What’s Happening with School Libraries?

20 04 2017

Rick Susman, Managing Director of the Booklegger and founder of the Book Bank Initiative, is interviewed by Jon Faine and Sally Warhaft. (Broadcast Wednesday, 26 April on ABC Melbourne 774 Morning show.)  Catch up online.


Australian School Library Survey

15 05 2013

Research studies continue to show that library programs run by a trained teacher library improve student literacy and learning. These studies provide important evidence of the true value of libraries in schools and support our ability to effectively advocate the role of teacher librarians.

One survey which goes a long way to help reinforce the value of our industry is Softlink’s Australian School Library Survey. Since 2010, this survey has identified a positive link between well-resourced libraries and student literacy (NAPLAN) results.

The 2013 Australian School Library Survey is now open.

We encourage school and teacher librarians to participate in the survey and ensure your voice is heard.

The survey will again this year analyse Australian school library budgets, qualified staffing levels and literacy results as well as other key trends impacting school libraries. The results will be provided in an industry-wide report. A copy is distributed to all participates as well as federal and state government and education department decision makers.

For more information please visit the Softlink 2013 Australian School Library Survey.

SHOUT for Literacy and Libraries

21 07 2011

More cuts to library services, now in the public arena.  In times of global economic crisis, libraries which provide internet connections, newspapers, magazines, narrative non-fiction, e-books, audio-books, p-books are needed more than ever.  While I haven’t been able to locate figures for Australia, over a quarter of UK children and young people do not own books.  Without books in the home, school and public libraries become even more valuable.

PISA reading test results (2009) for Australia show the gap is widening between higher socio-economic status readers and lower ones.  The gap is the equivalent of three years of schooling.

What would help overcome this gap? Books, books and more books!  As Professor Stephen Krashen has found over many years of research and study,   “It has been firmly established that more reading leads to better reading (and writing, spelling, vocabulary and grammar), and that more access to books results in more reading” (Krashen, Lee and McQuillan, 2010).  The most fiscally responsible way to provide these books is through public and school libraries.

Yet the recent literacy educators conference in Melbourne had nary a reference to the role of libraries in literacy.  Why?  Could it be that so many literacy teachers have no libraries in their schools? Or if they have them, they are poorly funded and inadequately staffed? Most do not have qualified teacher librarians to network with colleagues, book councils, booksellers and publishers and read professional reviews to select the best reading, whether it is e-reading or p-reading, for their unique student body.  Could it be that teacher educators, even literacy educators, have had little experience in excellent school libraries and do not pass on to pre-service teachers knowledge of the role of TLs in literacy learning?  Could it be that principals have little to go on to justify expenditure on TL staffing and library funding?

Yet if we truly believe that it is the right of every child and citizen to be able to read and to have fiction and narrative non-fiction and picture books and e-books and manga and graphic novels and iPad ezines and biographies and folklore and fairy tales and stories of exploration and invention and imagination, then we must all SHOUT FOR LITERACY AND FOR LIBRARIES!

Let your local council, your local newspaper editor, your local talkback host, your local school principal, your state government, your federal representatives and opposition spokespeople know,  children and adults need libraries to be well funded and well-staffed as never before.

To assist in this, The Hub is establishing a new information site to connect teacher educators, principals, teachers and TLs.  Your practical ideas would be appreciated. Contact hellohub@gmail.com

SHOUT FOR LIBRARIES is the catch cry of Patrick Ness, winner of the 2011 Carnegie Medal, in his acceptance speech.  It was sent by The Hub to every state and federal education minister with a request to:

  • Insist on National Guidelines for quality school library services.
  • Offer scholarships now for training places, as in NSW.
  • Put teacher librarians and libraries into federal and state policies on literacy and the national curriculum.
  • Tie literacy grants to teacher librarian staffing.
  • Ensure National Partnership Agreements and awards can not trade off specialist teachers, such as teacher librarians.
  • And read the speech in full!

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.

BER in Queensland: New Libraries But No Books or TLs?

9 12 2009

A Guest Blogger (name supplied but withheld) from Queensland has contributed the following:

Maralyn Parker’s article in the Daily Telegraph (19 Nov 2009), about the Rudd government’s Building Education Revolution, has opened up an interesting debate. The comments on the blog which followed suggest that there are serious problems with the construction and staffing of libraries in many states.  In Queensland, problems are in two inter-linked areas:

1.     the direction provided to schools for the design and outfitting of the new  libraries

2.     the flexible staffing arrangements which allow individual schools to decide on TL time allocation.

BER Library Design

On the first of these issues, the Manager of Library Services for Education Queensland has no background in libraries or significant qualifications in that area. Yet this person has the authority to lead the implementation of the BER.  Library 21 seminars have been held throughout Queensland and bus trips organised to look at state-of-the-art libraries. The library was promoted as “the information and knowledge hub of a school and a key facility to the transformation of learning in schools in line with the contemporary rethinking of schooling”.  That sounds altruistic, but the Manager goes on to say: “Having said that – the role of the teacher librarian will be very different in the future”, and that is where the disjuncture begins.

The new library designs advocated are spacious, attractive and modeled on marketing books as evidenced in large, commercial bookstores.  Movable, flexible shelving, whilst appearing to display books more appealingly, cannot house the collections of books already held in schools. As the Manager of Library Services said on the Queensland TL listserv, “A library that is considered as a facility only for its custodial role of looking after books will no longer meet the needs of learners in the future.”  Culling on a massive scale is advised and thousands of great books discarded.  One school has been told to get rid of any books published before 2002.  So what happens to the classics and the treasured stories, thousands of which will never be available as e-books?  Another could only display Junior Fiction to the letter O because there was no more shelving space in the new design.  Such examples seem ludicrous, but are the reality of modern design being placed above functionality and practicality.

