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.


No Books? No Libraries?

17 12 2011

In 2007, COBURG SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL, VIC. was a new school with dispersed book collections, virtually no non-fiction and lots of computers. (See article in Access, Nov 2007 by  Jennifer Sargeant, Director of Information Resources).  The principal had said there would eventually be a library “of sorts.”  Is there now?

Also in 2007, MORDIALLIC SECONDARY SCHOOL, MELBOURNE, closed its library entirely, disposing of its existing collection “so that the space could be used for a VCE centre, with the remaining books split amongst each year level. No catalogue, no borrowing system.” Each year since, they had to buy duplicate copies of books for access.  No TL then. What’s happening now?

BULLEEN HEIGHTS SCHOOL, an autistic school in Doncaster, Victoria, didn’t have a library.  Children were using the public library. Are they still?

In 2008, the sole TL at a school of 1000 students was told that all of the non-fiction would be removed from the MACKAY HIGH SCHOOL, QLD  library. The rationale was that students in the era of the Internet do not need books to research information. Some walls in the library were knocked down to form one large area to house a mass of computers.

In 2011 the library, however, is still functioning and a thriving hub, though the non-fiction collection is much smaller.  A staff survey which opposed the removal of non-fiction may have stopped the change.

I am told that MACKAY NORTH HIGH SCHOOL, QLD was to divest itself of non-fiction [see update in comments, this has not happened.] as has CALEN SECONDARY COLLEGE, (P-12) QLD. What do students and staff and parents think?

In 2008, LUMEN CHRISTI COLLEGE, GOSNELLS, WA a consultant reviewing the library suggested the idea of getting rid of non-fiction and replacing the books with computers, because “students in the era of the Internet do not need books to research information.”  Awaiting update. (I would love to know if this “consultant,” who doesn’t know the recreational benefits of non-fiction, is still employed.)


The Principal of Henley High in November 2010, announced through the Messenger Press  that her school was going ‘Hi tech’, because “few books were borrowed from the library.” Within three years, she expected there to be no need for the use of that space as such. The photograph in the Messenger Press showed empty shelves behind the girl with her laptop near the fiction section that had been retained.  Many books have gone to other libraries which appreciated them. There is now no TL or library assistant. The library is now called a Senior Study Centre.

The worst aspect of it all was the reaction of DECS and the fact that the unnamed spokeswoman for the Department of Education when asked about the loss of the library simply said that schools were moving to computers. She seemed to be unaware that the Federal government has just spent billions putting libraries in schools, public and private, throughout Australia!

Departments of education in NSW and other states are using the coming into play of the Local Empowerment Policy to wash their hands of responsibilities for decisions by principals in schools. It saves so much $$!

Theoretically, school councils might be used as governing councils, but they can be told whatever the principal wishes and their advice can be ignored.

The Local Empowerment Policy, already being abused in WA through the Independent Public Schools program being set up by the Liberal government there, will allow Principals to have free rein but what about funding? There do not appear to be any guarantees built in for principals to include as essential members of staff either school counsellors – that’s why the push to chaplains – or teacher librarians. And in SA the newly negotiated agreement with the AEU has now excluded teacher librarians and school counsellors from the essential members of staff.

So now under a state government “Expanding State High Schools” program, MARRYATVILLE HS, SA Resource Centre looks to be replaced by a General Learning area where a reading room is now, a science building with an “Area supporting Resource Based Learning”, an admin office….in short dismantled and dispersed as at Henley HS.


The school has made the decision to remove all the non-fiction books from the catalogue, cull many and move the rest to the backs of middle school classrooms [sound familiar?]. Senior classes will be expected to rely solely on the internet or the online databases. Some fiction books will be kept in the library space which is being converted into a “digital break-out” space.

