We begin with the Australian School Libraries Research Project (ASLRP) by ALIA, ASLA and Edith Cowan University, which provides us initial “snapshots” on the current state of school library services in Australia (Barbara Combes, 2008)
What it shows is a great inequity between school library staffing and funding across Australian schools.
The survey found that the majority of school library budgets are abysmal! Half of the government school budgets are under $5000, and one in six budgets are under $1000. In NT schools, most of which are remote, over half have budgets under $500!
Staffing in decline
The survey showed that 35% of government school libraries have no teacher librarians. Approximately two thirds of all schools have either no teacher librarian or less than one Full Time Equivalent (FTE) working in their school library. After the Northern Territory (5%), Tasmania (50%), Western Australia (almost 60%) and Victoria (65%) have the lowest number of TLs employed K-12 across all sectors. Instead there are high numbers of library technicians in Tasmania and Victoria and library officers in Western Australia.
With the help of other surveys and Inquiry Submissions we can get a more detailed picture:
Previous state surveys illustrate the downward slide. A discussion paper from the State Library of Tasmania noted a decline of nearly fifty per cent in the number of teacher librarians in Tasmanian schools in the period 1996-2000. (State Library of Tasmania 2000, Enhancing Student Outcomes with Improved Information Services and Provisioning, discussion paper, Hobart).
1995 Tasmanian School/College Library Survey‘ There are 39% of libraries overall which are managed by a teacher-librarian. Only 30% of Tasmanian primary school libraries, 38% of district high school libraries and 76% of high school libraries have teacher-librarians. Colleges are the only sector applying any common standard for professional staffing’ (quoted in R. Hull 2001 Leading the Way: The Changing Role of the Teacher Librarian, AEU Tas Branch”).
2000 A position paper by the AEU Tasmanian Branch noted that teacher aides were increasingly replacing teacher librarians, with one third of schools surveyed not having professional TLs. (R. Hull 2001 Leading the Way: The Changing Role of the Teacher Librarian, AEU Tas Branch: Hobart)
2009 AEU Tasmania School Libraries Staffing and Resourcing Survey
Only 33 schools out of 130 schools responding (or 25%) had a Teacher Librarian (in AEU Tas Inquiry Sub # 122)
2010 ASLA Tas Sub to House Inquiry (#121)
- 206 Tasmanian government schools (excluding Special Schools)
- 33% (67 schools out of 206) have a teacher librarian presence (80% are part-time) [29 qualified TLs out of 125 K-10 schools (23%)- Jenni Bales in ASLA Tas sub 2010]
- Of the 57 Department of Education schools receiving library funding, just 7 of these have teacher librarians to make effective educational use of the new and refurbished facilities
In the ACT, “almost 50% of primary schools do not have a qualified teacher librarian, although most have a teacher providing access to library resources for some of the time. A number of schools do not have any teacher employed to provide library services.” (ACT Department of Education and Training/AEU ACT Branch Teacher Librarian Review Working Party Report, November 2008 in AEU submission to House Inquiry #113). In 2010, 31 primary schools, 3 high schools and all 4 early childhood schools in the ACT did not have a qualified TL.
The ASLRP survey shows Victoria employs TLs in 65% of its schools. This is down from a figure of 88% as surveyed by Welch and Braybrook in 2000-2001. This level can be compared to the 13% of primary schools with qualified teacher librarians. (Reynolds and Carroll, “Where have all the teacher librarians gone?” Access May 2001)
In South Australia in 2002, apart from those very small schools with no teacher librarian entitlement, a third of school libraries around the state were understaffed and/or staffed with unqualified personnel (Spence, “Survey highlights major problems with library staffing”, AEU Journal, 4 December 2002).
The Term 4 2008 survey by SLASA shows 23% of schools having no staff with dual qualifications. 28% of primary schools with no TL, 3 secondary schools and 9 area (K-12) schools with no TLs.
“In the Western Australian Government school system, teacher librarians in primary schools have never been part of the permanent staffing structure. Primary schools which do have a resident teacher librarian do so at the Principal’s discretion. This has always been the case in Government Primary schools and also includes District High Schools (K – 10) and Junior High Schools (8 – 10). “We now have senior high schools without qualified teacher librarians.” (B. Combes, J. Clayden in collaboration with WASLA and ALIA WA Library Technicians.2008 “Education in an Information Society – submission to the WA Minister for Education and Training, Perth)
In Queensland, every primary school over 300 is entitled to 1 fulltime TL. In secondary, one for every 500 students. Yet it has been estimated that approximately 10-15% of government schools have no TL (Combes, ASLRP, 2008). Even though there are restrictive conditions in place, primary TLs are still doing relief for classroom teacher planning time (non-contact relief). Often part of the TL time is going into other positions, particularly IT.
While secondary schools over 500 are entitled to extra TL time there have been occasions where 1 TL is in charge of a library for 2000+ students, with the help of one teacher aide. Also, it is not uncommon for TLs to have 1/4 of their time allocated to classroom teaching, some more than half by the time all the extra duties are counted. Frequently these TLs are placed in classrooms while a teacher-aide “manages” the library, meaning the ‘borrowing’.
In Queensland 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. You can be appointed a TL in a Qld school with NO formal qualifications at all. Sadly you don’t even have to be studying ( or even promise to do so)
Some have the title by default.They have accumulated experience and even do a good job.They call themsleves TLs simply because they are in charge of a Library. (Their only formal qualification is teaching)
Even where trained TLs are employed, up to 60% are teaching.classes in the library. The professional role of the teacher librarian remains too often unacknowledged.
(information collected by The Hub)
Unpublished NT dataset, 2006-2007 analyzed by B Combes in the ASLRP, 2008
Barbara Combes states, in her preliminary report on NT school libraries in the ASLRP, “In the NT there are no professional staff in 95% of school libraries, and only a small percentage of schools with any staff in the library. Based [on] the research findings over the previous fifty years, this finding indicates that students in the NT are seriously disadvantaged academically.”
And the Internet is too often all they have in NT primary schools. 50% of schools have connection to the internet, but no DVDs, no CDs, no magazines, not even many “chapter books.” 70% of NT schools had less than $500 to spend on resources. Some of those had nothing.
B. Combes states : “According to the data presented in this paper, school libraries in the NT are not equipped to ensure the acquisition, development or ongoing maintenance of student literacy skills. Nor will they foster the development of information literacy skills and lifelong learning and as a consequence limit educational opportunities of students as well as their communities.” ASLRP, 2008