Keeping their legacy Pt 2: A national review

15 11 2009

Few are still with us who led the campaign for our school libraries in the 60s and 70s.  There are no more state supervisors of school library services.  There are no more state school library services.  In fact, one is hard pressed to find any mention of school libraries on some state and territory department of education websites.  Try to find a reference on the Vic or ACT or NT DET sites. And the state of school library staffing and funding has been described in a previous blog.

State School Library Services

Well staffed state services which provided training, policy advice, advocacy, publications, resource lists, school visits, and even management of school library placements are now a thing of the past. The larger states have had services restructured as curriculum support with reviewing and cataloguing for SCIS, some policy revision and limited PD. NSW does this with a staff of only 5 (close to 60 in the 70s!). Qld still does excellent Curriculum Resource Reviews, but has no school library support personnel as such.

Tasmanian schools have lost their School Library Service, and are left with one librarian in the State Library to advise on the new automated school library system.

WA has no school library service as such but CMIS provides (excellent) curriculum resource evaluation (7 FT and 3 pt time) and SCIS cataloguing (8) and PD when asked.  They offer school library support through their website, phone advice, blogs and now tweet.

South Australia’s School Library Services Branch is gone, as are their regional school library advisors, with one officer currently, managing the Premier’s Reading Challenge.

So who is available to advise state departments of education on school libraries?  Who supports schools in their efforts to build quality library services  which support teaching and learning? Much of this has been left to the professional associations, national, state and local.  However, according the ASLRP survey, less than 50% of TLs belong to ASLA and ALIA, the major sources of TL PD.

So after 30 some years since the federal school library revolution, we now have BER libraries being built but not professionally staffed,  no Schools Commission or state policy advisors, limited or no support services to schools, limited DET PD and, with the end of Commonwealth grants and compensatory GST funding, it’s back to parent fund-raising for school library resources.  Overall, a drastic decline since the 1970s, especially if you contrast this with the webspace, policies, and support infrastructure for ICT in schools!!

TL training programs

We see the same pattern in TL training programs.

There was a big response to federal funding for trained teacher librarians after the reports of the 70s. Something like 15 TL training courses were mounted at universities and CAEs. Now we have three specifically for TLs.* “Despite the progress made there is still not a qualified teacher librarian for every school. Indeed the dearth of qualified teacher librarians is again a concern.”  (Henri and Freeman, Tlship at CSU: then and now, 2006)


The third change effecting school library staffing is in the “devolution, flexibility and choice” of staffing.  TLs in Tasmania, for example, lost their separate staffing entitlement.  Increasing self-management meant schools now have to choose between having a TL or another teacher, also the case in Victoria.  Qld has moved toward the same flexibility. And NSW is about to have a “trial” of 47 schools in school-based decision-making on budget, staffing mix and recruitment.

A Commonwealth initiative is needed such as has just begun by petition in the UK to “make school libraries, run by properly qualified staff, statutory.”

Call for a National Review

Our petition for a qualified TL in every school, then, will be presented with this request: That there be a national review of school libraries in Australia, the first in 35 years. [Note: The letter has now been sent]

Such an inquiry should include:

  • The lack of useable government data for decision making on school libraries and data collection from state education agencies
  • The shortage of qualified TLs
  • The need for national standards, including agreed role statements and qualifications
  • The school library and TL in teacher pre-service and in-service ed. – in literacy, collaborative teaching, information literacy, etc.
  • Explicit policy and curriculum recognition of role of TLs and libraries in literacy and learning
  • A national curriculum for Information Literacy and ICT
  • The need for sponsorship of research on the effect of school libraries on student learning, literacy and academic achievement
  • School library funding equity, including the cost of digital information services in schools
  • The role of school libraries in indigenous literacy
  • Sponsorship of university tuition fees to qualified teachers wishing to retrain as teacher librarians. (See the NSW DoE sponsored retraining in teacher librarianship)
  • The re-introduction of undergraduate teacher librarianship programs in Australian universities through the sponsorship of positions in those Bachelor of Education programs that offer teacher librarianship as a teaching specialisation.
  • The decline of central support services in each state.

In other words: The 21st C school library: what should it look like to maximize equity and student learning outcomes?

Comments encouraged! 🙂  GP


University of SA, Monash, Kuringai CAE, RMIT, Canberra CAE, University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, Ballarat CAE, Gippsland CAE, Tasmanian CAE, University of NT

Still here: CSU, QUT, Edith Cowan. There is also a University of Tasmania partnership program with Edith Cowen.

Sign our petition now

20 10 2009

Sign our petition now

According to a recent survey of Australian school libraries, 35% of Australian public school libraries have no professional staffing. Tas, WA, Vic and the NT had the lowest number of teacher librarians (TLs) employed.

Yet, “a strong library program that is adequately staffed, resourced and funded can lead to higher student achievement regardless of the socioeconomic or educational levels of the adults in the community” (Lonsdale, ACER, 2003).

We, at the Hub, call on the federal government to ensure that all Australian primary and secondary students have access to a school library and a qualified teacher librarian.

As it has done in the past, the federal government is in a position to influence state school library funding and staffing. To do this, they can: collect national data on school library staffing, funding, and scheduling; tie funding so that states can and must adequately staff and fund school library programs and services; require that literacy programs and other national curricula should explicitly recognize the central role school libraries have in student achievement, literacy attainment, and preparation for post-secondary success; develop national school library standards; increase teacher librarian training positions in university programs.

All Australian students deserve 21st century schools staffed by 21st century professionally qualified teacher librarians.

