International Literacy Day today marks the launch of the first ever comprehensive study of school library resourcing and staffing. Commissioned by the School Library Association of SA (SLASA), the School Libraries in South Australia 2019 Census surveyed South Australia’s public, private and Catholic schools to better understand the links between library programs and critical skills including reading, digital and information literacy.
“COVID-19 has been a dramatic illustration of the need for digital and media literacy amongst students and the wider community,” says SLASA President Hajnalka Molloy.
“Disrupted delivery of learning for students, the impact of fake news, and now the pressure on teachers to catch up are all significant challenges,” Mrs Molloy said.
“We know from existing research that qualified library staff are delivering real learning gains but what we didn’t know, until we completed this census, was what factors are influencing the delivery of those programs or what the profile of school library staffing in SA currently is,” she said.
The independent study was prompted by the findings of a Parliamentary Inquiry in 2011, which highlighted a ‘fundamental need’ for hard data on school library staffing and the link between school library programs and literacy, with a particular focus on digital literacy.
“SLASA commissioned this study to commence answering that fundamental national need,” Mrs Molloy said. “Our objective was to gather that evidence for South Australia and to also now encourage other states to replicate the survey, so that the models and contribution of school library programs to supporting students to develop these essential skills is clearly understood at the national level.”
The census was undertaken by the Australian Council for Educational Research and surveyed school leaders on the various models of library program delivery, staffing, funding and school culture in all schools in South Australia.
“We now know that effective delivery of critical literacy and inquiry skills in South Australian schools is influenced by factors such as a culture of support as well as facilities, collections, access and funding as well as staffing,” Mrs Molloy said.
“The census provides us with a clearer picture of the current resourcing levels of South Australian school libraries, including that 94% of schools have someone to manage their library collection but the burden of managing resources and providing appropriate support to teachers and students to develop literacy and inquiry skills is now falling on staff who have neither teaching nor library qualifications in just over a third of our schools.
“Just over half of the staff managing school library services in South Australian schools are not library-qualified and only 23% of schools have a qualified teacher librarian on their staff.
“This is a significant concern, as qualified teacher librarians have a distinct skill set that embraces both the key teaching skills and the essential skills to develop and deliver school library collections and programs to the standards we know result in learning gains, including improved literacy and better performance in NAPLAN tests.
“The census results give us the hard data to now work towards implementing strategies that will support schools to address the disruptions of COVID-19 and ensure our school students are fully equipped to deal with the challenges of a digital world.”
INFORMATION FOR EDITORS
About the School Library Association of SA
SLASA’s mission is to support and advocate for school libraries and school library staff, and to ensure every school learner has access to a well-resourced library with qualified staff.
We are here to advocate for school libraries and their importance to contemporary learning, and to provide a dynamic professional community for school library staff including access to high quality professional learning, resources and informed research.
The School Libraries in South Australia 2019 Census
The School Libraries in South Australia 2019 Census was commissioned by the School Library Association of South Australia to commence the collation of evidence to answer two questions:
· What is the profile of school library staffing in South Australia?
· What are the factors that influence school libraries and their staffing?
The Census was conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research and comprises a literature review of previous research, a review of the public-facing websites of all 728 schools in South Australia and a census directed to the leadership of all primary and secondary schools in the public, private and Catholic school systems in South Australia. All but 50 schools responded to the survey, with these remaining schools contacted by phone to ensure the census was complete.
The Census was instigated by the findings of the 2011 Parliamentary Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21stCentury Australia, which identified gaps in information regarding school libraries, concluding:
“There is a fundamental need to collate some hard data to ascertain how many teacher librarians there are in Australia’s primary and secondary schools; to identify where the gaps are, and to start to extrapolate the links between library programs, literacy (especially digital literacy, which is as important as regular literacy and numeracy skills), and student achievement.”
– The full report is available at https://research.acer.edu.au/tll_misc/33
– SLASA website: slasa.asn.au