21st Century School Libraries Need 21st Century TLs

4 02 2009

I was possibly one of a few who caught the PM’s “fireside chat” announcing the latest economic stimulus package. Everyone else, including my husband, was rightly still at the beach.  And I surely was one of a small minority who let out a whoop when school libraries were mentioned!!  Now that the dog and I have settled down, memory nags.  Didn’t something like this happen back in the 70s?  Some 1200 new secondary libraries were built by 1977 with Commonwealth grants, following intense lobbying by ASLA, LAA (now ALIA), ALPC, state government and other groups and individuals. 

I can tell you it was an exciting time to be visiting new NSW school libraries armed with that powerful departmental furniture catalogue!!

Yet a survey of all state and territory supervisors of school libraries at that time found that by 1978 there were only some 3500 qualified (at least the equivalent of one term full-time training in school librarianship) teacher librarians in Australia, although 5000 more were needed to meet the standards outlined in the Schools Commission’s standards, Books and Beyond.  

Since then, no one is even keeping track.  The federal government can not tell you how many TLs there are in school libraries. How many “state and territory supervisors of school libraries” even exist anymore to ask? ALIA can not tell you how many TL graduates there are in Australia. ASLA can not tell you how many TLs are needed to be trained to staff Australia’s 6,853 (2007 figures) government schools to their professional standards. State departments of education don’t even distinguish between classroom teachers and teacher librarians in their staffing statistics. So they can’t tell you which schools have no teacher librarians, let alone what training their TLs might have.

Yet there IS anecdotal evidence and some preliminary data which shows that all too few Australian primary school libraries are staffed to professional standards. For example, possibly up to half the primary schools in Victoria do not have teacher librarians. The Northern Territory has very few professionally trained primary teacher librarians and none in remote schools, and government primary schools in Western Australia are not staffed with teacher librarians.

So we ask the question (updated) which was asked in the 1970s:

What use are 21st century primary school libraries if they are not staffed by 21st century teacher librarians?

Today might be a good day to ask a state senator (click for sample letter and suggested email addresses).






4 responses

4 02 2009
Margaret Simkin

I too whooped at the announcement as I had written to the PM and Deputy PM last year in relation to their computer spending, pointing out that personnel such as TLs were crucial to support the initiative with computers.
Time to write again!

5 02 2009
Sian Smith

Absolutely not true that NT has no trained primary school TLs. Ruth Jones is a fully trained, full-time TL in Alice Springs, recently named Dromkeen Librarian of the Year. She is not the only trained TL in the NT working in primary schools.

5 02 2009


Thank you for this information Sian. I have made a correction and hope to get an update on the statistics which I used (unpublished report) asap.

2 03 2009
Audrey Nay

Have sent letters to senators today
Keep up the great work
I believe they are listening!!
cheers 🙂

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