Overview the library or information agency where you undertook your placement. Discuss FOUR of the following: the role of the library, users, services, collections, access provided to collections, use of technology, staffing and management.
From the 29th June to the 10th July, I completed my placement with the Gosford City Council Libraries. The City Council Library consists of several different branches that all provide various services as well as the traditional roles of the library. The branches include: Gosford, Kincumber, Umina, Woy Woy, Wyoming, Erina, Kariong and the Mooney Mooney Community Library. I was able to visit most libraries during my practicum, however I spent the majority of my time at the Kincumber branch.
The Role of the Library
It is a public library and serves a population of approximately 321,500, spread over 1767 square kilometres. The Council states the following on their website regarding their overall mission and vision:
Gosford City Council is committed to growing our city today, while also looking after the needs of our community in the future.
Therefore, the library is aiming to provide quality library services to their community, responsive to the needs of that community. Library membership is free to anyone who lives, works or goes to school in the Central Coast district. I joined the library on my second day, the services offered are too good to miss out on.
The library consists of eight branches that work very well together. All locations are embracing a change in the role of the library from a place that houses resources and materials, to a space for the community – made possible through an increase in multipurpose rooms and spaces in the library including inviting courtyards and vibrant children’s sections. The Gosford, Erina and Kincumber branch are the busiest out of all of them, I think this has a lot to do with their location and size.
Besides its physical locations and collections, the library also plays a major role in community outreach with a priority on equitable access for all community members through a home service program for the elderly, book mobile and children’s programs such as Story Time and Baby time promoting early childhood literacy, among others. Also throughout the holiday period, the library also offers holiday children’s programs. They connect with local community members and groups and have them come to the libraries and run workshops along with library staff. Whilst on practicum I was involved in the Aboriginal art workshop that was held for NAIDOC week which was amazing and the kids really enjoyed it. They run the programs on a rotating roster around most of the libraries. Parents need to book prior to participating to ensure there is enough materials and space available.
The library provides a variety of services to members. These include:
- Storytime – aims to introduce children to the joys of literature and language through story, poetry, puppetry and felt stories, fingerplays and rhymes, songs and craft. It is recommended for children aged 3 to 5 years.
- Babytime or Sing, Read and Rhyme – is a special program for babies, and aims to introduce the joy of books and early literacy skills to babies and their carers.
- Two to Three – What about me? – is a program for toddlers 2 to 3 years of age. This early literacy program builds on the concepts of Sing, Read and Rhyme and introduces a greater range of theme based songs, books and activities. This program is only available at the Erina branch.
- Children’s programmes after school – Young adult book club at Gosford library. It is on 1 day a week for 1 hour. There is an occasional theme, they discuss books, play board games etc The age range is 12 to 18 years old. They will also hold parties and social nights such as a superhero/ zombie and pizza night where the members get dressed up and have a great time.
- School holiday activities – science workshops, art workshops, Ocean Care workshops
- Author Visits
- Printing (black and white and colour), and scanning facilities. There is a small cost associated with these, though scanning to a USB is free
- Free wifi
- Items can be reserved for a small fee
- Interlibrary loans are available, there are conditions on when an item will be requested from another library
- Justice of the Peace services
- Meeting room hire
- Preschool visits
- Virtual Library – is a gateway to a world of print and electronic resources for education, information and recreation. It allows members to view the catalogue, provides a range of research databases and provides a wide range of e-books that members can borrow after they have downloaded the Overdrive App on their electronic device.
- Home Library Service – this is for elderly people who are house bound. They register with the library and are then interviewed. During the interviewing process they are asked about their preferred reading material e.g. large print, audio books, mp3 etc. They are then asked about their favourite authors, genres, and also how many fiction and non-fiction titles they would like. Library branches are assigned particular people that are within their area. They are then put on a four week cycle as there are so many people to provide this service to. For example in week 1 there might be 5 people that Kincumber has to cater and pick books for. Those books are chosen, scanned in and then bagged labelled with the week and the person’s name. The home library service courier who is based at the Woy Woy branch comes and collects the bags for that particular week on a particular day and delivers the books. The courier also collects the bags that the person has previously had from their home and then drops them off to another branch so that the collection is being shared around amongst the different branches.
- Book Mobile – this service is a fantastic way of getting out into the community and is very much appreciated, particularly by the retirees. The book mobile visits specific locations on specific days (it runs on a 2 week cycle). It also caters for primary schools on the Mountain as they have very small libraries and generally only have a librarian at their school one day a week. The book mobile is a large van with a great range of different materials for community members to borrow. This is such a great service, however sadly not many people use it. There was a few stops that we made and waited for an hour with only 1 person stop by.
All age groups are catered for in some way.
