While I am only reading the entire School Libraries and Teacher Librarians Inquiry report now, here is my initial response to its 11 recommendations. More to come.
We at The Hub, commend the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment (and especially its previous incarnation) for the work it has done to come to terms with a long term and complex problem, the demise of the teacher librarian profession in Australia.
The Inquiry Report tabled in the House today can be the beginning of change, if a genuine national discussion is initiated and concretely supported.
Most recommendations won’t require much funding (online databases access, national year of reading). And as a federal body, they must acknowledge state staffing and funding responsibilities. They address the “easy” issues and hope to initiate discussions about the deeper problems.
In particular, there is support for teacher librarian (TL) training in the National Curriculum (but isn’t that a tertiary sector interest?), but nothing about teacher education on the collaborative role of TLs and information literacy in the National Curriculum. This recommendation gets a thumbsdown.
There is a recommendation for much needed Australian research, which will take years, if the government takes it up. Principals, many of whom are now empowered to staff schools, should have the abundant overseas research made available to them now. Still, a thumbsup.
The recommendation that MySchool should include teacher librarian stats, which would obviously have to indicate qualifications and scheduling, should MySchool continue, is an excellent one, and will assist the above research. Thumbsup if done meaningfully.
The recommendation for a national Information Literacy policy statement addressed an urgent need. But there is nothing on the need for national school library standards as soon as possible. There is only a statement on the need to establish dialogue on the “ways to enhance partnerships with state and territory and local [?!} governments.” Where is the statement on the need for organizational structures from school to national level for policy making, implementation and support, including the Schools Commission recommended by our Australian School Library Association? Much more needed here.
Working with ALIA and ASLA (our library and school library professional associations) to document library success stories is irrelevant. It’s the successful school library programs partnering with classroom teachers which we need to know about. Another thumbsdown.
Most importantly, there is no direct recommendation about training more teacher librarians, when our government schools could use some 3000 right now! This only may come after a “dialogue” is established with tertiary providers, on the role of teacher librarians today and into the future.
And there is not a jot about funds to resource school libraries to improve literacy. Even e-books cost money! There is reference to the need for more research on this, when we already have plenty. Tying literacy and library grants to qualified staffing could really begin to make a difference.
Recommendation 6 could be the best of all. There is much ASLA and ALIA can do with extra funding and staffing (if that is indeed the kind of “support” to be offered!) to “demonstrate to the school community the valuable work that teacher librarians are doing in respect of e-learning in their schools, including those that highlight their leadership capacity.” This could see real changes in understandings if well funded.
We will have to see how much the government really wishes to see such change. They have three months to respond.
“If meaningful teaching and learning is to be achieved in the form of pedagogical fusion between learning, information, technology, people and place, then all schools require a qualified Teacher Librarian.” (CBCA Inquiry submission)