The Beginning of School Libraries
It was intense lobbying which kick started modern Australian school libraries in the 1960s and 70s. The federal government spent millions on secondary school library buildings, training teacher librarians and resourcing libraries. This was the result of unrelenting work by library associations and submissions from a broad range of education and library groups.
About 1200 new secondary school libraries were built by 1977. By 1978 there were some 3500 qualified (at least the equivalent of one term full-time training in school librarianship) teacher librarians in Australia.
All this was as a result of pressure on the Federal government.
The Accountability and Rationalization Years
During the 1990s, however, we have seen a decline in government school library staffing and funding. Commonwealth school library grants ceased. School library staffs were rationalized, and teacher librarians were counted as part of the teaching staff, not extra to it. Central school library services dwindled. IT was seen by many as a panacea. A dozen library courses were cut.
So almost 30 years after the halcyon days, school libraries are again facing a crisis. Empowered to do their own staffing, but with global budgeting shortfalls, principals are forced to make cutbacks, and unfortunately, the library has often been the easiest place to do this.
Budgets and staffing varies greatly across states and across sectors.
In Tasmania, only one third of primary schools now have a teacher librarian (TL).
In the ACT, “almost 50% of primary schools do not have a qualified teacher librarian, although most have a teacher providing access to library resources for some of the time. A number of schools do not have any teacher employed to provide library services.”
In Victoria, 65% of its schools employ TLs, but Melbourne metropolitan primary schools may be even lower. Reynolds and Carroll in 2001 found that only 13% of primary schools had teacher librarians.
In South Australia, 23% of schools having no staff with dual qualifications. 28% of primary schools have no TL, 3 secondary schools and 9 area (K-12) schools with no TLs. Under the new teaching award in 2010, principals are now giving the power to staff as they wish. There is no longer a requirement for specialist teachers such as teacher librarians.
In Western Australia, teacher librarians have never been part of the permanent primary school staffing structure. This also includes District High Schools (K – 10) and Junior High Schools (8 – 10) and there are now senior high schools without qualified teacher librarians.
In Queensland, it has been estimated that approximately 10-15% of government schools have no TL, this now includes seven high schools on the Gold Coast. TLs are appointed but not placed in the library.
The Northern Territory has TLs in perhaps 5% of its school libraries, and none in remote schools.
Meanwhile, New South Wales still appoints a TL or a part-time equivalent to every school and ensures they have at least some training through a sponsorship program. TLs in primary schools are, however, usually responsible for relief planning time for classroom teachers, diminishing their leadership and teaching potential.
We ask you to join our campaign to ensure equity across all states in terms of school library staffing and funding. Every state school should be providing the best of information literacy teaching programs and teaching and learning support services to your children.