Australian Children’s Laureate stands up for teacher librarians

4 05 2017

Leigh Hobbs knows the value of teacher librarians to literacy and learning.  As Australian Children’s Laureate this year, he intends to convey this message to parents and principals and the press at every opportunity.  Support his passion.

See more on his facebook page.


Support the Great School Libraries campaign

26 03 2016

ALIA Schools Section and its partners have undertaken a promising new campaign to raise awareness with principals, politicians and parents of what an excellent school library looks like.  And it is no surprise that the number one criteria is having a professionally qualified teacher librarian.

Go to the FAIR Great School Libraries home page to see

To quote:

“FAIR’s sign off to its new report on the impact of school libraries and teacher librarians is a call for the Australian Government to endorse the goal of a teacher librarian for every school.

The report states, ‘Federal, State and Territory Governments’ acknowledgement of the vital role of school libraries in supporting reading, digital literacy, critical thinking and research skills, together with a strong recommendation from Education Ministers about the employment of teacher librarians and qualified library staff in schools within their jurisdiction, would be a significant step forward. Further, it would be of benefit to look for innovative ways of providing access to teacher librarians where there is not the critical mass to support a full-time appointment and to incentivise principals to employ teacher librarians where there is a large student body.’

FAIR and its library association partners will be pursuing this conversation with the Federal Government in the coming months.”

We commend ALIA Schools Section and its partners for this much needed effort and look forward to further steps in the campaign.

Should we be in despair about the status quo of TLs?

13 08 2015

The day after the tabling in Parliament of the Report of the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in May 2011, these MPs gave insightful, informative and supportive speeches to open the eyes of educators and parents and urge action.  If you didn’t have time then, take time now and be renewed and inspired. Note six are still in office.

The speech of Sharon Bird, MP (Labor NSW), initial committee chair (2015 still in office)

The speech of Karen Andrews, MP (Liberal Qld), committee member and currently (2015) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Science

The speech of Yvette D’Ath, MP (Labor Qld), committee member

The speech of Deborah O’Neill, MP (Labor NSW), committee member (2015 still in office)

The speech of Mike Symon, MP (Labor Vic), committee member

The speech of Alan Tudge, MP (Liberal Vic), committee member and currently (2015) Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

In addition, two members of the committee gave speeches upon tabling the report the day before:

The speech of Amanda Rishworth, MP (Labor SA), subsequent committee chair (2015 still in office)

The speech of Rowan Ramsey, MP (Liberal SA) committee member (2015 still in office)

We DO have parliamentarians who understand.

New promotional video clip

6 02 2014

Promoting your school library

“This short promotional film, developed by ALIA Schools, is for principals, school communities, teacher librarians, library staff and teachers and can be used to help promote the important role school libraries and teacher librarians can play through contributing to student success in learning in both primary and secondary school settings.”

At last, something worth posting:-)  Well done ALIA!


Check out these other clips on YouTube:

21st Century School Libraries (Sioux Falls Schools, 2012) (28 minutes)

Teacher Librarians at The Heart of Student Learning (Washington Library Media Association, 2013)) (5 min)

To the federal candidates

26 08 2013

After 13 hearings in major Australian capital cities in 2010 and 2011, a bi-partisan House Committee of Inquiry published its Report School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia (March 2011).

Few of its 11 Recommendations have been implemented, and none which bears upon the essential problem of the demise of a profession and its impact on declining student literacy and learning.

Of the government’s response in November 2011, crucial concerns remain unaddressed:

Still no government staffing statistics.

Reporting on the number and training of specialist staff is still to be included in My School information. As yet, no hard data has been collected by the government on the number of schools without professionally qualified teacher librarians.  The closest related data, in the 2010 report on Staffing in Australia’s Schools includes principal reporting on unfilled positions. This is meaningless when most states do not require libraries to be staffed by qualified teacher librarians and budget-constrained principals are forced to view teacher librarians as a luxury.

The question remains, how many schools do not have at least one full-time equivalent teacher librarian?

The last survey to address this question, indicated that at least a third of government schools did not (and one third of Anglican schools have two or more librarians) (Australian School Libraries Research Project, 2008). Yet the government workforce data is skewed to show only 190 unfilled positions in 2010.

