Letter to Queensland Minister of Education

26 10 2011

Hon Cameron Dick MP
Member for Greenslopes
Minister for Education and Industrial Relations

24 October 2011

Dear Sir

I am writing to ask you for your vision of the role of teacher-librarians in government schools.

The federal government has recently funded the rejuvenation of many school library facilities across the state. Regrettably, they have not followed up with funding to enhance school library services.

However, while this building revolution was underway, a federal Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools was initiated. The report of the committee has been tabled  and includes 11 recommendations which would provide an ideal framework to reaffirm this investment in student learning.

Many of these recommendations accord with the best practices revealed by almost 20 years of statistically validated research, the first 15 years of which is summarised in the report School libraries work! [2008]. Please take the time to read this.

(You can also view the related video at http://vimeo.com/16509918 .)

A pertinent quote from this report (p.4) states:

An abundance of evidence strongly supports the connection between student achievement and the presence of school libraries with qualified school library media specialists (the US equivalent of teacher-librarians in Australia). When library media specialists work with teachers to support learning opportunities with books, computer resources, and more, students learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardised tests scores than their peers in schools without good libraries. 

Softlink International has analysed NAPLAN results from Australian schools in 2009 and 2010 and detected a similar relationship. Amongst other findings, they reported that “there is a significant positive relationship between a school’s NAPLAN reading literacy score, the school library’s budget and staff allocated to the library. [From the Executive Summary.] The full report is available here.

Yet, contrary to all of this readily-available evidence, principals of many state schools in Queensland are diminishing their library services by removing teacher-librarians and replacing them with unqualified support staff; and at worse, abolishing library facilities and services altogether. With the impending implementation of the National Curriculum, these deficits will prove critical in those schools.

At the same time there are several principals who do implement best practices in their libraries. Ironically, these are most succinctly stated in the Enterprise Bargaining agreement with the Queensland Teachers Union, which can be read in their brochure. Regrettably it does not cover secondary teacher-librarians and it should. This brochure states, “This position was put on the record in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission in 1997 and remains the Departmental position.

If that is the case, why is there such a wide range of opinions regarding the value of teacher-librarians and library services amongst principals in government schools? Why are schools not being audited to ensure that they are conforming to this agreement – which is after all, a legal agreement? Why is the Department not promoting this position to its principals instead of allowing them to follow their own opinions and therefore placing at risk a value-adding investment, both financially and in the learning achievement of students?

Why are teacher-librarians expected to advocate their role in their own schools to prove their worth – or lose their existence? No other group of teachers is expected to do this. Surely it is the Department’s responsibility to inform principals on the best ways to take educational advantage of this valuable investment.

So, to return to my original question, what is your vision of the role of teacher-librarians in Queensland government schools?

With respect, please do not just forward this letter to be dealt with by a Departmental officer. I have had that experience and they simply do not address the real issues. I am hopeful to hear your personal views.

Your sincerely and faithfully

Kerry Neary

Queensland Citizen

Retired Teacher-Librarian



One response

28 10 2011
Toni Leigh

Thank you Kerry – very timely

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