27 August 2010
The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia/
Illawarra School Libraries Association
NSW government to cut teacher services to save money
In yet another attempt to bring its financial house in order, the NSW government has ordered a review of services, including those to schools and school libraries. The proposed restructuring to save on duplication will instead eliminate some vital services entirely.
In the past, NSW School Library Services had 10 education officers, 4 librarians and 8 support staff. Both Liberal and Labor governments terminated many such central support services, including regional consultancies. The School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit which remained has had a manager and review coordinator, journal editor, 3 librarians and 2 technicians. Its journal, SCAN, remains the only state teacher curriculum support journal. Its contribution to the national schools cataloguing database is the largest, along with Western Australia.
“In an attempt to save some 7% in costs, half of these positions will be lost,” says Georgia Phillips, co-founder of the Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia. “Not of ‘duplicate services,’ for there is no other body providing advisory services to schools concerning their libraries or reviewing teaching resources. No other body runs professional development targeting teacher librarians and school libraries. No other body advises the NSW DET on library and resource policy.”
“The recent DET exercise in envisioning the future of 21st C school libraries,” says Mrs. Phillips, “was a lengthy collegiate online forum led by overseas and Australian academics. It now seems a wasted effort, its recommendations ignored. Once again money comes before teaching and learning.”
Margaret Cooper, President of the Illawarra School Libraries Association says, “I have been a teacher librarian for 20 years and I am horrified to think that DET will be withdrawing specific support for school libraries under the proposed restructure.”
“Teacher librarians,” says Mrs. Cooper, “are unique members of school staffs. We are virtually on our own and without the support of the School Libraries team, teacher librarians will struggle to provide many learning opportunities.”
“The Unit provides website development support and promotes new digital learning tools to enable students to make sense of the vast amounts of information available on the internet. Having attended one of their courses this year, even my experienced eyes were opened and I have started using new digital tools that I had not had time to research on my own. Yet their training role has been eliminated.”
“Many teacher librarians,” says Mrs. Cooper, “have very limited administration time and without the training and support of the School Libraries Unit, teacher librarians will not be providing the services that 21st century schools need, which is, ironically the aim of the restructure. Why would anyone consider removing the very leadership that will ensure that teachers adopt and use the digital learning tools that our students deserve to encounter in our schools today?”
Jane McKenzie, teacher librarian and assistant principal at the small country school of Quirindi, also expressed her concern. “The Department’s own submission to the federal Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians now looks a sham. It affirmed the vital role of school libraries in learning and the need to ‘ensure equity and capacity for libraries as dynamic, high-tech 21C learning centres’ yet now it proposes to undermine these.”
“The unit gives statewide policy and procedural support to school leaders, holds purpose built workshops and generates teaching and learning support materials statewide for teachers,” says Jane.
And Jane asks, “Aren’t all public schools, even remote ones, entitled to quality digital and book resources, advice and support on 21st century resource and information services, the best in terms of literature and non-fiction books (e-books and databases) that support authentic, enquiry based learning?”
“Is the name of the game” says Mrs. Phillips, “really about improving learning and literacy, quality teaching and school leadership, or is this only another cost cutting exercise to save a government on its last breath?”
Georgia Phillips, The Hub 0419423570, 42942966
Margaret Cooper President ISLA, 4295 1334, 043-837-7391
Jane McKenzie, Quirindi PS (02)6746 5748, 0429074443