School library budgets on the decrease – so are literacy levels

20 06 2011

Media Release from Softlink

Brisbane, June 21, 2011 

Findings from Softlink’s 2011 Australian School Library Survey revealed school library budgets are under threat and creating concern within the school community in relation to library resourcing, library staff development and literacy outcomes.

As the largest supplier of School Library Management Systems in Australia, Softlink’s survey focused on school library budgets, staffing levels, and how these factors related to student literacy levels. Over 1,200 Australian schools participated in the study.

The survey revealed four out of five Australian school libraries are struggling to cope with decreasing budgets, despite increasing demands to improve literacy outcomes and cope with digital resources.

Results indicate 28% of school libraries received budget cuts, with 16% of school library budgets experiencing more than a 10% decrease. Out of the of the schools which responded to the survey, 4 out of 5 school library budgets decreased from the prior year.

Mr. Nathan Godfrey, Softlink’s Chief Operating Officer, is concerned that school libraries and librarians are not receiving adequate support on both political and local agendas.

“The role of the librarian is rapidly evolving, due to increasing reliance on technology. Schools need to ensure that library resources are updated and relevant for students. Unfortunately, it seems school libraries are expected to do this on a diminishing library budget,” Mr. Godfrey said.

A report produced by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment titled School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia, noted a clear correlation between school libraries, teacher librarians, and student achievement, and confirmed this was not widely acknowledged.

“This finding is very important, for it has officially acknowledged what we in the industry have understood for a long time. If you have a good school library with qualified library staff and adequate resources, then this will be shown as a positive result in regards to literacy levels for students,” said Mr. Godfrey.

“It would be beneficial for the school community to understand these findings and acknowledge that the school library is in fact, central to student learning.”

Softlink aims to continue their research into Australian school library resourcing and school literacy levels each year, to help in highlighting the importance of school libraries and the library staff who manage these valuable resources.

To download the Report on Softlink’s School Library Survey Findings, visit http://www2.softlinkint.com/?au/softlink-australian-schools-survey 

Karen Gear

Marketing Manager 

p: 07 3124 6111 e: kgear@softlinkint.com w: http://www.softlinkint.com





Town Hall Debate? Ask Tony and Julia about school libraries

16 08 2010
Better Schools Need Better School Libraries

So there’s going to be one or two more debates.  Ask Julia and Tony about Better Australian School Libraries.

Australia’s public schools have lost over one third of their qualified teacher librarians (TLs) in the last 15 years (See state by state statistics). 3200 new or refurbished BER libraries are great. But they are only warehouses without qualified staff. Technology is great. But worth little without qualified TLs helping teachers and students to find and analyze deep web information to build new learning.

What can a federal government do?

Collect the needed workforce data. Tie technology and resource grants to appropriate staffing. Fund tertiary training programs and sponsor places. Develop national standards. Highlight international research linking well-staffed and well-supported school libraries with student literacy and learning in the National Curriculum. Develop leadership programs so school leaders can build and evaluate effective school library programs.

Australian research has found a direct connection between well staffed and resourced school libraries and NAPLAN reading results. International research shows student test scores are higher where their libraries are more fully staffed and where teacher librarians work collaboratively with classroom teachers.

Ask the candidates what they will do to increase student literacy and learning through support for a qualified teacher librarian in every school.





The Hub at ASLA XXI

29 09 2009

Well, in 24 hours I will know if it was standing room only, or if the room echoed with the sounds of me rustling my notes.  Yes, The Hub is appearing in person tomorrow at the ASLA XXI Biennial Conference.  We were a last minute entry,   due to the late cancellation of some other presenter. Whoever and wherever you are, I hope you are okay, and thanks so much for the spot.  It also means that fellow hubber Georgia had made other plans, so it’s just a solo presentation.

So if you would like to hear more of what we’re on about, get some inspiration for singing the praises of TLs,  have any questions you would like to ask in person,  or even if you’re itching to put me in my place for a previous blog post that didn’t sit well with you, come along.   We’re all about TLs speaking up, so bring your interactive self and add your voice to the discussion.

Getting the word out, G Phillips and L Paatsch

ASLA XXI Biennial Conference, Thursday Oct 1,  11am (concurrent session D)

LP





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.





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!

 

 





21st Century School Libraries Need 21st Century TLs

4 02 2009

I was possibly one of a few who caught the PM’s “fireside chat” announcing the latest economic stimulus package. Everyone else, including my husband, was rightly still at the beach.  And I surely was one of a small minority who let out a whoop when school libraries were mentioned!!  Now that the dog and I have settled down, memory nags.  Didn’t something like this happen back in the 70s?  Some 1200 new secondary libraries were built by 1977 with Commonwealth grants, following intense lobbying by ASLA, LAA (now ALIA), ALPC, state government and other groups and individuals. 

I can tell you it was an exciting time to be visiting new NSW school libraries armed with that powerful departmental furniture catalogue!!

Yet a survey of all state and territory supervisors of school libraries at that time found that by 1978 there were only some 3500 qualified (at least the equivalent of one term full-time training in school librarianship) teacher librarians in Australia, although 5000 more were needed to meet the standards outlined in the Schools Commission’s standards, Books and Beyond.  

Since then, no one is even keeping track.  The federal government can not tell you how many TLs there are in school libraries. How many “state and territory supervisors of school libraries” even exist anymore to ask? ALIA can not tell you how many TL graduates there are in Australia. ASLA can not tell you how many TLs are needed to be trained to staff Australia’s 6,853 (2007 figures) government schools to their professional standards. State departments of education don’t even distinguish between classroom teachers and teacher librarians in their staffing statistics. So they can’t tell you which schools have no teacher librarians, let alone what training their TLs might have.

Yet there IS anecdotal evidence and some preliminary data which shows that all too few Australian primary school libraries are staffed to professional standards. For example, possibly up to half the primary schools in Victoria do not have teacher librarians. The Northern Territory has very few professionally trained primary teacher librarians and none in remote schools, and government primary schools in Western Australia are not staffed with teacher librarians.

So we ask the question (updated) which was asked in the 1970s:

What use are 21st century primary school libraries if they are not staffed by 21st century teacher librarians?

Today might be a good day to ask a state senator (click for sample letter and suggested email addresses).

 

gp





Graphic survey results. Viewer discretion advised.

27 11 2007

My husband works in the field of information technology, and given the choice, he’ll use a computer any time over more manual methods.  While I reach for a phone book, he’ll head to the white pages online.  I look at a map while he uses googlemaps. He’ll search for a business website to find opening hours while I just call and see if they answer the phone.

It was no surprise,then, that the information from our informal and completely unscientific survey was too much for him to resist. As a data warehousing senior consultant solution architect (okay, I admit, I’m not really sure what he does) he just had to play with those numbers.  So while I, as a maths teacher, sit and work out means and medians with pen and paper, he made a really amazing graphic representation. It made no sense to me whatsoever, so he deleted the blue dots and tried again.  The orange boxes were better, so I am including it for your viewing pleasure.

As a quick explanation, each box represents a school. The size of the box indicates the student population.  Each state forms a cluster, and within each state, there is some division between government and non-government schools. The darker the colour, the higher the budget per student.  You’ll get it once you play with it.  You can move the cursor over each box to see individual school descriptions. 

When he first showed it to me, the screen was two metres away from where I was sitting.  Even at that distance, I picked SA straight away.  Click below to check it out.