Statistics available on school libraries in Australia

Softlink’s Australian School Library Survey 2011

“In March 2011, Softlink conducted a follow-up survey to the 2010 Australian School Library Survey, which looked into Australian school library budgets, qualified staffing levels and NAPLAN literacy results. This follow-up survey has allowed Softlink to compare and report the findings from both surveys.
Softlink’s position on conducting this study is, school libraries should be more adequately and consistently funded and given greater access to appropriately trained teacher librarians.
Principle findings from the 2011 Softlink Australian School Library Survey include:
  • Where student numbers are the same, it is shown that primary school libraries receive significantly less funding and staff allocation to the library than secondary schools.
  • Four out of five school libraries have experienced a budget decrease, or no change, compared to the previous year.
  • One in six schools from total number of respondents to the survey has decreased their school library budget by more than 10% in the last 12 months.
  • Larger Government schools have significantly less staff allocated to the school library, compared to larger Catholic and Independent schools.
  • There is a significant positive relationship between a school’s NAPLAN reading literacy score, the budget and staffing allocated to the school library.
  • The difference in funding and literacy outcomes can be quantified. In general, low performing schools allocate 30% less to the school library budget than average schools. High performing schools allocate an average of twice as much to the school library budget as average schools.”
From Softlink’s website on the survey where the longer report can be downloaded.

Children’s Book Council Survey 2010

Previously, the most recent and comprehensive statistics collected on Australian school libraries was done in March 2010 by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. There were 624 respondents with 100% completion rate.

A further analysis of libraries receiving BER funding, as well as the financial status of libraries across different educational sectors is included below:

BER Libraries

127 schools indicated that they had received $500,000 or more in BER funding for their library; 85 of those received over $1,000,000. (Other libraries received smaller amounts of funding, however these have not been counted in the figures below.)

Of these 127 schools, almost one in five (18%) do not have a qualified teacher-librarian in their library. In fact, the figures may be worse than that, as if there is no teacher-librarian in charge, the library would most likely be ‘out of contact’ with teacher-librarian listservs and other such professional networking tools.

The average library budget of these 127 BER libraries was $16,895.
Over 65% of BER school library budgets received $10,000 or less.
30% of BER school library budgets were $5,000 or less.

It could be concluded, therefore, that many BER libraries will be limited in services and collections, including digital collection, because of their operating constraints due to staffing and limited budgets.

Comparison of Educational Sector School Library Budgets in Survey (not just BER)

Anglican Schools:
Average Library Budget: $44,762.
80% of Anglican school library budgets are greater or equal to $20,000.
5 stated that their budgets are unknown. One commented: “We do not have a budget. We spend until told to stop.”

Independent Schools:
Average Library Budget: $37,220.
74% of Independent school budgets are greater or equal to $20,000.
6% of those schools had library budgets of over $100,000.

Catholic Schools:
Average Library Budget: $20,732.
39% of Catholic school library budgets were greater or equal to $20,000.
Less than 1% were $50,000 or greater.
43% were $10,000 or less. 22% were $5,000 or less.

Government Schools:
Average Library Budget: $10,606.
13% of government school library budgets were greater or equal to $20,000.
Only 2 (.5%) of the 375 schools had a budget exceeding $50,000.
66% had a library budget of $10,000 or below. 36% were $5,000 or less. 3% were $1,000 or less.

Financially, there is a great information divide between libraries in different educational sectors, with average budgets ranging from $10,000 (Government), $20,000 (Catholic), $37,000 (Independent) and $44,000 (Anglican) schools.

Here is a summary in graphic form. This information is from the survey made by the CBCA summarized by Marj Kirkland, then National President.


The results of the jointly sponsored Australian School Library Research Project undertaken in 2007, are available.  Of Australia’s 9612 schools, 692 participated in this online survey.  While this does not represent a large proportion, it does provide much needed data on the state of Australia’s school libraries. A joint media release by the sponsors states, “The studies reveal that 50% of Australian school libraries surveyed are trying to do their job on an annual materials budget of under $10,000 per year, while teacher librarians are under pressure to spend more and more time outside the school library.”  In fact, 50% of government schools have budgets of under $5000, while 3/4s of Anglican school libraries have budgets over $20,000 (10% over $100,000!).

