School Library Spotlight: St Stephen's School

By Lise Legg

A look inside Lise Legg's school library at St Stephen’s School, Perth, Western Australia

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

My job title is Head of Libraries at St Stephen’s School, which is an independent, co-educational Uniting Church school from Pre-kindergarten to Year 12. The school was established at the Duncraig Campus in 1984 and the Carramar Campus in 2001. In 2011, an Early Learning Centre for prekindergarten to Year 2 was built. The school has four libraries, three of them based on our Duncraig campus (K–2, 3–6, 7–12) and one (K–12) at our Carramar campus. I was tasked to bring together all four libraries digitally to ensure all resources could be shared across these libraries. This has been a challenge, but the result is a very unified system with similar but different focuses in our libraries.

We do not shush the students – we like to have a reasonable level of noise and always tell the students it is ‘their’ library to enjoy and use.

I am responsible for leading and managing the teams in the libraries. I have an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and experienced team of four teacher librarians, one library technician and four library officers – most working on a part-time basis. I am responsible for budgets, staffing, acquisitions including digital, and I also take a few digital literacy, information literacy and reading classes on one campus. Our very able team of teacher librarians collaborate with classroom teachers to ensure teaching programs are supported in all four libraries.

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

Working with young people out of the confines of a classroom environment so one can support learning in a friendly and helpful way. I love the more unstructured environment of a library, and every day brings something different. We encourage students to use the libraries in many ways and as a result our libraries are in high demand and are a popular hub of our schools.

We provide a vibrant, social place for our students and offer various activities at lunchtimes to ensure students can form friendships and have fun. Our lunchtime clubs include chess club, French club, book clubs, craft club, drawing clubs and a very popular online gaming club.

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

Students are at the centre of everything we do and plan. We are blessed to have a supportive principal who respects and values the role of our libraries. I think literacy and instilling a lifelong love of reading is a very important part of our role in libraries. By providing regular reading lessons we have developed a strong reading culture within our schools.

Schools are increasingly concerned with the promotion of student wellbeing, and this is also an important part of our role in the library. We encourage our students to use the different spaces in ways which best suit their needs. During exams it is wonderful to see our secondary students congregating in the library, studying, providing each other with emotional support and being able to meet in a stress-free environment.

We host many events and are fortunate to have large spaces to do this effectively. Many meetings – like devotions, smaller staff meetings and parent evenings – are held in our libraries.

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

By working closely with our English teachers and primary teachers we have ensured that all classes from pre-primary to Year 9 have set reading times in our libraries. We provide wide reading programs to suit the ages and reading abilities of our students. These are run by our teacher librarians, but the focus of the lesson – after a short introduction – is quiet reading.

The library plays an important part in supporting literacy by providing engaging books for our students to read. We ensure that we have a modern, current and relevant collection including a large collection of audio and ebooks. Our creative library team make beautiful, themed displays to encourage interest in the latest books. Our students are proactive in suggesting new books for the library, and they are always the first ones to read the book they suggested. We have book clubs and hold annual book fairs, run many events during Book Week and support National Simultaneous Storytime. We organise an outing to a bookshop during the year so that a select group of students can choose books for the library. This is always a successful event.

Challenges are those students who really don’t like reading. We try to cater for them by having a wide range of magazines, graphic novels, and short, easy reads which are age appropriate. Another challenge is ensuring the seniors have recreational reading time. They have such jam-packed schedules and high workloads, making it is difficult to find time to read. I think the reading foundations we have built in their earlier years will allow students to rediscover a love of reading once they leave school.

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

We have a café with a vending machine in our secondary areas where students are welcome to eat their lunch at lunchbreak. We have varied zones in the library for quiet study, reading, group work – and class areas. We have separate reading lounges with beanbags, comfortable seating and cushions in our K–12 and secondary libraries. We do not shush the students – we like to have a reasonable level of noise and always tell the students it is ‘their’ library to enjoy and use.

Students are timetabled in the library for digital literacy lessons, which the teacher librarians run. In addition, we alternate with HASS and science lessons to develop information literacy skills in the context of the current subject matter. In these lessons we teach them to research effectively and reference correctly.

We develop LibGuides for different subject areas as we know our students need guidance in accessing reliable, relevant resources. One of our teacher librarians is responsible for the digital curation of our resources so they can be shared by our libraries. We have created a library website using the LibGuides platform. This provides access to our digital platforms and our Library Management System (Follett Destiny), which is an excellent teaching and curating tool.

6. What is your favourite thing about SCIS?

SCIS is very useful to import catalogue records which are correct and consistent in format. It is helpful to be able to request SCIS records for items that are not on SCIS. I also really love the Connections articles as I find them so practical and relevant.tent

Lise Legg

Head of Libraries

St Stephens School