Library OPAC Temporarily Unavailable

For reasons out of our control, the library OPAC is unavailable from home. Students and faculty received (or will receive soon) an email with instructions on how to access it from home.

Once you have located the OPAC using the emailed access instructions, you can log on to it using your own personal account or the quick login, which can be found on the student logs or the library brochures.

Please let us know if you continue to have difficulties accessing the OPAC from home. Our IT department is working on a solution, but it may require a week or two.

4 p.m. updateOur IT manager, Ms. Dora Hu, may found us a patch solution while the larger technical solution is being sorted. Access the library OPAC using the link below. 

OPAC Screen Changes

We recently updated the software that runs our OPAC to a version that allows for better integration with ebooks. The name of the software is Follett Destiny and it is quite effective in managing our catalog. Sadly, a couple of our favorite OPAC features were changed with the most recent update.

The first change is the landing page. The library OPAC’s address is That’s easy to remember. It used to take us to a page with a tree on it, which was not the page where we could log in. This prompted us to remind people to “Watch out for the tree!” and to first enter the library OPAC by clicking on the blue IST Library link.

This is the landing before before the update. The tree in the corner meant we were not yet inside the library OPAC.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


That tree is now gone, replaced by the Follett Destiny logo. Trying to log in from that logo page will still result in an error message, but now we don’t have the handy reminder that we’re outside of the library because trees do not grow inside libraries. If you have any ideas for an easy way to remind people to enter the library proper, please let us know in the comments.

New landing page for OPAC. Click on the IST Library link to enter the OPAC.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


The second change is the location of the call number relative to the cover image. It used to be that the call number would be conveniently placed below the cover image, if there was one. Now the call number is to the right of the books cover image, making it less obvious. While we can understand changing the tree to the software’s name, we don’t know why the company changed the location of the call number. It’s still visible though, so we can continue to use it to help us locate books on the shelves — something that grade 2, 3, and 4 students have had a lot of practice with lately. They’re experts at using the call number to find books.

I don’t have a screenshot of what a book record used to look like, but this is what it looks like now.

This is the OPAC record for a book.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Have you noticed any other changes with the new update? Let us know in the comments.

Using Call Numbers

Let’s say you want to find a library book about dogs. You look up the word “dog” in the library OPAC and you find the title you want. Now what? How do you go from the book title on the screen to finding that same title on the shelves? The answer is you use the call number.

The call number is written on a white sticker at the bottom of the spine of all our library books. The call number will have at least two lines. The top line or lines will tell you where the book can be found in the library. The bottom line tells you who wrote the book as it is the first three letters of the author’s last name.

Fiction books are organized by section: E for the picture books, ER for the early readers (we also call them the red sticker books), and ELE F (we call them yellow sticker books) for the beginning chapter books. Within each section, books are arranged alphabetically by author’s last name, or rather by the three letters of the bottom line of the call number.

Non-fiction books are also organized by Dewey Decimal sections. Each of the section corresponds to a broad range of subjects. To locate a non-fiction book by the call number, one must first read the top line/s and find that number on the shelf. Once you have found that number, you then look at the bottom line and use alphabetical order to find the three letters on the shelf.

Grade 2 and 3 students have been practicing their call number location skills. They will be using those skills all year when looking for books to support their unit and personal inquiries.

We start out with a review of alphabetical order. I print out book slips from the library OPAC, and on those book slips we notice

  • availability (if the book is in the library or has been checked out)
  • the title
  • the call number
  • the cover image, if the OPAC has one. (Not all books have cover images.)

Armed with the call number slips, the students then pair up and go retrieve the books. After we’ve used up all the slips, we put the books back – using the same call number skills that we used to find them.

The second and third graders love finding books on the shelf. Last week we only looked in one section, the ELE F section because it has books that are almost all the same size and the spines are mostly wide enough to see the whole call number. Next comes getting call number slips from different parts of our fiction collection and then the non-fiction collection. Soon enough, they will be able to find books in any section of the library.

