When is a TL not a TL?

29 06 2008

Even when the blog is quiet, hubbers are still at work. 

Congratulations to hubber Sharon McGuinness who has just recorded her piece on school libraries for ABC Radio’s “Perspectives” program. Many thanks to the ABC for this opportunity.  We’ll let you know when it is going to be aired. 

A position currently being advertised (click here) at Melbourne’s Buckley Park College has us here at The Hub somewhat concerned.  The job advertised is a school services officer (SSO) position.  However the job description requires the successful applicant to  “plan and conduct library and research skills tutorials for students” and “assist with supervision of students”.   

Hmmm, tutorials.   Sounds a LOT like teaching to me.  In fact, much of the job description reads like that of a teacher librarian, except that a librarian is cheaper, and qualifies for less annual leave.  Perhaps someone with greater knowledge of library SSO standards in Victoria could give us their opinion of this position description.  Applications close late July, so the link should stay active for at least 4 weeks.




16 responses

29 06 2008
Marian Lees

I agree Leonie and have sent the following email to the principal.
Dear Mr. Tartaro,
I am very disappointed to see the position of Librarian being advertised as an SSO position at Buckley Park. The position description reads like a Teacher Librarian position with the taking of information and reading classes and running a vital educational school library, but the position is not advertised as a teacher position. I believe it is wrong to require SSO’s to do the work of teachers and possibly not entirely legal to ask them to be in charge of classes. As the role of the Teacher Librarian becomes more vital in the information age and the use of information and technology becomes more important in the education of the next generation, I am very sad to see that schools are downgrading the role of the Teacher Librarian and trying to look at a ‘cheap’ way of delivering library and information services.
Marian Lees

29 06 2008
Margaret Spillman

What are the legal implications for an SS0 acting as a de-facto teacher?
Most teachers belong to a union, in my instance, the Qld Teachers Union and I have used their leagle advice on a couple of occasions.
What does a SS0 know about the curriculum? So many TLs I know are also a member of their school’s curriculum committee.
Finally, what does this say about school management?

29 06 2008
Miffy Farquharson

I think that this is the thin edge of the wedge! And I find that often this sort of decision is being made by senior management staff that don’t use the library a lot, without consulting the teachers that do use the library regularly – eg. primary and English teachers.
How do we combat this sort of thing though?
I know that the technicians at our school would baulk at this job description, and would be asking for more money to those duties. And I think that the school is on VERY shaky ground with regards to the supervison of students by someone who is not a qualified teacher.

29 06 2008
David Linke

How can a government school breach employment guidelines? It is outrageous that an individual school can break (or bend) the rules like this.

The email from Marian needs to be directed to the Regional Director of this school and the Secretary of the Education Department. These are the people that should be ashamed of a school operating with SSO’s as replacements for teachers.

29 06 2008
Miriam Meehan

Hi Leonie,
This issue arose last year and I sent emails to the AEU and the VIT regarding this situation. The feedback I got from the union was that the school would be advised of the inappropriateness of the advertisement. this was a country school where applicants are often in short supply, however Buckley Park is a city school and therefore has no excuse. TLs do seem to be in increasingly short supply – a lack of adequate training positions seems to be an issue here. however, the real problem seems to be a lack of prescribed qualifications for such positions from the VIT. Given that this position is under the Library Manager I fear that the VIT would be unwilling to question such a placement. The seemingly growing trend of schools both private and government schools to employ librarians/ssos rather than tls suggests to me that schools are far more interested in saving money than promoting the quality education of their students!! Drives me crazy!!!!
Miriam Meehan
Monbulk College

29 06 2008
Julie Walter

I am a TL with the Parramatta Diocese in NSW. Up until the appointment of a new Executive Director, our Diocese had the policy that all TL positions in their schools had to be qualified TL’s . This diocese even funded the course thru UTS for TL’s that had been been working in the position but were not qualified.
How quickly things have changed for us. In the short 3 years that the new Executive Director has been appointed, we have about 8 of our schools without a qualified TL in the position of Teacher Librarian.
The following ad is currently running on our Staffnet. I have emailed and questioned whether it is an oversight that professional qualifications are not a requirement to apply for this job. I have not had a response but this is the trend in our diocese where our professionalism is at risk.

Position status: Permanent/full-time

Help us reinvent the school library for today’s learners….

Position criteria
Are you flexible, creative and innovative?
Do you position the role of the library in a K – 12 setting for todays world?
Do you like working in teams and across contexts with highly developed interpersonal skills that show collaboration and networking?
Do you foster the principles of lifelong learning in others?


30 06 2008
Esme Kidd

Due to the teacher shortage in Western Australia, and our Director General’s ‘Teachers First’ directive, schools are in danger of the same thing happening over here. I have experienced a Principal explaining this directive to parents at a P&C meeting, using just such an example. It was explained to parents that in order to get enough teachers back in the classroom, teacher librarians could be removed from the library, and in their place, librarians employed. The Principal also mentioned the difference in salaries, and has signalled that the position is under scrutiny.

While many schools value teacher librarians, there will be those who will quite willingly carry out this Directive, regardless of all the research that indicates the positive relationship between literacy levels and the presence of teacher librarians.

Those of us in the West, need to monitor this situation very carefully.

30 06 2008
Dona Hartwich

Last year, at an AEU meeting in Victoria, I asked that the union put the issue of schools putting qualified teacher librarians in their schools and the government giving money for this to be done. I mentioned that in the 70’s this had been done by the federal government, who had built libraries and trained librarians. I was told that the union could not direct where funds should go.
A principal piped up and said it was their right to decide where funds should go and if they could save money by employing an SSO to run the library, they should be able to do so. He then mentioned how a school had their librarian retire and they ended up employing a retired teacher librarian as an SSO and saved lots of money.
As usual, I thought of a come back after I left. Our school had just received a grant from the government to buy science resources, so what is the difference?

