Library Orientation – the essential Welcome!


Summer holidays are becoming a distant memory as we settle into a new school year. A new batch of students has been welcomed and they’re beginning that somewhat daunting task of finding their way around and mastering the new environment.

Last week, with the assistance of Year 7 class teachers, I introduced over 250 students to the complexities of setting up network passwords and establishing their presence on the college network. This learning space will be very familiar to them in no time, but for now, it is one of the essential orientation activities for new students. In the meantime my teacher librarian colleague Jessica Bishop, is launching the reading program and introducing students to the physical space. They are acclimatising quickly and already making enquiries about Lego and Minecraft.

Teacher librarian at Genazzano FCJ College, Catherine Farrell, shared details of her Year 7 library orientation in SLAV’s journal Synergy last year. In the article entitled QR Codes and Orientation she describes how students use a passport sized booklet with information and questions, to discover different areas and services within the library. QR codes provide easy access to supporting videos and other online information relating to the use of the library.

Read Catherine’s article and you will gain an appreciation of how this type of task becomes a learning activity for everybody involved. Students learn about the library and the library staff gain experience in using new and innovative ways of tackling a routine task such as new student orientation.

Also, in a previous post on this blog teacher librarian, Rachel Fidock, wrote a post Revamping your school library orientation in which she presented a number of novel approaches to library familiarisation. For example, have current students create a promo video about what they thought the library was going to be like, what it actually has to offer, and what they think the students will like about their library. Student voice is often so much more engaging than the library staff delivering the message. Check Rachel’s post for a number of good ideas.

The library can be a safe haven in the sometimes stormy sea of a new school. Orientation aside, library staff who are visible, open and welcoming play a critical role at the commencement of a new school year. Made welcome and ‘at home’, students soon become the life of the library. They are the chess players, the homework students, the readers and the one’s who are familiar with libraries and know the treasures that can lie within. Every school library has its own unique character and this is the time of year that character has a profound influence on a whole new generation of students entering the school for the first time.

Rachel reminds us in her blog not to ‘reinvent the wheel’. So, share ideas with colleagues and most importantly start the year off by showing that your school library is a vital player in the culture of the school. Enjoy!

Social Media:  Explore Library Orientation on Pinterest  or @AnitaBK on Twitter – Flip your library orientation



Revamping your school library orientation

Does your library orientation plan for next year’s students feel a bit stale? Have you been doing the same lesson for the last few years (or more)? Do you feel bored just thinking about what you have planned? If yes, here are some great ideas to help revamp your next school library orientation, from teacher librarians and library technicians across Australia:

Introducing the school library:

  • Promo video: Have current students create a promo video about what they thought the library was going to be like, what it actually has to offer, and what they think the students will like about their library. Barbara Braxton, retired teacher librarian.
  • Student presentation: If you have a library committee, get current members to create a presentation (such as a Powerpoint presentation) to tell new students the basics of the library, e.g. opening times, where the OPACs are, and how many items you can borrow. Rueleen Weeks from Dubbo Christian School

Becoming familiar with the library:

  • Prior knowledge: Ask the students what they already know about school libraries. It will open up discussion. Barbara Braxton, retired teacher librarian
  • Library relay: Each pair of students takes a question card, searches the library for the answer, then returns with the answer for their next question card. The first team to complete all the cards wins a prize. All the questions are reviewed at the end of the lesson. Sue Crocombe from The Glennie School
  • QR code QnA: Students move around the library to approximately 25 QR codes and scan them for the questions they need to answer. It gets the students moving and asking questions. Shelagh Walsh from Tennant Creek High School
  • Research Frenzy: Students are divided into two groups, one using computers, one using books. In teams they draw a question from a central bowl. Once they find the answer (either via computers or books), back goes the slip and another is drawn. The students swap from computers to books (or visa-versa), and discuss what they found at the end of the lesson. Shelagh Walsh from Tennant Creek High School
  • The Great Race: Have five junior secondary school students run this race. They create cryptic clues to help participants explore the library. In teams, the students receive their clues, and have to be the first to find all the answers to receive a prize. The same group of students running this game hand out ‘treasure bags’ at the end of the lesson, consisting of things like pen, notepad, library brochure, bookmarks, chocolate frogs and jelly snakes. Rueleen Weeks from Dubbo Christian School

Understanding Fiction and Non-Fiction shelving:

  • The coded letter: An activity to get students used to where things are in the non-fiction section is a letter from someone on holiday with words left out and Dewey numbers in their places.  Students go to the Dewey number and work out the subject there and place that in the space until their letter is complete (and makes sense).  You can have a simple letter and a more complicated one depending on the class.Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Class A-Z: Put the class in fiction order by their surname and then get them to take themselves to the shelf where they would live if they were a book. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Marco Polo:  Call out a subject or type of resource and the students have to run to that place. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Where in the Dewey?: The aim of this game is to get students thinking about the context of what they are searching for, and where it may be located in the Dewey system. In groups the students need to find books that have information about specific topics, such as: wood – how trees grow; a guide to Australian timber for furniture making; how trees are used as habitats, or; the environmental impact of deforestation. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School

Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Ask your colleagues for suggestions. Your State Library (such as State Library of Victoria) may offer library orientation tours and that will provide students with knowledge transferable to the school library. Thank you to all those who contributed ideas via OZTL_NET and Twitter.

Image credit: Enokson on Flickr


I’ve been checking out Xtranormal for a long time now and think it’s a great way to introduce scripting, digital storytelling and film making to students.

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As the website says, “if you can type, you can make movies…”

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By selecting a collection and then characters, begin typing and away you go. Being able to select camera angles is a bonus.

As the website says is a web-site powered by Xtranormal’s text-to-movie™ platform—a web-based application used to create short 3D animated movies from simple text-based movie-scripts. The characters in the movie speak the dialogue in the script, and react to performance triggers—icons that are dropped directly into the script, just like smileys in IM/chat. Movies can be shared through e-mail, blogs and online video sharing and social networking sites such as YouTube™, MySpace™ and Facebook™.

Xtranormal has its own YouTube channel and you can get updates from their Twitter account. Xtranormal could be a terrific way for students to interpret historical events or to present an assignment.

I’m thinking of using it for library orientation and as a fun way to introduce professional learning to teachers.