Click on the first image in this gallery for an “Anatomy of a Call Number” sheet that summarizes what the different parts of the call number mean.

Bibliographies with EasyBib Now Even Easier

Students and teachers at IST are principled inquirers. Among the many skills we possess as principled inquirers is that of citing our sources. Students from grade 5 and up are expected to maintain bibliography lists with the sources that they use in their school assignments.

Along with their classroom and subject teachers, the librarians help students cite sources accurately and correctly. One of the tools we provide our students for efficient bibliography making is EasyBib, an online citation engine.  Students in grades 5 and up are taught to use EasyBib.

EasyBib landing page

As its name implies, EasyBib is  easy to use. It can automatically generate citations for books and websites, and additionally it offers 59 different options for other types of sources. A new feature makes EasyBib even easier: importing of citations from databases and writing/pasting of citations. This last is very useful if a student copies a ready citation from a database or if the student has written it out by hand using the guides in his or her homework log.

Write-paste citation on EasyBib

As the elementary librarian, I am working with grade 5 students as they research the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for the Grade 5 Exhibition. As they will for major projects in middle school, the fifth graders must submit a bibliography with their other Exhibition assignments. They are becoming quite proficient at using EasyBib and are taking advantage of another great new feature: sharing their bibliographies with other students and teachers.

If you want to learn how to take advantage of EasyBib’s school subscription, please visit us at the library.

Citation-Ready Sources for Elementary Students

Last Tuesday, we had a parent session for grades 2 to 5 titled: Principled Inquirers in grades 2 to 5. One of the skills that principled inquirers use is giving credit to the sources that help them arrive at their answers. We call this “citing our sources” and each instance of that is a “citation.” Our school uses the Modern Language Association (MLA) citation format.

MLA citations are slightly different depending on the source consulted, i.e., a citation for a book is slightly different to that of a personal interview or a website article, but they all try to answer the following questions:

  • Who – is the creator/originator of the information?
  • What – is the title of the source?
  • Where – was the information published?
  • When – was the information published?

One additional “When” question asks, “When was the information accessed” if the source is online.

On Tuesday, we spoke about the progression of citation skills we expect from our students in grades 2 to 5. We also spoke about citation-ready databases.

Databases are online collections of articles that are accessed through a portal. Databases are sources of authoritative, accurate and reliable information. One of the benefits of using databases for research is that they often supply citations ready to be copied and included in student’s bibliographies.

The following subscription databases are “citation-ready” meaning that they will provide citations for students. We subscribe to these databases on behalf of our community. Students are taught by the librarians and their classroom teachers to access them via the library OPAC. Please let us know if you are a member of the IST community and you need help accessing our databases.

Citation-Ready Databases

PebbleGo – A database for students in preK to grade 2. We have two collections: Animals and Earth & Space. The database is arranged via a graphic interface that makes it easy for our younger students to find the topic of their choice. See the screenshot below with the citation button on a sample article.

Citation button on PebbleGo

Britannica Online School Edition – The school edition of the famous Encyclopedia Britannica offers three different levels of reading ability. All three levels provide citations for their articles. Students can copy and paste directly into their bibliographies. Students from grade 4 are expected to copy the full citation.

Citation on Britannica

Britannica Image Quest
– a collection of searchable, high quality images. Each image has a full citation that can be copied and pasted. For many school projects in the elementary school, students are allowed to write the phrase “Images from Britannica Image Quest.” More formal projects require students in grade 5 to include the full citation for each image.

Citation on Britannica Image Quest

WorldBook Online
– Like Britannica School Edition, WorldBook Online offers three levels of reading difficulty and citations for each article.

Citation on WorldBook

BrainPop – This is a very popular database with our students. It has short videos on a variety of school topics. Although BrainPop does not include ready citations, there is a FAQ page that explains how to cite a BrainPop movie. Note that you need to add the word “Web.” to the citation.

