Productive Partnerships: Public and School Libraries Promoting Lifelong Learning

Mackay West State School (MWSS), in conjunction with the Mackay City Council Library Service (MCCLS) has developed a program called Productive Partnerships: Public and School Libraries Promoting Lifelong Learning. The program focuses on the development of key lifelong learning skills such as literacy, information and technology skills and personal and social skills.

These lifelong learning skills have been developed through the four key elements of the Productive Partnerships Program:

1. Work Shadowing Program
2. Library Monitor Program
3. Grade Ones at the Library (GOAL)
4. MWSS's website.

The leadership qualities of the Productive Partnerships Program were recognised nationally when it received one of two Honourable Mentions at the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) conference in 2004 and awarded the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL)/Softlink Excellence award for 2005. At a state level, this program is recognised for its leadership by invitations to present at State Conferences and Forums.

The program's leadership qualities have delivered improved student learning outcomes. The development of literacy, one of the key lifelong learning skills, is the core business of both school and public library systems (Destination 2010, 2005). One of the key purposes of state education was to develop the skills and desire for lifelong learning by expanding community partnerships. Public and school libraries provide the best opportunity for the development of networked learning communities and the acquisition of lifelong learning for all students. The Productive Partnerships Program, through its four key elements, was able to deliver improved outcomes as a result.

Work Shadowing Program

The Work Shadowing Program involved reciprocal weeklong visits for the librarians and the library assistants from both MWSS and the MCCLS. The process and its outcomes were heavily publicised through the school's newsletter and on the website, The program also received national prominence at the 2004 CBC/ASLA Conference. Anne Spelman from the Queensland State Library presented a paper called In Visible Light: Illuminating Partnerships Across Libraries to Facilitate Lifelong Learning for Young People. In it, she made a special reference to the Queensland scene by discussing the Work Shadowing Program. Anne also noted that this was one way to understand and appreciate each library's role.

Library Monitor Program

In 2002, Library Staff at Mackay West decided to implement a Library Monitor Program. A commitment was made to skill Year 7 students who were prepared to volunteer their time and effort as administration support in the library. Twenty Year 7 students are selected each year. They are presented with badges at the school's annual 'Induction Ceremony'. The Library Monitor Program has five main components:

  • providing support for Library Administration
  • increasing ICT skills
  • providing alternative forms of leadership
  • developing personal skills
  • forming a strategic alliance with the Mackay City Library.

Grade Ones at the Library (GOAL)

GOAL actively encourages every Year 1 student to join their local public library. The program is heavily advertised through the school newsletter. MCCLS application forms are sent home with every Year 1 student. Returned forms are sent to MCCLS for processing. The cycle is completed when the Young People's Librarian visits each Year 1 class to hand out the membership cards and reads a picture book.

MWSS's website

MWSS's website is used to inform, to educate, to publicise and to promote. It is curriculum based and also provides very comprehensive documentation of all aspects of the Productive Partnerships Program.


1 Work Shadowing Program at MWSS has:
  • forged closer links between school and public libraries
  • jointly promoted each other's services and resources by gaining a greater awareness of them
  • resulted in a network which shares basic information - the benefits flow on to other schools in the district
  • developed greater awareness of each other's job description/role
  • improved literacy levels with fewer students being identified in the bottom 15 per cent and improved levels in Year 7reading.

The program has resulted in MWSS's Library acting as a consultant on a wide range of MCCLS issues, including:

  • purchasing new resources
  • awareness of age appropriateness/suitability/reading levels/interest level of library material
  • new shelf labelling in junior non-fiction section of the MCCLS
  • separation at MCCLS's Gordon White Library of junior non-fiction resources from adult section.
2 Library Monitor Program at MWSS

The program has provided many positives results. It:

  • provides an alternative form of leadership and contribution to the school community for upper school students with approximately 40 per cent of Year 6 students now applying for the Library Monitor Program
  • recognises the important volunteer and leadership roles provided by Library Monitors by the presentation of badges by the Young People's Librarian from MCCLS at the ceremony for School Leaders
  • provides experiences for all students across the learning spectrum due to the inclusive nature of the program
  • develops and improves students' ICT skills
  • improves self-esteem, social skills and promotes self-organisation
  • provides awareness of shared common elements and connectedness of school and public libraries
  • encourages active citizenship through a vision of how volunteer services operate both at school and in the wider community through 'Friends of the Library'
  • formalises a structure which continues regular reciprocal visits between the two libraries. The Library Monitors visit two branches of the MCCLS each year and the Young People's Librarian conducts regular workshops for the Library Monitors at MWSS.


  • encourages library membership at council libraries among Year 1 students
  • increases borrowing of resources, especially fiction, which assists with literacy skills
  • promotes awareness of council services, particularly in the area of reading levels for junior fiction
  • increases familiarity with public library staff through story time sessions by Young People's Librarian at MWSS
  • educates/informs parent community about school and public library services through school newsletters
  • identifies the public library as an extension of the school library to Year 1 parents, caregivers and students
  • facilitates a flow-on effect as students from other year levels and parents seek membership
  • is an example of 'Best Practice' as MCCLS implements the program in other primary schools in the district.
4 MWSS's Website

The website:

  • documents all four elements of the Productive Partnership Program making them available on the school website for general access. Enquiries about the program have been received from all over Australia
  • publishes criteria sheets for assessment items to assist public library staff with inquiries (85 per cent of which relate to school assignment work)
  • organises OBE (Outcomes Based Education) units and assessment items into year levels and school terms to provide easy access by students, teachers and parents
  • communicates to parent community by providing access to newsletters and assessment items, suitable websites and a broad range of useful information
  • provides extensive and comprehensive range of relevant and safe websites
  • meets 'Best Practice' criteria and is in frequent use by other schools
  • displays user-friendly organisation of web links to facilitate easy use by students for educational and recreational purposes
  • supports the learning, teaching and curriculum area of the ICT agreement.

Sustainability and transferability

Because the Productive Partnerships Program is so well documented on the school website, any school could implement the whole program, or alternatively, parts of it. Caboolture Shire Library had previously implemented a version of the GOAL program and acted as peer mentors for Mackay West. From that perspective alone, it is clear that GOAL is fully transferable. This year MCCLS has used the data, CD-ROM, work folders and expertise to implement GOAL in other schools, including Mackay North State School. Mackay State High School Library has used the experience to construct its own Work Shadowing Program.

Changes to library practices for both libraries, as a result of Work Shadowing are ongoing. As all four elements are based firmly on processes, not personnel alone, the program is completely adaptable, sustainable and transferable.


Many achievements have been noted at district, state, national and international levels. As well as the ALIA and IASL awards, these have included the team promoting the program to visiting groups and presenting at workshops and seminars.


Quantitative data has been gathered from a number of sources, including the 2004 School Opinion Survey and surveys conducted over the past three years by library staff. Qualitative data also came from a wide range of sources in the school and wider community. This includes testimonials from students, parents, teachers, other schools and professionals whose comments validate the outcomes from the four elements of the Productive Partnerships Program.

Team Members:
Margaret Spillman, Teacher librarian, Mackay West State School
Claire Grandcourt, Branch Librarian, Mackay City Council Library Service
Lorraine Todd, Library Assistant, Mackay West State School

Destination 2010,