The Library branches have a large and diverse floating collection, meaning that it circulates throughout the branches so that its users has a wide variety of resources and material to choose from. The collection has been changing in recent years to reflect the changing needs of its users. The library houses a large print collection consisting of adult, paperback fiction, non-fiction, periodicals, historical texts. The fiction and non-fiction collections are collected through a patron-driven collecting policy and weeded to maintain its relevancy and preserve space. The patron-driven collection policy is proving to be very successful in collecting materials the users directly want to read and has resulted in good collection circulation even as some users turn to electronic materials.
The library also collects for its local history collection, which is housed only at the Gosford branch. Some of the collection is currently being cataloged and unfortunately I wasn’t able to see how this process works. Nevertheless, it is amazing to discover what my local library holds that is specific to the area. This collection has been very popular with students over the past years, particularly for those completing their HSC in Geography and Graphic Design. Many students come to see old maps and plans of buildings within the area. The Gosford branch also has the largest reference collection out of all the branches.
The library’s non-print collections include audio CD, audiobook and DVDs. The audiobooks are largely popular with the elderly and are often sourced for the book mobile and the Home Library Service. However, due to the digital age and more users having access to iPads, e-readers etc, the app Overdrive has become increasingly popular. Through the City Council website, users can access and borrow e-books, audiobooks etc allowing more users to access the libraries collections. Therefore, there has been a slight decline in the physical collection being borrowed.
Access Provided to the Collection
As mentioned above, the library has a floating collection that circulates between the different branches. This works extremely well and the users appreciate the wide range of material that is made available to them, every time you walk into a library there may be something new on the shelf that has come from one of the other branches.
Members can also request to have a certain resource reserved and transferred from another library. This is at no cost to the member, however, if the book or resource is already reserved for another member and they wish to reserve it after them, there is a $3 fee that applies. The staff members regularly check the “pulls list” which is a feature in their library management system ‘LIBERO’. The pulls list shows staff the resources requested from their branch, they are collected from the shelf and put into the correct basket for the courier to collect and deliver which happens every day around noon. Members can expect to have their resource delivered within 2 business days.
Due to the many services the Council libraries offer, members are able to adequately access the collection in a range of avenues. As mentioned above the Home Library Service is provided to users who are unable to leave their home. The book mobile travels to many locations, including several retirement homes and villages, those members are also able to request particular resources that may not be available on the bus at that point in time.
The digital age has enabled even greater access for members at home. As mentioned above, by accessing the Council’s website and downloading the Overdrive app, members can access the digital collection with ease. Overall, the Gosford City Council libraries do a wonderful job in providing easy, efficient access to the collection for all members.
How effectively do you feel the library meets the needs of its users?
The libraries of the Gosford City Council are primarily a resource for the people of the area, offering library services to their local community. The library offers a wide array of services and an extensive collection of items. Of great value, are the knowledgeable staff, who are available to assist with enquiries.
At the circulation desk, library members have enough enquiries to keep desk staff very busy. During my time on the desk, I observed and assisted a number of these:
- Located junior fiction for younger members.The junior fiction has a number of different sections, and navigating those can be difficult
- Located a DVD series for a senior patron
- Assistance was given in connecting devices to the wifi, sometimes this was as simple as handing over the passcode, other times, more help was needed (and given)
- Items were reserved
- Scanning the pages of a resume and job application letter and saving to USB
The introduction of Collection HQ is very exciting for the Gosford City Council libraries and is in the trial stage. It is the world’s leading collection performance improvement solution which is revolutionizing the way many public libraries select, manage and promote their collections. It is a proven product based on our powerful Evidence Based Stock Management(EBSM). Uniquely, collectionHQ provides guidance on what action to take to improve the performance of your collection. Basically, it will assist the libraries in deciphering what to keep and what to remove when wedding, it will also analyse the collection and see what part of the collection circulates in which branch more efficiently. It will assist support services with selecting new titles to add to the collection by identifying popular authors and types of material e.g. audiobooks, DVDs etc. This in turn will ultimately be of enormous benefit to the libraries as they will be able to meet the needs of their users with greater accuracy.
Although the primary customers are the people of the Gosford council area, out of area patrons can (and do) join. Out of state members often join for the extensive e-book collection on Overdrive. New titles are purchased regularly. The library’s extensive graphic novel collection is an example of a collection that was developed specifically from user requests and is now a widely circulating collection.
The library’s programming is also contributing to meet the needs of the users. The children’s programming continues to be well attended across all of the branches and is becoming increasingly popular as the word about these programs spread.
Lastly, the library services are doing well to serve the whole community, such as the library home service, outreach services, tech services, and online services. It is successfully striving to meet the needs of the users through listening and acting on what they hear. Users are the priority of the library and the library is willing to adapt to be able to meet the users’ needs as best as it can.
Discuss the activities you were involved in while on placement and reflect upon what you have learnt and gained from these experiences.
