If it happens there, will it happen here?

15 05 2013

As the US school year draws to a close, LM_NET (the listserv for US and international school librarians) is being increasingly peppered with stories such as this one Pasco superintendent proposes eliminating media specialists, literacy coaches.  (In fact, the decision has been made and all Media Specialist, Technology Specialist and Literacy Coach positions have been eliminated with a proposal to amalgamate the three roles into one super-job, expected to  provide the same services to the same number of clients as previously.)

The decisions are being made by administrators who may never have worked in a school but public-appeal politics has got them into a position of power.  The decisions are also being made despite the decision-makers being presented with all the research about the difference school libraries make; TLs , parents and students making presentations at board meetings,; the intervention of the state equivalents of ASLA and so on – the mighty dollar rules and it would seem no one seems to realise the implications of sinking schools, their students and their future below the bottom line.

Can it happen here?  Can we stop it?

Despite the looming federal election and the almost universal belief that there will be a change of government in Canberra, education does remain a priority and the activity of recent weeks in relation to getting Gonski’s recommendations implemented show that even ‘hostile’ state governments are committed in some way.  So, while there’s focus and money, what should we be doing to get some of it?  If we didn’t get what we wanted through the Federal Inquiry because the key issues were ‘matters for state governments to decide and the Federal Government doesn’t interfere in states’ business’ , what should we be doing to raise our profile at state level?

  • Who are the people with the power to decide, implement and sustain change?
  • What is the situation in your state?
  • What ideas does your state association have that others might emulate?
  • Do you have a strategy that has worked that should be shared?
  • What can The Hub do to support your actions and activities?

We are here, prepared to be your voice but you need to tell us what you want us to say and to whom. Make your voice heard so that what may be the whisper of one becomes the shout of many.


A leaf from The Hub’s book

14 01 2013

One of the greatest achievements of The Hub under Georgia’s leadership was the establishment of the petition, the response to which spearheaded the campaign for the federal government inquiry into school libraries and the role of teacher librarians.

Interesting to see that our US colleagues have also established a petition calling for all schools to be mandated to employ a full-time, certified school librarian   While their process is quite different to that of Australia, and so the outcomes will also be different, it is a recognition that it is essential that politicians become informed of the role of a qualified TL within a school if the TL’s future is to remain healthy.  They are one of the six key groups who need to understand what we do to improve student outcomes and see it in practice- the others being pupils, parents, peers, principals, and pre-service teachers- and the focus of much of The Hub’s work to date.

Why are politicians (and would-be politicians) important?  

Politicians are the puppet-masters who hold the purse-strings – they are the people who direct educational authorities to implement the big-picture changes like National Partnerships, teacher accreditation, Local Schools, Local Decisions and so forth.  In 2004, then Prime Minister John Howard and Education Minister Brendan Nelson mandated that every school would fly the national flag and have two hours of PE each week or they would miss their share of a $31 billion federal schools package. (The Age, June 23, 2004).

They are driven by power, economics and votes (and remember the parents have the voting power) but despite public appearances, most are genuine and busy.  The role of the teacher librarian is not at the forefront of their responsibilities and many have perceptions based on what they remember of their experiences, however long ago that was. In 2012, in the US, the Federal Communications Committee was thinking of spending $200 000 000 to train  a “digital literacy corps” so there is someone in every school and leisure organisation who can show the students how to use computers properly so they are not ‘time-wasting’ on games and entertainment, even in their leisure time, (New York Times May 29, 2012), clearly demonstrating that there was little understanding of what a qualified TL can already offer in that regard.

While the  Inquiry did raise awareness of the role of the teacher librarian amongst some federal politicians so much more needs to be done, and done locally. 

Local politicians, actual and would-be, are the local decision-makers or opponents of them, and they need to be kept informed of what it is the teacher librarian adds to the education experience of their constituents. If they can see there is the likelihood of votes from parents then they can be powerful allies. 

Politicians love to be seen as being ‘in on the action’ which is attracting their constituents.  They love an opportunity to be seen and talk and getting them on your side is imperative.  Be apolitical and put your personal preferences and opinions aside.  Don’t limit yourself to the sitting member – wannabes need to get their names into the community so people recognise it on that election sheet, and those in Opposition love to be informed enough to ask Questions in the House.  Build up a positive relationship so when the politician needs a school for a photo opportunity, a launch, a place to place funds, it’s your name and face that come to mind.

If you’re searching for something have a look at what the American Library Association suggests that could be adapted to meet the Australian situation in this, a federal election year. Or check out the ASLA ideas.

In the next post, I will share some ideas that I’ve put into practice in the past for getting politicians involved in the life of the school library, but why don’t you use the comments to share your ideas first?

Labor (and TLs?) a chance to win in the ACT

3 09 2012

Labor a chance to win 22 Oct.

Long term lobbying by ACT TLs working with the AEU education union has gotten Labor to make some pre-election noise about the need for teacher-librarians in ACT government schools.

The ACT is in full election campaign mode and the Chief Minister has released information regarding ACT Labor’s funding to ‘equip our students for the digital age’. (http://www.katygallagher.net/?p=1914).

Investment in new library resources – public primary schools
This program will deliver $1 million in grants to students in public primary schools, delivering more resources to school libraries to encourage reading and digital literacy.

