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At the end of Week 2

July 26, 2010

Further Thoughts on Topic 1 – School Libraries in Australia

My initial thought upon completing the Topic 1 readings was – it’s appalling what has happened to school libraries in Canada.  Ken Haycock’s 2003 article mkes sobering reading.  Despite all the evidence linking dynamic school libraries with solid learning outcomes, Canadian school libraries [at least at the time the article was written] are in a state of near-terminal decline.  This thought naturally led to wondering whether or not the Canadians had managed to ‘turn things around’ and then, if Australian school libraries were doomed to a similar fate.  As the Canadian experience has shown, funding is absolutely crucial to the success of school libraries.  As new resources and technologies are produced at an almost alarming rate, it is essential that school libraries ‘keep up’.

As the Canadian experience has shown, it will at the very least be seriously challenging for many schools to make the ‘leap’ into 21st century learning.  To expect under-resourced and undervalued libraries to turn around and forge bravely into a new information era is more than a little optimistic.  Status, funding and confidence must be restored before new ways of teaching and learning can be embraced.  Unfortunately, despite various studies linking improved learning outcomes to strong school libraries, the sector is still neglected.  Libraries really should be a ‘politician’s dream’, due to their potential role in strengthening the learning and information literacy of students. 

Many of the exciting scenarios painted by Herring and Hay & Foley almost read as ‘information utopias’.  Discovering not only many of the wonderful things that are already being done in school libraries, but also much that is on the brink of being achieved is inspiring, but also sobering.  Will there soon even be a future for Teacher Librarians in Australia and NSW in particular?  The findings of the Federal Government’s inquiry into Australian school libraries are expected soon.  In NSW, the DET has recently allowed some schools to ‘opt out’ of employing qualified Teacher Librarians in their schools and re-allocate the savings to elsewhere in their budgets. As a potential member of the profession, I am alarmed by this apparent devaluing of school libraries.

I believe Teacher Librarians will soon need to lobby vigorously to hold hard-fought ground in relation to school libraries.  They (we) will also need to show governments and the general public that the ‘glittering prize’ of a national network of dynamic, progressive and high-performance school libraries is well within grasp.  So much groundwork has already been laid, in the form of academic research and innovative responses to (and harnessing of) various forms of technology.  With a funding injection, many school libraries will be able to ‘live the dream’, proving their worth as progressive centres of learning, which will automatically raise their profile and status in their various communities.

One of the challenges I know I will face as a fledgling Teacher Librarian is fighting for resources, recognition and status, while striving to demonstrate the value and relevance of Teacher Librarians in school libraries, as the profession moves towards an exciting future.

 

References

Committee Secretariat, House Standing Committee on Education and Training, Commonwealth of Australia.  (2010).  Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools.  In Parliament of Australia:  House of Representatives.  Retrieved from http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/edt/schoollibraries/index.htm

Hay, L.  & Foley, C. (2009).  School libraries building capacity for student learning in 21C.  Scan, Vol. 28, No. 2 (May 2009), pp. 17-26

Haycock, K. (2003).  The Crisis in Canada’s School Libraries: The Case for Reform and Re-Investment.  (A report for the Association of Canadian Publishers).   Toronto, Ontario:  Association of Canadian Publishers.

Herring, J. (2007).  Teacher librarians and the school library.  In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp. 27-42).  Wagga Wagga, NSW:  Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

 

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