School library spotlight: Rolleston School

By Kay Morfett

SCIS speaks to Kay Morfett, librarian at Rolleston School in New Zealand, about what's happening in her school library.

What is your job title, and what does your role entail? How many people work in your library?

I work at Rolleston School as the librarian. My role is 25 hours a week, split over five days. I have a teacher in charge who is really wonderful and supportive and, aside from a brilliant group of student librarians to provide help at lunchtimes, I work alone.

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

The most rewarding part of the job is definitely the reaction I get from staff and children. This may be amazed and happy faces over a new display I have created in the foyer; a display book I have shared with the staff that they found fascinating and useful in their class; or a student accepting a suggestion and actually borrowing a book after telling me they couldn’t find one. I absolutely adore my job. I work hard, admittedly, and do a lot outside of school hours, but I get a lot back in return from everyone — that is why I do it!

Are there any current issues or challenges facing your library?

The biggest challenge has been trying to get all of my ideas into play! When I began this role in 2016 I was the first librarian in the school and that created its own set of problems. Don’t get me wrong. My predecessors did an amazing job: full-time teaching and running a library! I mean, who can do that? But, I had a pile of obstacles to clear up and wanted to put my own touch on the library. I had issues to clean up in the LMS, displays to make the library look loved and exciting, teachers’ respect to earn, attitudes to change towards reading, and showing the support a library and librarian can offer everyone in the school.

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

I believe that the library should be the hub of a school — and the library was not that when I arrived. It was grey and almost uninviting; it was not a safe zone. There weren’t exciting things to look at everywhere as there are now. But, that all takes an incredible amount of time: searching for ideas constantly and then putting them into action, making displays, putting them up around class times, all while I carry on with regular librarian duties, supporting the teaching staff, and teaching library skills.

How do you promote reading and literacy in your school?

When I began in 2016, the borrowing stats were quite low, so I focused on increasing this as much as I could. I put together a to-do list to set up a library program and, during that year, the borrowing went up by around 45 per cent, then again last year by 75 per cent!

I keep up to date with new books and listen to the ideas that students and teachers provide. The library isn’t just about what I think; their opinion is just as important. So, I do surveys every year to find out what interests the children in relation to books. I also check on the statistics to see what is popular and what is not, and we have a book suggestion system so students can provide ideas for specific titles. In addition, I do weekly displays with a picture book of the week and a senior fiction book of the week. The teachers then have a go-to book to read to the class that I know inside and out, and the children see that I read, too. This year, I have dedicated more time to interacting with each of the classes that come in. I ensure every child borrows a book to encourage them in their reading.


'Can you help me find a book' display in a library

Engaging displays in the library promote books and reading to the school community.

The challenge here is to spread the word regarding all the resources the library has to offer. I have been compiling a great collection of books for reluctant readers and students with dyslexia, for example. Only a handful of staff were aware that such books existed, because they hadn’t looked, relied on the library before, or hadn’t asked. So, I think, the hardest part is keeping people up to date because they do not necessarily do that themselves. Teaching is a really busy job and, bearing in mind that my hours are few and the library sessions are quite short, it can be challenging at times!

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

I try to make it as fun and interesting as possible! We have the library open at morning tea and lunchtimes and it is absolutely packed with students. We have playtime with board games, colouring that coincides with our displays, and audiobooks and storytime with cuddly toys and cushions in a quieter room. There is also an electronics club to support the children with their eplatform accounts. Alongside that, we have student librarians that change each year to provide extra support during break times; ‘emachines’ and an iPad that are available for students to access our web app and perform catalogue searches; fun displays in the foyer, and art and displays on the walls that I change frequently. There are no plain or boring spaces ... I think that may be my motto!

What is your favourite thing about SCIS?

I have SCIS automated to my LMS and I love the fact that SCIS has worked alongside Access-IT to provide this. It is so much easier than having to go back and forth, updating from the website directly. The information provided is up to date and useful for the students and teachers and, from a library point of view, it’s simple. I enjoy doing the online training; it reminds me of all the information SCIS offers and gives me new ideas moving forwards. I also really like reading the Connections magazine and seeing what other librarians are up to.

What would you like to see SCIS do more of?

I would like more online training in decent NZ hours of the day! They tend to fall at 5 pm or 6 pm over here and it can be hard to schedule time to watch then.

Image credits

Supplied by Kay Morfett

Kay Morfett

Kay Morfett


Rolleston School, NZ