Instagram [source]

I can't wait to see what they end up doing!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Setting up a Street Library for your School Library

 We had been bouncing around ideas for how to dispose of our weeded books for a while.

A plastic container in the corner of the school library with a sign saying "free stuff" just wasn't cutting it. Messy, disorganised and a missed opportunity to promote what we do in the school library. I had discussed a few times with maintenance the idea of re-fashioning an old bookcase like a house where we could place it in front of the Library as a point of interest. But the idea was clunky and didn't offer more than another place to dump weeded books and rubbish.

With covid-19 lockdown and cabin fever, I found myself exploring our local streets and came across a street library in one of our local parks. Excitedly we took along an old Dan Brown book and exchanged it for a more interesting book by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go.


We incorporated the idea of finding a local street library into our wider reading presentations and many students recognised what they were and were excited to exchange a book.

Why would you get a 'street library' for your school?

We started to investigate the possibility of getting a street library for our school:
  • We can use it as a promotional tool for School Library events. For example: CBCA Book Week.
  • We can move it throughout the school and have it present at events with weeded books, promotional bookmarks and postcards. For example: During orientation week for Year 7's or leading into the holidays in the staffroom. Bookmarks promote what the library is doing.
  • To make books more accessible to students and staff who might not visit the school library for other than photocopying facilities. For example: In the VCE area, promoting age specific books to Year 11's and 12's.
With Covid-19 we will have hand sanitiser inside it for students who are mindful of germs.

How would you go about organising it?

You can buy the flat packs and stands from Street Library Australia, but our maintenance team welcomed a fun project and knocked up a box from marine ply. It will be mounted on a stand with lockable castors and handles to move it around the school.

Maintenance are painting the street library in weathershield paint and we were thinking of holding a competition to see if a student/s would like to paint the street library with their bookish designs.

Students can submit their designs via an online classroom or email and there might be a book voucher involved as part of the prize pack. Maintenance are going to mix us some paint pots of weathershield of primary colours so that the students can paint their designs.

My home street library

Of course, this tale would not be complete without sharing our own 'Kammelot' Street Library, (not a spelling mistake, a play on our last names). 

During lockdown I convinced my father-in-law to make me a street library from an old bookcase and we have bought the plates and are going to register it with Street Library Australia.

As a holiday activity, my daughter painted some of her own designs on it.

We are all excited about including some weeded books from our own library in the street library and seeing how it goes!

Has your local community got their own street library?

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Embracing the professional development opportunities in lockdown.

It has been a long day, I've taught a few classes online and have had meetings via "Zoom" as well.

I've had a shower and I am sitting here in all my fluffy-dressing-gown-glory waiting on the #TM6 'teachmeet' to start via Youtube.

I have been lurking in this #edureading group for the last year, doing their readings and following their twitter feeds. But haven't managed to get to any of their 'teachmeet' sessions in the evenings. Sometimes it seemed all too hard; family, sickness, school responsibilities.

But tonight I am embracing the the flexibility that has been a side effect of us going into Covid19 Lockdown for the second time this year.

ALIA Schools Webinar [source]

Flexible Professional Learning

Teaching associations and professional development providers have all "gone online" to continue to provide professional learning to teachers. The side benefit to this is that the price has dropped, so as a department leader, I can sometimes afford to send the whole team, where as before it would have been just one person. Professionally, this is fabulous as it engages the whole team in discussions afterwards.

If I had attended the 'teachmeet' in person, I could have interacted with my network and partaken in those serendipitous discussions that often spark ideas and innovation. But at home, the environment was much different.

The platform for the 'teachmeet' was youtube, and it worked quite well. We could chat in real time on the youtube page and then there was a twitter back channel where people posted pictures of screen shots and links to articles that were mentioned. I had two computers going, the stream and then my desktop linked up to twitter and google.

With my bluetooth headphones in I could continue to listen to the session even if my son needed a drink or a hug.

Reflecting on this flexibility of web delivered content, I "attended" a webinar a few weeks ago and listened to half of it while driving home. In the past I wouldn't have attended the event because I needed to be home at a certain time, but now I can listen and sometimes participate irregardless of my location.

What I am missing?

I am missing the discussions over coffee at break time. I am missing the exchanges of business cards and conversations about possibilities and ideas. I am missing the collegiality and the sense of community that comes with meeting familiar people at professional development events. If it is Zoom session you can see who is in attendance, but other streaming services don't allow you to see the participants.

