Roy Lundin. Joyce Fardell. Margaret Trask. Jim Dwyer. Laurie McGrath. John Gorton. Malcolm Fraser. How many of us know what they did for the school libraries we now work in and which our children love? Jim Dwyer’s ACE Archival Brief No. 7 tells us.
There were no school libraries to speak of before Professor Sarah Fenwick’s study visit to Australia in 1964 was commissioned by the Library Association of Australia, now ALIA. (Fenwick, S. 1966. School and children’s libraries in Australia: a report to the Children’s Libraries Section of the Library Association of Australia Cheshire, Melbourne)
“Libraries of substance at that time were virtually non-existent in primary schools. At secondary level most schools had a classroom set aside as a library, with a collection limited in size, scope and recency, due mainly to an almost total lack of trained library staff.” (Dwyer, 2009)
Fenwick’s report formed the basis for the building of a coalition and a movement.
“By 1966 the calls for Commonwealth intervention to provide financial support for libraries in educational institutions had grown apace. These calls had come from not just the LAA but also other bodies including the Australian School Library Association (ASLA), state and private school authorities, teacher associations, school councils and professors of education. Of special note was the backing of the Australian Teachers Federation (ATF).” (Dwyer, 2009)
The LAA then established the Committee on Federal Aid to Secondary Libraries with Dr. Andrew Fabinyi as Convenor and Margaret Trask as secretary. They worked for four years “on contacting the widest possible range of education-related bodies to seek their support and advice and encourage their active involvement.” Fabinyi and Trask met with Senator John Gorton, Minister for Education and Science. “It was at this meeting that Gorton, strongly supportive of the committee’s aims, suggested that a meeting with Prime Minister Harold Holt might be advantageous. The suggestion was followed up and on 12 December 1967 the Prime Minister replied, agreeing to arrange a meeting early in 1968. Sadly, within a week the Prime Minister was missing, presumed drowned.”
When Gorton became Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser was appointed Minister of Education. At a meeting with Fraser in May 1968, it was agreed that Federal aid should be provided to train secondary teacher librarians and stock school libraries. $27 million was allocated in the Federal Budget in August. A committee was also formed to establish standards. The entire scheme was eventually overseen by the Schools Commission established in 1973. They appointed a separate committee to extend the program to primary libraries.
Thus the efforts of the many groups involved came to fruition. School libraries were established with trained teacher librarians to oversee their management which changed teaching practice, to resource-based, inquiry learning. The Commission was also responsible for computer generated catalogue studies and the initial funding of the Australian Schools Catalogue Information Service (eventually SCIS). Jim Dwyer goes on to say “Without doubt this was one of the few truly successful national, cooperative endeavours in Australian education history.”
Next Pt. 2: 40 years on