Join us in our petition to the federal government. (Write your own state petition!)

This petition will be presented through MP, Sharon Bird, to the Minister of Education, Julia Gillard and her counterparts, Christopher Pyne and other parties’ education spokespeople, to the House Standing Committee on Education and Training.  Ms Bird is chair of this committee.

Signatories are urged to add their own comments for stronger impact. Please spread the word to teachers, parents, principals, authors, librarians, booksellers, and all those who support strong, well-staffed school libraries.

Do we want something from the budget?? You bet!

28 04 2009

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?

Julia Gillard has stated (see letter attached) that it is likely that COAG will be considering the need for better data on teacher librarians. 

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!



A day in the life of a TL

10 04 2008

During the last few days, our counter clicked over 15,000 views.  Yay!  Here’s what one of our many readers has submitted to us for personal delivery to Julia Gillard’s office next week. Many thanks to this TL for sharing her thoughts.  I hope it encourages TLs and others to take the time this weekend to send in their stories.  Just because we don’t have any current Australian statistics yet doesn’t mean we sit and do nothing.  Last week I met a teacher who works in one of the largest state primary schools in Melbourne, and they are about to lose their only TL.  This is the kind of information that needs to be put forward, not just the facts and figures. 

Why I love my library!!
I work in a private P-12 school of around 400 students. The first year I taught I had a full time TL working beside me. However for over 12 months now I have run the library solo due to budget constraints – no support staff at all and very few computers (4 at present down from 15). Any support I get comes from parent volunteers who are not trained – I am grateful for their willingness to support the library but it is not ideal.
My inspiration to keep going are the kids in my school.

I have opened the doors at luchtime to all (K-12) and find I have between 40 and 90 kids  in the library during this time (numbers depend on the weather – when its wet or cold its crowded). Its a little chaotic but the kids are being exposed to information and literacy. We have storytime (parents reading picture books), drawing, colouring, chess, study, reading, exploring photo albums, socialising, etc. and the list continues to grow and evolve. It is truly wonderful that the students see the library as a “cool place” to visit. And yes even year 8-10 boys come and hang out!! It is no longer the place where the anti-social or unlikeable kids come to hide – they get to mingle with the whole school and make friends in the process.

I am particularly proud of are my seniors (yr 10-12’s). They are asking for books to read and then giving me feedback about the books that I’m giving them. It is truly remarkable to see these kids reading for pleasure often after a comment from one of the boys to the effect of “I’ve never read a book all the way through”. To see the excitement on their faces as they ask for a new book is priceless.

There is so much more I want to do for these future generations but I am only one person. I am a teacher, I am a librarian, but I find I am expected to be on supervision as well as on call 24/7 whenever anyone needs me and unable to leave the building. This expectation does not allow time for co-operative planning and programming or team teaching in classrooms and is incredibly isolating.

We need state/federal set guidelines for mandatory staffing levels. We need state/federal set guidelines to determine the number of computers in libraries. We need state/federal set guidelines for minimum collection requirements (ie: resources per student / teacher). We need state/federal set guidelines for the floorspace required for a school library. We need state set guielines for the timetabling requirements for teacher librarians. I would also love to see NSW publish an information literacy statement  (ie: what each grade level should be able to accomplish) that is available online to all.

These guidelines would mean that principals and teachers have a better idea what is expected, what is best practice and the potential of the school library and its staff is in their planning and teaching.

(Name withheld)

Secret library business

8 01 2008

A little known fact about having a teacher librarian in your school is that she/he is more than one person.  A great teacher librarian is networked with TLs throughout Australia online and involved in regular local gatherings.  So when your school employs a teacher librarian, they are really tapping into the collective knowledge and experience of hundreds of school library professionals, who have amply demonstrated over the years the strength and loyalty of their collegiality, born in the pre-internet days of inter-library loans.  It’s kind of like the Borg*, but with more comfortable shoes, and much less evil intent.

Here’s how it works.  An English teacher comes to me and says, “My Maori students loved reading Whale Rider.  I don’t know what else to suggest that they might enjoy”. So I say, “Leave it with me, I’ll get back to you”.

Now, New Zealand fiction isn’t my strong point.  If you want classic sci fi, then I’m your girl, but in this case I am only temping in this school, so there isn’t time to adjust my reading habits to suit the student demographic. So it’s off to the Batphone, or in this case, the computer.  Shortly afterwards, I send off my question, and the first response takes only a few minutes.  Within the hour I have produced a fairly decent list of book titles and authors held by the school library.

Upon presentation of said list to the English teacher,  he is suitably impressed. In the unspoken law of TLs, I do not mention the online consultation, and take full credit for the result, just as I expect my colleagues to do whenever I am able to help them out.

At University, we called it “The Invisible College”.  Yes, there are lots of different avenues to find information, but sometimes it is easier and faster to just ask someone who knows.

So is this a big secret I shouldn’t be telling the non-TL world about? I hope not. Principals in particular need to be aware of these networks, especially when interviewing candidates who will be the sole TL in their school.  It is part of ASLA’s Standards for Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians, a document that every principal should read.  Point 3.4  states that teacher librarians should “actively participate in education and library professional networks”.

Does your school have a member of The Invisible College?


*The Borg are a fictional pseudo-race of cyborgs depicted in Star Trek. The Borg are depicted as an amalgam of cybernetically enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organised as an inter-connected collective with a hive mind, inhabiting a vast region of space with many planets and ships, and sophisticated technology. – taken from Wikipedia, the hive mind of the Internet.