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!

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4 responses to “We Really Do Need School Libraries and Teacher Librarians”

  1. I can’t agree more Sandy. We are pretty lucky at our school. We have a great library and a dedicated teacher who has a keen interest in children’s fiction. He is a member of our writers’ group and writes children’s fiction.

    Every school needs a library.


  2. Sally Murphy says:

    Well said Sandy. We need well resourced libraries with budgets to build collections of printed books along with ebooks. And we desperately need to staff those libraries with qualified teacher librarians to put those books into readers’ hands and to support classroom teachers in the teaching of information literacy skills. Yes, information is available online and in electronic format, but we need an expert to teach students to access that information. In WA many state schools are getting rid of TLs. It is such a shame that the Federal Government has funded the building of so mny new libraries yet hasn’t encouraged state governments to ensure that they are properly staffed.

  3. My day job is in a school library as a teacher-librarian, but we’re a dying species – and I have to teach English, literacy and a homeroom subject, despite being the sole TL. There are no more teacher-librarian courses in Victoria and only about three across the country now. Many libraries are now run by library technicians at best and, in some cases, by people with no qualifications at all. My library’s budget was cut down to $3000 this year! I didn’t know this had been done, so ran out of money by May. I’ve fought it and, meanwhile, made the best of the situation. As a writer ands reviewer I know other writers and reviewers. I managed to arrange events and hand over my review copies. I ran a book club at lunchtime. I have taken kids to the State Library for Teen Booktalkers and in one case, we had the huge good fortune of having the State Library’s CYL come to us! We managed, somehow,

    But this can’t be allowed to continue into the International Year of Reading. If you care, really care, about school libraries and specialists to run them, Google “Georgia Phillips”, a lady who has been running a very successful campaign, including an on-line petition and a government investigation into the role of TLs in school libraries. We’re still waiting on the results of the latter.

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