Tapping the potential of students

The Hamilton and Alexandra College discovers the value of a Secondary Library Committee.

Our secondary students have many skills to offer: enthusiasm, youthful perspective, specific abilities and a desire to be involved. As teacher librarians, we are often faced with time constraints, an older perspective and less expertise or interest in specific areas. We can all benefit from student input.

Starting a library committee

The Library Committee is one of the ways our library at The Hamilton and Alexandra College library creates a positive environment to tap into our students’ enthusiasm and develop their skills. This is an evolving process. The nature of the committee and the work undertaken has varied from year to year depending on the students involved and their individual interests.

One of the leadership positions for Year 12 students is Captain of Information Services. This position is of equivalent status to the captain of a sporting team or arts activity. It carries a badge, which is issued at a special assembly by the Principal. Students apply by writing a letter of application and submitting their resume to me (Head of Information Services). I interview all applicants to provide them with practise for university or work applications. My recommendation then goes to the Pastoral Care Committee and Principal for ratification.

The Information Services Captain is appointed each October. Their role includes assisting with the running of the committee and taking an active part in the library. The Library Committee is open to all students and meetings are held on an irregular basis throughout the year. The invitation to attend is issued through the daily notice-sheet before each meeting. The nature of these meetings has varied in my three years at The College, but they are usually informal discussions about the collection, displays and activities that all are able to participate in. We also celebrate together several times a year; chocolate biscuits make a good 'salary'

Tapping into student potential

Initiatives introduced by library committee members so far include:

•  wonderful posters of teachers' top 10 reads – created by Hannah (year 11), Sonia and Robyn (year 10)

•  a list of recommended series for boys – drawn up by Tom (year 10)

•  a set of bookmarks made by Hannah (our Captain for 2008), which are put in displayed titles called ‘fave books of ______' with various aged students

•  a Harry Potter display – put together by Kate (year 12)

•  Book Week activities.

One technologically savvy year 11 committee member, Mitchell, has spent two years designing a homepage linked to Oliver where members can blog, participate in wikis and investigate images of the library. This will be introduced to teachers next year as a secure way of using such technologies within the classroom, as it is fully internal.

Committee members have been taught skills including:

•  lending and retuning books through Oliver

•  shelving

•  collection development

•  display requirements and techniques.

Benefits for you and your students

Having a library committee has been of benefit to me as a sole teacher librarian. Working with young people who consider the library to be an important part of the College is inspiring. Their enthusiasm and suggestions have motivated me to develop the collection and redesign the space to make it more student friendly. It has been particularly affirming to have other students making suggestions to those on the committee, similar to the General Information Council (our version of an SRC).

Students profit from the committee by working in a real world situation with a mentoring adult. They are able to see the results of their suggestions and develop skills that serve other people. Within the committee, members teach each other new skills and the longer serving members nurture the newer ones. The cross-age teamwork has been a feature of their achievements. Our committee has all types of students as members: international students, sportspeople, readers, artists and the technologically minded. Each year we achieve new goals together: a mutually beneficial arrangement for all concerned! I can highly recommend trying it in your school library.

If you would like to know more, you can contact me.
Margaret Simkin
Teacher librarian
The Hamilton and Alexandra College , Victoria

Originally published in inCite, vol. 28, issue 4, April 2007.
Reprinted with permission of the author and inCite.