2016 Survey of TLs in Schools

13 05 2022

What the Staff in Australia’s Schools surveys tell us about teachers working in school libraries authored by Paul R Weldon, Australian Council for Educational Research.

Reform can fund school libraries

13 06 2013

Hello all,

Georgia here, back at the screenface.  In this lead up to the federal election and in face of the legislation for education reform currently being debated, I have been writing to those federal MPs who were on the House Inquiry committee. They are the ones who should be most aware of the value and decline of teacher librarian positions.  I thought they might be interested in events in the US where a group of senators ensured that the role of qualified school librarians is a part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Considerations are currently being made for amendments and changes before it goes to the US Congress.

My question is which legislators will speak up for school libraries in the current Gonski and national education reform debate?

We have received a response from at least one parliamentarian, which shows continued support.  Further debate will take place in the Senate next week re the National Plan for School Improvement, The Australian Education Bill 2012.  This is an opportunity for you to remind your local federal senator  about the role of quality teacher librarians in school improvement.  And a chance to lobbying your state government, if they haven’t signed up to much needed public school funding (Gonski) needed for staffing and resourcing school libraries.

Dear Georgia,

RE: Action for Teacher Librarians?

Thank you for the information from the US.

I share your frustration that the debate is currently about quantity, not quality.

Much of the real debate as to why we need the National Plan for School Improvement has been lost amongst the squealing of State Premiers who do not want to sign up to a school funding system that forces them to account where the federal dollars have actually been spent.

Although the Australian Education Bill has now passed in the House the debate will be in the Senate next week where further speeches will no doubt, be made.

Yours Sincerely,

Mike Symon
Federal Labor Member for Deakin
Phone: (03) 9874 4544
Fax:     (03) 9874 4644

Canberra Phone: (02) 6277 4255
Canberra Fax      (02) 6277 8451

email: Mike.Symon.MP@aph.gov.au
Mail: PO Box 232, Mitcham VIC 3132

NSW next in line?

11 10 2011

Currently, a campaign is being run by the School Library Association of NSW and the Illawarra School Libraries Association to lobby local members about the deleterious effects of LSLD on teacher librarian staffing.

Three politicians have been visited, with Noreen Hay, Wollongong MP, the latest (16 May 2012).

While Keira MP, Ryan Park, asked questions on notice on our behalf, and Pru Goward made a submission on our behalf, Noreen Hay, Wollongong MP, will present Notice of Motions to provoke debate in the NSW Parliament  on the effect of Local Schools, Local Decisions on public school libraries and teacher librarians.

The NSW Liberal government has announced its policy of school autonomy, Local Schools, Local Decisions, with devolution of staffing, budgeting and support services.  While BER difficulties showed that schools probably need some leeway in using local contractors and guiding their own building projects, local staffing without protection of specialist positions, decentralization of support services and global budgeting have not been shown to improve student outcomes.


The elimination of earmarked state funds for the library has had drastic results. According to the 2008 Australian School Libraries Research Project, almost ten percent of NSW schools had budgets under $1000, with almost half of those under $500. This is for all school sectors, so can only be a guide for government schools. This decline directly relates to literacy NAPLAN results according to surveys conducted by Softlink.


As for local control of staffing, we already know what has been the result for other states and territories.

  • In Tasmania, as a direct result of “self-management” brought in in 1991, secondary school teacher librarians lost their separate staffing entitlement (primary school teachers suffered this fate some years earlier). 67% of schools in Tasmania now do not have qualified teacher librarians.
  • In Queensland,  support for school based management (SBM) continues to affect school staffing. 10-15% of  Queensland government schools do not have qualified teacher librarians. Now seven state high schools on the Gold Coast have no teacher librarians.
  • In Victoria, Schools of the Future (1993), Kennett’s version of SBM, has seen the loss of at least 35% of qualified teacher librarians,  87% in primary schools. 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.
  • In the ACT,  School Based Management began circa 1997. 50% of government primary schools in the ACT do not have qualified teacher librarians.
  • 90% of WA government primary schools have no teacher librarians. Under the current government’s Independent Government Schools scheme now secondary TLs are being lost. At the Perth Inquiry hearing, WA DET stated that 77 out of some 800 schools have qualified TLs.
  • Under their new teaching award which no longer guarantees separate staffing of specialist teachers, South Australia is now losing its qualified teacher librarians, even in high schools.

All this with no convincing evidence to justify school based management on the basis of improved educational outcomes (Lindgard, 2002). Indeed, there is plentiful research to show that well-staffed school libraries correlate to improved student literacy and academic achievement.

