2023 Year in Review
It’s has become a bit of a tradition of mine to reflect back on the year that has just passed. I find it immensely helpful to not only remember all the things I actually got done in the year, but to also track what I am spending my focus on, track my goals and my progress towards them and set new goals for the year ahead.
Honestly, 2023 feels like it could have been two years with the amount that has been squeezed into it. To say it has been a massive year feels like a massive understatement. Before writing this, I read my reflections from 2022. I had to chuckle at the plans I had set for the start of 2023. I thought I had it all organised and all laid out. Well, let me tell you, the start of 2023 did not go as planned.
We were meant to be moving into our new school library in the first few weeks of January. However, this date was pushed back week by week, one minute the move was going ahead and the next it wasn’t. One thing was clear, the building was not at all ready for us to move in, yet movers were booked, as was the grand opening, so move we did. Or, sort of. One day I’ll write the post called “How Not to Move a Library in 60 Days”. January, February, and some of March were spent organising and reorganising boxes, moving some items into an active building site, continuing to operate the library from our temporary location, unpacking in an active building site (in hard hats and high-vis vests), moving boxes and furniture ourselves when the (non-library related) removalists booked for us took one look at the job and said it was too hard and left, and setting up the new library space (still wearing hard hats and working around the tradies finishing the building). The building was officially opened in March, but deemed not safe to access by students until April, so we continued to operate out of two locations. Quantum Library Removalists were amazing and worked so hard to bring our collections back onsite and get them moved into the building.
We officially opened to staff and students in our new space from the start of term two. We ran inductions by doing, orientation sessions, scavenger hunts and special events. The new, genrefied non-fiction collections had their time to shine, while the old non-fiction collection waited in the panic room to be weeded and genrefied. We named the panic room the panic room, a storeroom stuffed to the brim with the old collections, unpacked boxes, class sets and enough dust and to-do list items to induce a panic attack. We coped with terrible shelving (architect designed and not at all suitable for a secondary library or the actually space), a terrible circulation desk (not at all workplace safe or ergonomic) and started to figure out how the space would best work. We launched the booking system and our new Possibility Hub makerspace. Students and staff loved the services and collections and resources we offered and we had 1500 bookings in the space that term. Five weeks in, my body gave in and I had to take two weeks leave for illness. We had to cancel the planned local school library network meeting. The term continued in a rush of events, bookings and sorting things out in the new space.
Term 3 our booking numbers increased by 50%, our loan stats continued to sky rocket, we started genrefying the old non-fiction collection and I pitched for extra (decent) library shelves, to make the circulation desk safe for use, and to increase the library team numbers. I was supported in all three requests. Adding a team member meant I could get back to more of my job, though much of my time was still taken with building defects and issues (don’t talk to me about sewage, lighting or doors). Our new team member also helped to get the lunchtime activities started in the Hub and handle the dramatic increase in use in that space. Our space was buzzing. New shelving arrived and made such a difference to the space and ability to showcase our collections. We reused the unsuitable shelving in the Hub, perfect for storing student work.
Term 3 ended dramatically with a sudden change in school leadership and term 4, while continuing to be extremely busy in the library, was full of changes in the school structure. My focus became promoting the library and advocating for our team and services to our new leadership. This was successful and the work of the library team continues to be supported by school leadership. We hosted the rescheduled local library network visit, with over 45 people attending. It was great to connect with library staff and share ideas. We have also added another team member to the team and extended the working days of other team members to meet the increased demand for our services and increased workload. Pulling together the annual report for the school library was a great pleasure and confirms what I see anecdotally, the library is helpful, valued, creative, innovative, resourceful and much loved by our school community. Steps we have taken to support a reading culture, information literacy and wellbeing are all working, seen through comments, increased loan statistics and simply the increased demand for our services. I am so incredibly grateful to the library team I work with for their enthusiasm, professionalism, ideas and hard work. I am grateful to the leadership teams I work with for listening to me showcase our library and responding so positively to my requests to expand our services and our library team.
Reading and Reviews
Well, if I thought my reading was down last year, it’s nothing to the depths to which it has plummeted this year. Again, it’s no surprise. Work, the school library move, and enforced rest have taken up my time. I have read some incredible books and I am really enjoying reading more non-fiction and less for reviewing purposes, but I am looking forward to diving back into reading more next year.
Posts and writing
Here on Madison’s Library, I have shared just 59 posts this year, down a lot from the 114 posts of last year. Down mostly due to the lack of reviews I’ve posted. Instead, I’m writing a lot more about school library practice, which I am enjoying immensely. It seems that you too, my dear readers, are enjoying those posts, because view statistics of my website are up 24%.
My Book Week posts continued to be my most viewed pages, followed by a guide on making double-sided bookmarks with Canva, a post about AI, chatbots and ChatGPT, Planning Library Displays for the Year, and the benefits of reading non-fiction.
