[DWJ] Petition on school libraries

Elizabeth Bentley elizabeth at wardrobe-on-the-web.com
Sat Jan 6 16:15:37 EST 2007


I think because the encouragement of reading is only part of what a school
library is about, important though that is. Information skills, which
include defining information needs, finding relevant information, selecting,
recording, organising and synthesising are skills which are taught at best
rather badly in most schools (many teachers seem barely aware of them) and
in many ways do not fall most naturally within the English curriculum. While
I work closely with English department, I know that when it comes to
information literacy the other departments offer far more scope for useful
collaboration. 

I know that there are many fine teachers running good school libraries - but
surely they would be be better employed teaching. I know what a time
consuming job it is to run a good school library, keeping up with the whole
curriculum of the school, tracking down relevant resources and organising
them so that they can be properly exploited by both staff and students. I
would hate to have a teaching workload on top of that. Surely running a
library is counter to the trend to reducing the administrative load on
teachers. 

One of the problems is a lack of understanding of what our professional
expertise is all about. In schools we are working with teachers who have
their own expertise, which we respect. I sometimes wish that the reverse
held true. If there is an element of "jobs for the boys/girls", then it is
no more than the wish to have an important job done as well as possible. You
seem to be saying that higher education, while presumably valuable for
teachers is unnecessary for librarians. I hope that is a misinterpretation
on my part. I agree that there has been a shift to requiring higher
qualifications for many jobs that was the case 30 years ago, and this is
only in part a result of the higher demands of the jobs. While I have a
postgraduate diploma in librarianship I do not personally have an MA, which
was the norm at the time I qualified; though I did start an M.Ed,
specialising in school librarianship I was unable through pressure of work
to complete the dissertation element, so had to settle for another
postgraduate diploma. But the study I did for this was invaluable and
illuminating, and I think has made me a far more effective school librarian.

I believe that teachers are best employed as teachers, and it is equally
wrong to leave school libraries to be run by people with no more than a
functional understanding of library administration. There is just so much
more to it than that.

I hope this goes some way to answering your question.

EB
Elizabeth Bentley
mailto:elizabeth at wardrobe-on-the-web.com
 

 On 4/1/07 22:23, "Farah Mendlesohn" <farah.sf at gmail.com> wrote:

> On 04/01/07, Elizabeth Bentley <elizabeth at wardrobe-on-the-web.com> wrote:
> 
>> 
>> <<http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/schoollibraries/>>
>> 
>> We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make the provision of
>> professionally staffed libraries within all schools, both secondary and
>> primary, statutory.
>> 
> Not to be too controversional Elizabeth, but why?
> 
> The library at my school was run by one of the English teachers. She
> was fabulous and an inspiration.
> 
> If this isn't jobs for the boys/girls you'll need to explain why a
> librarian's qualification is a necessity for a school library.
> 
> To put my query in context: I am watching with alarm the growing
> demand for vocational MAs for roles that, when I left school at 18,
> were A level or first degree entry. While I can see that in some areas
> it might genuinely mean enhanced skills, in many others I see a way to
> close off social mobility by demanding qualifications that working
> class children can't afford to buy, but which offer few enhancements
> that could not be secured through in-job training and experience.
> 
> Farah
> 
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