Support services 

Until devolution, all states and territories had central resource and library support services.  Six are gone. WA’s is in decline. Recently, NSW School Library and Information Literacy unit was threatened by restructuring, but, thankfully, still exists. Such services advise on policy, review print and digital learning materials, support professional learning, provide bibliographic, central cataloguing and publication services. In NSW, these include the excellent journal SCAN, the Handbook for School Libraries, OASIS Library support materials, copyright information, and  teaching support materials embedding ICT use, IWBs, information literacy, ethical use, cyberbullying, plagiarism and social networking to demonstrate good pedagogy.  These are not services which can come from the regional or school level.

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.

Why do we need library technicians in our school libraries?

11 05 2010

Guest blogger, Kerri Cicolani, from Victoria writes:

I’m often asked what I do for a living and see the puzzled look on people’s faces when I say I’m a library technician and I work for the Department of Education in Victoria, where I run 3 primary school libraries. The majority of people assume that I’m a “Librarian” or a “Teacher”, very few admit to not knowing what a library technician is and I often find myself explaining the differences.

I’m not a teacher (they assume this because I work in a primary school). I’m not a librarian as that involves the “Librarianship” qualifications. I’m a “technician,” I run the “technical” side of the library.  Most still remain perplexed about the difference and that always entails more of an explanation!

I started in the school library many years ago without “qualifications” with a teacher who did have library qualifications, but not the current “teacher-librarian” qualifications of today. When she went on to greener pastures l worked alongside another teacher  who didn’t have any formal qualifications either, but we were both very passionate about the role of the library within the school and the services that we offered and the importance of the school library and its role in the curriculum.

Both my teacher librarian and I went on to gain more formal qualifications, and with learning became a different understanding about the differences in our roles and more importantly the services we could now offer our patrons. We can both undertake the administrative, clerical and budgetary running of the library; we are both able to assist our patrons with locating and retrieving information. We can create online web-based resources for classroom use, assist them in locating a book whether for project work or personal pleasure, produce displays;  provide input into planning sessions and the hundreds of other day-to-day tasks that are involved in providing a viable library service.

Whilst undertaking my study l focused most of my readings on the primary school library setting and was amazed at the research into the impact of school libraries and what suitably trained library staff could offer the school community. l begun to understand the differences in having some basic idea of my role to learning how l could enhance our library services with my new found training and with all that l was learning.  At the same time my teacher-librarian was undertaking her library qualifications and our understanding about our differences were becoming vastly evident. She no longer saw herself as a “keeper” of the books as it were, but someone who is fundamental in the learning outcomes of our students whilst providing peer support to her teaching colleagues at the same time.

Our natural progression saw our roles change and evolve over time to where l undertook all the technical aspects of running the library, cataloguing, maintaining the automated systems in all areas etc. thus allowing the teacher librarian to concentrate on her dual roles, that of the teacher and the librarian. Her expertise as a teacher and a librarian provided us with the opportunity to offer information to our patrons with a school library webpage that expanded our library beyond its walls in that l had the expertise in web design, she had the curriculum knowledge and we both had the ability to select suitable web content for our patrons.

I do not have a teaching qualification, nor do I have the desire to attain it. I love the technical aspects of my job. I love the cataloguing and revel in learning and teaching everything Web 2.0. l have a strong understanding of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards, but l lack the vital expertise of the teacher in a school library setting.  I cannot offer my colleagues the specialised knowledge that comes from having that teaching training.

Library staff work in isolation in a school setting, whether we are teacher librarians or library technicians. We all envisage a library service that includes digital content, a library programme rich in ICTs, web 2.0 capabilities, a library that allows our users to seek information from a wide variety of media sources, flexible timetabling, co-operative planning and most of all to not be seen as “time release” or “babysitting” for classroom teachers.

Many library technicians are employed in primary school libraries due to budgetary decision-making in schools as I am and I’m certainly very thankful for that! l successfully run 3 school libraries single-handedly and do an excellent job in all 3 libraries. Why? Because I have trained alongside a teacher-librarian and have been given the opportunity to learn all the aspects required to confidently run them.  But I reiterate I cannot fully offer my patrons that expert knowledge that a teacher librarian can.

Recently, I lost my last teacher librarian due to retirement and I am now responsible for that third library. If both teacher-librarians and technicians were allowed to work as they should, staff, students and the wider community would enjoy the benefits of boosted literacy achievement, students who have a love of literature and who are confident in seeking information in an abundant and media rich environment, where the library equips its users with skills in their quest for life-long learning.

