Helen Stower (the Program Leader of the iCentre at Mount Alvernia, and my wonderful colleague) and I were recently invited to attend the inaugural Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) Library Network Conference, and I was so inspired and motivated by the things I heard and learnt, that I had to process them in the best way I know how… by writing a blog post.
Mount Alvernia College is not a member of EREA, however, the Teacher Librarians (TLs) at the host school of the conference, St James College, Brisbane, very kindly extended the invitation to their other network, COTLIBS. Helen was asked to be a keynote speaker at the conference, and we gladly accepted the invitation to attend the three day event. Over my 3 years of being a proper – and by proper I mean fully qualified – TL, I have had the opportunity to attend a few TL specific PDs, but this one was particularly good. Here’s why…
1. I realised that we’re all working towards the same thing.
A staff member from each of the schools represented at the conference shared a bit of their story. Each story showed just how different schools are around Australia, including the different challenges we all face, and the different resources at our disposal. However, it also highlighted that even though we all have different stories, we all have the same goals.
2. I realised just how lucky I am to have the support of my school leadership.
There was some talk around the issue of declining support for the work of TLs, or the fact that some leadership personal – whether it be in schools, organisations, or even government – aren’t always aware of what we do and how important we are. I am fortunate to work in a school that has unconditional support from my principal and College Leadership Team.
3. I learnt so many things.
Some of the schools had further opportunity to share what they’ve been doing in their libraries, and I learnt something from every one of them! For example…
I’ve been inspired to try:
- A version of Write a book in a day after hearing about Waverley College‘s experience.
- A game that allows students to test their genre knowledge from St Joseph’s Nudgee College
- Integrating reading lessons in the library for year 9 students in 2019. I was rather envious of St Kevin’s College for their structure of: 1 lesson per week for their 7s and 8s, 1 a fortnight for their 9s, and 1 a term for their 10s. Their reading culture is strong and their results are showing this.
Of course, there were so many more amazing things happening and I would love to try them all, but I also know that I need to start prioritising new ideas and only doing one at a time. So, we’ll see how these go and then when I’m ready, I can always reach out for more inspiration later.
4. A good network is everything.
In many of the schools that came to the conference, there was often only a small number of library staff in their schools, or, in some cases, they were it. It really hit home to me then, why networks for TLs (or anyone really) are important. The opportunity to bounce ideas, commiserate, and celebrate with colleagues is something that TLs don’t always get to do. Having a strong and supportive network can give you confidence and provide learning when your school may not be able to help you. The connections formed at the EREA conference were strong, and I know that should anyone need anything, there will be an army of TLs from all over Australia willing and able to provide whatever it is.
5. “Don’t tell, sell!”
This final point summed up the entire conference for me. There seemed to be a theme about promoting our libraries and our work, about making our communities realise our importance. We were fortunate enough to hear from David Stanes of SOHO Media Group. He spoke about the importance of marketing our libraries and the ways we can do this. Helen Stower backed up his important message the next day with her keynote “Begging the Question” – that question essentially being, what are our non-negotiables for our libraries and how do we prove this?
And so, those are the 5 things I walked away from the 3 day conference with. I want to thank Lee Bess, Nikki Carpenter, and Shelley from St James College for their vision and hard work. Thank you to all the TLs and library staff from all around Australia for coming and sharing their stories. I am richer and wiser from having met you all.