Keeping their legacy Pt 2: A national review

15 11 2009

Few are still with us who led the campaign for our school libraries in the 60s and 70s.  There are no more state supervisors of school library services.  There are no more state school library services.  In fact, one is hard pressed to find any mention of school libraries on some state and territory department of education websites.  Try to find a reference on the Vic or ACT or NT DET sites. And the state of school library staffing and funding has been described in a previous blog.

State School Library Services

Well staffed state services which provided training, policy advice, advocacy, publications, resource lists, school visits, and even management of school library placements are now a thing of the past. The larger states have had services restructured as curriculum support with reviewing and cataloguing for SCIS, some policy revision and limited PD. NSW does this with a staff of only 5 (close to 60 in the 70s!). Qld still does excellent Curriculum Resource Reviews, but has no school library support personnel as such.

Tasmanian schools have lost their School Library Service, and are left with one librarian in the State Library to advise on the new automated school library system.

WA has no school library service as such but CMIS provides (excellent) curriculum resource evaluation (7 FT and 3 pt time) and SCIS cataloguing (8) and PD when asked.  They offer school library support through their website, phone advice, blogs and now tweet.

South Australia’s School Library Services Branch is gone, as are their regional school library advisors, with one officer currently, managing the Premier’s Reading Challenge.

So who is available to advise state departments of education on school libraries?  Who supports schools in their efforts to build quality library services  which support teaching and learning? Much of this has been left to the professional associations, national, state and local.  However, according the ASLRP survey, less than 50% of TLs belong to ASLA and ALIA, the major sources of TL PD.

So after 30 some years since the federal school library revolution, we now have BER libraries being built but not professionally staffed,  no Schools Commission or state policy advisors, limited or no support services to schools, limited DET PD and, with the end of Commonwealth grants and compensatory GST funding, it’s back to parent fund-raising for school library resources.  Overall, a drastic decline since the 1970s, especially if you contrast this with the webspace, policies, and support infrastructure for ICT in schools!!

TL training programs

We see the same pattern in TL training programs.

There was a big response to federal funding for trained teacher librarians after the reports of the 70s. Something like 15 TL training courses were mounted at universities and CAEs. Now we have three specifically for TLs.* “Despite the progress made there is still not a qualified teacher librarian for every school. Indeed the dearth of qualified teacher librarians is again a concern.”  (Henri and Freeman, Tlship at CSU: then and now, 2006)


The third change effecting school library staffing is in the “devolution, flexibility and choice” of staffing.  TLs in Tasmania, for example, lost their separate staffing entitlement.  Increasing self-management meant schools now have to choose between having a TL or another teacher, also the case in Victoria.  Qld has moved toward the same flexibility. And NSW is about to have a “trial” of 47 schools in school-based decision-making on budget, staffing mix and recruitment.

A Commonwealth initiative is needed such as has just begun by petition in the UK to “make school libraries, run by properly qualified staff, statutory.”

Call for a National Review

Our petition for a qualified TL in every school, then, will be presented with this request: That there be a national review of school libraries in Australia, the first in 35 years. [Note: The letter has now been sent]

Such an inquiry should include:

  • The lack of useable government data for decision making on school libraries and data collection from state education agencies
  • The shortage of qualified TLs
  • The need for national standards, including agreed role statements and qualifications
  • The school library and TL in teacher pre-service and in-service ed. – in literacy, collaborative teaching, information literacy, etc.
  • Explicit policy and curriculum recognition of role of TLs and libraries in literacy and learning
  • A national curriculum for Information Literacy and ICT
  • The need for sponsorship of research on the effect of school libraries on student learning, literacy and academic achievement
  • School library funding equity, including the cost of digital information services in schools
  • The role of school libraries in indigenous literacy
  • Sponsorship of university tuition fees to qualified teachers wishing to retrain as teacher librarians. (See the NSW DoE sponsored retraining in teacher librarianship)
  • The re-introduction of undergraduate teacher librarianship programs in Australian universities through the sponsorship of positions in those Bachelor of Education programs that offer teacher librarianship as a teaching specialisation.
  • The decline of central support services in each state.

In other words: The 21st C school library: what should it look like to maximize equity and student learning outcomes?

Comments encouraged! 🙂  GP


University of SA, Monash, Kuringai CAE, RMIT, Canberra CAE, University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, Ballarat CAE, Gippsland CAE, Tasmanian CAE, University of NT

Still here: CSU, QUT, Edith Cowan. There is also a University of Tasmania partnership program with Edith Cowen.




2 responses

15 11 2009

For Margaret Spillman, Qld TL:
One issue which concerns me is the ability of the Principal to ‘trade-off’ the fractional allocation for the school.
In Qld every school is theoretically entitled to a TL or fraction there-of.
I think once enrolment is over 500 there is entitlement to a FT TL
BUT if there was an insistence on qualified TLs there would be a dreadful shortage here in Qld.

You refer to ‘severe decline in Library Funding’ Some of my colleagues are in Libraries with NO direct funding.
The principal is in control of that funding and the TL has to ask the principal for EVERYTHING!
But then again with the devolution of funding many schools, or most probably, operate in a very tight fiscal environment

18 11 2009
Lizzie Chase

School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit, NSW, DET.

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