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.