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.

Vote for the full Gonski

3 09 2013

A vote for the full Gonski has the best chance of increased funding for government schools. Cash-strapped principals can retain specialist teachers, such as teacher librarians, and resource iCentres/libraries to support quality teaching and learning.

Check out the stance of Labor, Liberal and Greens at http://igiveagonski.com.au/ to see the difference in their support for education.  Make your vote count for our children and students.

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


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.

A Bill of Rights for Students

10 02 2013

Every day on the professional TL lists, there are posts that clearly indicate that the role of the TL is still not understood by our peers and principals – one recent post even stated that the person worked for “a supervisor who genuinely believed TLs were on a different award from other teachers just so they could work before or after school if requested”. Other posts indicate that there are many instances in which the TL themselves are unsure of their role, particularly now the “Digital Age” has firmly settled on our schools.

If we, ourselves, are not sure where we sit within the teaching and learning paradigms of the school, how can we effectively advocate for a qualified TL in every Australian school? Perhaps it is time to take time to determine and define our role, both generally as a profession and specifically within our schools. How do we value-add to the work of both staff and students in ways that no one else can? Why are we teacher librarians and why do we need a post-grad qualification to have the right to call ourselves that?

Much is being made in the USA right now about gun control, and my interpretation of some of the arguments is that the objections are more about the citizens’ rights as laid down in their Bill of Rights being eroded than opposing the restricting of access to firearms. If a Bill of Rights is so inviolable, perhaps it is time for schools to develop and declare a Bill of Rights for their students, so that there is a document that approaches the purpose of the school from the students’ perspective. What is it that they have a right to within the school that is sacred regardless of who is at the helm? What should they expect to experience as the absolute intellectual, social, emotional, physical, cultural, ethical, pedagogical and environmental basics of their school experience? Then having determined those in line with MCEEDYA’s The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (which is the current blueprint for K-12 education in Australia) and the school’s philosophy (which may be shaped by a religious perspective, for example) how does the library help achieve those goals, and then how does the TL fit within that through policies, programs, procedures, processes, and practice?

Once the school community, including the parents, staff and students, have negotiated, ratified and implemented the Bill of Rights for the students’ overall education in their school, and developed a mission statement and a plan to ensure those Rights are recognised, accepted and achieved, then the TL can begin to find their place within that and identify how the library’s services and resources will support those rights and goals and their role in ensuring that happens.

There are a number of documents that can help shape this…

IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto

ASLA Statement on school libraries in Australia

AEU, ALIA and ASLA Joint Statement on school libraries and teacher librarians

ALIA and ASLA “Statement on library and information services in schools

ASLA School Library Bill of Rights

ALIA and ASLA Statement on school library resource provision

ASLA Statement on teacher librarians in Australia

ALIA and ASLA Statement on teacher librarian qualifications

ALIA and ASLA Standards of Professional Excellence

The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians

Other statements about resource based learning, information literacy, guided inquiry, funding and policy development are available on the ASLA website but it is also critical that we work within the Professional Standards for Australian Teachers because first and foremost we are teachers with recognised teaching qualifications which legally enable us to supervise and teach students in ways that non-qualifed library staff cannot.

The teacher librarian is unique within the school and therefore has a leadership role. Why not demonstrate that by starting a conversation about creating a Students’ Bill of Rights as the fundamental philosophy on which everything the school does rests?

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.

  • Teacher Librarian of the Year

    8 11 2012

    Congratulations to the Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year, Alinda Sheerman.

    She is in charge of Broughton Anglican College Information Resource Centre.

    Alinda states on her school library blog, “It was announced yesterday that I was the Australian Teacher Librarian of the Year 2012 What an incredible honour and privilege!”

    LSLD/Funding linked to outcomes: The truth will out

    11 04 2012

    [19] Plan may cost schools millions
    8 April 2012
    Sunday Telegraph – Page 24 in Local Section.
    THE NSW government plans to deny schools millions of dollars in school bank account interest used to buy equipment and classroom resources, but haven’t yet told principals and parents.
    Despite moves by the state government to give schools greater control of their budget and finances, school bank accounts will be controlled by the NSW Department of Education from October this year.

