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.


NSW Teachers Union negotiates to save specialist teachers under LSLD guidelines

2 06 2014

The NSW Teachers Federation has successfully negotiated with their state department of education for principals to be able to use Gonski funding to retain specialist teachers, such as teacher librarians.

“Federation successfully advocated that schools should use this funding to create whatever new staffing positions they sought, rather than trade off existing positions and jeopardise the overall entitlement in the future. If a school demonstrates that they can do away with an assistant principal, head teacher or teacher-librarian position today, why would Treasury in the future continue to fund the existing number of positions? As evidenced in Victoria, this reduction in provision is what the devolution agenda is all about.”

While devolution in staffing decisions has meant the trade off of some teaching positions for others, to the long-term detriment of these positions, this does not have to happen in NSW. See full article at “New policy to determine staff mix in schools” by Gary Zadkovich (Education newsletter of the NSW Teachers Federation, 2 June 2014)

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 connect2tls.info. For parents at My School Library. GP


Teacher librarians could soon be left on the funding shelf

14 10 2012

Opinion piece in today’s SMH by Anna Fienberg

October 15, 2012

The library is a magical place, inhabited by a cast of invisible people who conduct their lives off stage, yet when introduced to us can transform our world forever.

The library is the heart of the primary school, and it is the teacher librarian who brings it alive.

Yet a slow erosion of this position is under way and a permanent loss of such a fundamental person in our primary schools would have devastating consequences in the lives of our children. Originally a full-time position, regardless of the size the school, the days worked by teacher librarians are now dictated by the number of students.

Read more


BER staffing: The Hub asks for Questions on Notice

2 11 2011

One way to try to get information out of governments is to get members to ask Questions on Notice of Ministers, written requests for information often requiring detailed responses concerning government administration.

In an attempt to get detailed information on government school library staffing, and especially BER library staffing, the Hub has contacted an opposition member in each state or territory to ask their Minister of Education for figures on the qualifications of persons-in-charge of their school libraries.

We have had questions asked in 6 of the 8 parliaments:

QLD Bruce Flegg, Shadow Ed Minister, has asked a QoN* on 11th October.

ACT Meredith Hunter, Greens leader, has asked these Questions on Notice* on 11th October.

NT Shadow Minister of Education, Peter Chandler, has asked Questions on Notice. Complete staffing statistics for NT govt schools were provided in response in February 2012.

SA Greens MLC, Tammy Franks, has put these Questions on Notice*.

Vic Sue Pennicuik, Greens senator, was to ask the QoN at the end of October.

NSW  Senator John Kaye, Greens education spokesperson, asked these questions* on 24 Octber during Budget Estimates.

WA‘s Green’s MLC, Alison Xamon, asks our QoN in September 2011. Shadow Minister, Ben Wyatt, has not responded.

Tasmania‘s Shadow Minister, Michael Ferguson, has not responded.

*See our original question and the questions asked here.  As you can see it is a tricky business for some pollies to interpret your question accurately.  Yet the issue has been raised and replies may be useful.  If you are in Tasmania and think your local member can help please contact hellohub@gmail.com

Open letter to WA politicians and parents

11 08 2011

Good Morning,

This is an open letter to all politicians in Western Australia, schools and parents from the Western Australian School Library Association (WASLA).

You may not be aware that one of the final stages in the devolution of education in this state has now occurred. All resourcing and support for government schools and their libraries is now almost totally devolved to the school level. DET used to provide some centralised support through a Curriculum Materials Information Service, but this is being decommissioned. DET is also shifting responsibility for managing libraries, selecting resources and caring for students to unqualified personnel – level 1/2 Library Officers and Library Technicians. A new initiative of DET, Professional Institute of Learning, is to provide PD to LOs and LTs in these TL tasks. These library personnel are being asked to take on professional duties such as teaching and supervision and the duty of care for students, plus the management duties, of a qualified teacher librarian.

WASLA wants to alert all politicians to the changes currently occurring, largely by stealth, since there has been no announcement as far as the Association is aware.

What does this mean for schools and education in WA?

.  For teachers and students the newly built school libraries are not staffed by teacher librarians (TLs). School library resources may not reflect best selection criteria to meet the needs of all students and be relevant to the curriculum (particularly the Australian curriculum with particular resource requirements). The qualified teacher librarian is trained to provide a wide range of resources across all reading, cognitive levels and formats to support learning across all curriculum areas and all children in the school.

.  The gap between the independent and government schools has now widened considerably. Independent school libraries have been shown in a 2007 survey (Combes, B, Australian School Libraries Research Project, 2008) to have much better staffing models than government schools. We now have a 2-tiered education system in WA – one for the ‘haves’ and one for the ‘have-nots’, one with several TLs/librarians, and one with Google.

.  Without teacher librarians there will be no one in schools whose specific role is to support literacy and information literacy. Our 15 year olds have some of the lowest literacy NAPLAN scores in Australia. Adult literacy levels in Australia also rank below other countries (Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, 2006). Over 40 years of international research, including the OECD PISA Report in 2002, indicate that professionally staffed libraries make a significant difference to academic achievement and literacy levels, even overcoming economic disadvantage. ACER research as far back as 1996, Mapping Literacy Achievement, indicated that higher levels of student English literacy achievement are associated with use of the library. 2012 is the National Year of Reading – who will be actioning this initiative in WA government schools?

