Let’s say it again

17 07 2009

Has mid-winter malaise set in with you too? Hard to take myself away from a good book in front of the fire, until I rouse myself to remember every Australian child needs a good book too!  And someone to recommend it.

So let’s say it again.

We need to let politicians and the public know how inequitable school library services are in Australia, whether we have nice new BER “infrastructure” buildings or not.

Northern Territory remote schools have no teacher librarians (TLs). Western Australian primary schools have no TLs appointed. Victoria and the ACT count TLs as part of teaching staff, may or may not have a teacher deployed in the library and do not require that teacher to be a teacher librarian.  Probably one in ten public primary schools in Victoria have TLs and more and more secondary teacher librarians are being replaced by less expensive librarian options.

An Australian Education Union survey of South Australian government school library staffing in 2001 found that “a third of all schools are understaffed and/or staffed with unqualified personnel” (Spence 2002). South Australian teacher librarian positions are under further threat in current enterprise agreement negotiations. Even in Tasmania and Queensland, principals are being forced by inadequate staffing budgets to downgrade staff in school libraries, often to clerical positions.

It’s not good enough.

Meanwhile, since the early 1970s, NSW primary schools have been staffed with trained teacher librarians.  While too often used for teacher relief planning time (and therefore unable to easily plan collaborative teaching themselves), they nevertheless are professionally trained in collection management, literacy support, leadership, collaborative teaching and other unique whole school skills.

If we are talking about equity, if we are talking about improving literacy and information literacy, if we are talking about authentic, resource-based learning and quality teaching, we must agree that ALL Australian students deserve professional school library services managed by professionally trained teacher librarians.

Write to your federal and state representatives now. Write to your national and state parent associations. Write to your national and state teacher unions. Write to your capital city and local newspapers. Pass this message on to your friends, colleagues and decision makers now.

And don’t be fobbed off by federal members who say it’s the state’s responsibility.  In the past, immense measures were made federally to improve Australian school libraries. In the present, here are some questions to ask your local federal member.

What can and will the federal government do:

  • to assess the current quality of all school library staffing, funding, and scheduling?
  • to tie funding so that states can and must adequately staff and fund school library programs and services?
  • to ensure inclusion of the role of teacher librarians in all literacy, information literacy and quality teaching and learning policies and documents?
  • to develop national school library standards?
  • to increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs?
  • to include an understanding of the collaborative role of teacher librarians in preservice teacher training?

Ask direct questions, until you get direct answers.

Now to copy and paste a few letters, and get back to my good book.  Lucky me.  I always had a good school librarian.





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