    7 April 2012
    The Australian – Page 1 in Local Section.
    FAMILY and money are the most influential factors in a child’s success at school, with elite independent and government schools serving students from well-off and well-educated backgrounds dominating the list of the nation’s highest achievers.

    Australian Teacher of the Year a Teacher Librarian

    16 10 2011

    Congratulations to Jo Sherrin from the Northern Territory!  and to all who work with her at Bradshaw Primary School.  As this year’s Teacher of the Year she is an example to all teachers and principals and departments of education of the contribution excellent TLs make to student learning and quality teaching.

    “Jo Sherrin is a highly accomplished and innovative teacher-librarian who consistently creates learning opportunities to meet the diverse learning needs of the Bradshaw Primary School community, of which 50 percent are Indigenous students.

    Jo’s outstanding teaching, particularly in foundational literacy skills, is based on sound educational research, a thorough knowledge of her students and the use of cultural and geographical experiences which connect students with their heritage and history and nurture a love of literature and learning. Jo is a founding coordinator of the highly regarded Children’s Literature in the Centre (CLIC) Festival.

    Jo’s inspirational contribution to the profession extends well beyond the local community. She is an active leader in the Australian School Library Association in the Northern Territory and is contributing to a trial of the new Australian English Curriculum.” AITSL

    There are 151 government and 35 private schools in the NT, yet only 22 staff in NT school libraries have any qualification.

    What a difference to the NT’s poor NAPLAN results, trained TLs like Jo could make in NT schools. The NT government must offer scholarships and placements.  Charles Darwin University must be supported to bring back its training course, so more students in the NT have the support of great teachers like Jo Sherrin.

    Garrett and Baillieu fiddle while Rome burns

    19 09 2011

    You wouldn’t want to be seen running a Woolies like Victorian principals are now running their school libraries.  Investments accrued over decades amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars are increasingly being left to be run by the “check out chicks” as “managers” are fired.

    That’s what continues to be happening in Victoria’s government school libraries. Less than 13% of primary libraries have qualified teacher librarians in charge, including the 248 new federally funded BER libraries at $2-3 million dollars each. And that’s just the infrastructure. Now secondary schools are being battered.  Three more qualified teacher librarians in large state high schools have been told they won’t be replaced on retirement or will be moved to other duties or into the classroom.

    This leaves multi-million dollar resource centres in the hands of technicians and volunteers. Does the state see this practice as good management? Do they run their own “corporation” this way? Where is the educational rationale and accountability?

    When Victorian schools went to ‘global budgeting’ in the 1990’s the writing was on the wall. Ever shrinking state budgets have meant that principals have had to cut here, cut there over the years.  Gradually, all non-face-to-face teaching positions have disappeared – careers teachers, teacher librarians, student welfare co-ordinators and so on.  Only the very biggest schools can still afford these.  Also, time allowance for positions of responsibility have reduced to the point of disappearing. Special payments for positions of responsibility are also in decline.

    Global budgeting is sold to the community as a way for principals and schools to determine their own needs.  In reality, they have become a means by which governments of all persuasions have been able to continually slash education budgets without having to wear the pain. “The school made that decision” is the constant refrain when a well loved program is axed.  Our situation is part of a much larger issue of declining education funding.  Over the past 20 years, education funding in Australia has declined, as funding in other OECD countries has increased.  We are now among the lowest funding countries in the developed world, 28th after Lithuania and Greece.

    Local control of local schools is fine for local projects.  But without adequate funding and without transparency in decision-making and accountability, it will only send us further down the educational and economic ladder.

    Meanwhile, we await the federal government’s response to the recently tabled report on the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians, if there are any left by then.

    20 September 2011

    The Hub (with thanks to P.M.)