.   The Federal Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians has just released its report. We await the government’s response. Meanwhile, NSW already staffs a TL in every school but the smallest. At the Federal Government Inquiry session held in Perth last year DET’s response was to shift responsibility for staffing back to the school level. Education in WA is moving forward according to an outdated devolution agenda first set during the Burke tenure of government in the 1980s.

.  With the transfer of DET section Curriculum Materials Information Service out of the department of education, and with the termination of their book reviewing services and resources database, there is virtually no resource support for WA schools. This will impact significantly on smaller rural/remote area schools which do not have trained personnel or in some cases have libraries that are so poorly resourced that curriculum programs are not supported at all (Australian School Library Research project, 2008). For teachers in these schools the lack of support has significant ramifications and will impact even further on the attrition rate of new teachers (up to 30%).

Devolution of education as first promulgated by the Burke Government was always part of the era of economic rationalism and the transition of an essential public service (education) to a business model. Since staffing is now also controlled at the school level, the demise of libraries and an information specialist (TL) in schools is almost complete.  This comes at a time when information access and the skills to be able to manage and use information are major issues for students entering tertiary study and the workforce. Information overload is the single greatest issue for people trying to cope in today’s society.

WASLA would like the politicians of WA to respond to the general public and explain why we have a 2-tiered education system in WA, why education in WA appears to be out-of-step with other Australian states and current federal government initiatives, and why the state government is not taking action to ensure equal opportunities in education for all children across Western Australia.

Yours sincerely

Barbara Combes,

President WA Operations, for WASLA, http://www.wasla.asn.au/

Email: bcombes@ecu.edu.au

A message from the heart

12 06 2011

From South Australian, Erica Jolley, to her network of academics:

I’m passing it (see message below) on to as many as are interested in seeing Australia not following the American way. In South Australia, all students are to have ‘portals’, not into their minds and hearts, into electricity and power grids, subject to breakdown – that’s the Budget leaflet from the Minister for DECS – We know we must stay connected to the technology which is driving the way the world operates but we narrow the options, we decrease avenues for learning when we focus so solidly on one avenue for the gathering of information. It is not even real learning.

Real learning is when heart and mind take in wonder, feel, touch, taste, smell, and begin to differentiate this from that in the world away from the screen and fingers on a keyboard. I listened to what is happening with Centra on the School of the Air. So many breakdowns in communication. So much frustration for children.

Libraries, in school, and in the communities, are the ‘safety net’. With so many more students of a multi-cultural background in our public schools, the roles of libraries as ‘safety nets’, and the role of teacher librarians as assistants to the wider range of avenues for students, teachers and members of the community – parents – is vital.

We need the Federal government to support the re-establishment of courses for Teacher librarians and to protect the libraries that still exist. Once the books, non-fiction books in the case of one school, and other media materials are dispersed, if they are documented and available in a subject area – if that has happened – their role in the interconnection of avenues of discovery and learning is lost. Sound education, not just the schooling of the young through mechanical ‘portals’, broadens the horizons, helps students to think through and concentrate on complex ideas as their capacity to learn, feel and understand develops.

Equity in education will demand that we fight for a broader vision, not just force students into a different kind of sausage factory. Please, everyone, make an effort to help the Federal government to see what is the ultimate cost if libraries and teacher librarians are allowed to be lost because Principals, through the Local Empowerment Policy, can decide they are ‘redundant’ in a ‘hi-tech’ world. We need action from the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, and from the Minister for Tertiary Education, Chis Evans, as well as action in the States and Territories.

Have a look at the item Ian Purcell sent me please. See what has been happening in USA. We have a tendency in this country to wonder where something went and valuing it when it is irretrievable. The report re School Libraries and Teacher Librarians did not push for action now. We do not need more reports. We need to protect the school libraries still in existence and bring in teacher librarians where they have been lost. And training takes time.

Thank you,  Erica Jolley,

Education/Health liaison, Australian Federation of Graduate Women-SA

On 10/06/2011, at 5:09 PM, Ian Purcell wrote: Erica, I thought you might be interested this article on Libraries as Safety Nets http://www.care2.com/causes/education/blog/libraries-are-part-of-the-safety-net-no-wonder-governments-hate-them/


From Georgia Phillips, 25 May 2011

On Monday and Tuesday, politicians from both sides of the House spoke in support of the School Library Inquiry Report in Parliament. Wonderful speeches, full of understanding and support….and all because of you who signed the petition and made submissions and appeared as witnesses!!

You can find the speech by Amanda Rishworth, Labor SA (current education cttee chair), who tabled the Report, and Deputy Chair Ramsay, Liberal, SA, in  Monday’s Hansard pages 11-13.  They were alloted 10 minutes. See <http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/reps/dailys/dr230511.pdf>

They then referred the Report for further debate in the Main Committee.  Yesterday, 24th May,  more time was able to be alloted, and many of the original education committee members as well as current members  spoke eloquently of the plight of teacher librarians and the need for the recommendations. Here are some excerpts.