This brings us to the second crucial problem.

Insufficient training places.

The federal Labor government has worked a miracle in upgrading school infrastructure.  Almost one third of Australia’s schools now have new BER libraries, 3177out of 9427 schools.  This is wonderful!

But without qualified TLs, these are woefully underutilized facilities, too often closed or used as another classroom.

Better Schools money will mean that many of those budget-restricted principals will be able to professionally staff their libraries, AND be able to resource them with up-to-date digital book collections, databases, e-magazines, library apps for smart technology, resources which qualified teacher librarians can collaboratively integrate into teaching and learning encounters.

BUT, where will principals find these qualified teacher librarians? With only three tertiary teacher librarian courses, how many new TLs can be trained? Certainly not the thousands which seem to be needed. Unfortunately, universities are being stripped of funds to finance the Gonski reforms.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul will not help our TL shortage.

So we must ask federal candidates of all parties:

  1. What will you do to collect useful government data on teacher librarian staffing? 
  2. What will you do to increase tertiary education programs to ensure every school can have a qualified teacher librarian?

The government inquiry acknowledged the work of teacher librarians in respect to eLearning, literacy and leadership in their schools.  What will you do now to see that that role is filled to support quality teachers and support our students in reading and learning?


Further information for teachers, principals and teacher educators on the role of teacher librarians in learning can be found at my website For parents at My School Library. GP


Reform can fund school libraries

13 06 2013

Hello all,

Georgia here, back at the screenface.  In this lead up to the federal election and in face of the legislation for education reform currently being debated, I have been writing to those federal MPs who were on the House Inquiry committee. They are the ones who should be most aware of the value and decline of teacher librarian positions.  I thought they might be interested in events in the US where a group of senators ensured that the role of qualified school librarians is a part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Considerations are currently being made for amendments and changes before it goes to the US Congress.

My question is which legislators will speak up for school libraries in the current Gonski and national education reform debate?

We have received a response from at least one parliamentarian, which shows continued support.  Further debate will take place in the Senate next week re the National Plan for School Improvement, The Australian Education Bill 2012.  This is an opportunity for you to remind your local federal senator  about the role of quality teacher librarians in school improvement.  And a chance to lobbying your state government, if they haven’t signed up to much needed public school funding (Gonski) needed for staffing and resourcing school libraries.

Dear Georgia,

RE: Action for Teacher Librarians?

Thank you for the information from the US.

I share your frustration that the debate is currently about quantity, not quality.

Much of the real debate as to why we need the National Plan for School Improvement has been lost amongst the squealing of State Premiers who do not want to sign up to a school funding system that forces them to account where the federal dollars have actually been spent.

Although the Australian Education Bill has now passed in the House the debate will be in the Senate next week where further speeches will no doubt, be made.

Yours Sincerely,

Mike Symon
Federal Labor Member for Deakin
Phone: (03) 9874 4544
Fax:     (03) 9874 4644

Canberra Phone: (02) 6277 4255
Canberra Fax      (02) 6277 8451

Mail: PO Box 232, Mitcham VIC 3132

Author supports school libraries in new ASA journal

10 06 2013

The following is reposted with permission of the author from the new ASA online journal, Australian Author.

Letter: Libraries in Crisis

Posted on Thu, April 11th 2013
By Sheryl Gwyther

Australian school libraries need our support as they face the loss of their printed books and trained Teacher-Librarians. These former places of respite have become glorified Resource Centres, filled with computers, and active classrooms.

Now, I’m no Luddite; I use computers daily for research, communication and networking. Internet research in school libraries is a key part of learning – but not at the expense of losing fiction collections.

Librarians tell horror stories – like school principals who rush to buy ebooks and toss out their printed library books (yes, even into dumpsters). No consideration given to the many thousands of titles still waiting for electronic status. Their students will never have the chance to be transported, beguiled, to laugh until they almost wet their pants, to learn about life from these treasures. In countless primary schools, kids only get a few minutes once a week to visit the school library, choose a book, then rush off to the next lesson.

Even worse, one Torres Strait Island school was directed to dispose of its library books and replace them with ebooks, obviously without much thought to maintenance problems and IT availability. The logistics of getting a techie there by boat in cyclone season are mindboggling.

