Lobbying helped to kick start school libraries. Lobbying will continue to improve them!
It was through strong lobbying, and copious studies, reports, and submissions from a broad range of bodies, that Federal funding sparked real development of school libraries in Australia in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The Library Association of Australia (now ALIA) commissioned the Fenwick Report, School and Children’s Libraries in Australia, and published Standards and Objectives for School Libraries in 1966. Lobbying of Gorton, and other politicians for the next two years finally seemed to convince them there was some mileage to be gotten out of funding school libraries. Fortunately a precedent had been set for federal funding of state schools by Menzies with federal grants to establish science labs.
A plan of action presented to the Prime Minister in 1967 by LAA included the establishment of a relevant federal body and advisory committee, recruitment of an overseas advisor, establishment of demonstration school libraries, teacher librarian training, and then a grants program to all schools.
At the same time, the Australian Library Promotion Council (ALPC) commissioned Margaret Trask’s School Libraries: a Report to the Nation, which highlighted how shocking school library funding was in Australia.
Roy Lundin’s history of the development of school libraries in Australia* goes on to say, the breakthrough came in 1968 when the then Federal Minister for Education and Science, Malcolm Fraser, implemented Commonwealth grants that saw $57 million spent on buildings, furniture, equipment and resource materials relating to secondary school libraries, government and non-government, from 1969-1974.
He also appointed a Commonwealth Secondary Schools Libraries Committee which produced Standards for Secondary School Libraries, which guided spending. Australian School Library Association (ASLA) was formed in 1969.
However, there was no funding for primary schools and very little for training TLs, only short one to two-week crash courses.
ASLA, LAA, ALPC, state government and other groups and individuals made further submissions. Research on the effects of the grants on school education and a Report to the Nation on primary school libraries, caused both major parties to promise in the 1972 election year to fund grants to primary schools.
The newly elected Labor government did act on the recommendations of the Australian School Commission and granted further funds for secondary libraries in 1974-5, for staffing and for training teacher librarians.
In the twelve years 1969-1980, Lundin suggests some $200 million of federal government funds were spent on school libraries. State and local spending probably matched that.
About 1200 new secondary school libraries were built by 1977, still often the most luxurious facility in many schools.
A survey of all state and territory supervisors of school libraries, found that by 1978 there were some 3500 qualified (at least the equivalent of one term full-time training in school librarianship) teacher librarians in Australia, although 5000 more were needed to meet the standards outlined in the Schools Commission’s standards, Books and Beyond.
From 1969-1975, approximately $3/secondary student was spent in grants for resources and equipment. State grants varied between $8/student in Victoria in 1975 to $15/student in NSW for materials. By 1980 all states had central school library services and ASCIS (later SCIS) was born, initially on microfiche.
This history is informed by :
James Dwyer (2009) “Federal Aid to School Libraries – A Perspective” ACE Archival Brief Number 07, July 2009.
Roy Lundin (1981) “School library development in Australia,” in Cook, J. ed. School librarianship. Pergamon, Sydney, pp.1-21.