It’s all done with smoke and mirrors folks, and under the directorship of a regional director who has publicly stated that we don’t need libraries in schools any more. Many state schools on the Gold Coast now do not have a T/L (NB: Robina, Miami, Palm Beach, Currumbin, Nerang, Southport and others… and others with a teacher in charge who is taken off some classes and spends that time in the library [remember the “good old days”?]. As one deputy has stated, their teacher in charge “sets up displays and orders books”.

MT TAMBOURINE HIGH SCHOOL, Qld. was advertising for a TL for a library with NO books  Awaiting update.

AQUINUS COLLEGE, Melbourne is reputedly going paperless next year. What do these schools know about the availability and licensing of Australia history, art, industrial arts, health, sexuality, poetry, culture, etc. books in e-format that we don’t know?



Philippa Stevenson: Library’s return puts heart back into high school

The school library that was closed to be replaced by a cyber cafe was at Cambridge in the North Island of NZ.  The principal thought it was a ‘museum”.  She was eventually replaced when the decision was reversed because of the publicity and the Department of Education and government got involved.

Some US primary libraries are re-opening (though with no TLs, only volunteer parents many of whom are raising the  funds themselves to re-open their libraries: one school district in California, one in Philidelphia, a school in Michigan.  Clerks are being rehired in 2 Napa Valley schools to re-open their libraries. Belmont CA has rehired 3-4 TLs to reopen six primary school libraries 

And in Windsor Canada Catholic Schools are bringing back libraries and books!!   The Windsor Public Library and the region’s Catholic School system are working on a partnership to save the school board’s libraries from extinction. Last spring, the board made a controversial move to remove most of the books from its school libraries…..

Is there a message here?!

And the latest good news? The US Congress is set to approve $28.6 billion for school libraries.  Thanks to the heroic work of school library champion, Senator Jack Reed.  (Or should it be READ!:-)  Now where is our OZ champion?

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.)

The federal inquiry: where are we up to?

24 02 2011

The Federal House Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools has been resumed.  The re-constituted House education committee (now called the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment) is finalizing its report.

In fact, the new chair was quoted in the committee’s last media release: “Announcing the inquiry, Committee Chair Ms Amanda Rishworth, MP, said, ‘The Committee is very pleased that this matter will be revisited by the new Education Committee. Teacher librarians make a significant contribution in our schools and we look forward to sharing our findings on how to enhance this valuable community resource. ‘”

The committee will still take submissions. They hope to have a draft completed by the end of this autumn session and before the budget session. Your submissions might include updates on changed situations, such as that in South Australia where principals are now given carte blanche when it comes to staffing under the new state award.

Under such conditions, Victoria has only 13% of its primary schools staffed with teacher librarians.  If you are in a state school or are a state school supporter, you should be fighting for a dying profession and making your views known to your state AEU branch or association.

The AEU’s latest poll asks how you think school funding should be spent if public education funding were increased. Specialist teachers such as teacher librarians are not mentioned.  It makes you think they haven’t paid any attention to the inquiry and its strong message.  If you wish to let them know how you feel email aeu@aeufederal.org.au

If you are in Victoria or South Australia (or any state or territory!) you should be writing to your federal member and to your state member to urge them to renew the profession and to stop the extinction. There must be strong national and state school library standards. Teacher librarians must be visible in policies and programs which acknowledge their explicit value, with adequate support staff and funding, to student literacy and academic achievement.

Australia has been a world leader in having dual qualified professional staffing in its government school libraries.  Now NSW is the only state left to do so.  Federal National Partnership Agreements threaten TLs even in that state.

The Hub calls on our national and state professional associations, unions, childrens writers and book councils, parents associations and all teachers and teacher librarians and their supporters to come together in a national campaign. Now, before the budget session, and BEFORE the report recommendations are made, is the time to act for

A Qualified Teacher Librarian in Every School!

Victorians: Make them keep their promises!

30 11 2010

Victorian colleagues,
The Victorian former Shadow Minister of Education before the election had invited Victorian TL and other organizations to talk if they won. They have!
One idea which now might be discussed is amending the 2006 Education Act to legislate for qualified teacher librarians in all public schools libraries, with adequate support staff.
What do you think?


