We use cookies to provide you with the best experience on our website and to improve our communications with you. If you continue without changing your settings, we’ll assume you’re happy to receive all cookies on this website. If you wish, however, you can change your cookie settings at any time. Click “find out more” for detailed information about how cookies are used on this website. Find out more


Working in a New Zealand school library


Working in a New Zealand school library

We are excited to share this guest blog written by Trish Webster, Library Manager at Rangitoto College.

My name is Trish Webster and I’m the Library Manager at Rangitoto College in Auckland, New Zealand.  I have been in this role for over 11 years and love it! 

Our school is the largest in New Zealand and the library is a very popular part of it; we are the heart of the school.  

Trish Webster

We are open from 8am to 5pm and on average we get between 1500 to 1800 students in the library each day.  We have four members of staff who work the equivalent of 3 full-time equivalents.  

My days are very varied, which is what I love about being a school librarian, but telling you about a typical day is very difficult because every day is different, so I thought I would tell you about my school term.

Term 2, 2021 began with finishing up the last of our 23 library orientation classes for our new Year 9 students which I couldn’t complete in Term 1 because we had a snap 2-week Covid Lockdown earlier in the term.  

Our school roll is 3200 students and 300 staff; 670 of these students are in Year 9, our entry level year, and I visit every tutor group to introduce them to the library, Oliver, and our resources.  I try to make it fun and interactive so the students have a positive experience and will feel comfortable asking for our help.

Maori and Pasifica collections

Weeks 1 – 9: Term 2 is a heavy research term and we had a lot of history and classics classes booked in.  There are 6 history classes at each year level and they all do the same topic at the same time so we put a hold on issuing any print resources to ensure they are on the shelf when they need them.  

All the library staff were kept busy helping students to locate the resources they required (both print and online), as well as our usual displays, circulation, acquisition, cataloguing and processing tasks. We issued over 8300 physical items to staff and students across the term.  

This is all supported by our 70 student librarians who assist us with many of our day-to-day tasks.  We run a four level training programme that ensures that they keep interested and learn skills that will look good on their CV when they leave (I write a reference for each of our Year 13 school librarians).

Weeks 2 – 7: I worked with a team from the Ministry of Education who were investigating what a great school library looks like (in conjunction with SLANZA, School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa).  This involved separate Zoom meetings with their team for both myself, my Principal, and five students.  

I found some of the comments by the students surprising.  Three students were school librarians and two were after school regulars.  The student librarians talked about the benefits of working alongside us; giving them confidence talking and interacting with adults who weren’t their teachers or parents.  They all spoke about how welcome and safe they feel in the library which I was delighted to hear as this is something we work very hard to achieve.  They love the constantly changing displays, and having input to those displays, into our purchasing decisions, being able to borrow our new purchases first, and the wide range of resources that support their learning, and their interests.  

New books display

Weeks 3 - 4: I am the Support Staff representative for the school’s Health and Safety committee and this term I ran a survey to assess the well-being of our staff; it was well supported and gave us some useful data about how our support staff are coping this year. 

I shared the results with both the Health and Safety committee and at one of the Head of Department meetings that I attend every month.

Week 5: I ran a Library Introduction session for our staff; this highlighted the services we provide including our Oliver LearnPath guides that I create for any topic that needs support. These guides have made a real difference to our students’ learning – they find the combination of physical books (via a slider) and online resources collected onto one page invaluable for their research.  

This term I was asked to create pages on the Christchurch earthquake and Euthanasia for Health and PE, and pages on Colonisation for the Level 2 and Level 3 History topics.  The teacher was delighted and told me it was a pleasure to teach the topics as they were so well supported with resources and students were able to produce a high level of work.

Trish Webster 2

Week 6: I am on the committee of our Auckland SLANZA branch; we organize professional development events for school librarians.  

On Saturday 12th June I ran our annual LibCafe for our local members.  This is the third year we have held it and it was very popular once again.  Based on the ‘Unconference’ format it allows the participants to be actively involved in the planning and topic choices of the day.  We invite participants to submit a slide on a shared Google Slides document which they explain and expand on at the meeting.  

The ‘Take a stand’ segment gives everyone the opportunity to think about a controversial statement (eg ‘We should ditch Dewey’), and the group discussions allow a more in depth session where participants can share with and learn from each other.

Weeks 6 - 8: I was asked to be on a Strategic Planning design committee and helped create a survey to get feedback from the Support Staff in the school on our strategic planning goals.  I did some analysis once it was completed to share with the committee so we could formulate our recommendations; I always find this fascinating as you never know what you will discover!

Week 9: was our busiest event week in the term.  

On Tuesday I hosted and ran the North Shore Region’s Readers cup competition.  We had teams from nine secondary schools competing in front of their families in our library.  Shelving was pushed out of the way and we were able to welcome over 100 people to watch the fun.  All the teams enjoyed it and the winners will go on to compete in the National competition next term.  

On Wednesday we held a pizza lunch for our student librarians – always a popular event.  It still amazes me how many pizzas and cookies they can eat!  

Thursday saw our second author visit for the year. Andrew Crowe is a writer of non-fiction who wowed four classes with his tales of sailing the Pacific following the voyages of the first sailors and navigators.

The primary focus of Week 10 is encouraging staff and students to take out as many books as they can carry for the holidays.  Our open borrowing policy is very popular and it is a pleasure to issue whole series to students and know that they will have time to read them all.  We frequently have to lend them extra bags to be able to carry their choices.  

All you can carry

A busy term, but very satisfying.  Planning is already underway for our main foci for next term – our biannual school wide survey where we ask everyone what they like most about the library, and what we could change.  This open format creates a large amount of work, but gives us fantastic feedback on what is working and what we should alter.  

And of course, we will finish the term with a fun filled Library Week!  Alongside all this is our continuing support of reading and learning; our core business.  

Further Reading: