School library spotlight: Chisholm Catholic College

By Monique McQueen

SCIS talks to Monique McQeen, Teacher librarian at Chisholm Catholic College, about what's happening in their school library, including library programs and promotion.

What is your job title, and what does your role entail?

My name is Monique McQueen and I am a teacher librarian at Chisholm Catholic College, a secondary Brisbane Catholic Education school.

My role is to manage the library program and staff; supervise the day-to-day running of the library; resource the curriculum; collaborate with teachers; facilitate student activities; teach research skills; develop, maintain, and promote digital resources; run events; and lead the development of learning spaces in the school.

How long have you worked in school libraries, and what inspired you to go down this path?

I have worked in both primary and secondary school libraries for nine years. After 13 years as a primary school teacher, I decided to complete a master’s degree in teacher librarianship. This provided me with opportunities to make the most of my creativity and interpersonal skills, while sharing my love of books and learning with school communities.

Last year I completed a Master of Education in Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation. This complemented my teacher librarianship qualification, developing my skills in design thinking, digital scholarship, building networks of learners, and manipulating digital environments.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in a school library?

Watching our regulars grow up and enjoy different books as they mature, and helping teachers find exciting resources that encourage learning. It is great when we can develop confidence in teachers’ and students’ abilities to use these resources for research and reading for pleasure.

What do you see as the library’s most important role in the school community?

The library is the community hub where everyone in the school belongs, communicates, and crosses paths. Our core business remains promoting and encouraging a love of reading and learning, which underpins all decisions about collection development and events.

What issues are facing your library?

We are currently planning our transition into a new space. We are designing spaces for learning, investigating current trends in libraries and education, and trying to create the best library for our community. The new library will include moveable shelving so that the space will be fully flexible. The newly designed building will also house the IT team’s workspace and lounge, and a café. The combined space should result in even more use of the library.

We have chosen to reorganise the fiction collection by genre. We are also going through the process of integrating high interest non-fiction books into a genre-fied collection. We are doing this with the goal of encouraging more borrowing and reading.

We are in the process of designing a new website to complement our physical library. Time has been a major constraint in creating this digital space. We are outsourcing the building of the website, but working closely with the technician to ensure that it serves our community’s needs.

We hope that all the hard work creating a new website, culling and re-categorising physical resources that we are investing in now will mean a smooth transition into our new library. We hope the new space is inviting and modern, and caters to all members of the school community.

How do you promote reading and literacy? Are there any challenges?

We explicitly promote reading and literacy to the whole school community. We run three book clubs during the year: one each for the middle and senior schools, and a very successful staff holiday book club.

We hold a range of reading programs throughout the year, including Kids Literature Quiz teams, Readers Cup in-school and district competitions, author visits, excursions to writers festivals, and Book Week activities.

The challenges include competing with a crowded curriculum and engaging busy teachers. We have a core group of very interested student readers and they help make library events successful.

How do you promote an interest in STEAM areas? Are there any challenges?

Our school has a team of dedicated staff who drive a STEAM approach to learning. We have robotics, audio-visual, and Optimind teams. We also played a role in this year’s EduTECH Makerspace Playground.

The library staff are part of the Information Communication Learning Technologies Committee, which means we are involved in important discussions and decisions about the use of technology in our school. Student voice is an important factor in how and when we spend time and money on STEAM technology.

Our approach to our makerspace is that it doesn’t necessarily need its own room in the library, but rather, it should be an element within the library program. The library has become, and will continue to grow, as a place that offers opportunities for the community to belong, innovate, learn, engage, discover, create, and imagine. We house materials to make this possible: a 3D printer, colouring, and games. We place a big emphasis on equitable access to technology, and organise professional development for all groups within the school community.

How do you encourage students to make use of the library?

We place emphasis on positive interactions with library users in an attractive space. We have firm but fair expectations of behaviour so that all students feel safe and welcome in the library.

Our events program is designed to encourage students to use the library, and we foresee that the library will become even more event-driven in the future. We make sure that our clients feel as though they are getting something out of each visit to the library.

We provide opportunities for the school community to develop a sense of belonging to the library with book clubs, chess, and craft activities. The students are involved in running the 3D printer, and we value their technical skills.

Students are encouraged to have a say in what sort of books are included in our collection, and we make every effort possible to buy suggested books. The student borrowing rate of manga, comics, and graphic novels has doubled since we actively involved students in the collection development process.

What is your favourite thing about SCIS?

We rely heavily on SCIS for our cataloguing, and are always happy with the standards and information.

Connections always has interesting and up-to-date articles which our whole library team enjoy reading.

What would you like to see SCIS do more of?

I am excited to see the future work that SCIS does in the field of digital curation and learning pathways for different topics. I look forward to seeing many new articles in Connections about future library designs in both physical and digital spaces.

Monique McQueen

Monique McQueen

Teacher librarian

Chisholm Catholic College