Policy support for school libraries

Policy making is essential to the role of school library staff. A new resource aims to support teacher librarians in developing and implementing effective library management policy.

Policy making has long been acknowledged in professional literature as an essential aspect of library management. More recently, the importance of policy making has been recognised in the Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Now a new professional resource – A Manual for Developing Policies and Procedures in Australian School Library Resource Centres – has been published to support professional practice in school libraries and provide guidance in policy development and implementation. This manual is the result of a joint working party formed by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Schools and the Victorian Catholic Teacher Librarians (VCTL).

The manual sets out how to develop the policies and document the procedures that are essential for exemplary management practices. The working party identified nine areas of library management that require policies. Implementation of these policies and procedures will ensure equitable access to resources for all library users. A school library that is well managed is in the best possible position to offer the range of library programs and services that are essential to the endeavours of the school community.

Key stages of policy development

Policy can be defined as a set of guiding principles that provides a context for decision making. It is a directional framework based on agreed values and beliefs. The process of developing policy is valuable as it provides a vehicle through which different ideas can be discussed and consensus reached. The essential stages of policy development are: recognition of a need for policy, development, implementation and evaluation.

Recognition of a need for policy and the establishment of a group of interested people to work on its development is the first step.

Development of the policy involves clarification of ideas, writing drafts, deciding on a format and defining a timeline.

Implementation of the policy includes ratification by the school library staff and, in some cases, the school community and the School Board. After ratification, the policy is adopted as practice.

Evaluation of the policy involves incorporating it into a regular cycle for review and setting a timeline for this review.

These essential stages have been incorporated into the manual.

Integrating policy and practice

Nine areas that require policy development have been identified and are covered in the manual's nine sections. A glossary and reference list are also included. The nine policy development areas covered are:

•  staffing

•  collection development

•  budgeting

•  cataloguing

•  ordering

•  processing

•  circulation

•  stocktaking

•  copyright.

Aside from the first section, Staffing , each of the remaining sections has two parts. The first part is on policy and covers the following elements: rationale, policy statement, audience, authorship, related documents, date of ratification and date of review. The aim is for the policy to be succinct: approximately a page in length. The second part is on the procedures required to implement the policy. In some cases, the procedures are lengthy as they entail a step-by-step account of how to implement all elements of that area.

The manual has been designed as a practical resource for teacher librarians. It provides a simple framework that can be adapted to suit individual school libraries. A teacher librarian working alone could easily adapt the manual to suit local policies and practices. In addition, ‘unpacking' the manual could form the basis of a professional development session at a network meeting or a library staff meeting.

Developing policy

Each element of the policy has notes that provide a guide to the decisions that have to be made about what should be included. Figure 1 shows a sample Policy page from the manual.

Figure 1: A sample Policy page from Section 5 – Cataloguing policy and procedures

Figure 1: A sample Policy page from Section 5 – Cataloguing policy and procedures

The following example shows how to unpack this section of the manual.


Based on the information in Figure 1, a brainstorm of ideas about the rationale could include the following reasons for cataloguing resources:

•  to ensure equitable access

•  to create a database with a record of all resources

•  to allocate call numbers so that resources have a location and can be retrieved.

These ideas can be used to write a succinct rationale for cataloguing resources.

Policy statement

Use the information provided in Figure 1 as a source of ideas that can form the basis of the policy statement. For this example, it is suggested that the policy statement would include the following:

•  the importance of adhering to national standards

•  the use of SCIS.

Audience, authorship and related documents

While there are suggestions for these elements in Figure 1, the content will vary from school library to school library.

Date of ratification and date for review

The content of these elements will vary from school library to school library.

Developing procedures

Figure 2 shows a sample Procedures page from the manual.

Figure 2: A sample Procedures page from Section 5 – Cataloguing policy and procedures

Figure 2: A sample Procedures page from Section 5 – Cataloguing policy and procedures

The information on this page outlines the steps involved in recording procedures for cataloguing according to national standards. It will be necessary to complete the details for each step so that the local procedures are fully documented.

The example in Figure 2 shows how to document local procedures using this section of the manual.

SCIS search

Read the information available from the SCIS website at http:// and record downloading steps according to the library software program.

List each step in the process. For instance record:

•  logon details

•  how to search SCISWeb

•  how to create orders for records found

•  how to download records found

•  how to upload records found into the library software program

•  how to search the SCISWeb OPAC for resources without an ISBN.

Resources not found on SCIS

List the procedures to be followed if the SCIS search does not produce a catalogue record.

For instance, detail:

•  the length of time before another SCIS search is to be undertaken

•  how and when the resource will be sent to nearest SCIS agency for cataloguing and adding to the database.

Please note: all resources catalogued by a SCIS agency are added to the database. School libraries are encouraged to forward resources for cataloguing. This is a free service. The SCIS database is updated daily and new resources are constantly added. The database should be checked on a regular basis.

Original cataloguing

List the process and references needed to catalogue an urgent resource.

Where to find the manual

A Manual for Developing Policies and Procedures in Australian School Library Resource Centres is available as a PDF, with an accompanying template that may also be used. It is free to all schools in Australia and is only available electronically. The manual can be accessed through the ALIA website at Victorian Catholic schools can access it from the Myclasses website. Alternatively it can be found on the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) website.

Anne Chowne, St Michael's Primary School, North Melbourne

Anne Girolami, Siena College , Camberwell

Sandra Ryan, Santa Maria College , Northcote

The members of the Working Party were Anne Chowne [VCTL], Anne Girolami [ALIA and convenor], Sue Maher [VCTL], Jan McCormick [VCTL], Sandra Ryan [ALIA] and Tilly Stoove [VCTL/ALIA].