Secondary Parent session highlights

We had an excellent turn-out for yesterday’s parent session. Our objective was to highlight the importance of academic honesty, define plagiarism, and walk parents through the how-to for accessing the Library OPAC and our subscription databases.

Parents at the “Homework Help” session on Tuesday, 20 November, 2012.

Parents were shown how to

  1. use the Secondary Homework Log as a resource;
  2. use the Library OPAC as a starting point by logging on and viewing the homepage;
  3. begin research with Britannica Online or World Book;
  4. cite sources in MLA format—copying and pasting the citations given in most database entries or using EasyBib or NoodleTools to manage their project;
  5. make use of The Writing Center.
The next Secondary Parent session is planned for 30 January and will go into more detail on using project managers such as EasyBib or NoodleTools. Stay tuned to this blog for more details early in 2013.
In the meantime, there are two short sessions planned for next week. One is for elementary parents and the other is for all of our parent community.
28 November parent sessions

Logging in to the OPAC? Watch out for the tree!

We get a lot of calls, emails and texts from people who are trying to log in to the library OPAC but keep getting an error message. Maybe they’re trying to access our subscription database links and passwords, post a review, renew a book, or check their outstanding materials, but they just can’t get the OPAC to recognize their password.

We tell them to watch out for the tree!

How to poster

Scholastic Book Club Orders Arrived

The Scholastic Book Clubs orders we placed before the Chinese New Year break arrived this week. Thanks to the purchases of our community members, the IST library was able to acquire many excellent new titles for our library collection as well as many books for the ESL classrooms from grades 1 to 5.

To see the complete list of titles, please visit the library OPAC (see the links to the OPAC at the top left side of this blog or click here).

(Blame the mini-tutorial below on my desire to play with my new Comic Life 2 app.)

How to see the list of new arrivals from the Scholastic Book Clubs order

Reading the Spine of a Book

Library books most often show their spines to the world. On the spine of a book you can see the title of the book, the author and the name or logo of the publisher.

In addition to this, library books often have a call number label. At IST our call numbers are at the bottom of the spine. The call number has two or more lines. The first line or lines indicate the location in which the book can be found. The last line indicates the first three letters of the author’s last name.

Our library books are either fiction or non-fiction. The call numbers for the fiction books have E, ELE E or F on the first line for “picture books”, “elementary fiction” and “general fiction” respectively.

Call numbers for non-fiction books have a 3-digit number on the first line. This 3-digit number is for the Dewey Decimal Classification System and it organizes non-fiction books under different subject categories. For example, the 800’s section is for literature and the 900’s section is for history and geography. Students at IST are taught how to locate books using the Dewey system from grade 1. If you would like to learn more about it, come see us in the library.

Once you have found the section of the library where your book is located, you need to look at the last line of the call number. This is the first three letters of the author’s last name. Within a location, books are ordered alphabetically by author. In this way, for example, a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman would  be found in the 741.5 shelves after the authors whose names start with F and before the ones whose names start with H.

We sometimes add a bit more information on the spine with colored stickers.

  • New in 2011-2012 – white
  • Early readers – red
  • Easy readers for middle school – orange
  • Wordless books – purple
  • Mature topics – dark blue

Here’s a diagram to bring it all together. I prepared this for our wonderful volunteers who help us put books back on the shelves, but I thought that it might be of use to all of our patrons.

Sometimes we have more than two lines on the call number stickers, for example, for our books in languages other than English. Those books, in addition to having the same two lines that other fiction and non-fiction books have, may also have first a line with the letters WL to indicate World Languages and will have a line with the first three letters of a language’s name in English: CHI, KOR, FRE, GER, DAN. Under those two lines will come the rest of the call number as described above.

There you have it, how to read the spine of a library book at IST. Next time you check out a library book, take a moment to look at all the information we manage to put on its spine. We’re remarkable, us librarians. 🙂

 Source for the first photo:

Fiction Books. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 17 Feb 2012.