We Really Do Need School Libraries and Teacher Librarians
I love libraries and am an active advocate of the role they play in schools.Yesterday I received an email about Australian schools who had or were in the processing of removing books from their libraries. Some have even dispensed with the library completely, replacing it with a book-less (not even an eBook!)technology area.
Now I’m not anti-technology in any shape or form. I work in IT. I had the Internet connected at home before it was commonly accessible for recreational use. I have an Ipad I use to read e-Books. I can envisage a time when the school library will be predominantly on-line and electronic, when hard copy books are no longer the norm. But I don’t think we’re close to doing that equitably yet and certainly not in our country’s underfunded school libraries.
What worried me most about the books being removed was the lack of a replacement ‘literature or story’ and ‘professional expertise’. The books weren’t replaced by eReaders and eBooks. There space was simply reassigned – to more high tech resources and a VCE centre. Some non-fiction books were redistributed into classrooms with no cataloging or borrowing process in place. A teacher librarian wasn’t considered necessary.
A number of libraries have already removed most of their non-fiction. While on-line resources are wonderful for research, they are not ‘fiction-friendly’. I am concerned that there are rumblings of fiction being removed along with the non-fiction. How will a child learn to love reading if a library contains mostly eBooks and not enough eReaders for books to be borrowed and read at leisure? Lots of families don’t have eReaders. Fiction needs to be portable. Kids need to be able to take a story home, to sit reading it in the playground, or a quiet time in class. Not only read it when they are in the library.
How can a school library even think of surviving without a teacher librarian to make it more effective? It doesn’t matter what form non-fiction information is in, it still requires a professional to manage it and teach students the best way to maximise information and its usage. How will a child learn to love reading if there is no librarian to guide them and help them select books? I have met many wonderful , dedicated classroom teachers who have a limited knowledge of children’s fiction outside the texts they teach. They don’t have the time to research new releases or develop knowledge of a wide range of titles. That’s the role of the teacher-librarian.
On the plus side I heard a story of a NZ school who replaced the library with a cyber cafe but have since reversed the decision and put their library back again. That’s what I like to hear!