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Let’s Talk Libraries: Diocese of Toowoomba – Liz Newman

Type  Primary, Secondary and P-12 consortium
Staff 1,700
Campus 31
Installation Local and cloud

 

“A number of our Secondary schools have had an increase in borrowing because students can reserve and all those sorts of things through their own account. In one of our Secondary Boys’ colleges, we saw a significant increase in lending to boys in the category of ‘reluctant readers’ in the first couple of years of using Accessit”. – Liz Newman, Education Officer: Digital tools and data analysis

Liz Newman

Education Officer: Digital tools and data analysis, Diocese of Toowoomba, QLD

Prior to installing Accessit Library, Toowoomba Catholic Schools had another system that adequately performed the consortium’s backend library tasks. However, Liz and her team needed to upgrade the user interface so that it provided a similar experience to what their students were used to in other applications.

“For a long period of time we had a different library management system that ran in most of our schools. We didn’t have any problems with the system in terms of the database and the work that it supported, but in this increasingly social media and Google world, we were looking for a system that would provide a user interface that was current and similar to the experience that our users have on other platforms. However, we didn’t want to lose any of the features that were in the backend of the legacy system, so we wanted school library software that did all those backend things just as well. We wanted a library management system that added value in terms of the experience for our users.”

Once they’d chosen Accessit Library, Liz and her team of teacher librarians and developers had to then plan implementation across the 31 schools within the consortium. With a range of inexperienced and very experienced school librarians, it was very important that all stakeholders had a well organised and transparent migration process.

“We rolled out Accessit across our 31 schools in a little bit more than 12 months. I was very conscious that we had a range of very experienced teacher librarians who had been through this kind of process before. We also had people in charge of our school libraries who weren’t librarians and had no experience with this type of process. So, I was keen to work with Accessit to ensure that our early adopter schools were the schools where the teacher librarians would be part of building knowledge and experience as we rolled out each group of schools.

We rolled out four schools in a group, who I would meet along with the Accessit migration team before they had to send the data over to Accessit. Everybody was given a document that outlined what they had to do and had an opportunity before the meeting to ask questions or clarify anything – which was excellent.

All of our library staff got two days of training, which Helen from Accessit would come and run through with library staff in the relevant group. The installation process was seamless because of the communication with and organisation of the migrations team.”

During the rollout of Accessit, Liz and her team implemented new information architecture to consolidate and improve the consortia’s IT processes. Liz found the Accessit team very helpful and accommodating.

“Our office changed the information services architecture, meaning Accessit had to then talk to the TCSO integration hub rather than directly to the school servers. Brett, the Accessit developer we worked with, handled this well in collaboration with our own developer.”

Liz gave an “overwhelming ‘Yes’”, when we asked whether she thought Accessit had helped facilitate learning in the school and helped teachers facilitate their lessons in primary schools. She also added:

“We had a teacher librarian at one of our Toowoomba schools who spoke explicitly about how it was contributing positively to the student’s literacy. I have other teachers in primary schools talk about how they use One Search to teach children about research. And a lot of the teacher librarians are also using Accessit to develop kids’ digital literacy skills.

In the Australian curriculum, the ICT general capabilities requires students to have some level of competency around investigation using digital tools, so they’re using Accessit to help with that.”

When talking about how else Accessit had helped facilitate learning in the school, Liz said:

“A number of our Secondary schools have had an increase in borrowing because students can reserve and self-manage through their own account. In the first couple of years of using Accessit (in one of our Secondary Boys’ colleges) we saw a significant increase in lending to year 6-9 boys in the category of ‘reluctant readers’.

Accessit provided them with an interface which they could use in the same way they’re using other digital tools. They could go in independently and search for things, prioritising the kinds of items that interested them. We documented the increase in loans over the two years we have been using Accessit, and the teacher librarian put it down to the way that the boys could interact with Accessit.

The other thing I know that some of the Secondary school’s love is the One Search tool. Students can find the items that are in the library, as well as items in Britannica and ClickView which they find really fabulous.”

Along with facilitating learning and helping teachers in the classrooms, Accessit has also had positive benefits for the librarians.

“Our school librarians are finding stocktake a lot more user friendly. They’re also finding a lot of the reports really useful, particularly in terms of evidence to inform their decision making of the school.”

Liz has also been blown away by the Accessit Web App by “being so much more than first envisaged”, adding further:

“It’s enabled libraries to provide an online portal to their users so that the library can be available 24/7 from wherever they are with a device and an internet connection. I think the ‘library in your pocket’ has been absolutely terrific, and the older the student, the more important it’s been as they can engage whenever they want.

It’s also provided our schools with an opportunity to genuinely promote themselves, and not just wait for kids to go to the library. They’ve got links to Accessit on the school’s web pages as well as links to Accessit embedded in online programs where kids have to go to pick up resources for study and so on. It’s enabled them the ability to search not just the hard copy collection, but all of the other digital tools they have available through the library service as well. Everyone has been very happy to get the library into the 21st century!”

And of course, the schools within the Diocese have found the Accessit Library support centre enormously helpful.

“Initially, some of our people would remark, ‘I shouldn’t have tried to troubleshoot, I should have just rung up, because once I called, I found that what I was looking for was only two clicks away’.

 

Across the 31 schools, there are many anecdotes regarding how good the Accessit support team is.”

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