To the Hon Julia Gillard MP,
Minister for Education
16 November 2009
Dear Ms Gillard,
I respectfully attach the petition of 1600 petitioners calling “on the federal government to ensure that all Australian primary and secondary students have access to a school library and a qualified teacher librarian.
As it has done in the past, the federal government is in a position to influence state school library funding and staffing. To do this, it can:
- collect national data on school library staffing, funding, and scheduling;
- tie funding so that states can and must adequately staff and fund school library programs and services;
- require that literacy programs and other national curricula should explicitly recognize the central role school libraries have in student achievement, literacy attainment, and preparation for post-secondary success;
- develop national school library standards;
- increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs.
All Australian students deserve 21st century schools staffed by 21st century professionally qualified teacher librarians.
As you no doubt are aware, there has not been a review of school libraries since the federal programs to build, staff and resource school libraries in the 1970s.
Since that time we have seen a severe decline in the numbers of qualified teacher librarians staffing libraries, in the number of teacher librarian training programs, in school library funding (indeed some schools have NO funding), and in centralised school library services and policy advisors. At the same time national literacy, ICT and other curricula are being written without reference to the role of school libraries and teacher librarians, pre-service teacher education still does not include the same, there have been no national government standards since Books and Beyond (Australian Schools Commission, 1977), and there is still no systematic collection nationally from state education agencies of data on school library collections and staffing to inform decision making. Many of these issues were raised in the reviews of 30 years ago and still need to be addressed.
Such an inquiry, then, should include:
- The need for detailed government data for decision making on school libraries through data collection from state education agencies
- The shortage of qualified Teacher Librarians (TLs)
- The need for national standards, including agreed role statements and qualifications
- A review of systemic policies and their dissemination and implementation
- The role of the school library and TL in teacher pre-service and in-service education – in literacy, collaborative teaching, information literacy, etc.
- Explicit policy and curriculum recognition of the role of TLs and libraries in literacy and learning
- A national curriculum for Information Literacy and ICT
- The need for sponsorship of research on the effect of school libraries on student learning, literacy and academic achievement
- School library funding equity, including the cost of digital information services in schools
- The role of school libraries in indigenous literacy
- Sponsorship of university tuition fees to qualified teachers wishing to retrain as teacher librarians. (See the NSW DET sponsored retraining in teacher librarianship)
- The re-introduction of undergraduate teacher librarianship programs in Australian universities through the sponsorship of positions in those Bachelor of Education programs that offer teacher librarianship as a teaching specialisation.
- The decline of central support services in each state.
These are just some of the areas which a national review could re-examine as part of Building an Education Revolution.
As one of our petitioners has stated,
“We are a school that is getting a wonderful new library, yet there won’t be anyone to staff it. The library officer has 1 day a week and needs that to just put books away and try and tidy up after teachers and students have “trashed” the library during the week. I am a qualified TL and have no allocated time – I am now a “Maths specialist”. I re-located to the library to keep a “weather eye” on things and open at lunchtime. I’m going to retire at the end of the year. I’ve had enough!”
-A WA primany GirN/ICT Teacher
How many other teacher librarians are leaving because of this situation? For them, our teachers, and especially for Australian students, we at the Hub ask for your government to undertake this national review as soon as practical.
Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your response.
The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia