The school library is a treasure trove of physical and virtual resources for both teachers and learners. And the better those resources are managed, the more valuable the library is to all users. School News looks at management systems for keeping library resources safe, attractive and accessible.
According to the National Library, online library services can change the way your school community accesses resources. “They make these things available beyond the school walls and the school day.”
Key to a welcoming and efficiently-managed school library, apart from its treasured staff of course, is a robust integrated library system (ILS). These can help schools to unearth data to encourage and assist even their most reluctant readers. And their user-friendly search options help students gain independent research skills. Rather than depending on staff to find books for them, they search using key words or topics. The results that appear, in words and pictures, often lead them to new discoveries of related items, thus driving engagement.
In most cases, an ILS has separate software functions called modules, for example acquisitions (for ordering, receiving and invoicing), cataloguing (classifying and indexing), circulation (borrowing and returns), and OPAC (the public interface for users).
A good ILS will be valuable to all school staff and students. Principals can stay informed about how their library and learning resources are being used and therefore budget accordingly.
Schools can use the system to manage and deliver teaching resources and textbook collections. In this way, teachers can access resources from any place, at any time.
Students can enjoy the same ease of access, and the access to documents and multi-media items will encourage them to explore more deeply. A visual search option is helpful for younger readers.
An ILS usually manages:
- borrowing and returning of books and other resources
- reports and statistics on the use of the library collection
- integrated access to e-journals, eBooks, databases, websites and print resources.
It will also include an Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC), an online database of your library’s resources. Ideally, your school community will be able to access the OPAC from the homepage of your school’s website.
Your library’s OPAC gives online access to physical and digital resources, such as:
- books and journals
- the library website, blog and wiki
- databases, electronic resources and eBooks
Integrating your OPAC with other online access
Your school’s ILS should connect to online systems. For example, if you have a library website there should be a link from the website to your OPAC and vice versa. Ideally, students will be able to search the OPAC directly from the LMS using an embedded search box.
Training for your OPAC
The OPAC is so much more valuable when users have had a little training. This should include how to:
- do a basic search
- reserve resources
- check their loans and overdues
Analysing reading habits
Your ILS provides statistics that can support teaching and learning. Each patron and item has a unique ID in the database that allows the ILS to track its activity. Statistics can be provided to teachers to let them know about students’ reading profiles, and information from borrower history reports are useful to find out who isn’t using the library.
Search reports can also be helpful in identifying gaps in the library collection, and provide insight into which learners need guidance with searching.
Your ILS can generate reports including collection usage, subject reports and missing items. Use these to help select new material by, for example, identifying:
- the most popular authors and titles
- any gaps in subjects in the collection
- where resources are (lost, current or being repaired)
You can also use your ILS to compare borrowing patterns and find out what titles students are interested in.
Which system to choose?
The system you select needs to meet your users’ needs and provide fast, efficient and user-friendly access to information. This includes appropriately managed access to physical, multimedia and online resources.
Ask your ILS supplier what the system can do, how it integrates with other systems, and what sort of training and support you can expect.
Using reports and statistics
Set up your system to meet your requirements, for example:
- define user groups, borrowing limits and holiday issuing dates
- configure your search so that vital information appears first. You can test this by searching as if you’re a student, checking that you can see clearly where an item is located in the collection
- make sure it does an automatic backup every day — check with your system supplier for instructions and advice about setting up your ILS backups.
Training and support
Use your supplier’s help desk to get set up. Note answers in the school library manual.
- Ask about training videos and webinars
- Keep the user manual to hand
- Stay updated by attending training sessions
- Find other people who use the same system in your area. Collaborate and take turns to share your best tips and tricks
A good ILS will be valuable to all school staff and students.