Top viewed reviews were Icebreaker, Divine Rivals, The Way I Used to Be, and Twin Crowns. Again, TikTok is having an influence on these stats and what titles are popular, though I must note that my review of Icebreaker is not for the BookTok popular book but for a delightful gay sports romance, which I think is rather awesome.
Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to receive my newsletter. Over 735 people have signed up to read my emails, which is humbling and rather lovely. If you’d like to subscribe, you can do so here.
While I have stepped back from the professional learning world a little this year, again another impact of the library move, I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to connect, learn and share.
In March, I joined Natasha Lee for an ALIA Schools webinar on Embracing Student Wellbeing. You can purchase the recording here, if you missed it.
In April, I presented at the ASLA Conference with Anne Weaver on Designing Dynamic Experiences in Library Spaces.
In June, I presented at the SLAV Masterclass Series on Library Design and Refurbishment.
In July I got to talk about one of my favourite topics, non-fiction, in the Importance of Non-Fiction EduWebinar event. You can purchase a recording here.
In September, I had the privilege of joining the ALIA Mentoring Scheme mentors and mentees for a panel presentation on creating an online presence. It was wonderful to hear and learn from the other panelists.
At the start of Term 4, we hosted the rescheduled BrisNet and ASLAN meeting for school library staff from our local area. With over 45 attendees, it was a great chance to connect and share ideas.
Finally, in October, I presented at the AASL Conference in Florida with Colin Bell from Concord Australia on Digital Curation: Achieving Meaningful Engagement. I was able to present remotely, so didn’t get the chance to see other sessions or connect with anyone in person, but it was still wonderful to be involved with this event.
Social media remains an importance piece of my professional learning network. While things look a little different from a few years ago, predominately due to the changes in Twitter and the emergence of a few new platforms to try out. I continue to favour Instagram, am still on Twitter very infrequently, haunt LinkedIn, and have joined Threads and BlueSky Social. I think the latter might prove to be useful, once more from the school library community join there.
Successes from 2023
This is a new section for my Year In Review, because despite the challenges, it has been a year of great successes. Firstly, I want to look at each of my goals from last year and see how I went.
Successfully move into our new space and be prepared for the grand opening. Tick. I’ll say no more.
Bringing our vision to life. Oh, yes, I can say this one has started successfully. While we are not there yet, just having an updated strategic plan, vision statement and starting to enact this has been very successful. We’ve more work to do, particularly to develop the Junior Library and start expanding on what we can offer in the Hub and Precinct, as well as looking at how we alter and adjust course slightly to reflect the changes at the school, but overall, I’m very happy with progress on this goal.
A strong calendar of events and programs. Well, sort of. Any success here I have to credit to some key team members. I just couldn’t fit making this happen into my days, but I am incredibly grateful for the creative people I get to work with, who have started to make this a reality.
Genrefying the non fiction collection. Heck yes! I can say that most of the non-fiction collection has been weeded, reinvigorated, and genrefied. There are still a few collections to finish off and lots of work to be done on repairing and changing the collections of the old books, but this one has been incredibly successful, to the point that our non-fiction loans stats went up by 177% this year as a result of our work. Massive thanks, as always, to the #AmazingLibraryTech I get to work with, for all her incredible work, ideas and enthusiasm for this and all the other projects we take on. Couldn’t do it without her.
Online learning. It was my intention to create a range of short courses, both for my school students and for other school library staff. I did complete one on referencing for the school, which proved successful, so I have the model ready to go and will hopefully have the time to create more next year.
Other successes: I am so excited to say that 2023 was a year of great growth for my professional practice and as head of library at my school library. I successfully pitched to double our budget for 2023, which was a change from the trend of reducing budgets in the years prior. It has enabled us to expand our author visit programs, collection management and online services. Throughout the year, I have also been successful in pitching to expand the library team. Over the course of 2023, we added three new members to the library team and extended the work hours of two others. Each addition means we can expand our services, manage our new space, update collections, and bring the skills of these new team members to what we offer to our school community, which is so rewarding to see. I am so grateful for the people I get to work with and I am very excited for 2024.
Goals for 2024
It’s interesting writing this. Last year I had one really clear goal – move the library and reinvigorate its services and collections. And while it took a little longer and was a lot more stressful than expected, I can firmly tick that goal off as complete. Now, looking ahead, there are so many things I want to do and focus on. I am going to spend some time over this holidays break listing them all, grouping them, ordering them by need, importance, achievability and then trying to narrow that down to a few to get started on first. I know information literacy, digital literacy and reading culture are all high up on my list, as is continued promotion of the school library and its services. Big plans. Can’t wait.
2023 was a massive year. I am hoping that 2024 will be quieter in some regards, but enable the hard work of 2023 to help reach beyond into new and exciting territory.
How did 2023 shape up for you and what are your plans for the year ahead? I’d love to hear from you, so please reach out or leave a comment below.