Is your school making the most of its library management system?

  • Is your school making the most of its library management system?

A Library Management System – or LMS – is the central system for any secondary school library. The days when you would borrow a title from the shelves, and staff would slide its card out of a pocket on the inside front cover to file away until the book’s return, are far behind us. Instead, we now have the LMS, which comes with a whole range of possible features that can not only make the librarian’s life easier, but can also add value to teaching and learning in many ways.

A one-stop shop

The idea of an LMS is not just to record the incomings and outgoings of books – most offer much more than that. First, it’s about having a one stop shop: all books, e-books, audio books, a list of recommended websites, and e-resources etc could be catalogued within the system, as well as other items such as laptops, iPads, music sheets and textbooks, all of which can be entered along with their location. Cataloguing with the LMS isn’t just about entering the title, author and ISBN, either; an essential part of the process is keyword tagging. Librarians have to ask, “what would pupils search for if they wanted to find this resource?”, and an LMS will keep a central index of all the keywords so that periodically they can be consolidated or updated. This is important given the changing nature of the modern curriculum. Many LMS options also have the ability to be linked to the VLE, so new resources can be displayed on the relevant page.

An LMS will often be accessible from anywhere as they are internet based and hosted – this can be fantastic for encouraging reading engagement outside of school. Just imagine: a Year 7 pupil is at home and finishes their book – they’re keen for the next one, so they log on and search for the title, write a review, watch a book trailer, find a new book to keep them going, reserve it, make a wish list…

Evaluate and improve

Teachers should have their own login to the system, as this will allow them to check the resources in the school library when planning a new SoW, and means they can demonstrate how to find resources when setting homework – after all it’s this experience that is going to be most useful when it comes to starting university or making use of any database in a future workplace. Some LMS options also allow teachers to upload their own resources for easier discovery by pupils.

This technology also represents a straightforward way of collecting data about the performance of a school library. There are other ways – a head count, timetable slots booked etc – but the LMS makes it easy. Many have pre-formulated reports for inspection that give a breakdown of the ‘headline’ figures such as books lent per day; but these aren’t always the things you want to show off, so an endless array of other reports is available. Whether it’s evaluating engagement to create priorities (“9C haven’t borrowed much this term – I’ll do a Book of the Week for their form time next term”), or gauging success (“All the authors who have done events are now in the top 20 most borrowed books”), or a way to generate lending (a top 10 poster of the most borrowed books), a good LMS is key to having a truly effective library – and what’s more, when used to its full potential, can be a whole school tool for learning.

About the author

Alison Tarrant is director of the School Library Association (SLA ). Membership is available for £89 a year, and includes a quarterly journal, access to exclusive website resources, discounted publications and training and a personalised advice line.