The move towards e-learning and e-books, whilst worthy, is not matched by the extremely poor state of technology in schools.  Kindles and the usage of e-books may well advantage adults who want the convenience of them, but dispensing with real books in favour of the computerised version is not a scenario suitable for schools – especially primary schools. Teachers who speak in favour of books are seen to be old fashioned and unwilling to take on the “brave new world of technology in the 21st century”, but our libraries have great collections of valuable books, and very few, if any,  Kindles.  Too many computers are in a sorry state and will not fill the void unless mega-money is put into their improvement.  Radical, knee-jerk reactions by the minority, causing wholesale change (quite possibly for political gain only), does not appear a responsible course of action for schools. Barbara Combes (2009) comments that empowering students from as young as primary school is essential if educators are to enable them to navigate an ever-increasing technological landscape.  A specialist teacher librarian in a school is imperative to teach students and teachers to efficiently and effectively research information,  understand cyber safety and provide access to quality multimedia that supports the curriculum.

Staffing of School Libraries

The second aspect of the future of effective libraries in schools is the key role of teacher librarians.  They should be vital members of every school staff, but are undervalued in some schools. An anonymous commentor from Queensland to Parker’s blog states: “In Q’ld state schools, every school with an enrolment of 300 or more qualifies for a dedicated TL position and the policy is that it be filled by a qualified person wherever possible.

In Queensland, principals have the authority to decide upon the allocation of specialist time within their own schools.  Depending upon the priority given to various specialist areas, time may be taken from teacher librarians and weighted in favour of music, physical education or LOTE.  If a principal is supposed to have a teaching load as well as an administrative role, he/she can re-allocate the time so that they are full time administration and the other specialists make up the shortfall by trading their time for the principal’s teaching duties.  In other instances, teacher librarians can be taken from their regular duties in the library to cover staffing absences or special programs.  In some schools, the principal has dispensed with their teacher librarian altogether and staffed the library with an aide, technician or an unqualified person. How many parents are aware of this situation? Parents of students in schools that value their teacher librarian may assume that all schools are similar in their access to high quality library service. The converse is true for schools where a trade-off has occured.

Until Education Queensland values its TLs’ contributions to literature, literacy and information literacy by making the time non-negotiable within schools, the full worth of these grand new libraries will not be utilised.

How will we keep their legacy? Pt. 1

11 11 2009

Roy Lundin.  Joyce Fardell.  Margaret Trask. Jim Dwyer. Laurie McGrath. John Gorton. Malcolm Fraser.  How many of us know what they did for the school libraries we now work in and which our children love?   Jim Dwyer’s ACE Archival Brief No. 7 tells us.

There were no school libraries to speak of before Professor Sarah Fenwick’s study visit to Australia in 1964 was commissioned by the Library Association of Australia, now ALIA. (Fenwick, S. 1966. School and children’s libraries in Australia: a report to the Children’s Libraries Section of the Library Association of Australia Cheshire, Melbourne)

“Libraries of substance at that time were virtually non-existent in primary schools. At secondary level most schools had a classroom set aside as a library, with a collection limited in size, scope and recency, due mainly to an almost total lack of trained library staff.” (Dwyer, 2009)

Fenwick’s report formed the basis for the building of a coalition and a movement.

“By 1966 the calls for Commonwealth intervention to provide financial support for libraries in educational institutions had grown apace. These calls had come from not just the LAA but also other bodies including the Australian School Library Association (ASLA), state and private school authorities, teacher associations, school councils and professors of education. Of special note was the backing of the Australian Teachers Federation (ATF).” (Dwyer, 2009)

The LAA then established the Committee on Federal Aid to Secondary Libraries with Dr. Andrew Fabinyi as Convenor and Margaret Trask as secretary. They worked for four years “on contacting the widest possible range of education-related bodies to seek their support and advice and encourage their active involvement.” Fabinyi and Trask met with Senator John Gorton, Minister for Education and Science. “It was at this meeting that Gorton, strongly supportive of the committee’s aims, suggested that a meeting with Prime Minister Harold Holt might be advantageous. The suggestion was followed up and on 12 December 1967 the Prime Minister replied, agreeing to arrange a meeting early in 1968.  Sadly, within a week the Prime Minister was missing, presumed drowned.”

When Gorton became Prime Minister,  Malcolm Fraser was appointed Minister of Education. At a meeting with Fraser in May 1968, it was agreed that Federal aid should be provided to train secondary teacher librarians and stock school libraries.  $27 million was allocated in the Federal Budget in August. A committee was also formed to establish standards. The entire scheme was eventually overseen by the Schools Commission established in 1973.  They appointed a separate committee to extend the program to primary libraries.

Thus the efforts of the many groups involved came to fruition.  School libraries were established with trained teacher librarians to oversee their management which changed teaching practice, to resource-based, inquiry learning.  The Commission was also responsible for computer generated catalogue studies and the initial funding of the Australian Schools Catalogue Information Service (eventually SCIS). Jim Dwyer goes on to say “Without doubt this was one of the few truly successful national, cooperative endeavours in Australian education history.”

Next Pt. 2: 40 years on

Teacher Librarians: A Dying Breed?

11 06 2009

NSW Children’s Book Council President, Carol Keeble, has written a fine editorial in this month’s newsletter urging all who value books and literacy to lobby local, state and national legislators about the need for teacher librarians and school libraries.  We post it here with permission.


Teacher Librarians: A dying breed?

Teacher Librarians: A dying breed?


Click here for a sample letter with current correspondence with the Shadow Education Minister, ChristopherPyne.