School library spotlight: Mt St Michael's College

By Sandra Mannion

SCIS speaks to Sandra Mannion of Mt St Michael's College in Brisbane about what's happening in her school library.

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

I am a qualified teacher librarian, employed at Mt St Michael’s College in the role of Curriculum Leader, Library and Information Services. It is a Catholic secondary college for young women in the tradition of the Sisters of Charity, administered through Mary Aikenhead Ministries and situated in Ashgrove, Brisbane. We are a medium-sized school, approaching 900 students, renowned for our nurturing and inclusive community.

I love the multi-faceted nature of my role. Knowledge of the curriculum, teaching strategies, and learning styles is combined with expertise in resource management, literature, information services and systems, and personnel management.

I lead a team of three dedicated part-time library staff, and together we are responsible for developing the library as an active and service-driven learning centre for the College. We are passionate about fostering a love of reading by exposing our students to a range of genres in both print and digital formats.

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

Over the last eight years, we have built positive relationships with the Mt St Michael’s community and created a stimulating and welcoming environment that reflects the library’s importance as a learning and teaching hub. Library staff are in a unique and privileged position within schools, as we interact with students and staff across all year levels and most subject areas. No two days are ever the same, and the lovely conversations with our smiling and thankful students keep us constantly motivated.

One of the most important roles is the management of the physical and virtual learning spaces that integrate our traditional library material with progressive elearning and information services. We are always looking at how we can extend on the creation of an exciting learning environment. We consistently receive positive feedback regarding our library guides, ‘Pathfinders’ and ‘Suggested Source Material’. These are created in-house to provide students with subject-specific digital and interactive resources, including links to relevant websites and databases.

School libraries are places where all students feel welcomed and are encouraged to grow and learn. We do a lot more than just provide books and information; we provide a haven for everyone to think, create, share, and grow. It’s certainly the favourite spot in the school for many of our students.

Are there any current issues or challenges facing your library? How are you working to overcome these?

We are developing and implementing a strategic plan that will enable our library to deliver on the needs of all our key stakeholders, as it is often a challenge to accommodate all those who wish to use it.

To assess these needs, we have recently conducted an online library survey. There were over 400 student responses and 40 from staff, so it will take quite a while to sift through all the data, but some general trends are already emerging. For example, users would like to see the creation of a new physical space that would cater for more collaborative learning, as well as the different needs of junior and senior students.

How do you promote reading and literacy in your school?

Students from Mt St Michael's College sitting in the gymnasium stands and holding books above their heads

Mt St Michael's College has established a strong reading culture, with healthy lending statistics in the junior school.

There is a very strong reading culture at Mt St Michael’s, and the staff are some of our best borrowers. Our lending statistics are very healthy in the junior school, and students are encouraged to place requests for new reading material in the suggestion box we keep at the circulation desk. Our wide range of periodicals and magazines is also keenly read during break times. Recently processed resources are promoted through vibrant displays in the library and around the college, as well as regular newsletters, the publication of a weekly ‘Library Lovers’ List’ and our library blog, ‘Between the Pages’.

Frequent borrowers are acknowledged through our Star Reader of the Week program and all Year 7 and 8 students participate in literature circles for one term in the year. It can be challenging to engage our senior students in reading for pleasure as their recreational time is taken up with study pressures, but the #LoveOzYA movement is helping us to make inroads with this age group.

How do you engage with your students in a digital environment?

Access to information is available through our library site on the college intranet, on a 24/7 basis. It is a well-presented and up-to-date repository of current information and electronic resources, including our subscriptions to EBSCOhost and Questia School, New Scientist, Britannica School, Read Plus, Weblinks, and ClickView Online. We were also early adopters of digital books, and chose Overdrive as our ebook and audiobook platform over six years ago.

Social media has really helped us to boost our library’s profile in the community. Mt St Michael’s College has Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, and we regularly post to these with the hashtags #msmlibrary and #msmreads.

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

Our friendly and welcoming staff keep the library open from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm including break times. It is an incredibly popular place, which is used not only for research, class work and study but for printing, scanning, photocopying, tutoring, future problem-solving, debating, yarn club, and guest speakers. Most importantly, it is where everyone feels welcome and comfortable. The physical space is warm and inviting with lots of opportunities to make connections with others.

We also celebrate one key theme per term: Library Lovers’ Week in Term 1, Library and Information Week in Term 2, Book Week in Term 3, and Spooky Stories Week in Term 4. These events coincide with a combination of competitions, trivia quizzes, scavenger hunts, movies, book ‘tastings’, puzzles, 3D printing, games, and craft activities.

What is your favourite thing about SCIS?

Our SCIS subscription includes access to catalogue records for digital content. We use Overdrive as our digital platform for ebooks and audiobooks and, because SCIS has catalogued over 100,000 digital items, it means we are able to find records for most of our digital purchases. When records are not available, we have always been provided with a very quick turnaround from Queensland cataloguer Frances Todd. This allows us to integrate these new resources into our library management system soon after they are purchased.

We have always found it easy to navigate our way around the SCIS website, and we enjoying the new features available from We look forward to more webinars and workshops being offered in Brisbane.

Image credits

Photo supplied by Mt St Michael’s College 

Sandra Mannion

Sandra Mannion

Curriculum Leader, Library and Information Services

Mt St Michael’s College, Brisbane