What are your views on online professional development?

Something we should keep when we slowly move from Stage 4 to Stage 1?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Our Library Newsletter moves online

For Term 2, the LRC team put together a text based newsletter.

Distributed via email it was just a list of links and ideas - low tech!

At the end of Term 2, we did a survey with staff to see what they thought of the format and frequency and upon reflection and discussion with the LRC team, re-invented the newsletter transferring it to our Libguides platform.

As a team we contribute to the newsletter over a two week period and when it is full distribute it with an email which lists the things that we can't put on the website, like student achievements in reading and writing.

So check it out if you want, let us know what you think!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

WASLA Article - Supercharge your school library with co-curricular clubs

I was very excited to see my article for WASLA "in the flesh", printed on the page. 

Online journals are great and accessible, but having something in your hands is just magical.

If you would like to check out what I wrote and give me some feedback, the article is up on my Publications page.

Lawson, M (2020). Supercharge your Library with Co-curricular Clubs. IC3. Professional Journal Of The WA School Library Association, vol 10.(No. 2 July), 3-8. (link)

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Teacher Librarians as Game Changers

Catching up on "The Game Changers" podcast, I listened with great interest at the interview with Dr Deborah Netolicky. I've been following Dr Deb on twitter for some time and her work has challenged my thoughts on how I go about my work as a Teacher Librarian.

Not only do I see myself as a co-teacher assisting teachers on the side with reading, literature and research but I am also an experienced teacher and curriculum designer. Coming up with innovative curriculum ideas is my superpower.

The interview was interesting and spoke a lot about how schools are changing because of Covid19, but my ears pricked up when they started to talk about The Grattan Institute report "Attracting High Achievers to Teaching".

In my 25 years of teaching, my wage growth hasn't matched the growth in my cost of living. Even though I have stepped up into a leadership position, my potential earning capacity hasn't really increased much.

If I wanted to grow my income in education, my next step up would be to go for a Deputy Principal role. The current teaching experience scale doesn't allow for competency creation, you are just automatically shunted up the teaching scale until you get to the top and then you take on a leadership position to increase your wages. Some schools are even starting first year out teachers on Level 5 as a way of attracting quality applicants. In fact when I took a year of leave back in the early 2000's to work in industry, I was earning twice as much (back then) as I do at the moment.

The Grattan Institute's revolutionary idea to create classes of teachers that would attract an extra $40k or $80k in wages, might be a valid idea. Providing career and wages growth for teachers, when there isn't much wages growth at the moment. Wages growth is one reason why we are losing teachers to industry. Our current progression model relies on teachers putting in the extra yards, out of the goodness of their hearts, until they can get that elusive leadership position, which is more 'administrivia' rather than revolutionary curriculum development.

As I listened to the podcast (while sewing fabrics masks for friends and family), I thought, "I have heard this before" ... I trawled through some old blog posts to find one from 2011 called "All Librarians do is check out books, right?".  I was just starting my Master of Education (Teacher Librarian) degree there was heated discussions about the ultimate school where the Teacher Librarian was seen as an instructional partner.
Herring (2007) writes that there is no other role in the school that is more focused purely on curriculum needs than the Instructional Partner and who is in no better position to reinforce learning with cognitive and constructivist theories. In the HREEC (2011) report on School Libraries, Parliamentary recommendations reinforce the view that the Teacher Librarian as an Instructional Partner is uniquely positioned in the school to influence and drive change. [source]
No where in the Grattan report does it mention Teacher Librarians and their role as curriculum specialists. Teacher Librarians as Game Changers in their own schools.

The High Achieving Leading Teacher certification is in one sense providing a pathway for experienced teachers, however we need to ask whether it is linked to wage growth. But before we go and re-structure the teaching professional we need to ask whether this need can be fulfilled by the Teacher Librarians in our schools at the moment.

The under-appreciated Teacher Librarian who isn't seen as a curriculum specialist but rather a book shelver.


Herring, J. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century : charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW : Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

House of Representatives Education and Employment Committee (HREEC). (2011). School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia, The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia,

Monday, July 27, 2020

Wider Reading Online during Covid

In addition to the usual tasks of working in a School Library, one of my jobs as a Teacher Librarian is to facilitate the wider reading program.

So each session starts with a spiel about new books or the programs that we are supporting at the moment and then we settle into doing half an hour of reading. During this time, I scoot around the room asking each students what they are reading; encouraging them to engage in recreational reading or recommending books to them.

