Notes on the Darwin Hearing 5 July

4 07 2010

The committee again demonstrated their deepening understanding, and the NT DET could be in for some just-in-time learning 🙂

Committee present included Sharon Bird (SB), Dr. Dennis Jensen (DJ) and Mike Symon (MS).


Note: I just caught the end of the committee’s interviews of individual TLs. These included Mary Denniss from Casuarina Senior College, Kay? From Kormilda College, and Sue from ? and Robin. (Help appreciated).

The TLs made points about the lack of qualified staffing in most NT school libraries, the demise of advisory services and the poor collections in many schools. Since c. 1990, TLs are no longer staffed separately in NT government schools so are optional. Up to 30 new BER libraries will be in remote schools without qualified staffing. There are some training programs for indigenous community libraries. A country mobile library delivery service is now internet based.

There are no training programs for TLs in the NT, though there has been a library technician’s course. In the past there was a 3 month training program, a BA program? at Charles Darwin University in teacher librarianship and an active professional school library association, SLANT, to run PD. Courses are now done through Distance Ed, externally, if at all.

Kormilda College (Anglican and Methodist) has 2 qualified TLs, 2 library technicians (LTs) and a trainee LT. With 60 computers in the library, Homework Help before and after school and a $70,000/year budget which doesn’t include IT, it serves 1000 students, 30% of whom are indigenous. It also runs the International Baccalaureate.

It is quite a contrast with Casuarina Senior College whose budget has been cut by 40% from $36,000 to $20,000 which includes $8000 for online databases without any DET subsidies. Mary D stated that more resources were needed, not more computers, especially with inadequate technical support.

Mary D’s school lost one of their 2 TLs 18 months ago when the school staffing formula became based on 80% attendance and another classroom teacher was required.

The point was made that without staffing requirements, with no financial resources for principals to staff and without recognition of dual qualifications, there is no incentive to train as a TL. So no supply. [GP:A self-fulfilling prophecy!]

Mary felt that given incentives, teachers would certainly come to 21st century TLship, a vibrant profession.

SB commented on the concern with TLs not being on senior management teams, especially for the formulation of school policies on such things as cyber bullying and cyber safety and plagiarism.

Sue: Teachers now becoming school leaders have come from schools with no TLs in them since the 1990s. So leadership PD is especially needed.
And libraries are especially needed for the disadvantaged who don’t have the IT and books in their homes. Big equity issue here.

Time was running short, but the TLs were insistent on making further points [GP: the first time someone was asking AND listening?]

SB assured them that the committee has heard lots of evidence such as theirs from all over the country, though it is probably more critical in the NT. And again asked for their “vibrant” stories of success to illustrate the final report. The passion and desperation of the TLs was obvious.

Susie Erratt, Northern Territory Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented

As part of core requirement: a school library is essential – should not be at the discretion of the school principal. As a physical place, it is needed, too, as a refuge. TLs are instrumental in supporting reluctant and underachieving, often male, readers, however gifted, and in extending the gifted. A new Palmerston school being built without a library is unthinkable.

SB: Clearly international research shows that libraries make a difference, yet DEEWR had no mention of libraries in its literacy programs.

Susie: Clearly TLs are needed to select and promote resources to improve literacy, esp with indigenous kids. And where do all those donated commemorative books end up without TLs to organize and circulate them?

DJ: Not all books are online. A reader needs the physical touch of a book.

MS: Are standards needed?

Susie: Absolutely, for libraries and their staffing. And not left in the hands of principals.

SB: It has been great to hear from a parent. Perhaps many have not realized what has been happening.

Northern Territory Department of Education and Training

Mr Alan Green: director – early childhood, curriculum services.
Heather West: director of school operations

Green: There seems to be a perception that there are no TLs. Every school has strategies in place to manage resources for learning and to teach information literacy.
The new Palmerston school has two campuses, the primary school has resource places/pods and the middle school has a library. Probably management systems will be organized from there

SB: OK, can you give us an ideas of your modern view of the library in schools?

Green: Access to texts and literature and IT will be provided.

SB: As a teacher, I relied on the expertise of the TL in selecting resources. How are you managing this issue?

Green: “It’s a context related answer.” Remote school principals can’t be expected to have TLs. We train ancillaries or put in a teacher. Senior secondary are different. Their campuses have “trained staff”. Eg Darwin HS has a TL and 2 F/T LTs for 1000 students. Maintaining a pool of TLs is a challenge. There are no local courses. Charles Darwin University isn’t even training enough teachers. They must be recruited from elsewhere.

SB: How are 1 day/week TLs supported, if a principal does want one?

Green: No designated support structure. I have only been here two years so don’t know about the past. There are informal networks, online support. TLs could have this. REACT people can talk online.

Heather: The NT Library Service supports schools.
SB: National Curriculum has very specific requirements for Info Lit. TLs best placed to support teachers in this.

Green: Hopes that Tasmania is right when it says every teacher will do this.

SB: A big difference in having foundations in teaching and an expertise in something. As a teacher, I needed expert support. Who will be the experts in the area of Information Literacy?

Green: NT will restructure the way their curriculum programs are run. In time there will be experts in this. At drawing board stage.

SB: Devolution dismantled many support and expert mechanisms in NSW.

DJ: Grave concerns about management of resources in a pod system.

Green: There will be a resource management in place but couldn’t say what it would look like. Would need a model describing the person to replace a TL.. Selection has always involved consensus.

DJ: Kids need to learn how to access and validate sources. Teachers are learning from TLs how to do this, unless it’s ok for everyone to use Wikipedia.

Green: TLs “have served a significant function in the learning cycle of kids” but it is a challenge to place a trained person in every school. National Curriculum gives opportunity to explore the way we embed Info Lit in curriculum. Classroom teachers do teach discernment of information. Our challenge is to skill up teachers. [GP: There is an obvious dissonance in senior management understanding of the modern TL professional and the TL of old from their own experience!!]

SB: There is a limit to what you can expect of teachers’ work plate.

DJ: In some current advertisements, it is stated that TL is desired but not required in new jobs. Qualifications are being driven down. Teachers won’t do TL courses if no jobs require the qualifications. Will there be a career path or not?

MS: Any thought to set up a TL course in NT?

Green: Not in the 2 years I have been here. There are opportunities to assist teachers in further training. If it is a requirement to have TL qual, yes, teachers would probably put up their hand to do it.

MS: Staffing of BER libraries?

Green: Pretty confident they will be staffed: some with teachers, LTs, or teacher in training. Time lag issue. Points of leverage around rethinking TLs is the national curriculum. Number of new libraries is significant. In terms of planning not significant at this time but dialogue with principals in future. Not in scope for Dept to encourage Charles Darwin Uni to set up courses.
Senior secondary libraries – staffing is eclectic. challenge to set a standard about how to run a library and run literacy programs

MS: How many qualified TLs in NT?

Heather West: Around 22 TLs (or called TLs) across all sectors of school (not just public schools) – 10%

SB: NAPLAN agenda. International research on literacy: – The outperforming schools in this inquiry that do well in literacy have great school libraries and TLs in executive positions. Do you consider the research that is being done in making decisions?

Green: Rich literacy program implies school has a library. He is not familiar with the research. Would like to see it to see if these schools have a strong literacy program driving this or the library program drives it. International research is not known to him.

SB: You aren’t alone in that or as a sector.




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