Target: September 14

31 01 2013

The date of this year’s federal election has been set as September 14.

So that gives TLs a little over seven months to target the two key groups who have the most influence over our futures – parents and politicians.

Parents can be your strongest allies and your greatest critics. But they have the power and the voice at the ballot box so it is essential that they understand what it is the TL really does. Starting on the common ground of wanting to provide the best education for their child, it is critical to involve them in what is happening in the library by keeping them informed if not actually in there.

  • Have a prominent presence through your newsletter, website or social networking media and keep them regularly informed of what each class is undertaking while in your care; events; new releases of books or movies, whatever you think they need to know. Make yourself or your presence their go-to place for information. Regular communication makes the library the hub of the school.
  • Provide homework support with links to curriculum-related websites, safe game sites for each age group; and other interesting sites that will engage them and support their learning and leisure activities
  • Provide a parent information lounge both on your website and in your library with information about the school, child development, supporting their child’s literacy and numeracy development, cybersafety, local services and entertainment for children (collect brochures or link to sites), help lines such as the Poisons Information Centre or Lifeline, even lists of appropriate authors, titles or series for each age group for birthday or Christmas lists.
  • Collaborate with other teachers to host parent participation programs in which the parents learn how to listen to their child reading; help with homework without actually doing it; search without Google (or tips and techniques about using it effectively); understand information literacy; anything that they feel that they might need. Be the pivot on which the relationship between the home and school balances.
  • Support parents reading with their child, particular those who have just started their education journey, by having grab bags of seven selected titles, that parents borrow like a resource box. There are enough appropriate books for a new title every night, are easily available and borrowed in one transaction. (Enlist some mums or dads who sew to make you some distinctive bags, each one a little different so it’s easy to remember which has been borrowed. Put the barcode on a keytag and attach it to the handle.)
  • Create links with your pre-school, even having regular storytime sessions with them if that is practical. The younger the child, the more involved the parent so educate them early.
  • Speak at P&C meetings about what you do so the word spreads that the school library is a very different place from that which they might remember.
  • 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.

    They are driven by power, economics and votes. Most have high ideals and are 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.

    Despite the National Inquiry raising the awareness of the role of the teacher librarian amongst some federal politicians we are yet to see any meaningful change from their recommendations, so it is time to apply the pressure again. Even though the federal government continues to say that staffing is a state government decision, nevertheless with the Prime Minister’s stated focus on education in the election campaign, we now have another opportunity to get our voices heard.

    If local politicians, actual and would-be, are kept informed of what it is the teacher librarian adds to the education experience of their constituents and 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 preferences 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 candidates need a school for a photo opportunity, a launch, a place to place funds, it’s your name and face that come to mind.

  • Invite them to any library-based function you have but look for unusual celebrations – the Unique Selling Point that will make your event stand out – such as a student-organised Literary Luncheon, a poetry reading by a local poet, a book launch by a new author or illustrator – anything that is also likely to attract the media so they can have a photo opportunity
  • Invite them to be guest readers, bloggers, speakers, artists or presenters, especially celebrating students achievements based on library challenges. Do a lot of the legwork for them such as

       booking well ahead, including information about the importance of the event with the invitation, sending a reminder with a background brief and an indication of what they are expected to do – it’s about getting them to value the library not necessarily save them work. They will come again if you are PROFESSIONAL.
       selecting the book and getting it to them in advance to practice
       suggesting the focus of the blog post such as their opinion of any proposed educational legislation
       have them be a focal point of your citizenship studies so they talk about what they do
       if you know they have a passion for poetry, drawing, music or whatever invite them to perform as part of a school-based event. It doesn’t matter if it’s not library-related, it’s about reinforcing the connection.
    • Email, write or phone them to let them know how decisions affecting the employment and deployment of teacher librarians affects the teaching and learning in the schools in their electorates – let them know that the parents are the voters who will keep them or not.
    • If there is something such as the NSW Local Schools, Local Decisions policy that is really going to impact on the teaching and learning at the school, make an appointment and visit them. Be prepared and demonstrate how the issue will affect the families in the electorate rather than your employment. Keep in mind that votes talk and there are more parents than teacher librarians.
    • Start planning your campaign NOW – and share your ideas through the Comments.

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  • 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?