We authors and illustrators owe a lot to school Teacher-Librarians and public librarians – they are the forward troops in battle, the foot soldiers, and the engineers. They prepare the ground by enthusing children about books.

T-Ls are specialists. They know what books will most suit less able readers, or kids who are frantic to read a particular genre. They have the ability to integrate literature into every subject area. They also pay children’s authors to come into their schools for author visits and workshops. And the toughest task of all, they scratch through their depleted funds to buy new titles.

The disappearance of T-L training courses across all states adds to the problems. In many schools that have deliberately got rid of their Teacher-Librarians, principals rope in other staff as library gatekeepers. (Generalisation alert here … how many Phys Ed teachers would be comfortable recommending a book to a fourteen-year-old girl about first love? Or could enthuse a reluctant nine-year-old reader to have a go at his first Andy Griffiths book? I know my son’s PE teacher would’ve rather eaten his own toenails.)

I’m a children’s author and yes, I have an ulterior motive in pushing this barrow – my passion for a multitude of wonderful Australian children’s books. I want Aussie kids to read them. There are thousands of Australian titles in school libraries, all contributing Educational Lending Right (ELR) payments to authors – payments authors do not currently receive for ebooks.

Is there a way to stop this decline? Yes – that tried and true way called People Power: writing to State and Federal MPs about declining funds and lack of T-Ls; encouraging parents to kick up a stink; and getting authors to speak out about the issue.

That’s what online support organisation Friends of the Hub does. But this Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia needs more people to follow their lead.

If you think the problem is restricted to children’s books, think again. How long before our fabulous, free public libraries are privatised or shut down because certain politicians are hell-bent on scaling back public services? That already happens in the US and the UK.

As Joni Mitchell sang, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.


Sheryl Gwyther is a children’s author and Assistant Regional Advisor (QLD) to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is also a member of the ASA Board of Directors.

Show Me the Awesome

25 05 2013

Sophie Brookover, Kelly Jensen and Elizabeth Burns wanted to give librarians an opportunity to “talk up the things they want to promote about the work they’re doing.” And so began Show Me The Awesome: 30 Days of Self Promotion in which TLs were invited to write blog posts about the job they do and the things they want people to know about.

This is your opportunity to share with the broader library community what you’ve got going on that you’re especially proud of. What we’re looking for: briefly, your best foot forward! This can mean actual things you are doing in your library and community. It can also mean discussing the greater ideas of promotion and self-promotion and what they mean. How can we effectively promote ourselves and librarianship itself — both within the field and with those outside the field?
This idea grows out of the broader conversation in librarianship about gender, different areas of librarianship and how they are recognized and honored in our field as a whole. We want to recognize and celebrate ALL areas of librarianship as they are practiced now: urban, suburban, rural, big libraries & small, in children’s, YA, adult and technical services, in academia or museums, in schools and public libraries, on budgets ranging from shoestring to Kardashian (hey, we can dream!).
What are you doing that is interesting, unique, innovative, practical and helpful in your community? What do you wish more people knew about you & your library? What do you hope to bring to the profession in the next five years? Ten? Twenty?

They were aiming for a post a day throughout May and with only a few days left, they have succeeded.  But there’s no reason why it can’t be 365 Days of Awesome so why not join in.

Even if you don’t want to go public, take the time to reflect on what it is you do and how it matches up to your dreams and expectations when you first decided to enter the profession.  If there’s a disconnect, work out how to work back to what you wanted. Make a plan , share it, and share your successes.

You know you’re awesome – time to let others know too.  Show them it’s more than circulating books.


School Libraries Making a Difference

17 05 2013

Teacher librarians all over the world owe much to Lyn Hay and Ross Todd. Their continual research and advocacy for the profession have not only taught us so much but also have ensured that many have been able to secure their positions within the school and beyond.

One of their most significant contributions is helping us understand and implement the concept of Evidence-Based Practice which challenges us to go beyond anecdotal evidence that we make a difference to the teaching and learning in and beyond school to developing a systematic approach for collecting the evidence that proves that we do.

Evidence-based practice is an approach that systematically engages research-derived evidence, school librarian-observed evidence, and user-reported evidence in the ongoing processes of decision making, development, and continuous improvement to achieve the school’s mission and goals. These goals typically center on student achievement and quality teaching and learning.

