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Event details

Flexible Blended Learning Course 2, 2023

  • 18 Sep 2023
  • 9:00 AM
  • 8 Dec 2023
  • 8:00 PM
  • Flexible Blended Learning
  • 74


  • Only SLANSW members can participate in the course

Flexible Blended Learning Course 2, 2023

School Libraries: Improving the Literacy and Wellbeing Outcomes for Young People

Due to popular demand, the second SLANSW Flexible Blended Learning Course for 2023 will feature the recent work by Dr Margaret Merga. Participants will engage with the content of Dr Merga’s book, which will be supported by recordings of Professional Conversations between Dr Merga and Dr Lyn Hay about the content of the book. Sessions will also include video content only from the restricted section of the SLANSW Professional Learning Archive.  Other supporting resources have been curated to expand participants’ access to content around this very important topic. The cost of this course is $60, which represents outstanding value. All participants of the course will need access to a copy of Dr Merga’s book, School Libraries Supporting Literacy and WellbeingYou can access a hard copy at the State Library of New South Wales onsite, or you can use your National Library of Australia membership details to access an online version ( 

This course will provide 10 hours of Elective Professional Learning.

Course structure 

The course will open on September 18. Participants will work at their own pace to complete the viewing and reading of resources. At the end of Term 4, an optional online meetup will be offered for participants, however attendance at this meetup is not compulsory to achieve the course requirements. Due to the amount of content being offered, the course will remain open until December 8, 2023. Participants will submit a reflection on their learning at the end of the flexible blended learning course. 

Course Overview

Session 1

Introduction and assessment of current services and programs

Session 2

The Teacher Librarian as Literacy Educator

Session 3

Teacher Librarians Engaging Struggling and Reluctant Readers

Sessions 4

School Libraries and Reading Engagement for Wellbeing

Session 5

School Library Environments Supporting Students and Staff

Session 6

Visibility and Advocacy for School Libraries and Staff

Session 7

Analysis and Reflection

Registrations for this course are now open.

Reflection Statement from a previous participant

I thought I had a clear vision for literacy and wellbeing in the library, which I hoped to validate during this course. I anticipated identifying and establishing a quiet yet visible space in the library to house a specific collection of wellbeing supporting resources, made up from varied genres and non-fiction, even including colouring. The space would be identifiable, readily available, yet also a zoned, quiet space, accessible for easy general or covert use. I believed this was needed by both the staff and students due to a higher request for these resources (especially after our long Covid lockdowns), as well as promoting the library as a beloved safe space for at risk students.

After reading Dr Margaret Merga’s book, completing activities, and watching supplementary videos I now recognize how tunnelled this vison was, being a small (albeit valuable) piece of a much bigger picture. Fortunately, being part of a well-supported, resourced, and beloved school library with an exceptional, widely experienced, visionary library manager many of the 5 identified ways school libraries support wellbeing qualities are already within the fabric of our library. It was not until they were identified and singled out during this course did, I truly appreciate the breadth of their value and impact in both literacy and wellbeing.

The Teacher Librarian as Literacy Educator

Throughout the book the role of school librarians was commonly described as: a unique specialist role, supporting teaching staff and students, expert in resources and information provision through “teaching and facilitating learning”. However, I have also found that Dr Merga’s question responses which outlined the globally recognised constant need to defend our workload, job creep, role distortion, and justify staffing, reiterates that we can often be seen as peripheral.

As reflected in the studies, sometimes TLs are replaced, or partly replaced by librarians for a variety of reasons, which in turn often has an impact on the types of programs that can be offered. E.g. Wider reading programs with a focus on reading for pleasure (RFP) vs the structured “teaching” of reading skills, or a negotiated hybrid of both. Staffing may also affect the feasibility of aiming for an idealist whole-school approach and culture to RFP, which is further hindered by the reality of class availabilities and curriculum demands.