    The 2013 Challenge

    1 01 2013

    There’s a certain symmetry about 2013. The calendar won’t have any of the pretty patterns of the last 12 years like 12/12/12 but 20 + 13 = 33 and if you convert 2013 seconds, you get 33 minutes, 33 seconds! Just perfect for a reading challenge that will follow on neatly from the National Year of Reading 2012 and keep the library at the hub of reading in your school.

    Challenge both staff and students to read for 33 minutes, 33 seconds as a whole-school session to kick off a year of reading for this time on at least 13 occasions during the school year. Given the Australian academic year of 40 weeks, that’s about once every three weeks of trackable, traceable opportunities that can show your school is doing its bit to try to improve those global reading rankings. Invite the local media along to the kickstart so the word is spread and there is a sense of accountability to continue. Formally schedule those 13 sessions into the school’s program, perhaps instead of an assembly or pastoral care session, so that they are must-do events that everyone, including staff, participates in.

    Use the challenge to reach out and show those who think that because Internet access is so easy, books in libraries are not necessary that they still have a very real place in the education of our young. The format may vary but story is as old as humanity.

    Have the students help you organise 13 Literary Luncheons and invite prominent community members, particularly political candidates in this election year, to come to read aloud to the students. Make each session for a target age or interest group rather than aiming for one-size-fits-all each time. (Offer to help them with selecting an appropriate title, and prepare a tips’n’tricks sheet with suggestions for successful reading aloud because it can be daunting for the uninitiated.)

    Introduce students to new titles, authors, genres, and series that they might like to explore and challenge them to try 13 somethings that they haven’t tried before. Devise ways for them to share their new discoveries with their friends. Get them talking and writing beyond the library’s walls about what they’re doing.

    Help students track their individual 33.33 sessions with a catchy slogan, an online or print record, and a certificate to acknowledge their efforts. Make their efforts achievable, visible and valued. Hold a celebration presentation and invite the media to that too.

    Schedule 13 newsletter or blog posts that inform parents about the challenge, about how to support reading at home, about titles, authors, series and genres that their child might like, about anything that connects the library to the learning of their child.

    Start 2013 with a focused, structured plan that immediately puts the library at the hub of the school for the year – it will spread like ripples in a pond. And share your ways of building on 33.33 and 13 so we can all learn from each other!





    What is your local member doing for NYR?

    12 02 2012

    This year is the National Year of Reading 2012.

    Time to ask your local state and federal member:

    • How many government schools in your electorate do not have dual-trained teacher librarians in charge of their libraries? Of these, how many are new or refurbished BER libraries?
    • How many government secondary and primary schools in your electorate do not have centralized school libraries?
    • Are you aware of the well-researched link between literacy and well-funded and professionally staffed school libraries
    • Are you aware that there is no research linking principals’ right to hire and fire with increased literacy and learning?
    • In this National Year of Reading, what strategies will you put into place to assure students have the advantage of a qualified teacher librarian in every school, such as increased funding and scholarships for teacher librarian tertiary training and adequate funds to government schools so that they can afford to staff teacher librarians?

    I look forward to hearing from you regarding your support for literacy and the advantages of a teacher librarian for students in your electorate.

    Make the National Year of Reading count!

    See one response in the comments from Greg Combett, and what you might write back.  Don’t let them wiggle out of facing the issues. And you have asked fair questions.  Demand answers, not evasion and buck-passing.

    The Shadow Minister of Education in the ACT has responded positively to our plea to “Please ask the government what they are doing to ensure that the funds/staffing points are there to support specialist staff and that the tertiary training programs for teacher librarians are reinstated and scholarship incentives provided so that principals who want qualified teacher librarians will be able to get them.”

    See his speech in Parliament at http://on-demand.parliament.act.gov.au/speeches/on_item/4802  four minutes almost at the end.  You will be surprised to at last hear a politician advocating for teacher librarians!!

    And through Questions on Notice in the NT, Peter Chandler has been able to get us all the statistics on school library staffing.  Of 151 government schools, only 13 qualified teacher librarians!





    Letter to Queensland Minister of Education

    26 10 2011

    Hon Cameron Dick MP
    Member for Greenslopes
    Minister for Education and Industrial Relations

    24 October 2011

    Dear Sir

    I am writing to ask you for your vision of the role of teacher-librarians in government schools.

    The federal government has recently funded the rejuvenation of many school library facilities across the state. Regrettably, they have not followed up with funding to enhance school library services.

