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School libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools

CHAIR —Welcome. We have written submissions from all of you, so for the official procedures I will indicate to you that the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath. However, the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. I invite one person from each group to make an opening statement and then we will go into a question-and-answer session. We have written submissions, so if you want to keep your opening statements as short as possible to highlight the issues you would like us to consider. Kate, would you like to make some opening comments to your submission first?

Ms Seed —I was going to hand over to Margaret to make some opening comments to our submission. Margaret is a teacher librarian and a Queensland Teachers Union member. She is also chair of our committee with respect to teachers librarians.

Ms Kittson —My thanks to Kate and the QTU senior officers for inviting me to appear as a witness here today. I am a former high school English and history teacher and a high school teacher librarian. Since 2003, I have been the teacher librarian at Holland Park State School here in Brisbane. In 2008, I set up the Queensland Teachers Union teacher librarian special interest group in virtual mode and asked my fellow teacher librarians to share their stories with me. Many did so. These stories lie at the heart of a personal submission which I sent, No. 197.

Unsurprisingly, the positive stories—and there are some—come from teacher librarians at those schools where they are able to work a flexible, needs-based timetable and where they are actively supported by their principals. On the downside, the evidence is pretty unequivocal that school based management has been an ongoing disaster for many. This brings me to the question: where do we go from here? My argument is that there is already an excellent roadmap for what primary and special school teacher librarians are meant to be doing, in section 6 of the teachers award—state, that was included in the award as the result of advocacy and lobbying by the Queensland Teachers Union a few years ago.

The two relevant points are these: that we join with classroom teachers to cooperatively plan, develop, teach and evaluate resource based units of work; and that as members of the school team—I would like to see the word ‘leadership’ inserted there, mind you—we are responsible for the management of the resource centre and resources which cater for the classroom program, the learning needs of students and their interests and abilities.

What is obvious, I think, is the critical need for some clear direction, and active support for teacher librarians, emanating from a much more senior level in the education bureaucracy than is currently the case. I ask that the committee makes this a key recommendation in its final report. This kind of thing actually does have to come from the top. Thanks.

CHAIR —Thanks, Margaret. Terry, are you going to make some opening comments?

Ms Creagh —Yes, I will. Thank you very much for the opportunity to present. QCEC is the peak body for 22 Catholic school employing authorities and 288 Catholic schools in Queensland. There are five Catholic dioceses in Queensland, centred on Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Brisbane and Toowoomba. So the QCEC submission is an overarching response for the Queensland Catholic schools. Other responses have been tendered from diocesan authorities and by individual teachers from Catholic schools in Queensland.

In essence, the QCEC recommendations address the current shortfall of qualified teacher librarians, request national priority to the professional learning and support of teacher librarians and allocate funding to the research of what school libraries would look like as knowledge places.

Four of the five Queensland dioceses are regional dioceses where issues of distance from major centres and between schools, budget constraints and access to a pool of qualified teacher all impact on whether or not teacher librarians are employed in schools. The largest diocese, with 157 schools, has almost a full complement of schools with a teacher librarian, many part time, depending on student numbers. This diocese has valued the position of teacher librarian for many years by offering study opportunities and incentives to enable teacher librarians to upgrade and acquire qualifications. Colleagues from this diocese are here and will speak to their context and submission.

Generally, the dioceses’ staffing schedules make provision for teacher librarians in schools. The reality is that, for a variety of reasons, they are not in many schools. In the regional dioceses, with 130 schools between them, there is approximately 15 per cent FTE teacher librarians. Most are part time in this role, and part time doing other teaching duties. Those schools without a teacher librarian are usually staffed with part-time library officers who are not always trained in library management. Generally, Catholic education employing authorities continue to employ an education officer with part-time responsibility for supporting those working in and responsible for libraries in schools. The education officers are also working to foster an appreciation of the role of teacher librarians with education authorities and school leaders, as well as bringing some consistency of management systems to their schools.

The QCEC submission indicates that qualified teacher librarians are needed to staff libraries in schools. Teacher librarians are required to provide leadership in the areas of curriculum support and information and digital literacy education, an enthusiasm and love of literacy and literature and be a manager of a school’s information resources and services. Research and experience show that if schools are staffed by competent teacher librarians, planning collaboratively with classroom teachers, providing curriculum support and being information and resource brokers, this will result in students who are able to read better, to research effectively, to discover new ideas, to learn more and to improve achievement—all the things research indicates can and do happen.

Addressing the shortfall in teacher librarians currently available is of utmost importance in supporting new curriculum—for example, the literature strand of the English-Australian curriculum, the ability to investigate and communicate in history and the science curriculum. The provision of resources to support the new curriculum will demand a high level of support from teacher librarians. The national broadband infrastructure and appropriate funding is urgently required. This would enable fast, equitable and reliable access to digital and online support materials and services for all students, teachers and school communities, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Those are our opening comments. Thank you for the opportunity, and we look forward to further dialogue with you.

CHAIR —Thank you, Terry.

Mrs Connolly —I would like to thank you on behalf Brisbane Catholic Education for the invitation to speak this afternoon and to further contribute to this very significant inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians. I have presented a number of documents relating to the teacher librarian role in Brisbane Catholic Education schools, namely—

CHAIR —Jane, we need to accept the documents. Is it the wish of the committee that the document entitled Catholic Education Archdiocese of Brisbane: teaching, challenging, transforming be accepted as evidence and authorised for publication? There being no objection, so carried. Thanks, Jane.

