Letter to SMH: School libraries vital to fostering the love of literacy

6 08 2016
5 August 2016

   Dr Robyn Cox (‘‘Results won’t improve overnight’’, August 4) and Education Minister Adrian Piccoli (‘‘War of words over worth of Gonski model’’, August 4) are certainly both correct in stating that literacy and numeracy results take time to improve.

However, Dr Cox needs to go further in her opinion that more focus is needed regarding teacher professional development in knowledge about language and teaching strategies about reading.  

Why do we continually believe that literacy, taught as a standalone program in the classroom is the answer to increasing literacy standards? What happens to a student after leaving school, who may have improved their literacy level according to a standardised test, but who never develops an actual reading behaviour, enabling them to actually develop that love of story, to read critically and to believe that reading is an essential, valued endeavour?   Literacy programs must revolve around quality of story and the engagement of the reader.

All schools have a library, but the quality of that library and its intrinsic value to a child’s engagement with reading is unfortunately in sharp decline.   The answer is staring Mr Birmingham et al in the face. Well resourced school libraries and a qualified teacher librarian working with classroom teachers (and even parents) in whole school reading (and writing) programs to develop a reading culture holds the key. Not only in improving the literacy results politicians are so focused on, but to set a child up with a lifelong behaviour of the joy and value of reading.  

Sharon McGuinness Thirroul


2015 Softlink Survey Results Published

13 04 2016

The sixth annual survey of Australian school libraries has expanded to include New Zealand Schools. The first survey was done to inform Softlink’s submission to the federal Inquiry into  School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in Australian Schools. Survey results are an invaluable source of information on school library staffing and budgets, to inform advocacy.

Of the 9404 schools in Australia (ABS, 2015) and 2538 schools in New Zealand, 994 responded to the survey. While a low percentage of respondents, no other such statistics are collected by an Australian body. These statistics  provide a much needed snapshot over time, and reinforce findings of other studies internationally.

For example:

  • There was a positive correlation between annual Australian school library budgets and NAPLAN Reading Literacy results.
  • There was a positive correlation between the number of school librarians employed in Australian school libraries and NAPLAN Reading Literacy results.

Further findings, including information on mobile device uptake and e-books, can be found in the report available at http://www.softlinkint.com/2015-softlink-australian-and-new-zealand-school-library-survey-report

Congratulations, Softlink, for your on-going support for teacher-librarians.




National Year of Reading demands action on school libraries

1 02 2012


46% of Australian adults have everyday literacy problems and industry, government and advisory bodies say it is holding us back economically.

2011 NAPLAN results have shown a growing gap between the top and bottom students in literacy results. In the most recent PISA survey, Australia was one of only five countries that recorded a drop in reading and maths. (See SMH article 24 Jan. 2012).

Softlink studies have shown for two years in a row the correlation between school library staffing and funding and NAPLAN results.

In this National Year of Reading, what will the state and federal governments do to improve school library staffing and funding and therefore literacy?

Peter Garrett tried to sing us the same old song in his response to the 2011 House Report of the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians that it isn’t a federal government responsibility.  This is almost laughable if it weren’t so hackneyed and a blatant lie.

Here are just some of the things the federal government can do as it has in the past and is doing now to influence education policy and programs in Australia.

  • Ensure the Productivity Commission Schools Workforce survey include collection of much needed data on school library staffing, funding and scheduling.
  • Provide scholarships, as it does in other specialist teaching areas, to support increased numbers of graduate teacher librarians to fill the nearly 3000 vacancies, especially in the new BER libraries.
  • Support the re-introduction of lost university teacher librarian training programs.
  • Implement the Productivity Commission’s recommendation for a clearinghouse for school leaders which will include vital decision-making information on the value of quality school library services in student learning and literacy.
  • Establish a national advisory body on school libraries and national guidelines and standards.
  • Ensure NPAs for quality teaching do not result in loss of the specialist teachers which support quality teaching.
  • Support longitudinal research into the relationship between teacher librarian training and staffing and student literacy and learning outcomes.
  • Promote inclusion in pre-service teacher education of a unit of study on collaborative teaching of information literacy and literacy with teacher librarian mentor for improved quality teaching.
The books are burning, Peter Garrett.  Time to sing a new song.

