It is a sad, and well known fact that the role of the Teacher Librarian is in decline in many countries, and library staff often hold the perception that their role and the school library is not valued compared with the work of other educators (Merga, 2019) . In Australia, there is now only one University, Charles Sturt, that offers a Teacher Librarianship qualification, and in many schools, the library is minimally staffed, and therefore unable provide full support for the complex role of teachers or enhancement of the literacy and learning outcomes of students (Hughes, 2013).
The incredible advocacy which has been achieved by campaigns such as #StudentsNeedSchoolLibraries and Great School Libraries, has moved our profession forward – however we also need hard data which captures the situation in schools over time in order to make informed decisions as to how to continue this advocacy. The decision makers in most schools will unfortunately not be convinced by the warm fuzzy feeling being in a fantastic school library generates. As they walk the challenging path balancing competing demands with limited budgets, research and data to inform and promote is vital.
If you work in a school library, you are probably aware of Softlink. For 34 years, and in almost 70 countries, Softlink provides innovative technology solutions that help school library staff and educators facilitate their students’ development and success.For the past 10 years, since its launch in response to the Australian Federal Government Inquiry into School Libraries, the survey has provided an avenue for library staff to share their thoughts on on the trends and issues facing school libraries.
Beginning first in Australia, the survey has grown to include schools in New Zealand and Asia Pacific, and the data collected provides us with one of the only existing measures of the ways in which school libraries have changed and developed, and the ongoing challenges they face.
Each year, a report is published which contains valuable benchmark information on school library staffing, budgets, resources, changing roles and technologies, and other important issues. The information collated is also used to produce key documents featuring anonymous comments and feedback.
If you work in a school library, and care about the future of library staff and school libraries, please participate in the Softlink survey for 2020. You can click on this link to learn more, and to add your voice. The survey closes 15 September, which will be here before you know it, so brew a coffee (if at work) or pour a glass of wine (at home!) and take a little time to make a big difference.
Hughes, H. (2013). School libraries and teacher-librarians: Evidence of their contribution to student literacy and learning. Curriculum and Leadership Journal, 11(12), 1-5. http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/school_libraries_and_tls,36453.html?issueID=12777
Merga, M. K. (2019). Do librarians feel that their profession is valued in contemporary schools? Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 68(1), 18-37. https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2018.1557979