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WA researchers warn of ‘alarming’ loss of teacher librarians in public schools

Researchers in Western Australia have warned student literacy will continue to suffer unless an ‘alarming loss’ in the number of teacher librarians is reversed, reports ABC News.

Edith Cowan University researcher Margaret Merga interviewed 30 teacher librarians in WA public and private schools, and found the majority of respondents didn’t feel secure in their jobs—and felt that ‘the library was often the first place principals looked when they needed to cut costs’. Merga’s research also found that teacher librarians either weren’t being replaced or replaced with well-intentioned library officers with no qualifications.

The WA Education Department doesn’t keep statistics on the number of teacher librarians in public schools. However, a WA School Library Association (WASLA) survey of 52 public and private schools found 42 full-time library positions have been lost in the past five years, with teacher librarians the biggest casualties. Merga said that she had been unable to identify a single government primary school in WA that employed a teacher librarian.

Thirty-two of the schools surveyed reported having their library budgets cut, including six by 50 percent and two by 80 percent.

WASLA president Barbara Combes said the findings were ‘alarming’. ‘With falling literacy and numeracy scores in NAPLAN tests around Australia, the lack of professional staff, and even a library, is of great concern,’ Combes said. ‘A lack of understanding by principals of why the library is there in the first place is becoming an all too common feature of new schools. The idea of the silent library managed by a dragon lady in a twinset and pearls disappeared 50 years ago.’

‘It is interesting that the decline of literacy and numeracy in Australian schools has coincided with the decline of libraries and professional staff in government schools,’ Combes added. ‘The independent school sector presents a picture that is the opposite of the government school sector.’


Category: Library news