Reflections of the National Education Summit Brisbane 2021

Well, after two years of anticipation, we finally had the 2021 Brisbane National Education Summit. I first attended the Summit in 2019 and the 2020 event was postponed due to COVID. However, on the first weekend of June 2021, the Summit finally went ahead and what a fantastic event it was. This is the highlight of my professional learning for the year and a wonderful chance to network and connect with local and interstate school librarians. 

If you couldn’t make it to the Brisbane Summit, check out the Melbourne Summit, which is scheduled for October 2021 Melbourne NES  2021. .

In 2021, the Capacity Building School Libraries conference’s focus was the power of reading, diverse collections, and the power of evidence. There were four streams across the two days. Keynote speakers were Dr Margaret Merga, lecturer and researcher who is doing great things for school library research, and Clare Thorpe, Associate Director (Library Experience), University of Southern Queensland.  As well as the conferences there was also a free expo and free seminars.

I had the privilege of presenting on the Friday. It was nerve-wracking but also incredibly exciting to speak on the Friday about genrefication and the steps we took as a library team to increase student engagement with reading and our fiction and non fiction collections. If you want to check out my presentation, you can view the slides here.

It was so inspiring to listen to all the other presenters. My only negative was that I need to be able to clone myself so I could attend the free seminars, get around to all the exhibits and network and chat to all the amazing librarians at the conference at the same time. 

I was so pleased to meet some incredible library technicians and teacher aides at the conference, who shared the work they are doing in their libraries and how they are fighting for their school libraries. So heartening and so inspiring. 

If you get a chance, put this event on your must-attend list for next year. It promises to be bigger and better than ever and it is such an amazing chance to connect with like-minded school librarians.

Here are my thoughts about the main conference presentations. It’s just a teaser, but I hope that if you didn’t/couldn’t make it to the event you can get a taste and hopefully we will see you in 2022. 

Libraries at the heart of school literacy with Margaret K. Merga.

Margaret shared some of her latest research into the benefits of school libraries, teacher librarians and reading and spoke about connecting school leaders with this research. You can find all of Margaret’s research on her Research Gate platform and she often shares her open-source papers on her Twitter account. If looking for something a little easier to digest, especially when talking to your school leaders or parent groups, direct them to Margaret’s articles on The Conversation. Margaret also spoke about the stagnation of reading in Years 5-7 and how this can account for a six month delay in academic progress for students. Motivated readers read more and engagement with reading is all about frequency and motivation. Margaret also shared her latest research and interest in the booktok community on TikTok and ways we can incorporate this into our library practice. 


The social nature of reading from Mel Kroeger

Mel shared her experiences with making reading a social experience in her school. She used book boxes on classroom desks, a range of book clubs, author visits, book launches, literary events and mindful reading to engage students with reading. 


 Saving the environment through story with Aleesah Darlison

Aleesah shared a little about her writing and research and how books about endangered species and the environment can help teach students to have a love for and care for our precious Earth and the many creatures on it. She share many great example titles that could be used in school libraries and classrooms to provoke this learning. A resource book list and special day calendar is available from her website.


Building A Diverse Collection with Fiona Stager and Kasia Janczewski

This presentation provided an incredible range of suggested titles to add to a diverse library collection. The suggestions can be found on the Where The Wild Things Are Instagram account. Fiona and Kasia also spoke about the importance of diverse collections and changing the perceptions of what a “good reader” is. Instead, they suggested readers who read for joy and ping pong readers, readers who bounce around different genres and formats.


The Secret to Successful Student led collection development with Mali Jorm

Mali shared how she built a school culture around a love of reading. She used catch phrases such as “We are readers here” and watched as students and staff began to use these. Mali shared how she built a student driven collection and how she then promoted this collection, as well as the benefits and challenges around student-driven collections. 


Presenting an overview of evidenced based practice with Clare Thorpe

Clare provided a history of evidenced based practice in school libraries and presented a range of models and frameworks through which to view evidence practice. This was a presentation that sat heavily within the research and theory side of practice, but had practical applications for school librarians who wished to identify where they were sitting within the evidence based practice frameworks and perhaps identify areas for growth, or use one of these frameworks to base their evidence gathering. 


Using Evidence based practice to inform school library programs with Helen Stower and Krystal Gagen-Spriggs

Helen and Krystal presented an overview of how they used evidence based practice to evaluate, improve and reflect on their library programs. Using their reading program as an example, they shared some background literature, how they gathered evidence from students about the effectiveness of their reading program, how they used this data to approach leadership with the changes they wanted to make to the program and how they presented the findings to all key stakeholders. 


Reading as desirable activity with Peter Carnavas

Pete shared, from his perspective as both an author and a teacher librarian, what makes a good story and what elements make books big hits with students, including things such as mashup layouts, great opening lines, and humour. He shared the responses he had gathered from his questions around building a reading culture, which can also be found on his website.


Enabling readers across the years through book clubs with Therese Stafford 

Therese shared her experiences with book clubs, incorporating food and competition to engage her young male students with reading.


The power of recreational reading and the TL role with Liz Derouet

Liz shared some research about the importance of recreational reading amd some ideas for who you might support this in a school library, such as encouraging reading across genres, being an adventurous reader, making reading in certain year groups that might naturally drop interest in reading more exciting with special promotions just for them.  


Literature and STEM with Jackie Child

Jackie child shared an incredible range of ideas for incorporating STEM and craft activities with literature and shared some tech, activities and apps you could use with some suggested book titles.