While completing my studies, I am helping out a local primary school in the library. The library as I mentioned in my post Where is the teacher librarian?, is without a teacher librarian. They do have Mary, who works there 3 days a week ,carrying out the administrative tasks of cataloguing, shelving and arranging the library, ordering new books. The weeding of the library is carried out in cooperation with a teacher who is a trained teacher librarian but does not work in the library at the school.
This term, we have two points of focus. The first is weeding the teacher resource area, as it seems quite cluttered and not effectively utilised. Mary has asked for my help in this area as I do have a teaching background. This area seems full with resources that appear incredibly old and hardly touched. It will be interesting to make an assessment of how often certain resources have been used over recent years and whether they are effective for the purpose of being a useful resource for the teachers now at the school.
The other point of focus is quite a large task as it involves a major transformation of the library systems with a view to moving towards 21 century library 2.0. The IT coordinator at the school asked for my assistance in this area and I have been glad to assist with my resources and learning.
The timeframe for researching the new system to implementation is terms 2, 3 and 4 of this year. They would like to purchase the new system and set it up in time for 2011. As I view this to be an important process in my learning, I will be charting the progress and steps to this transformation beginning with this first post.
Step 1 ~ initiation via informal discussion in Term 1
Informal discussions with the IT coordinator of the school, about libraries in the 21 century learning environment, capabilities and trends led to realising there is a shared understanding and desire to travel down this path. He spoke about wanting the library to be the centre of all learning at the school, wanting it not only as the hub but having an ability to extend beyond the walls into classrooms and beyond. We assessed the current library management system at the school and it is definitely dated, with many outmoded practices and steps. Not efficient and incapable of being networked to accommodate the changes the school would like to see. The IT coordinator mentions they want to upgrade the system in time for 2011 and asks whether I would be interested in helping with this process.
(Even though, I am not able to transfer this process into direct learning outcomes related to my course, I can see the journey will be beneficial. I can help the school with my learning and at the same time, I am undertaking a project that will enable me to learn steps in how to transform a library)
Step 2 ~ Assess the context
The school has a website and has undergone a great deal of transformation in the past 10 years regarding technology and effective use of technology in teaching and learning. There are links to learning levels and to classes including class blogs, student blogs, podcasts, videos and curriculum. There is a MAC lab both in the library and a portable MAClab on a trolley. They are utilised for creative and Web 2.0 tools in curriculum outcomes. The school operates across two platforms; PC and MAC. The library system is not able to be integrated across the platforms and is too dated to be capable of library 2.0 capabilities. Currently, the library is an under-utilsed resource. Classes have a lesson 1 hour per week and it is a very simple read a book and borrow session run by their classroom teacher. They also have a 1 hour a week MAC lab session run by the IT coordinator. The library is open most lunchtimes and staffed by teachers. There is a room dedicated to teacher resources that appears overflowing and in need of a tidy up and assessment.
Step 3 ~ Networks of information.
After conducting an initial research process both on the net (pretty futile with the lists of management systems I found) and speaking to a couple of high schools, I managed to limit the focus to about three different library management systems. I knew of Biblioteque as Mary at the primary school had a real opposition to it. I spoke to a couple of high schools, who were utilising Biblioteque, and I discovered they too were in a process of upgrading and suggested Oliver as one they were interested in. It was pointed out that there is Oliver Jnr as a primary school interface. Contact details of the company in QLD that distributes Oliver were shared. I looked up the website and forwarded the details to the IT coordinator and the Principal at the primary school. Subsequently a CD rom as an evaluative tool has been sent to the primary school from the company softlink.
A local High school implemented Access-it recently. Mary organised a time for her and I to visit the library at this school and have a run through of how it is being utilised.
I had heard of OZTLnet through my course, but did not fully understand the benefits. I subscribed and silently read the correspondence for a while before I realised, it was a useful network resource where information can be sought or given. Armed with the information I had gathered, I needed further information. I needed evaluation of these systems and further advice. As a result, I posted an email on OZTLnet requesting help and advice on Oliver from schools who have implemented this system. I outlined the manner within which the primary school was interested in utilising the system and would love some information about it in practice. Within a day, I received a few responses, some critical and some positive. I even received a response from the person that coordinates this system for an educational region near us. This information was discussed and shared with the IT coordinator at the primary school. We determined that a visit to one of these schools would prove beneficial for further evaluation.
Interestingly, my OZTLnet email resulted in an email from the distributor of ‘Access-it‘ who identified two local schools that were currently utilising the system. One is the High school, which we had planned to visit and the other is a local primary school. It was also mentioned that they can visit the primary school and provide a demonstration. Again, all information has been shared with the IT coordinator as well as the Principal.
As part of this process I need to point out that Mary also works as a library technician at another local primary school and they have a TL working in the library two days a week. This school is embarking on a transformation being driven by a teacher that trained as a TL many years ago. Mary in working with him and attending the meetings at his school has been sharing the information of our journey. As a result, this teacher is keen to link up and share the information journey towards transformation.
Step 3~ School Visits.
We attended our first evaluative school visit at the local high school that implemented ‘Access it‘ only last Friday. In attendance was Mary, the TL from the other primary school and myself. What did we learn? At this high school they too did not have a TL employed. They have a Librarian that works 4 days a week. She was very helpful and was able to walk through the system and demonstrate capabilities. Even though the system was not being utilised to its full potential (limited time and resources), It clearly has capabilities of being implemented in the manner required. It has an interface that can be highly personalised and in terms of content management, it is very user-friendly (almost like a blog). I asked a great deal of questions and again shared them with the IT coordinator. The next step is to visit the local primary school that is operating this system and evaluate the application to a younger audience. Some questions that need answering revolve around visual search and curriculum links, intuitive language as a search strategy (ie tags), pathfinders, integration of the web. Interactivity of the library Management system/Library with the students and teachers. We worked out you can add blogs, link it to the school website, there was an online ‘ask a librarian’ capability and permissions could be set for different purposes. Mary also found the system seemed so much easier than what she is currently using and felt enthusiastic.
This week I am hoping to sign Mary up to OZTLnet. I demonstrated this to her a couple of weeks ago by logging in and showing her the nature of the listserv and how helpful it is but also how helpful she could be with information she has. She read through some of the digests and realised, there was plenty she could share with other librarians and Teacher Librarians as she had certain resources or ideas that others were seeking.
Where to now?
We are organising the visits to the schools that have Access-it at a primary school level and ‘Oliver‘. At this stage we have narrowed the focus to these two systems. Once the school visits are complete, we will be calling the distributors and coordinators for a site visit where they can demonstrate the programs to the school and be able to provide a specific focus to the needs and questions of the application required within this school context.
I will keep you posted…