Karen Andrews, Liberal, Qld: “At a local level, I have seen the wonderful work done by teacher librarians as they work directly with students. I support their ongoing roles at school as they work directly with students. I support their ongoing roles at school and I will continue to support the schools in McPherson and especially the teachers, principals, headmasters, heads of school, students and teacher librarians.”

Alan Tudge, Liberal, Vic:”The library itself may have changed in terms of its focus and the technology and skills required; nevertheless it still has a very important place in Australia’s schools. Hopefully the recommendations arising from this inquiry will further enhance the importance of school libraries in Australia’s school systems.”

Sharon Bird, Labour, NSW: “I commend the chair, Amanda  Rishworth, the member for Kingston, for the work that has been done and all members of the committee in following up and  producing this final report. I do so in particular because the issue was originally brought to my attention as a result  of an online petition that had been running amongst teacher librarians. They were particularly concerned about the fact that in the digital age, for some reason—I think we gathered a lot of evidence that is reflected in this report about why this was happening—people were coming to the view that teacher librarians were not necessary in schools, where in fact quite the opposite could well be argued to be true.

With the depth, complexity and breadth of information available to young people today, they need an experienced navigator more than ever to assist them in assessing the source, the legitimacy and the value of information that they are accessing, in particular, online. It was something that, particularly  as a former teacher, caught my attention.”  READ HER ENTIRE SPEECH pages 105-106!!  Sharon Bird, as a former history teacher, DOES understand the issues and the need for qualified TLs.

Deborah O’Neill, Labor, NSW: “I come to this assessment of the inquiry and its report from the point of view of being a teacher myself. I have never been a librarian and I have always held  them in great esteem. The access that teacher-librarians have provided for my own children in the primary context has been a transformational learning experience…I recall, very fondly, a teacher-librarian who worked at my school during my secondary schooling….Without a framework that articulates the importance and the centrality of our teacher librarians and the work that they do, they become extremely vulnerable…There can be no possible way that it would ever be okay, not only for the students but for the teacher themselves, to put a poor teacher [into the library]…, regardless of whether they are delivering a curriculum or delivering critical digital literacy, critical thinking and critical  support for students in a teacher-librarian context inside a library. This goes to the heart of the professionalism that is required. The professionalism of the teacher librarians that I, along with my colleagues on the committee, took evidence from was absolutely outstanding. They deeply understand what a teacher librarian can bring to learning and to life outcomes for young people.”

Mike Symon, Labor, Vic: “We found that private sector schools overall greatly valued teacher librarians and used teacher librarians as a selling point to attract parents to their schools. It was a fairly simple argument that they put to us, and it came from many sources: having teacher librarians in our schools improves our results….Whereas some state systems were inclined to use teacher librarians as relief staff if a teacher was sick or could not attend class for some reason, that certainly was not the case in the evidence that we heard from the private schools. As a better qualified person than a ‘standard’ qualified teacher, if that is the right description, the teacher librarian has knowledge above and beyond, and to be put into a position where you can be called away from your job at any time to go and mind a class because someone is not available really undervalues the profession.” He included ALIA’s definition of a TL with an emphasis on information literacy.

“It was very interesting to hear that in many cases the role of a teacher librarian directly suited the role of a digital gatekeeper for information. I must say, I had not thought of that at the start of the inquiry, but by the end of the inquiry I was quite convinced that this is a new and expanded role for teacher librarians. It probably builds the case more than ever for having teacher librarians in greater numbers in as many schools as possible.”

Yvette D’Ath, Labor, Qld: “. I note the comment of the chair in the foreword of the report: The Committee was advised that Charles Sturt University’s second semester intake of students into its Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) had doubled in 2010, and, it was suggested that the publicity surrounding this inquiry may have been a factor in the increased numbers being attracted to the teacher librarian profession. If that is what this inquiry did, if it does nothing else, that is a fantastic result.”

“Recommendation 3 is: The Committee recommends that the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority include statistical information about the breakdown of all specialist teachers, including teacher librarians, on the My School website.

This recommendation was made because it became clear that we do not know what specialist teachers we have in our schools. We found out in Queensland that you may have done a masters in teacher librarianship, you may be a specialist in this area, but when you register in Queensland as a teacher there is not even a category to identify yourself as a specialist in this area. That needs to be rectified. It also showed once again that we do not have consistency across the states. If we want consistent outcomes then we have to have consistency across the states on … I look forward to forwarding copies of this report out to those teacher librarians in the schools so that they can see what their effort to bring information to us has resulted in with these recommendations.”

See <http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/reps/dailys/dr240511.pdf> Pages 103-110

I wholeheartedly agree with Mike Symon when he states, “I certainly recommend that report for reading by the wider public and especially the education sector.” It can be found at <http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_representatives_Committees?url=ee/schoollibraries/report.htm>

Congratulations all! Now its time to get our message to parents and other politicians!!

Georgia Phillips