And then Covid19 hit .... What to do with what is normally a very interpersonal task?

In consultation with the English teachers we came up with a model to do Wider Reading Online.

Normally wider reading takes half a period, 35-40 minutes. But online things take a lot longer.

I address the class at the start of the period with a pre-prepared presentation for the fortnight on topics that would interest the students (10-15 minutes), we then break up into mini groups for a "book chat" discussion were I ask each student to talk about what they are reading at the moment. I ask them where they got their books from, do they have recommendations for other students and if they have read a book that someone else is reading. The larger the group sessions the more likelihood there is that someone else will be reading (or will have read) the book that the student is reading. I did a session with 9 students in a group and it worked well.

I take notes throughout this session, marking down what they are reading and what page they are up to and I take note of which students to follow up on. Students that might not be reading anything or they might have expressed that they are having difficulty finding a book to read. I can follow these kids up and make up a Borrow Bag for them to make sure that they have something to read.

I transcribe my notes into my google spreadsheet where I keep the wider reading data and take note of which kids are actually reading and which ones are "nursing" books. Sitting on the same book for months on end.

Sometimes students will remember what I was reading last time and comment on whether I have finished my book, sometimes they are enthusiastic to talk, other times not so.

This is what we have been doing for our lockdowns. It is lovely to talk in small groups and to share the "I've also read Anne of Green Gables" discussions that might not normally happen when I speak to the students 1:1.

What do you do for your wider reading while in lockdown?

Friday, July 17, 2020

Covid-19 Borrow Bags in the School Library

We packed another seven Borrow Bags this week for students who wanted to still borrow physical books from our collection, but who were not learning on campus. We decided not to use the term "Click and Collect" as many retailers are using this term and we wanted to emphasis "Borrowing".

There has been a great deal of discussion about Borrow Bags on the various mailing lists and Facebook groups so I thought I would document our process. I am sure that there are so many ways of doing this, but this is what worked for my team.

To start with, safety is our first priority. Not just physical safety, but mentally as well. Students and parents both wanted to know that we had taken appropriate precautions when dealing with the books.

How did we do it?

Students would reserve their books via the catalogue and also email us to say they wanted a Borrow Bag packed for them. In the email to us, students could request a mystery pack in a particular genre and also ask for books to support the Victorian Premiers Reading Challenge.

In our first lockdown in Victoria, Australia, we had one student who read through a selection of Novellas and Graphics Novels and she completed the Victorian Premiers Reading Challenge before the end of Term 2. Bravo!

We looked at using a Google Form for this, but often we would have to email back and forth with the student letting them know what was or wasn't available. A google form offered no advantage (for us) over email.

During our first lockdown, Term 2, 2020 we had lots of students interested in collecting a Borrow Bag. The interest petered off towards the end of lockdown, however the girls that were borrowing were grabbing 4-6 books each. We had two staff members come into the library on the Monday and Thursday to create and then distribute the Borrow Bags.

Each bag had a little lolly pack with a Chupa-Chump and some fruit chews in a little cute plastic bag with an "Enjoy your reading" label on them. A few students were very excited by this surprise. We also included bookmarks and some feedback/book review sheets as well.

A few button badges found their way in as well. These were received well! I have uploaded one of the button badge printables to my blog for your downloading pleasure.

Managing the Information

After creating a "group" spreadsheet of all the Borrow Bag recipients and their books while we were working from home, we printed off "receipts" that we could use to mark off whether a book was available or not.

When we came onsite, we printed off the receipts, collected the books and then folded it strategically. This was then used to label the bags. We managed to initially grab the bags from the Marketing office. They were left over from an event. But as we did more and more Borrow Bags, we finally just bought some from Officeworks, a business stationary retailer in Australia.

We constructed the bags on the Monday and then they were collected on the Thursday. Allowing three days between us handling them and the kids collecting them. The guidelines given to us by the school was to clean and then quarantine books for three days before shelving.

When students were collecting their Borrow Bags they were encouraged to return any overdue books. We suspended overdue notices during lockdown, but encouraged them to return books. 

So throughout Lockdown 1.0 this is what we did. During Lockdown 2.0 it might be a bit different as Year 11/12 students are onsite. Students will be able to pick their Borrow Bags up from the Library if they have been temperature checked a the front office. But we will still have to follow our quarantine procedure.

Please comment ...

This was the way that we did it, how did you do it?