30 06 2008
Sharon Mc

The issue of replacing TLs with either librarians or Library Technicians appears to be increasing across Australia. Recently on the Sth coast of NSW, a primary Catholic school’s TL was seconded to another position within the school – a Library Technician is now employed one day per week to ‘manage’ the library, the teachers supervise borrowing and are now responsible for information literacy. Just last week, a recently graduated teacher now studying the TL course at CSU was asked by other teachers why she was doing the course. In their opinion, TLs would soon be replaced by someone specialised in IT!
In a world where we are confronted with information in so many formats, you would think a TL would be essential in a school. Not so when the dollar speaks, it seems. Not so, when even colleagues still do not grasp the role of a TL.

30 06 2008
Barbara Braxton

As school-based management of budgets (including staffing budgets) becomes the norm across the education jurisdictions of Australia, we are going to see an erosion of specialist positions such as teacher librarians as principals staff their schools according to their own agendas and/or ignorance. Unfortunately, this erosion seems to be a global trend.

Unless there is a state-mandated (and preferably federal) requirement for certain positions, such as that of a qualified teacher librarian, to be maintained in the staffing formula we are going to see more of these sorts of advertisements, if not the demise of the teacher librarian altogether.

As others have pointed out, the employment of a person without the required teaching qualifications (let alone teacher librarian qualifications) would seem to be in breach of the Act referring to who may teach in schools. Whilst the writer of the advertisement may have thought very hard about how to word it so it did not appear to be an actual teaching position, anyone who has worked for more than a hour in a school library knows that the role constantly involves teaching and student supervision.

Therefore I believe that this advertisement, and any others like it, need to be directed to the CEO of the education department of the appropriate state for clarification. In this case, this needs to be done by someone in Victoria.

In the meantime, as teacher librarians, we need to keep up our campaigns so even if we can’t “keep the b******ds honest”, we can at least keep them informed.

1 07 2008
Miriam Meehan

Hi all,
I have been in contact with the VIT (Victoria’s professional standards body) and the response I got was that it didn’t read to the VIT as a teaching position (!) and even then, because it was not a clear breach of Department regs it was up to the principal to decide on the nature of the role. Apparently it is quite permissable for a non teacher to provide tutorials, such as a sessional teacher or student teacher might, so long as they are under the supervision of a qualified teacher. I wonder how science teachers would react if lab techs were allowed to teach basic science las skills? In frustration I have also written to the Department to express my disappointment that such a crucial role is valued so little, even by their own standards body.
i await the reply with interest ( avain hope I fear!!)
Miriam Meehan
Monbulk College

1 07 2008
Miriam Meehan

pardon my poor spelling – it is late!!

4 07 2008
Margaret Simkin

In 1996 I was told that my TL position was to become redundant ( I was half way through my MEd at CSU which my employer had asked me to undertake when I was employed as a TL the year before). This was a one TL school with a volunteer assistant and a work for the dole assistant. I was told it was ok because they were offering me a new job, as a library technician. No other staff, lesser pay and conditions. I wouldn’t have to supervise students (although those on study would still be in the library but they wouldn’t be my problem). The school concerned was very small and was financially challenged. The VIEU wanted to use me as a test case, but as someone in a rural community who did not want to move this was a tricky option. I decided to take up a teaching position at a neighbouring school instead. I finished my qualification. Eight years later I got my current position as TL in another school. I am much better off for the “character building” I went through but I am now very aware of what position descriptions mean. I am also aware of a number of schools who employ “librarians” to run their library, and in the award I was operating under in my first TL school this did not imply any qualifications at all. Last year I was very pleased to see some Catholic Schools in Melbourne offering reasonable levels of Position of Leadership allowances to TL positions.
I guess by not fighting at the time I endorsed such decisions on one level.
It is very tricky all round but the issue does need to be raised whenever we get the opportunity.

19 10 2008
Emma Jane

Marian, your letter of concern directed at Tony Tataro seems quite offensive in my opinion. I am currently a year 12 Buckley park college student and have an insider’s perspective on the ‘issue’ at hand.

Since this has been published Buckley Park College has employed 3 different librarians to my knowledge, none of which could assist me with any technical difficulties. As for your expressed frustration regarding the requirement to”plan and conduct library and research skills tutorials for students” I can inform you that tutorials and research skills held by the librarians are none existent from where I stand and if they have occurred, I’d hardly call showing a student how to find a book though the virtual catalogue as a teaching duty.
To “assist with supervision of students”, come on. The only supervision I have experienced personally is being pestered whilst attempting to complete homework on my own personal laptop.
One woman in particular was nosey, rude and very inconsiderate she has since left the school due to circumstances that do not concern me personally.
Still, it’s been months and we do not have a new full time librarian. I would not agree that Tony is asking too much.

Perhaps you may not agree, however I frequent the library regularly and witness the duties that are completed. They do resemble those of a Librarian and not of a teacher.

19 10 2008
Emma Jane

Apologies for the poor grammar.

15 02 2009
Barbara James

I have recently been employed as a Librarian SSO even though I am a qualified TL. The prin apparently didn’t have enough money to employ a TL. We used to have 1.6 TLs and now we have 1.0 SSO with a library assistant (also SSO). To make ends meet I am taking LSL halftime as well as being paid the much lower salary.
It seems to be becoming far more common.
I am currently supervising up to 21 students during Private Study sessions (Years 11 and 12) and giving Orientation sessions to Year 7s (although with the latter I make sure the teacher stays).

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