- Shelf Tidy – carried out for 30 minutes each day as a group, a section of the library is targeted, and made orderly. Some areas are more challenging than others. For example, the children’s sections required many items to be moved from one place to another to ensure they were orderly, while in large print only one or two titles per bay needed to be reshelved. Keeping the shelves tidy is important for improved access to the collection. It is not enough to have an excellent catalogue system, the physical library must maintain order also.
- Circulation desk – dealing with customer enquiries. The majority of these queries were for assistance with the computers and printers.
- Searching for reserve titles on the shelves – there is a list printed of titles on reserve, and the shelves are searched regularly for those items.
- Choosing books from the overdrive catalogue – I assisted an elderly member to download the app onto her electronic device and then demonstrated how the app worked. She was extremely pleased and very excited that she could now borrow books from home rather than coming into the library all of the time as it is becoming more difficult for her to catch public transport.
- Story time and Baby time– a group of between 10 and 30 children meet in the library each week for singing, stories and craft. I helped with this, and read one of the stories to the children.
- Home Library Service – I spent a day with Mary, the Home Librarian who described her role to me. The service provides books, physical, electronic and audio to elderly, or infirm patrons, in the Gosford Council area. It was a great experience to get out and about and meet the locals who really appreciate this service.
- Book Mobile – I spent a day with Cathy, driving around to the 6 locations for the day meeting more locals.
- Aboriginal Art Workshop – because my placement took place during the school holidays, there were various kids programs running, one of them being the Aboriginal Art Workshop in respect to NAIDOC week. I observed the local Aboriginal people talk to the kids and demonstrate how Aboriginal art is created and inspired. I then took lots of photos for the website of the kids artworks and the whole process.
- Science Experiments – Due to a new staff member being extremely passionate about Science, all of the library branches had agreed to run a Science week every couple of months in place of story time. I spent some time researching several different science experiments that they could do with the children. I then designed a publisher document that was printed and laminated to be used by staff members which gave them step by step instructions on how to do the experiment.
- The many behind the scenes activities were extremely helpful and eye opening as they highlighted how multi-tasked a teacher librarian must be to perform the tasks of many without the benefit of relegating to specialists as a large public library can do.
Reflect on the value of the placement experience in your development as a teacher librarian and a member of the wider library and information profession.
My time spent at the many branches of Gosford City Council Libraries was an invaluable experience that has given me knowledge, information, and more importantly inspiration for my future as a teacher librarian. The differences and similarities I had prejudged before commencing the placement between a school and public library were blurred – the similarities merely fitted to different scales between a school and public library, whether in the number of staff keeping it functioning, type and amount of programming, library promotion, use of space, or collaborative efforts.
Firstly, I realised a teacher librarian has to wear many hats to perform the tasks of many at a large public library. My placement allowed me to speak with and job shadow many different types of information professionals that make up the public library who were highly specialised to their job area and were experts in their fields. This made me realise as a teacher librarian we must perform all of these tasks ourselves, often without any help and highlighted that no part of a school library can be neglected if it is to function successfully for the school and students.
Secondly, my placement allowed me to see different types of programming, many of which I will take with me as ideas for my own future school library. The public library was successfully attaching itself onto what was popular and using it as a way to bring people into the library or to promote reading and information skills. While a school library’s responsibility is to enhance and support the curriculum, it is also there to promote a love of reading and present itself as a space that belongs to the students as much as it does the staff. The programming I witnessed at the libraries would be an excellent addition to the culture of a school. Alternatively, I am leaving my placement with a better knowledge of what a public library can offer a school and its students in terms of after school programs, resources, field trip opportunities, and more. As a teacher librarian, and thus member of the wider information profession, I endeavour to make use of all available information agencies for my future school as well as help teachers connect with these available resources.
Finally, this placement has solidified the importance communication and collaboration play in the functioning of a library and its wider community. A simple way the libraries did this was through a daily morning meeting where staff would communicate what was happening that day, upcoming events, or ask for feedback and collaboration on potential ideas. This translated for me into the school environment the importance of having teachers know about and involved in the workings of the school library and equally the library’s involvement in the classroom. Communication of what the library can contribute to the classroom, how the library can be an extension of the classroom, and how classrooms can contribute to the library are paramount to sustaining its relevance in the school. While a daily morning meeting with school staff like that of the public library is not usually held in a school setting, the effect can be emulated through regular email feeds to teachers on the happenings of the library and collaborative ideas, unstructured conversations with pods of staff, and through monthly staff meetings.
I thoroughly enjoyed my placement at the many branches of Gosford City Council Libraries and feel I learnt a great deal about the workings of a public library, and also how school libraries and public libraries fit into the wider information profession with the mutual purpose of serving their users’ information needs, whatever those needs may be.