A leaf from The Hub’s book

14 01 2013

One of the greatest achievements of The Hub under Georgia’s leadership was the establishment of the petition, the response to which spearheaded the campaign for the federal government inquiry into school libraries and the role of teacher librarians.

Interesting to see that our US colleagues have also established a petition calling for all schools to be mandated to employ a full-time, certified school librarian   While their process is quite different to that of Australia, and so the outcomes will also be different, it is a recognition that it is essential that politicians become informed of the role of a qualified TL within a school if the TL’s future is to remain healthy.  They are one of the six key groups who need to understand what we do to improve student outcomes and see it in practice- the others being pupils, parents, peers, principals, and pre-service teachers- and the focus of much of The Hub’s work to date.

Why are politicians (and would-be politicians) important?  

Politicians are the puppet-masters who hold the purse-strings – they are the people who direct educational authorities to implement the big-picture changes like National Partnerships, teacher accreditation, Local Schools, Local Decisions and so forth.  In 2004, then Prime Minister John Howard and Education Minister Brendan Nelson mandated that every school would fly the national flag and have two hours of PE each week or they would miss their share of a $31 billion federal schools package. (The Age, June 23, 2004).

They are driven by power, economics and votes (and remember the parents have the voting power) but despite public appearances, most are genuine and busy.  The role of the teacher librarian is not at the forefront of their responsibilities and many have perceptions based on what they remember of their experiences, however long ago that was. In 2012, in the US, the Federal Communications Committee was thinking of spending $200 000 000 to train  a “digital literacy corps” so there is someone in every school and leisure organisation who can show the students how to use computers properly so they are not ‘time-wasting’ on games and entertainment, even in their leisure time, (New York Times May 29, 2012), clearly demonstrating that there was little understanding of what a qualified TL can already offer in that regard.

While the  Inquiry did raise awareness of the role of the teacher librarian amongst some federal politicians so much more needs to be done, and done locally. 

Local politicians, actual and would-be, are the local decision-makers or opponents of them, and they need to be kept informed of what it is the teacher librarian adds to the education experience of their constituents. If they can see there is the likelihood of votes from parents then they can be powerful allies. 

Politicians love to be seen as being ‘in on the action’ which is attracting their constituents.  They love an opportunity to be seen and talk and getting them on your side is imperative.  Be apolitical and put your personal preferences and opinions aside.  Don’t limit yourself to the sitting member – wannabes need to get their names into the community so people recognise it on that election sheet, and those in Opposition love to be informed enough to ask Questions in the House.  Build up a positive relationship so when the politician needs a school for a photo opportunity, a launch, a place to place funds, it’s your name and face that come to mind.

If you’re searching for something have a look at what the American Library Association suggests that could be adapted to meet the Australian situation in this, a federal election year. Or check out the ASLA ideas.

In the next post, I will share some ideas that I’ve put into practice in the past for getting politicians involved in the life of the school library, but why don’t you use the comments to share your ideas first?




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