School library spotlight: Toowoomba State High School

By Lorraine Petersen

SCIS speaks to Lorraine Petersen, Textbook Hire Library Coordinator at Toowoomba State High School, about what is happening in her school library.

Lorraine Petersen processing textbooks at Toowoomba State High School.

Lorraine Petersen processing textbooks at Toowoomba State High School.

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

I’m the Textbook Hire Library Coordinator at Toowoomba State High School. I am studying a Diploma of Library and Information Services, and work as a teacher aide four mornings a week in the Textbook Hire division of our library. My work there focuses on the provision and maintenance of prescribed learning resources for our school’s 850–900 students.

Our school’s main library area is maintained by a couple of teacher aides who spend their non-class time seeing to the acquisition, circulation, cataloguing, and shelving of our school’s 13,000 fiction and non-fiction library books, and the circulation of hire laptops. There are six learning areas of computer desks in our library, which are usually fully booked out every lesson for regular classes.

In the Textbook Hire section, I work on the acquisition, cataloguing, shelving, circulation, cleaning, and repairing of our school’s student textbooks. There are multiple class sets of every textbook and prescribed novels that our students require for their studies and, at any given time, approximately 4,000 of these are out on loan across the year levels.

The Textbook Hire section also includes racks of school blazers, a set of CPR dummies, and a selection of sports team uniform bags, which are all catalogued and barcoded for hiring as needed.

My role also entails making student ID cards and managing the school lockers — not traditional library roles, but my library work has given me some transferrable skills (managing data imports, etc), which are extremely useful for these tasks!

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

It’s very rewarding to see students mature over the six years we have them. I’m involved in helping them to develop their responsibility and appreciation for freely available learning resources. Some students, such as the new Year 7's every year, are initially a little overwhelmed by the task of managing their hire textbook needs. They may struggle to organise returning books and hiring new ones as required during the year. I spend extra time helping these students to keep track of their resources in a variety of ways, and every year they begin to take more pride in their use of the system! Tasks such as having the correct textbooks on loan and returning the correct books in good condition when they’re due contribute to developing valuable life skills. Every time a student enters Textbook Hire waving a book and cheerfully informing me that they are returning this one on time and in good condition, I consider my work a success!

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

I am passionately proud of how our resource centre freely provides our students with many items that they would need to purchase if they attended other schools. 

Textbook library

Students can study any subject, join debating teams or sports teams and represent our school at community events wearing blazers or sport uniforms hired from the library without having to count the cost of involvement. This is in addition to the traditional library roles of providing access to a wide range of fiction and nonfiction books to all staff and students, and providing spaces to learn, study, and gather together. Another highly important service our library gives to our school community is access to technology — for many of our students, the school library is their only source of desktop computing and printing facilities.

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

Traditionally, the biggest challenge that Textbook Hire libraries face is maintaining sufficient numbers of identical textbooks in the collection, in spite of frequent book damage and loss. This issue has been compounded in recent years by big changes to the Australian curriculum and rapidly updated editions. For example, maths books often used to stay the same for many years, enabling extra copies to be added as required. Now, they are likely to have a new edition published every 18 months to two years, meaning replacement texts may have differences in the text or page numbers. The digital component of newer textbooks often updates every year, which will then be out of sync with our original print copies of that title. I work to stay informed of these changes via my relationships with publishers’ representatives, and can sometimes bargain for an extension of superseded digital editions or to purchase the last of the old print stock.

How do you promote reading and literacy in your school’s library? Are there any challenges in doing so?

In the library area, we work in a support role to supply and maintain the relevant< resources that teachers use for literacy learning. The main library provides prepacked boxes of assorted reading books of different levels for classroom use. One challenge we have begun to face is providing resources for our growing refugee population, with a need to source English as an Additional Language reading books. Finding titles that are suitable for non–English speakers to read, which are also ‘cool’ enough for teenagers to enjoy, can be a challenge, and for Textbook Hire, I need to be able to buy these in bulk. One new title that I am proud to be introducing this year is a large set of quality picture dictionaries that will be excellent for learning vocabulary, and which don’t come across as too ‘babyish’!

How do you engage with students through digital spaces?

A number of improvements for our library’s digital provisions are planned for 2020. The browser-based LMS that we started using just over a year ago has the capacity to be a fully customisable research portal, with the ability to include access to many digital resources such as fact sheets and study links. I hope to develop this area of our LMS in 2020. 

In the Textbook Hire area, I have trialled a few different ways to provide digital textbooks for our students over the years, and this year we will be fully utilising a digital book platform that works best for our requirements. This platform will help me to supply digital textbook access to every student and staff member, in addition to print textbooks, thus accommodating various teaching and learning styles.

Textbook library

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

The most popular library resources accessed by students in their own time are the internet and graphic novels. Library staff put a lot of effort into ensuring the availability of computers and consistent internet for everyone, and the meticulous maintenance of the large graphic novel section encourages many students who wouldn’t otherwise read novels to hire books.

What is your favourite thing about SCIS?

We previously accessed SCIS Data through manual requests and imports from the old SCIS website into our old, server-based LMS’s. At that time, the main library and the Textbook Hire library had different systems. Updating our old bibliographic records via the integrated SCIS function inside our browser-based system that both libraries now share has been instrumental in helping us to combine our records into one cohesive catalogue. We have more work to do in this area, but we rely heavily on the fast accuracy of SCIS cataloguing to help us.

What would you like to see SCIS do more of?

I am still discovering all of the things that SCIS already does! I am very glad to have access to SCIS Data to assist me in my job and my further library studies.

Lorraine Petersen

Lorraine Petersen

Textbook Hire Library Coordinator

Toowoomba State High School