A girl in a library looking at her online library catalogue

Building a strong reading culture: St Rita’s College Library

We recently asked Head Librarian, Kathryn Schravemade and the team at St Rita’s College Library in Brisbane if they could share with us how they make their library space engaging and inclusive and build a strong reading culture within their school. Here’s what they shared:

What are the core values of your library?

Responsiveness, flexibility and community. The St Rita’s College Library supports and drives learning in an environment that provides users with responsive learning spaces, tools and expertise to assist skill-building, inquiry and learning in the Digital Age. Our library transcends the static notion of a traditional library by offering a multi-dimensional learning ecology promoting high quality skill development, collaborative leadership, responsive services and environments and community networks and partnerships. Services, staffing and resources offered by the St Rita’s library go beyond traditional notions of the school library to support and lead scholars in connecting, inquiring and developing both 21st Century and discipline-specific skills that underpin the QCAA Queensland Curriculum.

How do you ensure your library is an inclusive space for everyone?

We work hard to ensure that our spaces are welcoming and inviting for everyone. This means our displays and spaces constantly change to reflect the needs and interests of our users. We offer a variety of physical spaces for our users (individual, collaborative, formal and informal) as well as providing users access to many of our resources and services digitally through our library website. This means that users can access what they need in a space or format they are comfortable with however they prefer.

Display at St Rita's College Library

How do you support struggling-readers in your library?

We have built a strong reading culture within our school and this starts prior to the students completing their first day at the college. We hold ‘campfires’ with future students in year 6 to introduce them to our collection and staff and allow them to borrow over the Christmas holidays prior to their commencement at the college. This establishes the library as a place where students are comfortable when they commence at the college.

St Rita's students reading

We also host our Read Like a Girl program (in partnership with Riverbend Books) that is open to our feeder students and the wider community. Click here to check out the website.

Our biggest Read Like a Girl event for 2019, our Remarkable Women conference, is happening on July 19th and we are very excited to be hosting a day-long conference featuring many fantastic authors.

We’re so impressed with your multiple Accessit Web App homepages. Could you give us any tips to making an engaging online Web App for students?

We recently changed to have only two Accessit Web App homepages, one for students and one for staff. We found this decision has allowed us to regularly update and easily manage the digital content. Our number one tip for engaging with students online is to create content that is eye catching and on trend, while remaining within your college style guide. Look at social media, Pinterest, other advertising material for inspiration. Canva is a great place to start creating your own graphics. Click here to check out St Rita’s Library Web App.

You do some wonderful displays in your library. Where do you get your inspiration for these?

We find inspiration from everywhere, for example, curriculum being studied, Pinterest, other staff members or just brainstorming in our ‘think tank’, also known as the library office. Our most interactive displays have been the Harry Potter display with the flying car photo booth.

St Rita's College Library - display

Your library also has a strong social media presence, how important do you think it has been to keep engaging with your students online?

We believe strongly in engaging with our community beyond the confines of our physical space. Social media provides the perfect medium for us to do this. Our students prefer to follow us on Instagram as do many authors whereas, staff and publishing houses are usually more active on Twitter. We use social media to promote new resources, events and services and students who don’t tend to spend as much time in the library regularly come in to loan something that has caught their eye online.

Students also love to see the interactions we have with people outside the school community, authors and other organisations often engage via comments or replies. Click here to check out St Rita’s Library Twitter feed.

St Rita's Library - social media

Do you collaborate with teachers and the wider school community on library initiatives?

We work closely with teaching staff to assist them in resourcing their curriculum and building research skills with students. We also use the Accessit Web App as the ‘one-stop-shop’ for staff and students as they are able to search, access and reference all of our physical and digital resources in one place. This might involve curating quick lists or visual searches as a foundation for their research too.


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