No Books? No Libraries?

17 12 2011

In 2007, COBURG SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL, VIC. was a new school with dispersed book collections, virtually no non-fiction and lots of computers. (See article in Access, Nov 2007 by  Jennifer Sargeant, Director of Information Resources).  The principal had said there would eventually be a library “of sorts.”  Is there now?

Also in 2007, MORDIALLIC SECONDARY SCHOOL, MELBOURNE, closed its library entirely, disposing of its existing collection “so that the space could be used for a VCE centre, with the remaining books split amongst each year level. No catalogue, no borrowing system.” Each year since, they had to buy duplicate copies of books for access.  No TL then. What’s happening now?

BULLEEN HEIGHTS SCHOOL, an autistic school in Doncaster, Victoria, didn’t have a library.  Children were using the public library. Are they still?

In 2008, the sole TL at a school of 1000 students was told that all of the non-fiction would be removed from the MACKAY HIGH SCHOOL, QLD  library. The rationale was that students in the era of the Internet do not need books to research information. Some walls in the library were knocked down to form one large area to house a mass of computers.

In 2011 the library, however, is still functioning and a thriving hub, though the non-fiction collection is much smaller.  A staff survey which opposed the removal of non-fiction may have stopped the change.

I am told that MACKAY NORTH HIGH SCHOOL, QLD was to divest itself of non-fiction [see update in comments, this has not happened.] as has CALEN SECONDARY COLLEGE, (P-12) QLD. What do students and staff and parents think?

In 2008, LUMEN CHRISTI COLLEGE, GOSNELLS, WA a consultant reviewing the library suggested the idea of getting rid of non-fiction and replacing the books with computers, because “students in the era of the Internet do not need books to research information.”  Awaiting update. (I would love to know if this “consultant,” who doesn’t know the recreational benefits of non-fiction, is still employed.)


The Principal of Henley High in November 2010, announced through the Messenger Press  that her school was going ‘Hi tech’, because “few books were borrowed from the library.” Within three years, she expected there to be no need for the use of that space as such. The photograph in the Messenger Press showed empty shelves behind the girl with her laptop near the fiction section that had been retained.  Many books have gone to other libraries which appreciated them. There is now no TL or library assistant. The library is now called a Senior Study Centre.

The worst aspect of it all was the reaction of DECS and the fact that the unnamed spokeswoman for the Department of Education when asked about the loss of the library simply said that schools were moving to computers. She seemed to be unaware that the Federal government has just spent billions putting libraries in schools, public and private, throughout Australia!

Departments of education in NSW and other states are using the coming into play of the Local Empowerment Policy to wash their hands of responsibilities for decisions by principals in schools. It saves so much $$!

Theoretically, school councils might be used as governing councils, but they can be told whatever the principal wishes and their advice can be ignored.

The Local Empowerment Policy, already being abused in WA through the Independent Public Schools program being set up by the Liberal government there, will allow Principals to have free rein but what about funding? There do not appear to be any guarantees built in for principals to include as essential members of staff either school counsellors – that’s why the push to chaplains – or teacher librarians. And in SA the newly negotiated agreement with the AEU has now excluded teacher librarians and school counsellors from the essential members of staff.

So now under a state government “Expanding State High Schools” program, MARRYATVILLE HS, SA Resource Centre looks to be replaced by a General Learning area where a reading room is now, a science building with an “Area supporting Resource Based Learning”, an admin office….in short dismantled and dispersed as at Henley HS.


The school has made the decision to remove all the non-fiction books from the catalogue, cull many and move the rest to the backs of middle school classrooms [sound familiar?]. Senior classes will be expected to rely solely on the internet or the online databases. Some fiction books will be kept in the library space which is being converted into a “digital break-out” space.

It’s all done with smoke and mirrors folks, and under the directorship of a regional director who has publicly stated that we don’t need libraries in schools any more. Many state schools on the Gold Coast now do not have a T/L (NB: Robina, Miami, Palm Beach, Currumbin, Nerang, Southport and others… and others with a teacher in charge who is taken off some classes and spends that time in the library [remember the “good old days”?]. As one deputy has stated, their teacher in charge “sets up displays and orders books”.

MT TAMBOURINE HIGH SCHOOL, Qld. was advertising for a TL for a library with NO books  Awaiting update.

AQUINUS COLLEGE, Melbourne is reputedly going paperless next year. What do these schools know about the availability and licensing of Australia history, art, industrial arts, health, sexuality, poetry, culture, etc. books in e-format that we don’t know?



Philippa Stevenson: Library’s return puts heart back into high school

The school library that was closed to be replaced by a cyber cafe was at Cambridge in the North Island of NZ.  The principal thought it was a ‘museum”.  She was eventually replaced when the decision was reversed because of the publicity and the Department of Education and government got involved.

