Learning to develop a responsive secondary school library collection

Secondary school students reading books from a responsive school library collection

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Read how Services to Schools' 'Building a responsive collection' online course helped the school librarian at Palmerston North Girls' High School ensure their school library's collection met the needs of its community.

Back to school after the public library

As the new School Librarian, Victoria Blockley-Powell brought her public library experience back into a school library environment.

"I was returning to working in a school library after many, many years of working in the public library sector. I knew that I needed to switch my brain into collection management from a school perspective."

Building a responsive collection

Victoria decided to focus on the library’s collection. "Inheriting a newly refurbished and weeded library in a school where the student demographic was changing meant a fresh look was needed at where the collection was heading in the future."

This prompted Victoria to register for our Building a responsive collection for your secondary school library online course. "I thought, and was right, that this course would be a brilliant opportunity to bring all of those things to the forefront of my mind."

Victoria was able to refine her practice as a school librarian. "For me, personally, it is having a clear goal of where I want the collection to go and how I want the collection to reflect our incredibly diverse school community."

Lessons learned

The course challenged aspects of Victoria’s current thinking, in particular:

  • "It is so very hard not bring your own bias into the collection. If you have a love of certain genres it is easy to overlook others.
  • Our collection was very white and middle-class and not as reflective of our student community as I initially thought."

The course’s basis in collection management practices with a strong focus on collaboration meant Victoria was able to use the course's learning to help her reflect on how she did things.

It was good to be reminded of what a 'science' good content management is, and that the science of it needs to be balanced by a good dose of talking to people and a bit of intuition thrown in. It really does take time and really is a work in perpetual progress.

Turning learning into action

As a part of the course, Victoria created an action plan for an initiative to implement in her school. This provided an effective framework for Victoria to meet her goal within a manageable and realistic time frame.

It is wonderful seeing [the action plan] come to fruition already. The main outcome of my action plan was to implement a foreign language section in the library. It was overwhelming talking to students about the desire to read in their own language and have their culture acknowledged as important. I have started the collection already and have been working with the school, the greater community, and the public library in getting this going.

Advantages of online learning

Victoria identified a number of advantages to online learning which centred around the flexibility the format provides. It was important to her that any potential professional development had "built-in flexibility that would fit in with my hectic life".

The scope and pitch of the course were also important. "The fact that it was aimed at secondary schools meant that all of the participants would be on the 'same page'." Victoria was "able to dip in and out over the week to fit in with the rhythms of the library".

The authentic context was also appealing.

I also really enjoyed being in the library as I worked on the questions and assignments. I was able to refer to shelves, students, and teachers and any other matter of resources as I worked, which made it seem very real and practical.

The opportunities provided to discuss, share, and talk with other participants through the course forums was something which Victoria took advantage of as time allowed.

I might not have been as active as some, but reading others people’s ideas, goals, and aspirations for their collections was very inspiring for me. It also made me realise the value of community, and of those doing the same job as you, and what a help they can be.

More online courses and professional development

Professional learning and support has more about Services to Schools' professional learning programme.

Collections and resources