It's been an exciting thing to see so many excellent guides and library website customizations coming from K-12 school libraries. Scotch College in Western Australia, which educates 1,450 boys across K-12 grades, is a Springshare client with LibGuides CMS, LibAnswers, LibStaffer, LibCal with Equipment Booking and LibInsight. We recently asked Brad Tyrrell, the Dean of Information and Learning Technology -- who oversees the Library, IT Integration and more across Scotch College -- about how he came to learn about Springshare and LibGuides. Brad said,
When I started the Scotch library after being a head of IT, I started to look around for what universities were using as a pathway for high school students to understand what would be expected of them in their studies and what the library was then doing to support this. I Googled and located the v1 of Springshare LibGuides. It was at this time though that v2 was coming out as the v1 didn’t have the customization abilities that I would have wanted.
From there it was easy to put in as I justified it based on this is what our students would need to know at Uni.
The Scotch Libraries provide support to students from age 3 to 18. In doing so, Brad has dedicated the library team to creating workflows that are student/customer focused and this can at times conflict with the traditional roles that the library once filled.
The Library reports to the Director of Information Learning Technology specifically to address and support the increasing role of libraries in a digital world. The whole cycle then allows for a complete circuit of support that addresses and actions any request or problem that enters the library and IT support system.
Importantly, they do remove as many barriers as possible when providing streamlined support. Brad said,
At Scotch, we have a rule that everything is open and shared and only content that is private is locked away. All parents can log into all library services and can request assistance. The Junior/Middle Library runs Baby Rhyme Time and Toddler Tales on Mondays with 70 parents in attendance and then normal borrowing and resource support.
A modern library encounters many challenges. But Brad believes in a solutions focused approach versus waiting for the solution to present itself. He says, "Teachers can benefit from professional development designed to advance their skills and update content knowledge by meeting with teacher librarians and importantly ALL library staff -- teaching and non teaching. Teacher librarians can and do proactively reach out to teachers rather than just relying on the reverse."
The results are exciting. Brad said,
80% of teachers use the library as we have redefined the process here to be a problem solving place.
Scotch College has had LibGuides CMS since 2014. Brad has learned, over the years, that people weren't using word document based pathfinders because they were just filled with links and didn't look great and he believes "making your research support look pretty is key to it being used, especially in a school context."
His experience has also led him to rule out making subject guides or what he calls generic guides. They don't make them. Brad said,
We make guides that are specifically related to topics within courses and their assessments. This means we don’t have issues around maintaining content and content getting out of date as much as generic guides tend to do. In general, we find that our English department requests around books like Animal Farm etc. are the greatest uses along with the science guides.
Brad said that they do build guides out of a surprise necessity and in reaction, but reiterates that they are focused and targeted to ensure use. In their system, you'll find guides like Beloved - Toni Morrison, Edgar Allen Poe: A Study, and a guide on Copyright along with ones like Climate Change and Agriculture and Chemistry: Fuels, Metals or Pharmaceuticals. They have an Impacts of World War II on Australia guide that has 7,503 views. The goal is to be helpful and to generate content that the students, parents, and teachers truly need. What could be more efficient than only building what is sure to be used? Brad believes that specific guides are the key.
The work doesn't stop at creation, though. You have to advertise your systems. The challenge for libraries is always that there's a lot of work being done behind the scenes and making sure people know what's available to them is the key to a win-win. Brad explained,
We do this through parent information nights and through teacher librarians going into classes and introducing the guide. Apart from this we then share any guide we make to our local networks for others to use.
Brad summarizes the draw for using LibAnswers to handle the questions that come into the Library saying, "...Effectively it's easy to use, and I think that’s the key part of all the products." They even purchased an additional queue so that the questions sent to their sister school's email address could be directed into LibAnswers, too.
Regarding how LibAnswers is being used at Scotch College, Brad said,
Overall, it is one place for all questions relating to IT and the library in a format that works. It needs a big review now though as it's getting BIG and usage is high.