    However, while this building revolution was underway, a federal Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools was initiated. The report of the committee has been tabled  and includes 11 recommendations which would provide an ideal framework to reaffirm this investment in student learning.

    Many of these recommendations accord with the best practices revealed by almost 20 years of statistically validated research, the first 15 years of which is summarised in the report School libraries work! [2008]. Please take the time to read this.

    (You can also view the related video at http://vimeo.com/16509918 .)

    A pertinent quote from this report (p.4) states:

    An abundance of evidence strongly supports the connection between student achievement and the presence of school libraries with qualified school library media specialists (the US equivalent of teacher-librarians in Australia). When library media specialists work with teachers to support learning opportunities with books, computer resources, and more, students learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardised tests scores than their peers in schools without good libraries. 

    Softlink International has analysed NAPLAN results from Australian schools in 2009 and 2010 and detected a similar relationship. Amongst other findings, they reported that “there is a significant positive relationship between a school’s NAPLAN reading literacy score, the school library’s budget and staff allocated to the library. [From the Executive Summary.] The full report is available here.

    Yet, contrary to all of this readily-available evidence, principals of many state schools in Queensland are diminishing their library services by removing teacher-librarians and replacing them with unqualified support staff; and at worse, abolishing library facilities and services altogether. With the impending implementation of the National Curriculum, these deficits will prove critical in those schools.

    At the same time there are several principals who do implement best practices in their libraries. Ironically, these are most succinctly stated in the Enterprise Bargaining agreement with the Queensland Teachers Union, which can be read in their brochure. Regrettably it does not cover secondary teacher-librarians and it should. This brochure states, “This position was put on the record in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission in 1997 and remains the Departmental position.

    If that is the case, why is there such a wide range of opinions regarding the value of teacher-librarians and library services amongst principals in government schools? Why are schools not being audited to ensure that they are conforming to this agreement – which is after all, a legal agreement? Why is the Department not promoting this position to its principals instead of allowing them to follow their own opinions and therefore placing at risk a value-adding investment, both financially and in the learning achievement of students?

    Why are teacher-librarians expected to advocate their role in their own schools to prove their worth – or lose their existence? No other group of teachers is expected to do this. Surely it is the Department’s responsibility to inform principals on the best ways to take educational advantage of this valuable investment.

    So, to return to my original question, what is your vision of the role of teacher-librarians in Queensland government schools?

    With respect, please do not just forward this letter to be dealt with by a Departmental officer. I have had that experience and they simply do not address the real issues. I am hopeful to hear your personal views.

    Your sincerely and faithfully

    Kerry Neary

    Queensland Citizen

    Retired Teacher-Librarian





    Peter Garrett, your time is up NOW

    6 09 2011

    It has now been over three months since the report on the federal Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians has been tabled in parliament. (Listen to MP Karen Andrews from the education committee speak to the report on YouTube.) It is time to urge the government to respond.

    Use, or adapt, this letter to call on your local federal member to let federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett, know it’s time.

    Then use this second letter to call on your local state/territory member to declare their support for school libraries.

    Both letters ask for them to sign up to a School Library Service Declaration.  Please return any signed declarations to hellohub@gmail.com  for posting.

    It’s time for the federal and state governments to commit to quality school library services.





    New government formed at last. Two more coming up soon:-)

    8 09 2010

    It has been an exciting fortnight with many  changes and programs negotiated by Independents and Greens to form a Labor government. It seems more real work got done than in all the campaign bru ha ha!  The central role of Rob Oakeshott, who was a member of our Inquiry committee, was especially exciting.  Let’s hope he will still bat for us whatever role he plays in the future. We wish him well.

    Meanwhile we still wait for the votes to be finalized and seats to be declared. Then Parliament will resume and  the new House Committee on Education and Training can be officially formed.  This should happen in the next few weeks.  Hopefully the “new” committee will be charged with completing the report for our Inquiry.

    In the meantime, two state elections are coming up.  Associations and lobby groups should be planning now in Victoria for November, and in NSW for next March.  What is it you want to tell your state senators and MPs?

    Should we be working on making school libraries statutory as happened in Washington state, or is the object of the UK campaign.

    Joyce Valenza’s  checklist for survival shows decision makers what you could be doing if they gave you the time!  Mark Moran in Forbes.com last March, advocated for needing TLs even more in these e-times.  Whatever way you decide is the way for you, the time has never been more right for getting the word out there!