This funding will support the excellent level of existing literacy within public primary schools, as well as introducing students to the exciting possibilities of online learning and digital literacy from a young age.

Students will be able enjoy a range of new reading resources including:

  • Digital tablets and e-readers;
  • Computer and video conferencing infrastructure;
  • Books and e-books; and
  • Journal, magazine and newspaper subscriptions.

ACT Labor believes that school teacher-librarians remain best placed to manage the roll out of these modern resources in school libraries. As such, a condition of the annual grant will be that the school maintains a teacher-librarian.


The Canberra Times has followed up with an opinion piece by TL Holly Godfree, reprinted in the SMH “TLs crucial in info age.”  The last two paragraphs are particularly valuable:

Has this ”invisibility” [of TLs] hurt the profession? Perhaps it has. Maybe this is why teacher librarian numbers have been dwindling in the ACT’s public schools, particularly primary schools and early childhood schools, at an alarming rate. Further declines can be anticipated under the new school autonomy plans: cuts to less ”showy” parts of the learning environment are easier to make if one is forced to balance a school budget.

Noises from candidates in the upcoming ACT election regarding boosting teacher librarian numbers, along with ACT Labor’s recent announcement about the provision of extra digital resources in primary schools being conditional upon a teacher librarian being maintained to manage these resources, are encouraging developments. Governments must also commit to concrete measures to train and recruit more of these professionals, who are critical components in the transformation of mere information into true knowledge.


Keep up the great work all!

NSW DEC restructures yet again. 200 jobs to go.

2 06 2012

Education Job Cuts Done in Secrecy SMH 4 June        Education Job Cuts SMH 2June2012

You may not have caught the news Thursday that NSW DEC is “realigning,” ie restructuring, yet again, this time under the recently elected Liberal state government.  You may have not had this news, because the government made no public announcement!

It appears at least 200 jobs of 750 in offices of the DEC will go.  That’s over a quarter!

So in addition to the additional work taken on by self-managing schools, now teachers and principals are to take on a greater workload from head offices. And at a time when the new National Curriculum is being implemented.

This includes cuts to literacy support, including positions in the School Magazine, in this National Year of Reading! Literacy looks to lose 2 of their 5 positions.  There is no mention of the Premiers Reading Challenge. Nor Quality Teaching. Teacher librarians and school counsellors will see cuts to support to schools.

The nationwide respected education journal, SCAN, does not get a mention. Other positions in School Libraries and Information Services appear to  have been cut by about half. (I used to work for this service when it was known as School Library Service and had 60 on its staff!!)

There are fewer Principal Education Officer positions (higher salaries). Where is the support for curriculum leadership? Teacher Librarians are already feeling threatened – this cut in support services does not bode well for their continued expertise !

Two separate entities have been created for pre-school/primary and secondary when NSW teachers are supposed to be implementing K-10 syllabuses next year.

What role will regions have? Will there be duplication?

It has been described as a mess.

Realignment info for NSW teachers was on DEC internal intranet (Contact The Hub for copies.)

Feedback to DDGSchools@det.nsw.edu.au within a week. NSW teachers let your local MP (template) know once again you and your parents are not happy.  Federal MPs must also be pressed for the increased funding to public schools recommended by Gonski.  Education investment is an investment in our future. The NSW government seems determined to undermine our social and economic future.

For further information and updates, contact NSW Teachers Federation

Letters to the Editor

20 05 2012

Letters to the editor of your local paper are read by many in the community. Oppose school autonomy with letters like these:

NSW TLs visit local members to discuss “Local Schools, Local Decisions”

20 04 2012

NSW teacher librarians are taking a proactive role to let their local members know the implications of school autonomy for the staffing of qualified teacher librarians in government schools.  MPs, it seems, have not been aware of this and, so far, have welcomed further information, both on the research which shows that school based management does not improve educational outcomes and on the national staffing statistics we have.

We urge all NSW TLs to do likewise.  Here is the background paper we are presenting to MPs for their information.  We are also giving them, when possible, a hard copy of the Inquiry Report, and a request for them to:

  • Oppose “Local Schools, Local Decisions”
  • Stand up for continued core staffing of teacher librarians
  • Stand up for dedicated funding to school libraries, especially in areas of social and economic disadvantage.

Dear NSW Parents and Citizens

25 03 2012

Don’t be gulled by government school autonomy shell games. While principals may want to order their own photocopiers and rid poor performers on their staffs, local empowerment of staffing will break the statewide transfer system which fills positions in remote rural schools, corrode teacher collaboration, force principals to master marketing instead of lead learning, further disadvantage disadvantaged school communities, and lead to increased privatization of public schools with sponsors calling the shots.

What started under Thatcher to break unions and transfer responsibility to school principals, has spread like an epidemic by neo-liberal US, English and Australian governments.

Look at the record of academy schools, charter schools and independent public schools.  There is no evidence that local empowerment improves learning outcomes.  On the contrary, eventual reduced funding and staffing, especially for low SES schools, leaves them to wither and decline.  As Scott Fitzgerald of Curtin University states, so called school autonomy leads to  “recentralisation of control over teachers through curriculum policy frameworks that are held in place by testing regimes, performance pay and league tables.”