At the ASLA Conference held in Perth, well-known children’s author Libby Gleeson spoke about the worrying trend in Australian schools of de-valuing the role of the Teacher-Librarian, and the practice of replacing TLs with Library Technicians or Library Officers.
Why is this happening?
“Almost 30 years after the halcyon days, school libraries are again facing a crisis. Faced with global budgeting shortfalls, principals are forced to make cutbacks, and unfortunately, the library has often been the easiest place to do this. Anecdotal evidence tells us that library budgets have plummeted across the country. Staffing levels have also been greatly reduced in an effort to save money.” (Leonie Paatsch & Georgia Phillips)
Libby spoke about 5 aspects:
1. The Hub – the school library is no longer the hub of learning within many schools – see The Hub blog – Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia http://hubinfo.wordpress.com/
2. Staffing Statisitcs – See Barbara Combes research at http://www.chs.ecu.edu.au/portals/ASLRP/report/teacher-librarians/profstaffing.html
3. Advocacy – we need to be showing the change in learning outcomes a qualified Teacher-Librarian can produce
4. Teacher-Librarians vs Library Technicians -“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” (Hubinfo)
5. The Power of Literature – we are wired for story, for everyday narrative as we recount our own stories. Literature can move and touch us at the deepest emotional level. We do children a disservice if we assume they are not deeply affected by what they read or by what is read to them.
CS Lewis: “Through literature I become a thousand other people and yet remain myself”
Ernest Hemmingway: “There is no friend as loyal as a book”
Libby Gleeson: “The best books leave you wanting to talk about them”
Albert Einstein: “The important thing is not to stop questioning”