Teacher Librarians Engaging Struggling and Reluctant Readers

As Michael Dezuanni presented, we have also found the biggest obstacle for struggling and reluctant readers is finding a book of interest. Especially ones that can compete with global platforms and ‘fanfiction’. However, we have found success by using the students’ expert knowledge of these more recent forms of “publishing” when making collection purchases and having a wider inclusion of reading formats (including electronic and audio books) in our house reading competition have encouraged these readers. We currently survey our year 7s and 8s at the start and end of each year, looking at preferences, reading history, goals etc and conduct regular individual reading conferences to try to ‘match’ boys to their ‘perfect book’, increasing buy in.

Dianne and James Murphy beautifully stated, there are no silver bullets to ‘fix’ reading problems. However, their suggestion to establish motivation problems vs reading problems, and then zone in on which one of 4 ways will help clarify the appropriate support, so advances can be achieved more readily.

School Libraries and Reading Engagement for Wellbeing

 Whilst the readings define wellbeing as relating to more than just a lack of physical or mental illness, ‘escaping’ is an informal way to promote wellbeing, and you can reduce anxiety and stress just by removing yourself from a situation and quietly reading a book you enjoy.

However, I agree with Dr Merga’s conversation response that students think that “reading is for testing”, rather than for pleasure. I now believe that by offering more RFP, appealing promotions, in a comfortable, safe space, this sanctuary of enjoyable experiences, that also accommodates struggling readers and pays attention to what it means to be a reader according to them, will increase positive engagement with reading. As Karen Seeneevassen advised with mental health disproportionately effecting young people, especially middle years, along with Covid casting shadow it is important to build resilience and coping strategies, using Bibliotheraphy, adding diversity codes within collections, and acceptance of digital formats offers more opportunities for students’ access – rather than us trying to “fix” the problem. 

School Library Environments Supporting Students and Staff

Although I had briefly heard of Lori Korodaj’s 3rd space concept, with libraries being “not home or a classroom”, before, we have many of these elements currently in place. Our staff are available outside the school day (open 8-4.30pm), unlinked to subjects, where we regularly support those with physical issues such as chronic illnesses. Overall, we provide an alternative learning area for wellbeing, I am proud to say we have seen firsthand how empowering this is for those who are maybe not seen, or seen for the wrong reasons in the general population.  

Staff and students regularly describe our library as a flexible, adaptive space, used for many purposes, its warm and welcoming, and somewhere they can relax, let their guards down to be themselves. They can be comfortable in secure surroundings, with a sense of belonging, or use it as a sanctuary from weather, anxiety, introvert personalities, sensory issues, challenging days, fall out with friendships, troubles at home as mentioned within the readings. Our library also offers opportunities to develop social skills, and connections in controlled, low risk contexts for those who are not extroverted personalities, academic achievers or highly proficient in sports in a supportive, vibrant, and stimulating space through growing clubs (writing, chill and read, book share, Lego and the recently introduced D & D) as well as passive and parallel activities.

Visibility and Advocacy for School Libraries and Staff

While I have always felt the pressure to increase the visibility of libraries I have worked in by offering and doing more, and constantly advocating successes, this relentless strain often becomes overwhelming. I found it validating that the readings also depicted growing universal negative norms such as burgeoning workload, job creep, burn out, greying workforce, low morale, lack of peer understanding and especially deprofessionalisation without disrespecting hard working paraprofessionals. However, I will embrace the approach taken in the professional chat which suggests an alternative to maintain visibility, by changing up what we are doing – not in time or effort – but rather changing the language used Eg library visit = a session of literacy, speaking the language of leadership, and redirecting energies to easier, keen targets to strengthen those relationships as advocates.

Overall, I have found this course to be reaffirming in many of our library practices, yet eye opening in how valuable these practices truly are to our community, especially the many young people needing libraries as wellbeing supportive spaces where they can read for enjoyment and experience respite from the challenges of daily life. 

Nickki Mackey

Librarian  Whitefriars College

Suggested Standards addressed by this Course

1.1.2 Use teaching strategies based on knowledge of students’ physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics to improve student learning.

1.3.2 Design and implement teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socio-economic backgrounds.

2.5.2 Apply knowledge and understanding of effective teaching strategies to support students’ literacy and numeracy achievement.

3.5.2 Use effective verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to support student understanding, participation, engagement and achievement.

6.4.2 Undertake professional learning programs designed to address identified student learning needs.

Certificate of participation available via request to:

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