A reflection on selection aids

This has been one of the most eye-opening parts of the ETL503 course so far. However, it does make sense that if you are a TL with a limited school budget you have to have a rationale for how you select resources and spend your acquisitions budget. It is clear that you cannot just grab what looks good – ways of evaluating the resources and the possible contribution they will make to teaching and learning in your school are essential.


Broad bibliographies that can be searched by subject are a good place to start and to build awareness of new titles being added to school libraries. SCIS (Schools Catalogue Information Service) http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/home.html reduces the burden of cataloguing new materials on school libraries and also offers up-to-date lists of resources being used by other libraries. Potential issues for this selection aid are that you need a subscription (which I don’t have) and there are not any reviews of the usefulness of the materials catalogued. So this would be a first stop in a TL’s search for resources to support teaching and learning.


Core collection and resource lists produced by education and curriculum authorities would be vital. I would use these sites in compiling a selection list for particular areas of the curriculum especially those linked to the study design and assessment requirements. For example, the Victorian Certificate of Education has required texts and resources for particular units of study: http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Pages/vce/studies/index.aspx


A strength of using this approach is that the TL can be sure they are supplying the necessary resources for their students. A weakness is that, again, there are no reviews to assess the value of resources. What’s more, relying on these lists will give your school only a very limited scope, when often, what the TL is looking for are further resources to support student learning beyond the limits of textbooks and assigned reading.


In an IB school, such as where I teach, a TL can access the online IB resources, which do contain more than reference lists and bibliographies for set texts. Teacher reviews, online publications and journals, and samples of IBO-endorsed resources are available on the site, in addition to the Prescribed Book List. http://www.ibo.org/




For the wider reading program in my school I would access the Childrens’ Book Council of Australia website, particularly the lists of recommended titles. Most school libraries would subscribe to the Reading Time review journal that the CBCA produces. The fact that the CBCA review titles across age groups and fiction and non-fiction would be helpful for school librarians looking for a broad range of quality materials to appeal to different ages, interests and reading levels. http://cbca.org.au/awards.htm


The journal Viewpoint is useful in providing reviews specifically of young adult fiction to support the wider reading program. In my school, wider reading is actually an assessed item reported on at years 7, 8 and 9, so a good selection of fiction is valued by both teachers and students.



Reviews from students themselves are often useful for gauging the real level of enjoyment and engagement young readers derive from recent titles. I have found Inside a Dog valuable already as an English classroom teacher for finding titles to recommend to students. Young people often prefer to hear from what their peers like, seeing that as more trustworthy source of information about good reads than fusty old teachers and parents. As a school librarian I would use this site for ideas about what titles are proving popular. The ‘Book Trailers’ feature is especially intriguing – could this be used to present potential titles to a focus group of young library users to get a feel for what they want? http://www.insideadog.com.au/


In addition to the IBO website, another selection aid that has not been mentioned on the ETL503 module reading is subject associations. As an English teacher, I belong to the Victorian Association for the Teaching of English (VATE). The website, quarterly journal and the e-newsletter regularly feature views of materials for use in the classroom or for professional development. A strength of this selection aid, and others like it for other subject associations, is that the resources are reviewed specifically for how they might support teaching and learning and their potential applications in the classroom. A weakness is that the long reviewing cycle means that there can be a delay between publication and review and the emphasis is on textbooks and related materials. www.vate.org.au

A further selection aid is a feature of Web 2.0 — social networking. Inside a Dog uses these capabilities to some extent, but personally I find Library Thing for Libraries great for user reviews. Advantages are: peer-to-peer review; up-to-date resources; searchable by topic, author or title, just like a catalogue. Cool! http://www.librarything.com/forlibraries


Overall, it seems to me that there are a range of fairly reliable and up-to-date selection aids available for printed materials, but that selection aids for e-resources are still evolving and that the TL is faced with particular challenges in evaluating the usefulness of e-resources. Downloading samples and trial subscriptions could be one way of circumventing the element of the unknown in this domain. Another step is initially buying a small subscription for a targeted group of users and asking for their feedback before committing more money for a wider group of people to use it.