Usage is so high, in fact, that Brad is worried about the answers getting lost. As you can imagine, the success Scotch has with creating targeted LibGuides is one that is carried over into LibAnswers as they make their FAQs. Designed to be genuinely useful, they are answering the questions, which mostly come to them via email -- a directive they've been pushing for 4 years -- with clear-cut instructions. Often, they have screenshots to help. Brad believes that as a boys school, "...how things look makes all the difference."
Generally, the most popular questions depend on the audience, for teachers it's how to complete reporting, for students it's actually around printing and accessing IT items.
Now we are not making so many FAQ’s as you slowly top out questions and for us that’s what is now happening.
At Scotch, they are dedicated to serving parents, students, and teachers. With LibAnswers, they can answer questions in a timely manner. That's great service. However, building excellent FAQs works toward anticipating future needs. That's the next-level service Springshare salutes! Brad also checks in with the stats to see the number of FAQs and then how many times they are accessed. The FAQ "How do I print at Scotch on my Mac?" has been viewed 731 times. He's serious about assessing how the content they're providing is faring with his patrons. Brad says,
The use is excellent and the feedback is excellent. We have comprehensive guidelines to ensure that anything made in these tools looks great.
It takes a lot of work to keep a library efficient and up to date tech-wise. Springshare tools are used in Universities and Colleges of higher education and Public, Special and Government libraries. We are thrilled that we are becoming the choice for K-12 school libraries.
Scotch College has had LibCal for many years and has just recently added the Equipment Booking module. LibCal takes care of your Event Management, Appointments, Room Bookings, Hours and there's the option to add Equipment Booking, as Scotch did. Brad says,
We've had LibCal for a while and we liked the features that it had and how much we could change the look and feel. We are still playing with Equipment Booking ...
Equipment Booking helps you loan out chargers, tablets, cameras, projectors and more. You can define lending rules and there are APIs designed to integrate Equipment Booking with the patron database in your ILS for fines management. Scotch is planning to write API codes to connect their Equipment Booking to their Oliver library system.
LibWizard is a solution that allows you to build unlimited Forms, Surveys, Quizzes and Tutorials. Scotch College uses LibWizard mostly for surveys. Getting feedback is an important way to learn more about what your patrons' needs are and more. Brad says they use it, "...for all of our sign in to the library notifications as it has email submission and notification." It's a system they hope to use more.
Libraries who have a good number of people to schedule turn to LibStaffer. It can help make the perpetual headache that can come with staffing the shifts in the library a thing of the past. Brad opted to get LibStaffer for their library. He said,
Before LibStaffer, we had a paid system and so moving to LibStaffer we decided to do this because my staff were already in LibApps. The system works well and the recent upgrades have been good. We use it for our Uni students for our tech desk only so about 20 people all up.
How to handle Big Data is on everyone's minds. Scotch College just recently added LibInsight to their collection of Springshare tools. Brad reports that they are just at the beginning of the process with using it. LibInsight allows you to create an unlimited number of custom datasets to keep track of the things that are important for your reports and assessments. You can have dashboards to communicate pertinent information to non-librarians. The goal is to make data-driven decisions for the library without the constant hard work of manipulating content in a hands-on fashion.
Brad Tyrell, being the Dean of Information and Learning Technology at Scotch College, is such a help to us. We are fortunate that he provides us with excellent feedback and suggestions from the school IT view. So when we asked about his experiences working on implementation and with the Training and Support team at Springshare, we were so happy he brought it back to relationships. Brad said,
Initially, I required my staff watch all the videos but then over time I continue to stay up to date and then take what I need and show my staff areas of improvements. Tim Burrows, the digital content officer at Scotch, uses and contributes to the Springshare Lounge, but I also have a good working relationship with Slaven (the CEO) who I communicate with a lot.
Everyone loves the effort we put into the LibGuides and the services. We see many others contacting us to ask questions but I also have a dedicated staff team making them as well. They really are the key to the success as the teacher librarian spends about 6 hours per LibGuide to ensure it's perfect!
The importance of Springshare for our library is critical as it is easy to use and no matter the technical skill of staff they can do it. The biggest thing that we like is that it continues to be improved without us requesting and the improvements are always good.
We value the relationship we have with Brad and Scotch College. He and his team are doing amazing things with Springshare tools as they focus on making sure their students will be ready for what's expected of them in their academic futures.