But like many things, even though we really believe in the theory, the practice is harder to implement. Just finding the starting point is difficult and before long, the big picture gets overwhelmed by the daily detail.

Ross and Lyn have now developed a seminar called School Libraries Making a Difference: What is your evidence and how do you get it?  and following very successful presentations in Sydney and the Gold Coast last year, they are now giving TLs in Adelaide (June 12, 2013), Perth (June 14, 2013) and Melbourne (June 17th, 2013) the opportunity to learn.

The program is designed to

  • provide teacher librarians with a range of strategies, initiatives and measurement techniques that will enable them to carefully and effectively chart and document the tangible learning outcomes of their teaching-learning activities.
  • explore a range of existing tools and measures for charting and documenting evidence on educational and community outcomes
  • enable teacher librarians to be able to build a portfolio of local school evidence of the importance and value of the school library to their school communities.
  • provide approaches and strategies for the strategic dissemination and use of evidence in school and communities

With both Federal Labor and the Coalition signing on to increase the funding and resourcing to schools regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, NOW is the time to start lobbying for a slice of the pie and we are much more likely to get it if we can demonstrate unequivocally that we make a difference with evidence and examples.   Having an opportunity to learn how to do this professionally so it is taken seriously would seem like the perfect professional learning opportunity.

The Hub was established to be the go-to destination for ideas, information, action and activities that took advocacy beyond the perception that TLs were just pushing their own employment barrow – here is an opportunity for you to learn how to do that so that our students now and in the future will continue to have access to one of their most important educators.

There is more information available through SybaSigns  If there is only one PD event you can attend this year,  this is the one that will have the lasting impact.

Carpe diem

16 05 2013

According to Learning for the Future, one of the three key roles of the TL is that of curriculum leader and many are wearing that hat as they guide the implementation of the Australian National Curriculum in their schools.  However, for many, much of what is done for that is a behind-the-scenes role as resources supporting its various strands and outcomes “magically” appear just as they are needed, and little thought is given by the classroom-based teachers just how the resources might have been identified, located, evaluated, selected, acquired and processed so they are right there when required.

But on May 22 the National Simultaneous Storytime will give us an opportunity to be the star on the stage rather than the guide on the side.   This is a chance to work with all teachers across all year levels to share a story and develop a range of before-and-after activities that are tailored to the needs of each class so they can fully appreciate both the text and the experience.


This year’s text is The Wrong Book by Nick Bland and it really can be used across all ages. Thoughtful collaboration and planning will allow  all levels to experience a shared event (one-school-one-book is a phenomenon in the US) and  might even help dispel the myth that picture books are for little people.

For starters, the publishers have given permission for it to be

  • presented as a readers theatre
  • presented as a story telling
  • presented as a puppet show
  • translated for multicultural storytimes

So, immediately there are some ideas that will engage the older students particularly if they are charged with creating a presentation for younger students. Each idea has the potential for a host of associated learning opportunities from investigating the best sorts of puppets to use and designing and creating these to learning how to use your voice with no other props to tell a story, that could form the basis of a very productive partnership between TL and teacher.

Other sites have ideas too, but be warned – they take more effort than photocopying a blackline master or template. Shoosh-and-colour is not an option. Share the ideas with your colleagues (they might even spark some original thoughts) and decide how you will work together to make this event more than a ten-minute time filler.

The page from the official site gives suggestions for books with similar themes as well as other titles by Nick Bland so if you are not in a CPT situation, perhaps there’s an idea for a parallel program in the library.  During the day, take photos, tweet, post on Facebook , exploit social media to get others involved and afterwards tell your parents what their children did and how much they enjoyed it. Even having students create a bookmark that says

I enjoyed sharing The Wrong Book by Nick Bland with thousands of others during the National Simultaneous Storytime today

is a way of reporting to parents and putting them in the picture and the library in the spotlight.

There’s an app from iTunes; teaching notes; even a Braille version – the only thing there is NOT is an excuse to avoid being involved and seizing the opportunity to provide a leadership role and demonstrate why your school has and needs a teacher librarian.

Be pro-active.  Be visible. Be out there.  Your job may depend on it.