[DWJ] Petition on school libraries

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 10 06:06:15 EST 2007

Being in holiday mood I'm only checking my email every few days, so I'm coming in on this from the point of view of an Australian school librarian. Here (in NSW at least) all schools have a Teacher-Librarian who in High Schools is additional to numbers. That means they appointed to run the library not as part of the teaching establishment. They are teachers and they should have a library qualification as well. I say should have because if they've been in the job for thirty years like me, they probably haven't a formal library qualification, just some specialist training as part of their teacher training. Back then they were short of school librarians and insisted that as part of my post-graduate teaching training I include the library module, and most of my fellow trainees were in the same situation. In Australian schools one must be a qualified teacher to supervise students, I have two ancilliary staff who are not teachers and who are not allowed to supervise students if I am away. Large high schools (over 1200 students) will have an additional teacher-librarian for a number of days a week. 
Primary schools are in somewhat different situation. They all have a teacher-librarian for a number of days a week, based on student numbers. I'm not sure how many students a school must have to warrant a full time teacher librarian - at a guess 600. Primary TLs are usually required to spend a certain amount of their time (which is usually most) teaching "library" to give the regular class teachers a break. This can make audit requirements like stock-take very difficult.
In my school which has 900 students I have a full-time aide who handles video resources and a part-time aide to handle library clerical tasks. On the day and a half I don't have her, she is still physicaly in the library, to keep an eye on the circualtion desk and to provide change for the photocopier, but engaged in school admistrative tasks. My library has about 25,000 items (20,000 books, 2,000 videotapes and DVDs and a few thousand magazines and other resources), and a budget of $A10,000 which is not really adequate to keep the collection up to date. There are also 17 internet capable computers.


----- Original Message ----
From: "Belben, Philip (Energy Wholesale)" <Philip.Belben at eon-uk.com>
To: Diana Wynne Jones <dwj at suberic.net>
Sent: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 8:57:20 PM
Subject: RE: [DWJ] Petition on school libraries

Farah wrote:

> I'm still uncomfortable about the petition though, it's a very rigid
> demand given that the proportion of a school budget that a
> professional librarian would absorb would vary wildly from school to
> school: a librarian in a school with fifty teachers, fine, but a
> librarian in a school with ten (as my primary school had)?

I think you're still reading things into this petition that aren't
there.  The petition is not rigid at all, as I interpret it.  It merely
requires that (a) there be a school library and that (b) there be
someone "professional" to run it.  In particular, the librarian needn't
be full-time or exclusive to the school.  I can think of any number of
business models that would meet this!  How about:

1.  The school contracts with the local public library for a librarian
to come and work in the school two or three mornings a week.  The public
library could have two or more staff familiar with the school, and
whoever is available could go over and do the job.

2.  Several schools pool their resources to hire a single peripatetic
librarian between them.

3.  Two or three schools, all in one part of a town, have a communal
library that serves all the schools and is run by a full-time (or maybe
not even full time) librarian.

In any of these models, additional library work (checking in and out
books, putting aside damaged books for repair, database maintenance,
etc.) could be done by teachers or even pupils, leaving the librarian
free to manage the acquisition policy, research, managing the repair
process, and other things that librarians do best.

Thinking more about it, I would say that a small primary school with
only ten teachers is the sort of place where library expertise is least
likely to be available in-house, and a law requiring them to have a
librarian in to help them once a week would prevent the bean counters
cutting off this important function.  I see it therefore as beneficial,
rather than a drain!

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