Some US primary libraries are re-opening (though with no TLs, only volunteer parents many of whom are raising the  funds themselves to re-open their libraries: one school district in California, one in Philidelphia, a school in Michigan.  Clerks are being rehired in 2 Napa Valley schools to re-open their libraries. Belmont CA has rehired 3-4 TLs to reopen six primary school libraries 

And in Windsor Canada Catholic Schools are bringing back libraries and books!!   The Windsor Public Library and the region’s Catholic School system are working on a partnership to save the school board’s libraries from extinction. Last spring, the board made a controversial move to remove most of the books from its school libraries…..

Is there a message here?!

And the latest good news? The US Congress is set to approve $28.6 billion for school libraries.  Thanks to the heroic work of school library champion, Senator Jack Reed.  (Or should it be READ!:-)  Now where is our OZ champion?




10 responses

18 12 2011
Lesley aBahams

Dear Georgia,
Keep up the good work! thank you for keeping us up to date on the state of school libraries. Though “retired” from school libraries, I still have two grand children and one great nephew to get through school, and I volunteer at a public library, a family history library and two libraries at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Borrowing is continuous. there is till a lot of information which is not digital, or on line or even in the pipeline. Why then would we spend hours preparing files of cards of information needed now, and which will not be digital in the forseable future, due to funding constraints?
there is also a need for the Librarian in the truest sense in all these libraries, the public cannot deal with multiple sources of information, so why does anyone think that school children can?
Best wishes, Lesley Abrahams, Dubbo

18 12 2011

Hi Lesley. Good to hear from you. Principals being giving all the power and no accountability or training is a real problem. Many support great school libraries, esp the big private schools who know their value (just heard one Melbourne school built a $175 million new library!), yet now there aren’t even enough TLs trained to meet the demand. Much to do in the next few years. We must get parents and grandparents:-) to hold principals, departments of education and governments to be accountable. And the federal government has done us no favours in promoting digital resourcing for the Australian curriculum. A real disjuncture in the upcoming National Year of Reading!! Watch out for Local Schools, Local Decisions in NSW. Feel free to send my letter to your local paper. Keep in touch, Georgia

18 12 2011
Kerri Cicolani

One can only say that these decisions are made in ignorance. Why not get business managers in and replace the Principals? They obviously don’t know all that much about education.

18 12 2011
Tony Copley

Just a quick update. As the TL of Mackay North SHS I can assure you that we have not “largely divested ourselves of non-fiction”. I incorporated the useful elements of the underused Teacher Reference and Reference sections into the normal shelves to allow more student access and culled the rest. The vast majority of our nonfiction collection is still in place and is going nowhere without a fight.

Tony Copley
Teacher Librarian
Mackay North SHS

19 12 2011

Yes! Thanks for this update, Tony. Keep up your efforts on behalf of your students and teachers. Will make a note in my blog.

19 12 2011

Note, in SA, the AEU is aware of this issue: November 2011 Australian Education Union, South Australia, Journal, “Just what is going on with school libraries?” by David Smith.

21 12 2011

Dear Georgia
What happens when the internet is not available as can happen in some schools periodically? When it has happened to my classes I am so glad to still have that selection of non-fiction books available. Also some of my children with special needs find the books easier to gain and understand information from than the web-based sites. Although I have culled my stock of non-fiction I still see its relevance in regard to some units of work and specifically for some students.
Mary Anne

5 01 2012

Absolutely, Mary Anne. And isn’t it really non-fiction which keep boys reading….cars, pets, jokes, tanks, castles, biographies….. Surely we will be choosing digital formats for an increasing amount of reference and even recreational reading, but paper books will not die out yet, esp as so few Australian e-books are yet available. Also there are so many issues to be sorted re platforms, licensing, and durability of e-products. I say to principals, look toward the professional literature on 21C collection development. Ask for advice from the qualified teacher librarian.

30 05 2012

So the homeless appreciated Varsity’s books, even if the principal didn’t.
Ian McDougall :
04 Jan 2012 5:02:56pm

Wilding presents a compelling case. It’s a pity the educrats at Varsity College, Gold Coast, didn’t hear it before deciding to shut down most of the school’s library, including all reference sections.Pupils now have to access information on line. A travesty, indeed: this is a state funded school, where is the social justice? That being said, the Gold Coast Street Library for the homeless benefited. We got first dibs, after the teachers, on the remains and many books have already been snapped up by grateful people who have very limited access to quality books. The library working party still seeks dictionaries, thesaurus, and large print books for this with literacy issues. Details at
Comment on ABC blog

2 06 2012
ReadingPower1 06/02/2012 « READINGPOWER

[…] No Books? No Libraries? « The Hub […]

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