Finally some quantitive evidence for governments to NOT ignore!
A couple of weeks ago after reading some forum posts about Victorian schools allowing school libraries to dwindle away, references to South Australia’s lack of T/L positions and also statements about the general decrease in T/L positions (House of Reps Report), I naturally became very frustrated.
I turned to my husband and explained what was happening and said the Governments and education authorities don’t seem to be listening (or reading) the research out there and they are certainly NOT acting on it in any substantial way. (I may be wrong here – hope I am actually- but this is my first course so my reading/research is still in its infancy).
I said the governments need to be shown in a different way – given proof in a way they ‘understand’. I said if Victoria and SA have been suffering reductions and major cutbacks in T/L’s and School library services then is there any evidence to be shown from falling Literacy rates in these states? Is anyone doing research into this? The research tells us school libs and T/L’s make a difference, so why isn’t anyone looking at the reverse and finding out what happens when T/L’s and School libraries aren’t given the chance? I said with the Government emphasis upon NAPLAN and the publication of literacy and numeracy there must be some evidence to prove either way!!!
YEY! I’ve finally found it – and it was referred to in one of our modules – Softlinks’s 2011 Australian School library Survey. This survey was first conducted in 2010, repeated in 2011 and the 2012 results are shortly to be published. Whilst not specific to Victoria or Sth Australia the report does use the survey along with NAPLAN literacy results to draw its conclusions. Two of the main findings which are relevant to my point are:
1) ‘There is a significant positive relationship between a school’s NAPLAN reading literacy score and the school library’s budget and staff allocated to the library.’ In other words, cut the budget and staff and you lower your school’s NAPLAN reading literacy score.
2) ‘The difference in funding and literacy outcomes can be quantified. In general, low performing schools allocate 30% less to the school library budget than average schools. Higher performing schools allocate twice as much to the school library budget as average schools.’ Powerful stuff!
A third finding of interest. although not directly related to my point above is;
3) ‘Larger government schools have significantly less staff allocated to the school library , compared to the larger Catholic and Independent schools.’
Let’s cross OUR fingers that such compelling evidence coming out of the flavour-of-the-month – NAPLAN will encourage our governments and education bodies to pull THEIR fingers OUT and promote libraries and Teacher Librarians!
Priorities of Teacher Librarians:
First priority for a successful T/L regardless of the year, is to get the kids in! Get the kids into the library, borrowing the resources, using the in-house resources, using the library spaces, using the T/L, feeling happy and comfortable in the library space. GET THEM IN!
Next priority – get the teachers in! Get the teachers in and get them doing everything the students are doing; borrowing the resources, using the in-house resources, using the library spaces, using the T/L, feeling happy and comfortable in the library space. GET THEM IN!
The third priority is to GET OUT OF THE LIBRARY! Yes the Teacher Librarian, once they have achieved the first 2 priorities of getting teachers and students IN to the library, must now GET OUT of the library. The T/L must get out and show themselves, show their worth, show their programs, show the principal, the parents, the wider school community what they are doing for students outcomes.
I don’t believe the above priorities are new. I believe they hold true today in the 21st century as much as they did 60 yrs ago when the profession was in its infancy. If these were the basic tenets of T/L’s and if they had been followed by ALL T/L’s over the passing years then I doubt there would be such a conversation going on today about the value of School Libraries and the Role of the Teacher Librarian.
Successful School libraries are vital for successful student learning outcomes. We need to ensure every school library is successful and that every Teacher Librarian is performing to their peak.
Thoughts after Topic 2 Readings:
Further research once again shows the direction T/L’s and school libraries need to take. It also shows what governing bodies and education authorities need to be thinking about and acting on.
So the research is out there pushing us along – what is the problem? Where is the ‘paper jam’ occurring? Where is the process being stopped?
One problem is of course that in a discussion report such as ‘School Libraries 21C’ most of the respondents were teacher librarians. The wider community, have very little awareness of, or interest in these issues, despite the great impact they may have on them.
Another problem may be the ‘lag’ between the research and the reality of what T/L’s actually do and achieve. The ‘ideal’ versus the ‘practice’. Have T/L’s done enough, or are doing enough to engineer the changes the research is pointing towards?
Of course there will also be a ‘lag’ between the research and the governing bodies. This lag can be due to bureaucratic functions and processes. It can (and most realistically) also be due to funding concerns.
1) research is out there
2) how much are current (and soon to be) T/L’s embracing this research and also adapting to the new ‘digital’ world we live in? How well equipped are they and who is responsible for equipping them?
3) How do we get the message out beyond the immediate school library community in a practical, forceful, immediate and EFFECTIVE way? What are ASLA and ALIA doing to achieve this? What are teachers’ unions doing about this?
4) Are government bodies listening to the experts and developing policies accordingly? How can they be made to sit up and pay attention and by doing this fund more of this education area?
Evidence based learning sounds fantastic! And yes, Librarians and Teacher Librarians do seem to be “uniquely placed to model the principles of Evidence-based practice” (Ritchie 1999). In fact how wonderful our society would be if most areas adopted this method.
However (!), I wonder where this breed of SUPER – Librarians is to come from. Where they will come from, whether they will be recognized for the work they do, whether they’ll be paid in accordance to their SUPERIORITY and, perhaps more importantly, whether they’ll be given the opportunity to effect the changes to student learning outcomes which the research shows they are able to do?
Idealistically and theoretically I think it’s great.
Practically I just feel scared.
We are required to
a) read all the current academic research (ongoing)-analyse, integrate, apply, communicate the research
b) do our own research
c) advocate for change and challenge the misconceptions of our T/L roles.
In addition we need to do all the other aspects of our roles as so well expressed in Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto for 21st century School Librarians.
SUPER – Librarians indeed!
Even if we were to manage the above, there seems to be no guarantee that governments and education departments will decide to maintain T/L positions. (This seems to be of more concern in states such as Victoria and South Australia) For the time being at least the Federal government seems to recognize the importance of T/L’s. It is apparent that we need to effect some major changes and adopt much of the EBL and Manifesto’s advice in a very short space of time!
I am heartened by Shellie Pratt’s forum post (ETL 401 Topic 2, 8 August 2012) which reminds us of the Dr Seuss book ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’.
I bought this book for my children, to inspire them and also to comfort them.
Perhaps I need to put down the academic readings for a moment and reacquaint myself with Dr Seuss!
Thanks to Ross J Todd and Joyce Valenza for scaring me silly!
Thanks to Shellie Pratt for pointing me in the direction of inspiration!
And thanks of course to Dr Seuss and his talent!
Ritchie, Ann. (1999). ‘Evidence-Based Decision-Making.’ InCite 20, no. 12:33.
Todd, R. J. (2007). Evidence-based practice and school libraries. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. H. Harada (Eds.), School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 57-78). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited
Joyce Valenza’s (2010) Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians