DARLENE HILL, president of the Australian School Library Association (ASLA)
THERE can be little doubt of the educational benefi ts that accompany having a properly resourced school library staffed with an appropriately qualified and dedicated teacher librarian,” Amanda Rishworth MP, committee chair House of Representatives report School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia, said.
The report, released in May by the Commonwealth Government, tabled findings of the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in Australian Schools (www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/ee/schoollibraries/report.htm) and made recommendations to the education community, government bodies and education sectors about school libraries and teacher librarians.
These recommendations now have to be considered by all stakeholders and acted upon. How is your school library positioned in relation to achieving student learning outcomes? What do you need to do as a school community?
Issue 1 — Well-resourced school libraries: The Digital Education Revolution and Building the Education Revolution (BER) programs both put technology and facilities into schools to use for learning. The BER, in particular, has built 3017 school libraries, of which 2650 are new library facilities.
A physical space though does not make a learning environment. These facilities also need staff, resources including books, and technology to support the learning program of the school.Has your school developed an action plan to adequately resource your school for learning? Have education bodies requested funds from the Commonwealth to enable them to resource these new facilities?
Issue 2 — Qualified teacher librarians: As a curriculum leader and information specialist, teacher librarians provide professional support to improve pedagogical practice and student learning outcomes. Simply having access to online resources will not improve a student’s learning or digital literacy — it is the teaching undertaken by teachers, expert with using resources and a wide range of digital tools, that can scaffold a student’s learning and enable positive outcomes.
Excellent teacher librarians are experts in a range of teaching methodologies including inquiry learning, information management, digital tools and literacies, including digital literacy.
The Productivity Commission report has detailed that 46 per cent of Australians are illiterate. The results of the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in Australian Schools show that a teacher librarian makes a difference to the literacy levels of students.
Research has provided the evidence to show that a teacher librarian impacts positively on student learning. A qualified teacher librarian is one who is an experienced classroom teacher and also has a postgraduate qualification in teacher librarianship. A qualified teacher librarian in any school makes a difference to not only student learning but also to the professional learning of teachers.
Teacher librarians are an invaluable support for school leadership teams in implementing new initiatives as they have a whole of school focus and the skills needed to implement change. Do you have a teacher librarian at your school? If not, why not?
It is time to stand up for what we value as educators and that is access to the right tools, resources and quality teaching personnel so that we can make a difference to student learning.
The previous committee chair, Sharon Bird MP, in her parliamentary response to the report said: “With the depth, complexity and breadth of information available to young people today, they need an experienced navigator more than ever to assist them in assessing the source, the legitimacy and the value of information that they are accessing, in particular, online.”
The research has been presented, and the evidence is clear: well-resourced school libraries, with qualified staff make a difference to student learning.
It is time for governments, educational bodies and schools to take action to ensure all Australian students have access to resources suitable to their learning needs, with a teacher librarian who can mediate and facilitate learning in an increasingly digital world.