Guest blog: Nikki Curtis, Director of Marketing at Softlink, liaises with school library customers daily and has been responsible for the development of the School Library Survey reports and whitepapers since 2013. She is a keynote speaker at the JCS 2018 Conference From Digital Literacy to Independent Learners: challenges and opportunities for librarians and teachers. Here Nikki introduces her role at Softlink, and some of the topics she will be discussing at the conference…

The theme of the JCS 2018 conference is a pertinent one. Being held at Aston University, Birmingham, UK on Friday the 30th November, 2018, the conference focuses on Digital Literacy to Independent Learning: challenges and opportunities for librarians and teachers.

I work with school librarians and teacher librarians globally in my role with Softlink Education, so this is a topic I hear and read a lot about. But I had a personal experience recently that I wanted to share.

I was speaking with two very smart, savvy women I had just met. One of the women was describing the work she is doing with the CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools program here in Australia.

The conversation segued into contemporary challenges for educators – keeping up to date with changes in curriculum, technology and educating digital natives -and the importance of partnerships and collaboration.

The second woman then told a personal story about how her own son, a smart boy interested in science and technology, would get distracted and bored when left alone with study, and basically revert to playing games.

In her words (and she had no idea at this point that I worked with school libraries in my professional life and that this was a relevant topic to me) ‘he doesn’t know how to search for or find the things he’s interested in, or even where to start.’

To put it in perspective the child being described is 7, he has plenty of time to learn.  But for me it was a real life example of the modern conundrum.

Even really young children today seem to have this preternatural ability to:

  • download or update an app faster than even the most tech savvy, youthful parent,
  • adapt almost immediately to interface changes while us (maybe just me) ‘older folk’ curse and click trying to work it out,
  • interact on several different social media forums while still seemingly being able to manage their normal lives (ok, maybe their lives haven’t reached the VUCA point yet;)

But they need to be guided and taught how to access quality, relevant information that will help them develop their interests and hone their skills.

They need to be taught how to become digitally literate, independent learners and in today’s online information environment, this really does pose both a challenge and an exciting opportunity for school library professionals and educators globally.

An Australian perspective

I was very excited to be asked to present at the conference. The presentation context was to provide an Australian perspective – considering collaboration between the teacher librarians and librarians who run the library and the greater school community, as well as practices that engage students with the library and improve learning and research outcomes.

The initial concept for the presentation was developed from a feature document Softlink Education produced at the end of 2017 – School Libraries Share: Ideas for school-wide collaboration, which highlights the voices of real school librarians globally in response to a question posed in the 2017 Softlink School Library Survey: How do you currently collaborate, or what ideas do you have for greater collaboration between the library and the rest of the school?

The responses were inspiring, practical and very honest.  I encourage everyone to read them.

As well as incorporating Australian content from the Ideas for school-wide collaboration feature, I set to work interviewing some of the many wonderful and inspiring teacher librarians and library professionals we at Softlink have the pleasure of working with daily.

A few of these interviews take video form and I’m excited to pre-share these in this blog.

Lilas Monniot – Tweed Valley, NSW

In this series of three videos, Lilas talks about information literacy, collaboration and encouraging students to visit their library.

Jim Gallagher – Sydney, NSW

In this video, Jim shares the practices his school has implemented to encourage students into a brand new library, and the ways different age groups interact with the space/services.

Laurel Ball – Gold Coast, QLD

In this video, Laurel describes how she uses collaboration and improved access to resources to address the challenge of information literacy.

Ros Kingsford – Northern Rivers, NSW

In this video, Ros describes how she and her colleagues use the library to assist with student creativity and well-being to support learning.

If you have an Australia school library perspective you would like to share I would love to hear it. Please email

Register for the conference

The JCS 2018 Conference includes a fantastic line up of speakers. To find out more or register for the conference – being held on Friday 30th November at Aston University, Birmingham, UK – visit the event web site.