A school library that is staffed by qualified teacher librarians and trained support staff is often the first step in helping students learn how to become ‘information literate’. A library program that is run in conjunction with an information literacy curriculum teaches students how to access and utilise relevant information, where and how to locate it and to be able to adapt it to suit their needs.

How will we ever be able to provide a viable library service if the fundamental differences between teacher librarians and library technicians are not seen? It should not be an either or situation, adequately staffed school libraries MUST consist of qualified teacher librarians, library technicians and library support staff who all by their very nature undertake different roles to provide a library service that is central to the user’s education. School leadership must take the time to understand these fundamental differences and ensure adequate funding to service library programmes within schools in the same way that they fund the curriculum programmes elsewhere. This begins with qualified library staff, and the rest is just a natural progression.

Reply to Piccoli from The Hub

26 02 2010

[hubbers] A. Piccoli, MP: NSW pilot and TL staffing

Date: 26 February 2010

Thank you, Mr. Piccoli, for your prompt reply.

One good thing about the league tables is that they do uncover the huge discrepancy between government and non-government schools when it comes to staff numbers.  You won’t see independent schools trading in teacher librarians (TLs). They understand how TLs help to deliver curricula, collaborate in teaching information skills, directly improve literacy through building and promoting exciting print collections and tailor print and digital resources to the needs of staff and students.

Teacher librarians, indeed, are not “less essential.”  Familiar with the whole school curriculum and trained to teach critical thinking and knowledge building, as well as contribute to literacy outcomes, classrooms could easily morph into libraries for the delivery of learning outcomes:-)

At Loftus there was no trading for more “front line” teachers.  The principal was trading a more costly, experienced teacher for a less costly one, plus extra admin staff, at the same time freeing up an AP from teaching….not “front line” and not teaching.

We must ask what training has the federal government given to  “these more autonomous” principals so that they are knowledgeable about the modern role of professional TLs? I state again:

o     no PD for principals has focused on supporting school libraries or the development of excellent TLs who improve student achievement;

o     no federal program has examined staffing, training needs, or use of teacher librarians to improve student literacy and learning;

o     no summary of the international and national research on best practice in school libraries has been made available to school leaders for decision-making

You are quite correct about underfunding in government schools. 75% of Australian government school libraries have annual budgets of under $20,000, With half of these under $5000, and one in six under $1000 per year for books, maganizes and digital resources to support teaching and learning. (Combes, B. 2008. Australian School Libraries Research Project: A snapshot of Australian school libraries, ASLA, ALIA & ECU.)

Meanwhile, 3/4s of Anglican school libraries have budgets over $20,000 (10% over $100,000!). 65% of Christian schools have budgets over $20,000. Almost 50% of Catholic schools have budgets over $20,000 (10% over $50,000).

At least in NSW we have had teacher librarians, many part time, in all schools. The staffing formula which supported this must be preserved. We also, do not opposed the National Partnership agreements which are bringing much needed funds into the most needy schools. The conditions of the NPA on Quality Teaching, however, must be changed to ensure that specialist teachers staffed outside of the establishment cannot be lost. Failing this, the NSW Government must make its own provisions to ensure that this cannot occur.

Every school deserves a qualified teacher librarian to improve literacy and academic achievement.

Thank you again for your time and consideration,

Georgia Phillips

co-founder of

The Hub: Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia


Devil-ution trade offs now hit NSW

12 02 2010

47 pilot schools in NSW are now trialing the flexible staffing arrangements already in place in the ACT, Tasmania and Victoria. This devolution of staffing and budgets to schools has seen cuts and trade offs which have worsened school library staffing.

“Loftus Public School in Sydney’s southern suburbs is a pilot school. When its teacher-librarian position became vacant last year, the principal decided not to fill it. As described to Federation, this ‘change to the staffing mix’ involves employment of a part-time school administration officer and a temporary teacher who is paid at the lower end of the incremental salaries scale.

On January 28, Federation wrote to the Department of Education (DET) to oppose what can only be regarded as an experiment to show that schools no longer need teacher-librarian positions. Federation argued that ‘this decision undermines the provision of Teacher Librarians to NSW public schools and denies the right of all students to be taught by suitably qualified specialist teachers. In this 21st century age of ever advancing knowledge, information and technology, it is unacceptable that the Department would allow a specialist teacher position such as Teacher Librarian to be unfilled. This has clear ramifications for every Teacher Librarian in NSW public schools.’

