Library Lotto

22 11 2007

No, it’s not Trivial Pursuit meets Bingo.  It’s a game students play when they enter school. Getting a decent library service is the luck of the draw.

In the absence of current statistics, The Hub conducted an informal and completely unscientific survey of Australian teacher librarians.  We received almost two hundred responses to our call for information.  It is important to note that this means we only have data from schools with a TL. We can’t really call up schools and say, “excuse me, you don’t know us, but could you please tell us your student population, library budget and library staffing?”. 

The results demonstrated the huge inequity between schools, for both resource budgets and staffing levels.  It also revealed some of the absurd working conditions TLs put up with due to the lack of understanding of their qualifications and abilities, which will be the subject for tomorrow’s entry.   

Here’s an example which comes from personal experience this year.  You may recall my earlier reference to my five year old daughter wearing her school uniform seven days a week.  Early in 2007, I decided to have her assessed seeing as she had started kindergarten as a very capable reader.  She cried often as she was not going to school, and attended every day of kinder in a school dress. She had missed the cutoff date for school entry by 33 days.  Testing did indeed indicate she was an “able learner”.   

In term two I  prepared to apply to the Department of Education for early entry.  I looked at three schools. The principal of our local school told me that “early entry never works” (I catalogued that under URBAN MYTHOLOGY).  The next school was 15 minutes away, had 500 students and a gifted program that different students were selected for each term. The last was 30 minutes away, 300 students and no specific gifted program.

In two tours of the larger school (including on an official “open day”), I did not see the library, and when I asked to, was shown a locked door.  No, no teacher librarian on staff, one technician (obviously part time) and teachers did their own library lessons. The reason for this?  Not enough money.

The smaller school, in contrast, employed a teacher librarian three days a week, and the library was a highlight of the tour.  They even had some lunchtime access for students.

We chose the more distant school.  Why?  Not just because I’m a TL and love libraries, but that in all my reading and research into gifted education, it became obvious how important a great library would be for my daughter to succeed.  I learnt that many of the teaching and learning strategies needed for gifted education* were the same as those employed by teacher librarians.  So I chose a library all year round instead of a part time gifted program. 

Victorian primary schools receive the lowest funding in Australia, but this isn’t a funding issue, it’s a principal issue.  Because one principal thinks that a part time technician is sufficient to run a library, then…

– FIVE HUNDRED students miss out on what a TL brings to a school.  Who ensures that the collection meets the needs of their work? Who reads and recommends all the new fiction each year?

– FIVE HUNDRED students have teachers who don’t have the benefit of an information and literature specialist to enhance their teaching. If teachers need to purchase new resources, do they have to find what’s on offer themselves?  Don’t they have enough to do already?

And that’s just one school.

I am happy to report that so far, early entry has been a great success.

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*that’s not to say that TLs are better for the more academically gifted student.  TLs work with flexible learning strategies that allow students to develop their reading/ research/ learning regardless of where they’re at.

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26 11 2007
Story time « The Hub

[…] already pointed out, putting your child into a school is a lottery with respect to the library service. By service, I […]

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