School library spotlight: Mercy College, Coburg

By Anne Girolami

SCIS speaks with Anne Girolami from Mercy College, Coburg about their school library.

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

 I am the Learning Leader Information Services at Mercy College, Coburg, a Catholic secondary school for girls in the northern suburbs of Melbourne approximately 10 km from the CBD.

I am responsible for leading and managing the Information Centre. The library team comprises a 1.0 FTE teacher librarian position, shared between myself and another teacher who is studying to be a teacher librarian, and 2.0 FTE library technicians.

There are many aspects to my role: assisting all students and staff with solving their information or reading needs; teaching in the Year 7 and 8 Wide Reading program; collaborating in the Year 7 Humanities program with explicit teaching of information skills; and generally providing support for the learning and teaching program. I have responsibility for managing the library team, overseeing the budget expenditure, developing and maintaining the collection – including working with the Learning Leaders to select new resources – and performing circulation duties. I also ensure central resource management, the promotion of the library, and attend meetings with the library team and a range of other school groups. Finally, I ensure that the library supports the College’s initiatives and current strategic plan and provides a welcoming and safe environment for all users.

I believe that the school library underpins the learning and teaching of the whole school. It supports students in their learning and teachers in their teaching to enable all students to achieve success.

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

 The most rewarding aspect is the opportunity I have to interact and work with all members of the school community. Our school is relatively small and at various times students come to the library to do their work, borrow or read books, use the printing facilities, attend the Homework Club, meet up with their friends or simply chat to a member of the library team.

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

 I believe that the school library underpins the learning and teaching of the whole school. It supports students in their learning and teachers in their teaching to enable all students to achieve success. At Mercy College, the school library has always been valued. This has been demonstrated by the employment of suitably qualified staff, the provision of an ample annual budget and the understanding of the library as being central to the core business of the College.

Building positive relationships is also crucial and I have the advantage of knowing each student and staff member by name. The library belongs to the whole school community with the library team as caretakers. Observing students and staff use the library and seeking their feedback on how to improve the services or programs, as well as keeping abreast of trends in school libraries, is important to enable the Library Team to deliver effectively.

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

 Being a small school, our major challenge is giving students access to a variety of resources. It is imperative that the budget allocation is spent wisely over the course of the school year, we cannot waste money or resources. Central resource management is the key. All items purchased are catalogued, processed and mostly centrally housed. This procedure avoids the unnecessary doubling up of resources. Working in partnership with learning leaders to order resources on their behalf or to share the cost of particular resources has been a positive step.

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

 The fiction collection is an important aspect of our resourcing. A significant portion of the budget is devoted to the purchase of current and diverse titles. Students and staff can make suggestions for new titles – Year 7 students are particularly delighted when they learn this. An important aspect of this process is that the person suggesting is the first one to borrow the title when it becomes available.

The formal Wide Reading program for Year 7 and 8 students is valued and supported via the English Domain. Every class has a set timetabled lesson once per cycle with a particular focus for each year level. Overall the strategic intent is to improve the reading aptitude and attitude of our students. A special aspect of our approach is the reading competitions in Term 3. Year 7s participate in the Seven million words reading quest, Year 8s in the Year 8 Genre Reading Challenge and the rest of the school in the Year 9–12 + Staff House Reading Competition.

Another part of the promotion of reading and literacy is the fortnightly Freedom Readers Book Club. Members discuss the book they are currently reading and suggest titles that might pique each other’s interest.

Colourful and eye-catching displays are another example of promotion. At the beginning of each school year, the library team plans for different aspects. It could be new books, books you should read by the end of a particular year level, books that suit a unit of work, or holiday reading selections. We ensure that before each term holiday we have a selection of books for staff to read.

The school has a long history of celebrating National Literacy and Numeracy Week with a plethora of activities planned by the English, Mathematics and Information Centre staff. Focusing on words and numbers, the Week has developed into one of the highlights on the school calendar.


The school has a long history of celebrating Book/Literacy and Numeracy Week with a plethora of activities planned by the English, Mathematics and Information Centre staff.

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

 The library is available for class or individual use throughout the school day and into the early evening. At the beginning of the year there are orientation sessions for new students and staff.

At lunchtime students are able to eat their lunch in the library as long as they are sitting at a table and clean up after themselves. This has proven very popular as students eat their lunch whilst working with a friend, finishing their work or studying for a test.

The Homework Club operates in the library each afternoon, and during lunchtime there is also support available for students with regard to their work.

Whilst COVID has altered our routines, games are available for students to play during break times. There are a number of clubs run by the library, including Chess Club, Crafty Club and K-Pop Club.

What is your favourite thing about SCIS?

 By far my favourite thing is that for all my years working in school libraries, SCIS has offered a central base to catalogue resources, Australia wide. This database is specifically designed to serve schools by providing a consistent approach to the cataloguing of all types of resources used in schools. It is a fantastic tool. The efficiency of how new resources are catalogued and added is such a time-saver for a hectic school library. This database has enabled me to get resources catalogued and processed in a timely manner, adding value to our service provision. What is even more special is that it is easy to send resources in to be catalogued. This not only frees up time for me but also ensures that the catalogue details for new resources are available for all schools around the nation.

Anne Girolami

Learning Leader Information Services Mercy College, Coburg