DET’s reply of February 3 confirmed that pilot school principals are being allowed to dispense with positions determined by state-wide formulae: ‘In accordance with the guidelines for Determining the Staffing Mix for the pilot…the principal reviewed the school’s structure in accordance with the School Plan and developed the staffing variation.’

Read the rest of Gary Zadkovich’s article in the NSW Teachers Federation online journal, Education. DET has yet to state what educational improvements are expected to result.  On the contrary, we know research tells us that qualified teacher librarians help improve student literacy and achievement.  In NSW this has been acknowledged with DET sponsorship of TL training and staffing of school libraries outside of the established classroom staffing. NSW has been a model in this regard internationally. Support NSW teachers in fighting deregulation of staffing and resourcing in public schools. Write to your local MP now.

Here is the related article from Sunday Telegraph, 14 Feb 2010

Principals begin axing their own teachers

SCHOOL principals have begun axing teacher positions under sweeping powers given to them by the federal Government.

A Sydney primary school has abolished its teacher librarian position, as part of a pilot scheme designed to give principals more control over school-based decisions.

This landmark case has raised fears that hundreds of other staff will lose their jobs.

Loftus Public School principal Martin Sinclair opted not to replace his retiring teacher librarian last year. Instead, he employed a part-time clerical assistant and a temporary, entry-level teacher.

The school is one of 47 participating in the program, which lets principals make more decisions on issues such as recruitment, staffing mix and budget. The two-year trial is part of the national partnership agreement on improving teacher quality.

The Loftus case is the first example to emerge of a school abolishing a teaching role, but teacher unions fear the move could set a dangerous precedent and lead governments to absolve themselves of responsibility.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Gary Zadkovich said it had ramifications for every teacher librarian in the State.

He warned that it could lead to school counsellors and careers advisers losing jobs.

BER in Queensland: New Libraries But No Books or TLs?

9 12 2009

A Guest Blogger (name supplied but withheld) from Queensland has contributed the following:

Maralyn Parker’s article in the Daily Telegraph (19 Nov 2009), about the Rudd government’s Building Education Revolution, has opened up an interesting debate. The comments on the blog which followed suggest that there are serious problems with the construction and staffing of libraries in many states.  In Queensland, problems are in two inter-linked areas:

1.     the direction provided to schools for the design and outfitting of the new  libraries

2.     the flexible staffing arrangements which allow individual schools to decide on TL time allocation.

BER Library Design

On the first of these issues, the Manager of Library Services for Education Queensland has no background in libraries or significant qualifications in that area. Yet this person has the authority to lead the implementation of the BER.  Library 21 seminars have been held throughout Queensland and bus trips organised to look at state-of-the-art libraries. The library was promoted as “the information and knowledge hub of a school and a key facility to the transformation of learning in schools in line with the contemporary rethinking of schooling”.  That sounds altruistic, but the Manager goes on to say: “Having said that – the role of the teacher librarian will be very different in the future”, and that is where the disjuncture begins.

The new library designs advocated are spacious, attractive and modeled on marketing books as evidenced in large, commercial bookstores.  Movable, flexible shelving, whilst appearing to display books more appealingly, cannot house the collections of books already held in schools. As the Manager of Library Services said on the Queensland TL listserv, “A library that is considered as a facility only for its custodial role of looking after books will no longer meet the needs of learners in the future.”  Culling on a massive scale is advised and thousands of great books discarded.  One school has been told to get rid of any books published before 2002.  So what happens to the classics and the treasured stories, thousands of which will never be available as e-books?  Another could only display Junior Fiction to the letter O because there was no more shelving space in the new design.  Such examples seem ludicrous, but are the reality of modern design being placed above functionality and practicality.

The move towards e-learning and e-books, whilst worthy, is not matched by the extremely poor state of technology in schools.  Kindles and the usage of e-books may well advantage adults who want the convenience of them, but dispensing with real books in favour of the computerised version is not a scenario suitable for schools – especially primary schools. Teachers who speak in favour of books are seen to be old fashioned and unwilling to take on the “brave new world of technology in the 21st century”, but our libraries have great collections of valuable books, and very few, if any,  Kindles.  Too many computers are in a sorry state and will not fill the void unless mega-money is put into their improvement.  Radical, knee-jerk reactions by the minority, causing wholesale change (quite possibly for political gain only), does not appear a responsible course of action for schools. Barbara Combes (2009) comments that empowering students from as young as primary school is essential if educators are to enable them to navigate an ever-increasing technological landscape.  A specialist teacher librarian in a school is imperative to teach students and teachers to efficiently and effectively research information,  understand cyber safety and provide access to quality multimedia that supports the curriculum.