School library budgets on the decrease – so are literacy levels

20 06 2011

Media Release from Softlink

Brisbane, June 21, 2011 

Findings from Softlink’s 2011 Australian School Library Survey revealed school library budgets are under threat and creating concern within the school community in relation to library resourcing, library staff development and literacy outcomes.

As the largest supplier of School Library Management Systems in Australia, Softlink’s survey focused on school library budgets, staffing levels, and how these factors related to student literacy levels. Over 1,200 Australian schools participated in the study.

The survey revealed four out of five Australian school libraries are struggling to cope with decreasing budgets, despite increasing demands to improve literacy outcomes and cope with digital resources.

Results indicate 28% of school libraries received budget cuts, with 16% of school library budgets experiencing more than a 10% decrease. Out of the of the schools which responded to the survey, 4 out of 5 school library budgets decreased from the prior year.

Mr. Nathan Godfrey, Softlink’s Chief Operating Officer, is concerned that school libraries and librarians are not receiving adequate support on both political and local agendas.

“The role of the librarian is rapidly evolving, due to increasing reliance on technology. Schools need to ensure that library resources are updated and relevant for students. Unfortunately, it seems school libraries are expected to do this on a diminishing library budget,” Mr. Godfrey said.

A report produced by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment titled School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia, noted a clear correlation between school libraries, teacher librarians, and student achievement, and confirmed this was not widely acknowledged.

“This finding is very important, for it has officially acknowledged what we in the industry have understood for a long time. If you have a good school library with qualified library staff and adequate resources, then this will be shown as a positive result in regards to literacy levels for students,” said Mr. Godfrey.

“It would be beneficial for the school community to understand these findings and acknowledge that the school library is in fact, central to student learning.”

Softlink aims to continue their research into Australian school library resourcing and school literacy levels each year, to help in highlighting the importance of school libraries and the library staff who manage these valuable resources.

To download the Report on Softlink’s School Library Survey Findings, visit http://www2.softlinkint.com/?au/softlink-australian-schools-survey 

Karen Gear

Marketing Manager 

p: 07 3124 6111 e: kgear@softlinkint.com w: http://www.softlinkint.com

Empowering Local Schools to dismiss teacher librarians

7 03 2011

Someone should tell the state premiers.  It’s been good spin for you for the past few years, but meanwhile who will be running your reading challenges when all the teacher librarians have turned out the lights? When all the books are left to parents to purchase for their child’s iPad or laptop?

Books of the Year? Sorry, can only afford to download Wind and the Willows and Alice in Wonderland and Macbeth.  Share those with bub on the knee.

What is it with Inquiries?  Do they give the imprematur to speed up the very practices being investigated for their negative effects?  Wrong word, of course. Imprematur is license to print.  We are talking here about the license to burn, discard, disregard the print.  Unless its out of copyright free print or disjointed, unverifiable, unedited, non-narrative print. Because you sure won’t find narrative non-fiction or a free Book of the Year on your laptop, Sally and Johnnie and Mohammed.

Mad?  Yes I’m mad! When I hear that the South Australian government has negotiated away any safeguard for teacher librarian positions, and school support officers are trying to cope with supporting teacher curriculum needs and students who need to be taught how to find reliable information.

Mad when I hear that Western Australia’s government is going full-steam ahead with its “Independent Public Schools” program. Teacher librarians of 20 years are suddenly supernumaries and feeling betrayed.  Library Officers get Level 2 pay to do a professional teacher’s job.  Teachers and students get short changed.

Do the real independent schools do this?  Hardly! New $8 million Resource Centre Learning Hub Libraries with four full-time professional staff speak loud and clear to prospective parents. (“Libraries turn a fresh page,” Sun Herald, 27 Feb 2011) They are saying, “We know quality libraries support quality teaching and learning.”

So what is Julia’s Empowering Local Schools policy really about?  Without the funds of independent schools, it can only be about shifting the responsibility and the blame. Even Julia knows that NAPLAN literacy results have been correlated with well-staffed and well-stocked school libraries.

So premiers, be sure you have a license for your bookmobiles. The challenge will be that the next generation can read at all.

Write a letter to your local federal member and to the House Education and Employment Inquiry committee now.