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Here are some points you might like to discuss in your submission. You certainly don’t need to cover them all. Draw upon your own experience and expertise. What are you able to do well in contributing to student success? What would you do if helped by government policy and programs? As a teacher, parent or grandparent, what do you want to see in terms of future school libraries?
To: Secretary, Australian Parliament House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training
Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools
to report on the role, adequacy and resourcing of school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia’s public and private schools.
To improve literacy and learning for all Australian students:
School communities need a qualified teacher librarian in every school. A teacher librarian is a teacher and a librarian.
School communities should be able to provide equitable access for all students to books, information and information technology. Equitable school library budgets need to be able to provide this access.
The future potential of school libraries and librarians to contribute to improved educational and community outcomes, especially literacy
- Children become better readers (and spellers and writers) by reading. Teacher librarians are specialists in encouraging literacy through free voluntary reading, a guaranteed way to help kids become more literate (Krashen).
- 60 studies have shown that free voluntary reading is at least as effective as conventional teaching methods in helping children to do well on standardized tests. Reading for pleasure provides a great deal that these tests don’t measure. Study after study has confirmed that those who read more know more. Their vocabulary increases and grammar and spelling improves (Krashen).
- As life-long learners, students need to be information literate. Teacher librarians specialize in teaching information literacy.
- Information literacy includes critically reading print, graphics, video, and all learning objects to build knowledge. The information literate seek diverse viewpoints. Information literacy includes the ethical use of information and responsible use of social networking tools.
- Funding for research in Australia on the role of school libraries and teacher librarians in improving educational outcomes is needed.
The impact and potential of digital technologies to enhance and support the roles of school libraries and librarians
- Books will continue to exist in many formats, printed, e-books, CDRoms, etc. Quality information, for example through online databases, is not free. Teacher librarians, in collaboration with teachers, will still be needed to select, purchase, organize and guide access to books and information.
- Teacher librarians willingly update their skills in IT, develop library web access points, digitize data, network with colleagues, review and select online websites, learning objects, webquests, online databases, social networking tools, etc. This is part of their collection development role, their teaching and curriculum support role and their role in improving literacy.
The factors influencing recruitment and development of school librarians
- Teacher librarian training programs have decreased in number from 15 to 3-4 in the past two decades. We have no national data on teachers undergoing teacher librarian training.
- The recent trend toward devolved, flexible staffing along with dwindling school budgets has resulted in the increased use of teacher librarians in classrooms and the replacement of teacher librarians with less expensive staff.
The impact of recent policies and investments on school libraries and their activities
- Many new BER libraries will have no qualified teacher librarian and no new books.
- The Digital Revolution has funded much needed IT, but too often to the detriment of the remainder of school library resource budgets.
- The impact of National Partnership Agreements on school library staffing (eg NSW devolved staffing trial)
The role of different levels of government and local communities and other institutions in partnering with and supporting school librarians
- Good educational planning relies on good data. We have no complete national workforce data on teacher librarian numbers and use. We have no government school data on school library budgets (only surveys such as ASLRP).
- Educational leaders need easy access to the research on the contribution of school libraries and teacher librarians to improved educational outcomes.
- Educational leaders need support in developing excellent school libraries and excellent teacher librarians (PD in use of Standards for Excellence, IL Standards, Library Standards).
- Quality teachers and pre-service teachers need easy access to the research on guided inquiry, information literacy, collaborative planning and teaching with teacher librarians.
- We have no current national government standards for school libraries to guide their development. HIstorically they did exist. (Books and Beyond: Guidelines for library resource facilities and services. Canberra: Schools Commission, 1977, 2nd ed. 1979)
- State DET support services virtually no longer exist in terms of consultancy services. Some curriculum support services remain. Professional associations have had to assume the majority of professional development, yet dependent on volunteers, this is dwindling. Newly appointed untrained school library staff are often dependent on local teacher librarian networks for their training.
- A big push was made in the 1970s to develop secondary school libraries. A similar push was never carried out fully for primary libraries.
- Common policies for school libraries and information literacy are needed across all states.
Things the Federal government can do:
- collect national data on school library staffing, funding, and scheduling;
- tie funding so that states can and must adequately staff and fund school library programs and services;
- require that literacy programs and other national curricula should explicitly recognize the central role school libraries have in student achievement, literacy attainment, and preparation for post-secondary success;
- develop national school library standards;
- increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs;
- develop and publish a national information literacy curriculum;
- provide research funding on the effect of school library programs and teacher librarians on literacy and learning;
- provide grants for improving literacy through school libraries;
- facilitate national licensing of online databases for school libraries;
- declare a national school library day;
- and a National Information Literacy Awareness Month!