Great library at heart of school

St Felix Catholic Primary’s school library is at the centre of the school grounds and life. Photo: Kitty Beale

St Felix Catholic Primary’s school library is at the centre of the school grounds and life. Photo: Kitty Beale

Libraries at six Sydney Catholic schools have found a place on the Great School Libraries honours list.

Close to 600 nominations were collected between October and December last year, with 213 school libraries across Australia making the 2016 honours list compiled by the Australian Library and Information Society’s FAIR [Freedom of Access to Information and Resources] campaign.

All Saints Catholic Senior College Casula, Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton, and Holy Spirit Catholic College Lakemba were on the list along with three Sydney Catholic primary schools – St Felix Catholic Primary Bankstown, St Michael’s Catholic Primary Belfield and St Michael’s Catholic Primary Meadowbank.

The kids are quite proud there are books in there with their family name on them.

– Lisa Harbrow

St Felix’ Principal Lisa Harbrow said the school’s library was located at the centre of the school and used for playgroup story time sessions as well as students’ learning activities and leisure. A parent café and library section allows parents to borrow books, have a cup of coffee and chat.

“We recently refurbished and revitalised our library so it was physically in the centre of the school,” Mrs Harbrow said. “The kids come and go and use it for technology, chess club, and games, for reading books or borrowing books.

“In children’s guided reading rotations they’re on their laptops and searching for books from the library within their classroom, and they’re borrowing e-books from their classroom, using it as an information and technology centre.

“The librarian has ensured the children have the skills to use the computer system and that they are almost able to run the library without her.”

The school has 10 student library assistants from Years 5 and 6, and four parent volunteers to help with borrowing and returning books. They also assist others to find resources and search effectively for them.

They began a small ‘parent library’ last year when a parent donated a series of books they thought others might like to read. It has since grown, with parents also purchasing books at the school’s annual book fair to donate as student resources to the library.

“Parents go and borrow books about religion, parenting, some novels,” Mrs Harbrow said. “If a family has donated a book there is a little plaque at the front of the book that says it has been donated by them. The kids are quite proud there are books in there with their family name on them.”

We refurbished and revitalised our library so it was physically in the centre of the school.

Mrs Harbrow praised the school’s teacher librarian Sylvia Braden for her work.

“She is a very skilled classroom teacher, a very skilled community worker, and she does an amazing job,” she said. “Our school-wide [teaching focus] is about allowing children to be creative and critical thinkers. She really ensures that the library honours that.”

To be eligible for the Great School Libraries honours list, the school libraries must help young people find reliable information and use it effectively, think critically, work productively with others and share ideas, build knowledge of the world, safely navigate the internet, and find great reads to meet their personal interests and abilities.

Great school libraries at a glance:

  • 90% of the nominations were for schools employing a teacher librarian
  • 92% of school libraries were open the same hours as the school or extended hours;
  • 96% of the nominated libraries encouraged students to use online resources.
  • 97% of school libraries held Book Week celebrations, reading challenges, manga illustration sessions and author visits.

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