I write to you today to let you know how important I think school libraries are to literacy and to today’s online information learning environment and how much under threat they are. In recent years there has been a decrease in the number of qualified teacher-librarians employed in Australian schools. Only a small percentage of the schools in some states have a full-time teacher-librarian. Yet studies in the past 2 decades have shown that there is a direct correlation between student achievement and well-staffed school library programs. Australian research has also confirmed that extensive use of the school library is associated with a significant difference in students’ literacy achievements.
A recent study of public schools in Queensland and Victoria (Hay, 2005) supports these results in that 99.40% of the 6,718 students surveyed indicated that their school library and its services, including the support of their teacher librarian, has helped them with their learning. The findings from this study demonstrate that “a full-time teacher-librarian possessing dual qualifications in teaching and library/information management (as recognised by the Australian Library and Information Association) plays a critical role in supporting student learning.”
Secondly, a recent (August 2007) informal survey has shown a great disparity in school library budgets across Australia. Of 87 schools across Australian states, school library budgets varied as follows [Average price of a book $23]:
• Government primary schools (29 schools) varied from $10 per student to $53 per student. Government secondary schools (27) varied from $7 to $60 per student.
• Of seven private schools responding, primary schools varied from $21 to $71 per student and of nine secondary schools, $3 to $106 per student.
• Of 15 Catholic schools responding, primary schools varied from $11-46 per student and secondary $25-96 per student.
As there is also a direct correlation in the research between school library budgets and student learning outcomes, this variation indicates great inequities.
We ask what you can do to initiate the formal gathering of national statistics on school library funding and staffing across Australia?
We ask you what you can do to support strong school library programs adequately funded and staffed with trained teacher-librarians, in order to achieve the national goals for literacy and information literacy.
We ask what you can do to work towards equitable funding levels across all schools for resource purchase and teacher-librarian staffing. The national standard recommended by the Australian School Library Association is one teacher-librarian per 318 primary students or per 221 secondary students. More teacher-librarians and adequate funding are needed for students to become truly literate and information literate.
Thank you very much.