ALIA day 3 – experiences reviewing the library

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The question for today was:

  • What has been your experience with reviewing your school library?

I found this to be more thought-provoking than expected, because my first response – thinking of the document – was ‘none’! But then I realised that reviewing services happens all the time, sometimes purposefully and sometimes on an ad hoc basis.

My first review activities would have been completed as part of my masters degree in Teacher Librarianship, awaaaay back between 2002 and 2007. I remember completing various assignments on reviewing and creating policy and procedure documents, collection mapping and reviewing online services.

Having moved to Tasmania and taken up this position at Hutchins,there have been different kinds of reviews: position descriptions, staff roles within a team, collaborative curriculum planning…

When I worked in Hong Kong I helped with a redesign of the school library, so that involved a lot of consideration of use of floorspace, flexible shelving and furniture options, placement of immovable IWBs to avoid glare, traffic flow…

In the last two years our school underwent a minutely detailed, comprehensive self-evaluation as part of gaining accreditation as an international school, included in which was of course analysis of library services and curriculum. That analysis was more about perception and use of the school library by the wider school community, so there are areas in these self-reflection and evaluation guidelines that were not touched upon in that process.

So now that I have thought about this a bit more deeply, I would say that I am involved in review processes of different aspects of library management at different points throughout the year, sometimes in response to external factors and sometimes as part of our internal annual cycles.Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps what I should be aiming for is a combination:

  • regular/term reviews of things such as library program and collection development to support the curriculum
  • small annual reports (Dianne Mackenzie is eloquent in her explanations here)
  • 3 to 5 yearly major reviews, which would provide support for a 3-5 year strategic plan for the library

Looking just at the third point is too daunting, but if divided into term-by-term and year-by-year activities, I think I can see it becoming more a process of analysing data that has been collected all along, plus updating documentation, and then from there creating goals for the future.

I foresee some quality time being spent with my calendar….

ALIA Schools National Online Forum

Yesterday was the first day of the ALIA Schools National Online Forum – School Library Resource Centre guidelines – an 8 day exploration of this document which was jointly produced by ALIA Schools and the Victorian Catholic Teacher Librarians (VCTL).

Stephens Library view over tuckshop

View from teaching area out over the steps to the roof of the tuckshop

I had seen the announcement of this online forum over the weekend, and had the blog bookmarked ready to start, when on Monday afternoon it was announced that a long-awaited and much-needed extension to our Junior School would begin in September this year, including the extension of my Library by several metres and a tuckshop roof!

I began working here in April 2008, and it quickly became apparent to me that the combination of layout, fixed cabinetry, immobile shelving, and insufficient space was limiting students’, teachers’ and classes’ use of theLibrary. By swapping the location of fiction and non-fiction collections I was able to improve some aspects, but limitations of space and built-in bookshelves could not be changed.

Now with an extension to the Library happening, I have a very clear timeframe for looking at all the aspects of the Library, from physical space to books on shelves to virtual collection to types of services offered to ways we communicate with and engage with the school community.

Today’s questions were:

  • Why should schools take the time to complete this document?
  • Could this document be useful in conducting a review of your library?

My answers were:

A1) I think that school libraries should be continually reflecting on their services in order to know which direction to take – keep going straight ahead or make a turn in a different direction? This document is a useful tool to guide that reflective process as it has already laid out a logical structure and itemised things to consider during the review.
I also think that the specifically Library-designed questions are more helpful than using a more general tool such as a SWOT analysis.

A2) This kind of review document is definitely going to be helpful in conducting a review of my Library! I think that this online forum, combined with the immediate plans to refurbish our junior/middle school library, are a match made in heaven – now I don’t have to wonder where to start, I’ll just grab a section and get going.

So, taking the plunge – I would like to use the SLRC guidelines for self-reflection and evaluation over the course of the next 3 terms to form the basis of a report on the state of my Library and future plans.