Letter to federal member requesting a review of school libraries

Dear federal MP:

While 2802 new libraries are being built under BER, many will have no qualified teacher librarian (TL) to staff them.

A national survey of school libraries (ASLRP, 2008) revealed that  35% of government school libraries have no teacher librarians.  In Tasmania only 50% of schools have a qualified teacher librarian. In Western Australia  40% and Victoria 35%. In the Northern Territory only 5% of schools have a TL. Instead there are high numbers of library technicians in Tasmania and Victoria and library officers in Western Australia.

Yet  studies have shown that qualified TLs working collaboratively with teachers make a significant difference to student learning and to literacy.

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.

Over 1700 petitioners from every state and territory have expressed their concerns about this decline in a recent petition sent to the Federal Minister for Education.

An inquiry 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 examine as part of Building an Education Revolution.

Please support our request for a national review of school libraries now.

Thank you,

One response

15 07 2012
Institute of Media and Management

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