Is the federal government responsible?

11 02 2009

The continuing argy bargy over who is responsible for school library staffing is beginning to grate.  How long can we allow the federal government to continue to fob us off with “Ensuring that there were trained librarians in libraries would therefore be a responsibility of the states “? (See latest response to questions on notice in the current Senate inquiry.) Let’s look at some examples of the way the federal government can influence staffing, and has in the past.

First, the federal government compiles national education and training statistics, to
“provide measures of the levels and outcomes of education and training activity. They are seen as key indicators of the well-being of society. The information is used by governments for purposes such as planning, budgeting, policy design, and program evaluation. The data are also used by providers of education and training, researchers, and community organisations.” (ABS on Education and Training)
Yet what planning can be made by these bodies when no statistics are collected on staffing levels, qualifications and number of graduates for teacher librarians?  This is clearly a federal responsibility.
The federal government has taken an active role in the development of national standards for teaching.  The teacher librarianship profession has responded admirably and Standards of professional excellence for teacher-librarians is frequently pointed out as a model to other teaching professions.

The federal government should now have the responsibility for the

  • Inclusion of statements supporting the significant role of school libraries and teacher librarians in federal Education policy.
  • Recognition of the significant role of school libraries and teacher librarians in federal Literacy and other Education initiatives.
  • Federally funded research into the impact of Australian school libraries on the literacy skills and academic achievement of students at all levels and across all sectors.
  • Development and validation of national standards for school library facilities and staffing.

The federal government frequently prioritizes teacher training in specific areas.  Their latest initiative is to support childhood education teaching.
“The Government is committed to meeting the TAFE fees of people who want to become child care workers. We want people to be going into this industry. We want to encourage them to do so and we’ll be meeting their TAFE fees if that’s what they want to do. We’re also creating 1500 new places at Australian universities for early childhood teachers”. Julia Gillard , June 20, 2008.
So it is a federal responsibility to determine the necessary number of trained teacher librarians to staff every Australian school library, to  increase the number of teacher librarian courses (for example, to reintroduce a Graduate Diploma in Teacher Librarianship and broaden Graduate courses in teacher librarianship in South Australia) and to create places in these courses for TLs.
A recent email from a retired state school library consultant (yes, we had many of them once!) stated, “Whitlam was big for primary libraries and for training TLs. In 1974 selected secondary & primary librarians were seconded to tertiary institutions to undertake a year’s training. Kuring-gai CAE was … asked at short notice to design a course for primary TLs. It was still being designed when delivery began. From memory the first course for secondary TLs was at Newcastle, later transferred under Margaret Trask to Kuring-gai where it was still going on when I left in 1985. The initiative seemed to have come from the federal government….”

The federal government has frequently and continually tied state grants to conditions. Commonwealth funds for state school resources can and should be tied to established school library staffing standards to ensure professional selection, accountability and use of these resources.
So who is responsible for the state of our nation’s school libraries?  You be the judge.

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3 responses

11 02 2009
Cathy

Thank you, Georgia, for taking the time to verbalise a rational argument for how the Federal Government can and should play a leading role in ensuring every school has a well-resourced and properly staffed library.
I too am fed up with the mutual passing of the buck that goes on between State and Federal Governments. Where there’s a political will there’s a way!

14 02 2009
Colin

Something must be done soon seeing that Government secondary schools in Victoria are replacing Teacher/Librarians with SSO Librarians as quickly as they can to save money!
What are SLAV doing about it? Are they even aware it is happening?

14 05 2009
Barbara James

Exactly so, Colin. Principals seem to have to have complete freedom in this regard and many are now using this cost saving idea, to the detriment of students and staff. Experienced TLs now often have to either work as SSO Librarians (now known as ES Librarians) or teach classroom subjects full-time.

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