Staffing of School Libraries

The second aspect of the future of effective libraries in schools is the key role of teacher librarians.  They should be vital members of every school staff, but are undervalued in some schools. An anonymous commentor from Queensland to Parker’s blog states: “In Q’ld state schools, every school with an enrolment of 300 or more qualifies for a dedicated TL position and the policy is that it be filled by a qualified person wherever possible.

In Queensland, principals have the authority to decide upon the allocation of specialist time within their own schools.  Depending upon the priority given to various specialist areas, time may be taken from teacher librarians and weighted in favour of music, physical education or LOTE.  If a principal is supposed to have a teaching load as well as an administrative role, he/she can re-allocate the time so that they are full time administration and the other specialists make up the shortfall by trading their time for the principal’s teaching duties.  In other instances, teacher librarians can be taken from their regular duties in the library to cover staffing absences or special programs.  In some schools, the principal has dispensed with their teacher librarian altogether and staffed the library with an aide, technician or an unqualified person. How many parents are aware of this situation? Parents of students in schools that value their teacher librarian may assume that all schools are similar in their access to high quality library service. The converse is true for schools where a trade-off has occured.

Until Education Queensland values its TLs’ contributions to literature, literacy and information literacy by making the time non-negotiable within schools, the full worth of these grand new libraries will not be utilised.

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.

Opportunity for Action at ASLA conference

24 09 2009

The Australian School Library Association Conference next week in Perth is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves as teachers, librarians, parents, writers, and citizens to reversing the decline of school libraries in this country.

The Australian School Libraries Research Project (ASLRP) by ALIA, ASLA and Edith Cowan University, provides us initial “snapshots” on the current state of school library services in Australia (Barbara Combes, 2008) .

What it shows is a great inequity between school library staffing and funding across Australian schools.

Budgets abysmal

The survey found that the majority of school library budgets are abysmal! Half of the government school budgets are under $5000, and one in six budgets are under $1000. In  NT schools, most of which are remote, over half have budgets under $500!

Staffing in declline

The survey showed that 35% of government school libraries have no teacher librarians.  Approximately two thirds of all schools have either no teacher librarian or less than one Full Time Equivalent (FTE) working in their school library. After the Northern Territory (5%), Tasmania (50%), Western Australia (almost 60%) and Victoria (65%) have the lowest number of TLs employed K-12 across all sectors. Instead there are high numbers of library technicians in Tasmania and Victoria and library officers in Western Australia.

Previous state surveys illustrate the downward slide. A discussion paper from the State Library of Tasmania noted a decline of nearly fifty per cent in the number of teacher librarians in Tasmanian schools in the period 1996-2000. (“Enhancing Student Outcomes with Improved Information Services and Provisioning”, 2000).

A position paper by the AEU Tasmanian Branch noted in 2000 that teacher aides were increasingly replacing teacher librarians, with one third of schools surveyed not having professional TLs. (“Leading the way: The changing role of the teacher librarian”). The ASLRP survey now places this at almost 50%.

While the ASLRP survey shows Victoria employs TLs in 65% of its schools, figures for Melbourne metropolitan primary schools may be even lower.   Reynolds and Carroll in 2001 found  that only 13% of primary schools had teacher librarians. (“Where have all the teacher librarians gone?” Access May 2001)

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 (Spence, “Survey highlights major problems with library staffing”, AEU Journal, 4 December 2002).

As Michelle Lonsdale stated in 2003, the “devolution of financial management to schools means that funding for school libraries relies on the resource allocation priorities established by the school community, which might or might not place a high priority on the need for a well-staffed library system.”  (Impact of school libraries on student achievement, ACER). There is pressure in all state departments of education for this devolution, flexibility and choice in school staffing. Teacher librarians, where they have existed, are often being “cashed in” for classroom or other specialist teachers, or pushed increasingly into the classroom themselves.

In 1988, the Australian Library Summit deplored the lack of statistics relating to school library services. There is still no systematically collected national data. ALIA and ASLA together with ECU have given us the beginning of those statistics to work with. The ASLRP has provided a complex set of results, with many variables yet to be analysed, but little in it paints a good picture of the state of school libraries in this country, especially government schools.

Anne Hazell stated in 1988, after the initial regression of the 1980s in school library staffing, that unless (TLs) … act as advocates for their chosen profession, it is unlikely that the profession will survive into the 21st century.”   We are well and truly on that edge.

So, here is a preview of The Hub’s conference paper, Getting the Word Out.