post from G Phillips
Federal budget time looms around the corner on the 12th of May.
Do we have anything to say about it?
You bet we do. Ask your federal member and senator now (then also ask your state member!):
The federal government will still be spending money on building new school libraries. How about staffing them?
We need to let politicians and the public know how inequitable school library services are in Australia, whether we have nice new “infrastructure” buildings or not. NT remote schools have no TLs. WA primary schools have no TLs appointed. Vic and ACT count TLs as part of teaching staff, may or may not have a teacher deployed in the library and do not require that teacher to be a teacher librarian. Probably one in 10 public primary schools in Vic have TLs. In South Australia in 2002 apart from those very small schools with no teacher librarian entitlement, a third of school libraries around the state were understaffed and/or staffed with unqualified personnel.
Even in Tas and Qld principals are being forced by inadequate staffing budgets to downgrade staff in school libraries, often to clerical positions. It’s not good enough.
Meanwhile, since the early 70s NSW primary schools have been staffed with trained teacher librarians. While too often used for teacher relief planning time, they nevertheless are professionally trained in collection management, literacy support, leadership, collaborative teaching and other unique TL professional standards. If we are talking about equity, I know we agree that ALL Aus students deserve professional school library services run by professionally trained TLs.
What can the federal government do?
National standards can be written for school library facilities and staffing, especially primary libraries.
Dollars can be allocated to increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs.
Federal state school funding can be tied to appropriate school library staffing levels.
The federal government will still be spending money on computers. How can we make sure students can use them?
MCEETYA (Performance Measurement and Reporting Taskforce, 2005) defines ICT literacy as being able to“access, manage and evaluate information, develop new understandings, and communicate with others in order to participate effectively in society” (Statements of Learning for ICT, 2006).
The Council of Australian University Librarians defines information literacy almost identically: “an understanding and set of abilities enabling individuals to recognise when information is needed and have the capacity to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (CAUL, 2005). Bringing these literacies (an example matrix) together should be a future aim for MCEETYA. A learning statement on information and ICT literacy should be supported by a national statement on the role of teacher librarians, teachers and principals in creating information literate school communities.
The federal government will still be spending money on a National Schools Assessment and Data Centre. Will they be collecting appropriate data on school libraries?
We must make sure that separate data is collected on teacher librarian qualifications, library staffing and scheduling and on library funding across all states and territories and all sectors. (See US example.) This must be part of the government’s “transparency and accountability” policy.
The federal government will still be spending money on improving literacy. The role of teacher librarians and school libraries must be recognized in these efforts.
The federal government could fund programs similar to the US Improving Literacy Through School Libraries grants program.
The government should fund research into the effect of well-staffed, well-funded school libraries on improving literacy. 1997 was one of the last in Australia! This study indicated that “Extensive use of the school library can increase literacy achievement by as many as 27 points. J. Masters and M. Forster. Mapping Literacy Achievement: Results of the 1996 national School English Literacy Survey. ACER, Melbourne, 1997.
International research speaks strongly. Teacher librarians give students the opportunity to read by providing materials of interest and books appropriate to each student’s reading level. In addition, school library programs provide ready access to books. According to Stephen Krashen it is unnecessary to urge young people to read more and understand the importance of reading because, given the chance, they do in fact read quite a bit, and they certainly do understand the importance of reading…. More access to reading results in more reading.
All literacy programs should explicitly recognize the central role school libraries have in “student achievement, literacy attainment, and preparation for post-secondary success” (Ontario Coalition for School Libraries) .
So let our federal members and senators know we expect to see school libraries targeted in the budget! Attach copies of your letters in comment space below. School libraries make a difference!