The government’s response to the Report of the House Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians is disappointing but not unexpected, continuing to shift responsibility to states, while the states continue to shift to principals. The same old mantra is given of “it is a state and territory responsibility” while crucial education funding continues to decline.
Some half-hearted considerations will be made by the government to the Report recommendations, while no decisive action will be taken to arrest the hemorrhaging of teacher librarians in our government schools. Lack of state and federal leadership now means that some regional directors and state library services managers fill the gap with ignorant advice to eliminate the expense of school libraries and books altogether. The laptop panacea must be seen as a godsend.
Recommendation 1 on consideration of making much needed online databases affordable to all schools is fine and costs little.
Recommendation 2 ignores the role of teacher librarians in teaching the thinking skills of Information Literacy while addressing technology tool use of ICT competence.
The hope is that Recommendation 3 for data collection will go beyond principal- and self-identification of TLs in schools to specific criteria identifying qualifications of staff placed in charge in a school library (and not a classroom as occurs too often in Queensland and Tasmania.)
Recommendation 4, National Year of Reading, is occurring already, but with no visible connection to the role of teacher librarians and school libraries in literacy development.
Commitment to school-library research (Recommendation 5) depends on available funds, hardly a commitment. Meanwhile, it is left up to TLs to demonstrate effective programs through the Teach Learn Share “evidence”-collection site.
Interestingly, recommendations 6 and 11, working with ALIA and ASLA to promote the leadership role of TLs and partnership programs with other libraries, are not supported, so as not to show bias towards any professional association. In a second breath, however, projects with other associations are described.
Recommendation 7. No special role is recognized for TLs with the National Curriculum. The emphasis, instead, appears to be online delivery of student and professional learning.
A priority recommendation (8) for the TL profession on workforce data MAY reveal shortfalls and inadequacies (see reservations expressed with Recommendation 3), if criteria are made specific enough, and “if there is additional funding available.”
Two other priority recommendations (9 and 10,) to look at TL training needs and enhance state and territory partnered support for school libraries and teacher librarians, is a matter to be raised with MCEECDYA. It is vital that these two issues are raised and given due consideration with solutions implemented.
The need for national standards and guidelines are ignored. The need for scholarships right now to support TL training is not addressed. The research-proven role of qualified teacher librarians in literacy and learning is yet to be acknowledged in any tangible policy or program.
We still have a long way to go.