Here’s Martin Dixon’s letter:
Dear Georgia,
I am writing on behalf of the Liberal/Nation Coalition in response to your email regarding teacher librarians.
As a former primary principal and being married to a teacher librarian I can attest to the importance of the role.
Due to the parlous state of Victoria’s finances in which funding would not be available for the millions of dollars a year this would cost and also, due to the fact that our policy is written and costed, we will be unable to announce any new policy in this area before the election.
If however, we are elected, I would be very happy to sit down with your association to discuss this issue and how best to use the skills of our teacher librarians and enhance children’s literacy and research skills in Victoria’s Government schools.
Best wishes.
Yours sincerely
State Member for Nepean
Shadow Minister for Education

Victorian TL Campaign: Keep those letters coming

4 11 2010

Your letters are starting to have an effect!

Someone who knows a candidate has been told that teacher librarians are becoming an issue.

And a direct query has come from a politician’s office to find out more about staffing formulas in NSW!  (BTW, they are on the NSW Teacher’s Federation site: primary staffing and secondary staffing.)

So keep those letters going to:

Bronwyn Pike, Victorian Minister for Education  bronwyn.pike@parliament.vic.gov.au

Martin Dixon, Victoria Shadow Minister for Education   martin.dixon@parliament.vic.gov.au

Victoria Lower House Liberal candidates

Victoria Upper House Liberal candidates

Victorian Green Candidates

Victorian ALP members/candidates

Dear Candidate,

Research has shown that only 13% of Victorian primary schools are staffed with qualified teacher librarians, one of the worst rates in the country. Many schools employ library technicians and librarians (not certified as teachers) to run school libraries. 12% of these are managed by someone with no formal qualifications of any kind, including volunteer parents

In NSW  volunteers have not been running school libraries since before the 1970 Commonwealth grants. In NSW all schools are officially staffed with teachers who are also trained as librarians

With declining budgets, schools in Victoria are often forced to go for cheaper options, even when they know that teacher librarians make a difference to student learning.

The Federal Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians took evidence of over 60 studies internationally confirming this. Dual qualified teacher librarians make a difference to student literacy and learning. Reading scores rise. Students read more.  Their writing and spelling and vocabulary improve. Academic results improve regardless of socio-economic considerations.

Yet, the Victorian government seems unaware of the research. The Victorian government must take the initiative. If you truly care about literacy and student achievement, I ask you to support the staffing of government school libraries with qualified teacher librarians.

Do you support our campaign for a qualified teacher librarian in every school?

Your reply will be posted for all Victorians to see.

Thank you,


Victorian voter  address


Teacher librarians are…vital…, especially in schools where home literacy practices don’t…support school literacy practices.

1 11 2010

Bendigo Advertiser 1 November 2010  excerpt from  “Storytime in Eaglehawk” by Lauren Mitchell:

Fellow lecturer and Bendigo Regional director of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Sarah Mayor Cox says if parents read one story per day to their child, by the time the child starts Prep, they will have heard more than 1800 stories.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see how much more familiar those children will be with a really important and fun part of the school day,” she says.

“They will be able to sit and listen for longer, and will be able to discuss more confidently the story they have just heard.

“Who wouldn’t want to give their children a head start like that?”

Sarah says local schools are working very hard to make sure they are offering the best literature programs possible, however governments needed to do more.

“I think the biggest contribution the community can make is to urge politicians to put education at the centre of all their policies and to fund education better,” she says.

“The federal government is currently conducting an inquiry into the state of libraries in schools.

“Twenty years ago, most schools had a qualified teacher librarian. Their role was to connect students with books and resources, needed for pleasure reading and for educational purposes.

“This isn’t the case anymore, and I don’t think many of the community realise this.

“Teacher librarians are of vital need, especially in schools where home literacy practices don’t value or support school literacy practices.