In regards to staffing,  35% of Australian school libraries responding to the survey have no or limited professional staffing. (Many more without staff would not have even responded.) This included 20% of schools with no professional staff at all. In the Northern Territory,   95% of schools, most of them remote, have no teacher librarian. Tasmania, WA and Victoria had the lowest number of TLs employed although one third  of Anglican schools have 2 or more teacher librarians.

In fact, Anglican and Christian schools have more full time professional staff in their libraries with TLs receiving higher salaries than TLs in other school types.

Other surveys and reports

The picture is bleak for government schools.  The decline in staffing and funding shown in the 2003 research review on school libraries by Michele Lonsdale has continued. Commissioned by the Australian School Library Association and published by the ACER the Lonsdale Report (Read excerpt here. Full Report here.) included statistics on school library staffing in South Australia  collected by the Australian Education Union in 2002.

As Sue Spence reported, “Research shows that students perform better where there is collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians. Despite this, more and more schools in South Australia are inadequately staffed with qualified teacher librarians.” Sue found that “89% of South Australian state secondary schools were understaffed by the Department’s own staffing formula. Even worse, staff without teacher librarian qualifications filled forty percent of all positions” (Spence, S. 2005. “Teacher Librarian Toolkit” in Henri and Asselin eds  The Information literate school community 2. Wagga Wagga, CSU CIS).  See Survey highlights major problems with library staffing

  • In Tasmania only 50% of schools have teacher librarians, Victoria and ACT 65% (probably lower)
  • In Western Australia, teacher librarians are not mandated in primary schools.
  • In Queensland too, teacher-librarian numbers are dwindling. Seven large state high schools on the Gold Coast alone have no teacher librarian. Others have teachers or even library aides in charge who have no formal training.
  • Since 1983, the number of primary school libraries in Melbourne staffed by qualified teacher librarians has dropped dramatically from 55% to 13% (Reynolds and Carroll, 2001). 12% of the school libraries in their survey are managed by someone with no formal qualifications of any kind.
  • Further State by State statistics
  • Teacher librarian training programs have also decreased in number from 15 to 3-4 in the past two decades. We have no national data on teachers undergoing teacher librarian training.

A random survey across sectors of 160 primary schools conducted by the Australian Primary Principals Association in 2007 (Angus, M. J. In the balance: the future of Australia’s primary schools) found that 61% of primary schools had teacher librarians.

Why do we have so few statistics available from our state and federal government education bodies on school libraries?

In 2002, Alan Bundy wrote:

School libraries

Where it would be quite impossible to construct any index [of excellence] is school libraries, by far the most numerous type of library in Australia and arguably, with public libraries, the most important in determining the attitudes of future decision makers to library investment. This is a longstanding deficiency. Ten years ago it was noted that

There is a pitifully poor supply of statistics available on school libraries. Jim Dwyer, former Superintendent of Studies, Education Department of South Australia, made a valiant attempt to better the situation by undertaking to collect school library statistics on a national basis for the years 1983, 1984 and 1985 –

There is no co-ordinated collection of library statistics for private schools.

from Bryan, H ALIAS: Australia’s library, information and archives services – an encyclopaedia of practice and practitioners vol 3 Canberra, Alia Press 1991 p78.

It appears, from Edward’s survey [completed in 2000 for ALIA], that only the Catholic system in Australia has good school library statistics. Given the importance of teacher librarians and school library resource centres to effective student learning, literacy and information literacy, this is a national disgrace. It suggests

  • teacher librarians themselves are not being proactive individually and collectively about the issue, and benchmarking in particular or
  • school systems and individual schools are too embarrassed to reveal the level of support of their libraries or
  • they do not see the contribution of teacher librarians and library resource centres as central to teaching and learning or
  • they are not willing to be publicly accountable for expenditure of public funds, in both state and private schools

from ALIA conference procedings 2002, “Best value:Libraries

Meanwhile, the American Association of School Librarians has published its third annual report on staffing, use,  collections and budgets of US school libraries of almost 7000 schools in its survey.  The reports 2007 to 2012, School Libraries Count!, can be found here.

2 responses

23 03 2010
The rise and rise, and fall of Aussie school libraries – a potted history « SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS

[…] the strong state school library services which existed in the 1980s, state and national statistics are hard to obtain. The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Library […]

11 04 2010
ACTION! Five days to deadline for submissions to the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians. « The Hub

[…] to Make.  See also ACSSO Special Newsletter.Sample Sub from SA.  See Sub from WASLA. The Facts on TLs. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: