Denyse Whelan Blogs: Why Students Need School Libraries

This post was originally published on Denyse Whelan Blogs on 23 October 2018

I can’t think that anyone might disagree with the statement: Students Need School Libraries.

When I mentioned this campaign to assist more of the community to know WHY there even needs to be a campaign, these followers commented on my instagram account:

  • I loved our library at primary school. Our librarian was rad.
  • In grade 6, my classroom was opposite the library, best spot in the school!
  • I was lucky enough to experience amazing school libraries as a kid; they were my havens from bullying and re-charge stations for us introverts.
  • My kids’ school library is unstaffed and they only go in there once a week.
  • Looking at high schools recently was an eye-opener too – one school had a traditional library, one a ‘decentralised’ library, one no library at all. They are so undervalued.

Yet, this is now a growing campaign Australia-wide, all areas of schooling, to ensure that schools retain not only libraries for their students but have trained teachers in charge AND…the biggest of all, value the centre, the Library as the entry point of learning and loving all books and reading.

In the late 1980s when NSW Public School K-6 teachers were allocated 2 hours release from face to face teaching…”the allowance of one hour” was to be taken by the teacher-librarian. It may not have included any lessons about libraries nor having books read. Or borrowing. I was a principal who had to similarly act in the early years of 2000s and I know that conflicted with my professional and personal views on the value of a school library to students. The thing about education run by politicians and some bureaucrats is that they “look for how to save money” and…”oh, well, school libraries aren’t that important are they?”

YES. THEY. ARE.

So, my story.

I have always loved reading. I also knew I wanted to be a K-6 teacher thanks to the encouragement of my year 5 teacher who went on to become the teacher-librarian. For a few of my teen years, I toyed with the idea of being a librarian instead of teaching, but glad I chose the role I did. Mind you, when I was post-principal years, I got to do some relief teacher-librarian work in a modern school and loved it. Especially reading to the kids. Of all ages!

My daughter’s story.

She began reading at around 3-4 years of age. We did not ‘teach’ her as such but she was immersed in language – written and spoken, along with books once she was born. A somewhat reluctant entry to teaching, she found her feet with classes in Primary School (3-6) and loved her involvement in sporting programs. Over the years, her teacher-life shifted gears when she was offered the chance to be a teacher-librarian for a couple of years at her then school and she relished it. I am not sure the weekends spent at school were always relished but thanks to that success, another opportunity came her way.

A big one. To start a new school’s library. She applied for this and was accepted. Into a brand new (then in 2015) school in Sydney’s north west. She got to buy the first books, set up the physical library and start all the ‘back end’ stuff that takes forever…accessioning, covering and more, whilst getting ready to welcome the new students to the new school. I visited her back then, and it was a joy to see her in her element and some of “my old resources and furniture” in a place where it belonged. I know the school library has changed significantly since then, but considering this only happened within 2 months of school opening (for the first intake of students!) I think it is awesome. No Mum bias.

But to retain the position, this single mum of 4, had to comply with another requirement. THIS is the reason why it is so important to have properly trained and experienced teacher-librarians. She needed to have a Masters of Education (Teacher/Librarianship) within two years. That, my friends, is a big ask, with some leave from the role to guide her family through some of life’s transitions and some health hurdles to overcome, with an extension granted, she DID achieve this….and she is here, last December, at her graduation. (proud mum moment: she is wearing the same M.Ed cloak I wore for my graduation at Charles Sturt University some decades before!)

From the site: Students Need School Libraries. Here is what the campaign outlines as its purpose via sample newsletters to parents which is why I am using it here.

 Students Need School Libraries

  • Did you know… that your school library supports your child to engage with a diverse range of books to extend their imagination and develop a lifelong love of reading?
  • Did you know… that school libraries are responsive and collaborative learning spaces that provide students with access to a wide range of resources that are relevant and appropriate to their learning needs?
  • Did you know… that school libraries support your child to reach their potential by teaching them how to become capable researchers and to navigate the world of online information and fake news?
  • Did you know… that teacher librarians hold specialised qualifications as both a teacher and a librarian? Quality library staff are trained to support keen and reluctant, successful and struggling learners.

Students need school libraries. If you are keen to ensure that EVERY child in Australia has access to a quality school library, check out the information available at https://studentsneedschoollibraries.org.au

What can you, my readers, do?

Support the campaign via your social media options.

https://www.facebook.com/StudentsNeedSchoolLibraries/

https://twitter.com/NeedSchoolLibs

https://www.instagram.com/studentsneedschoollibraries/

Use the hashtag: #studentsneedschoollibraries

Re-tweet (and re-tweet with comment) when you see the hashtag on twitter

On Instagram, make your messages of  support too, because they will attract more people to learn of the campaign.

But above all, if you can, do all within your areas of influence to ensure that: Students Have The Access to School Libraries along with Trained Teaching Personnel.

Thank you, from one very passionate educator, mother, grandmother…that’s me!

Denyse.

Visit the original post to see how people have responded with their comments.

 

About Denyse

Denyse Whelan is a now-retired K-6 Australian school educator who has been a K-6 teacher, deputy principal and school principal, university tutor, and ESL teacher of children and adults.

She has more than 4 decades of experience as both an educator and parent in the Australian schooling system, specifically N.S.W. Public Schools.

You can find Denyse blogging at Denyse Whelan Blogs or on Facebook

Share