A STEEP learning curve – the Library Landscape
I’ve found the varied discussions of others’ school library contexts interesting – it’s like peering through the Playschool windows into other worlds! It has also helped me focus my attention on the strengths of my own context at Evans High School, and allowed me to take stock of what our opportunities are for development in the future.
So, my STEEP analysis of the library@Evans!
Social: in previous years, the library was massively under-utilised, with students only coming in to use a power point if their phones needed charging, or escape from the rain or heat. There were many behaviour referrals as a result of negative incidents taking place in the library during break times, and seniors rarely used the space during free or study periods.
When I took over at the start of 2014, we implemented many changes to the space. As a result, the library is now used very differently. Students gather during break times to play games, read, sit quietly in one of the soft comfortable spaces around the building, or hang out with their friends. There is a lot of positive interaction going on, as students collaborate on building worlds in minecraft or clash of clans, play card games or chess, watch movies, or chat. There is a committed group of students who are running a “library warriors” group, organising library displays and activities, and contributing ideas about future directions of the library.
Our school library caters to the mainstream high school (coed 7-12), an intensive English centre with a fluctuating population of a wide range of cultures and backgrounds, and an autism unit. One of the key strengths of the library socially is that it provides a nurturing safe space for this diverse community to interact with each other, and build some positive connections.
Staff are also more actively involved in the library, with CAPA staff working with classes to create works that can be featured in our gallery spaces. Other staff frequently visit to help students with study or research both in break times and senior study periods, and engage with students by playing cards or chatting about what’s happening. It’s a vibrant, lovely, wonderful space to spend my days!
Technological: our previous principal was focused on making our library a technology centre, and created three computer labs in the building which take up a huge amount of the floor space. We have three labs which each have 24 computers and a data projector, and DER wifi throughout the building.
We are about to add mobile devices to our technology arsenal, with 10 laptops and 20 iPads being available for student use, as well as a trial of a number of different ereader and tablet devices.
Our BYOD/BYOT policy is about to be implemented, which will mean that students will be able to bring their own devices in and connect to the school wifi. As we have just lost our DER TSO position, much of the management of this program will be done in the library, and by me as both TL and technology team member.
The recent departure of our DER TSO position has meant that there have been changes in the way that school-supplied technology is supported in our school. (All students from Yr10-12 have a DER laptop, with IEC students able to borrow one from the school pool of laptops during their enrolment). As this position was previously located in the library, there is a natural inclination amongst students to continue to see the library as their support hub for technology issues.
Economic: In recent years, the library budget has been minimal. As my position in the library is a trial, it was also supported with an increase in budget from both the high school and IEC, and support for additional technology purchases for the library from the Technology Team based on my support of ongoing ICT initiatives in the school. There has also been allowance made for additional funds across the school for beautification projects, which has led to a pool of money being made available for painting and new library supplies.
Environmental: Our school has a strong focus on recycling, and the library has a number of paper recycling bins around. Our SRC runs an aluminium can recycling program, and the library is a central focus of that, with dedicated can recycling bins at the front door. We are developing a “freecycling” policy, which encourages students to think about ways to be environmentally friendly in their disposal of unwanted items – is there some way it could be reused or repurposed, or rehomed to someone who may be able to make use of it? We are also holding an art competition in Term 4 where artworks and sculptures will be only able to be produced with books that have been weeded from our library collection, and will be included as part of a gallery wall which is going to feature a shelf unit constructed from old encyclopaedias. Much of the soft furnishing which has recently been added to the library (couches, cushions, etc) has been sourced from donations from our school community, both saving it from landfill and creating an awareness of the benefits of giving things new homes, rather than purchasing new.
Political: This for me is the really interesting one. There are a number of office spaces in the library which are being used by individuals, and the space is then not available for the wider community. Changes in the library are being resisted, because of personal politics, and personal agendas about maintaining space which is seen as “theirs”. There is some resistance to change from the supervising library Head Teacher as well, who was responsible for overseeing the previous librarian, and perhaps feels that the change in position reflects poorly on her management of the library in previous years. It’s a minefield, but there is also a lot of support from the senior exec, as well as from teachers who have seen the changes that have happened so far, and are excited for what might come in the future.