Mrs Connolly —Those documents relate to the role of the teacher librarian in our schools. There is also a document there on how that role is enacted. That document was provided by Ms Kay Cantwell, who is here today. She is a teacher librarian under the age of 45.

I have a background as a primary teacher in state and Catholic schools. I have been a teacher librarian in both part-time and full time capacities in Catholic schools, and I was also the education officer school resource centre, providing educational consultancy services to the 133 schools in the Catholic archdiocese of Brisbane. In my current role as Professional Officer Executive Support, I act as mentor to teachers undertaking the master of teacher librarianship course at QUT, as part of the Brisbane Catholic Education scholarship program.

As with any aspect of school life, there is a fair degree of variance in the ways in which the teacher librarian role is enacted in our schools. What remains constant, however, is the basic tenet that the teacher librarian’s role is to advocate and build contemporary and effective information services and programs that contribute to the development of lifelong learners. School libraries are experienced centred learning places in which student learning in all its manifestations is resourced and supported. The Brisbane Catholic Education teacher librarian role statement incorporates such understandings.

In developing the organisational pedagogical, technological and professional practices that result in the provision of enhanced learning and information resources and services in schools, it is essential that teacher librarians work in collaborative partnership with teachers and school leaders in an ongoing cycle of planning, teaching and resourcing. Our submission to the inquiry was formulated following consultation with current role holders in schools and those performing the role in both part-time and full time capacities in primary, secondary and P-12 schools. Recommendations 4 and 6 specifically from that submission relate to our belief that a national position statement on the role, provision and functions of teacher librarians in schools is essential.

Brisbane Catholic Education has an ongoing commitment to the role of teacher librarian in schools. I would like to restate ways in which that commitment is evident. There has been a longstanding provision on the staffing schedules for primary, secondary and P-12 schools for a qualified teacher librarian. This is on a sliding scale according to student enrolment. The role statement is clear in articulating that the focus of the role is on teaching and that the development of collaborative planning partnerships with teachers is an expectation.

In the early nineties, Brisbane Catholic Education sponsored the training of 19 teacher librarians to fill vacancies in schools. In 2009 and 2010, 36 sponsorships were offered to teachers to undertake study in the Master of Education (Teacher- Librarianship) course at QUT. A further scholarship round will be offered for study commencing in 2011. During 2009 and 2010, a program to install the Oliver 4 library management system in all schools in the archdiocese has been undertaken. All but three schools are now using this system, which enables access for all members of the school community anywhere and at any time. We look forward to realising the potential this provides in sharing digital resources, centralising data input and in ways not yet explored. Brisbane Catholic Education welcomes this timely inquiry, is prepared to assist in any way possible and looks forward to its outcomes.

CHAIR —Thanks very much everybody. I have a few questions and then I will pass to my colleagues. I will go the Queensland Teachers Union initially. In your submission you note that there was a school library services unit within the department, but you do not indicate whether that continues to exist or was disbanded. Can you give me some background on that?

Ms Kittson —It was disbanded around about 1990. There are other people in the room who may be able to clarify that for me, but it was around about two decades ago. It started off as school library services. It became library and resource services. It then became curriculum services and, in the days of economic rationalism, was disbanded in the 1990s.

CHAIR —Who provides support to teacher librarians?

Ms Kittson —It is very ad hoc. The library services unit, which currently exists within Education Queensland, is the amalgamation of three libraries—the corporate library, the TESOL library and the professional library. It is doing a lot of really great work, particularly trying to support teacher librarians in schools, but it is something that is not coming from the top of the hierarchy. It is actually something that is an initiative of the people who are in those jobs at the moment. There are a number of us undertaking a digital pedagogical licence with one of the education officers at library services at Coorparoo at the moment. It is the first program like that that the department has actually rolled out for its teacher librarians that I can remember in the 10 years I have been back in Queensland working as a teacher librarian.

CHAIR —You indicated when you were talking to your submission in your opening comments that in your view there needs to be a mandating of the role. This is something the committee is going to have to come to terms with because we are not an employing authority. I am particularly interested in how you see that being done constructively from the federal level. You also make the point about there being a range of specialist services in your submission. Can you clarify for me whether that pool of specialists—which includes instrumental music, guidance and a variety of things—are competing for positions? How does that work?

Ms Seed —The specialist services provision that is referred to in our submission is the specialist services provision within our certified agreement. In 1997 there was a move in Queensland to go to a devolved system where there was no longer going to be a centralised employing authority. The employing authority was going to be the individual schools. A significant campaign was run by the Queensland Teachers Union against that process of school governance and a program of school based management was established. As part of that program of school based management, a set of guarantees was established to ensure protections for particular groups of teachers. One of them was the specialist support services.

The department often refers to the specialist support services as ‘flexible staffing’. Schools have entitlements to allocations of those, depending upon particular enrolments. Primary schools, for example, have an entitlement to a full-time equivalent teacher librarian when they have 300 or more enrolments within a school. The protections that were put in place were to ensure that the levels at which those specialist services were provided by a suitably qualified person remained at least the same as they were back in 1997. That is a guide for us when schools embark on a regime of what we call ‘workplace reform’, which is using the flexible staffing or the staffing rules within their schools and working out how they can use those flexibly across the needs of their school. Consequently, we have had a number of applications for teacher librarians to either have their role amended or have their role disbanded. Because of the protections that are in place, those roles are obviously protected from that type of reform. That being said, that occurs in most schools where they go through a proper process of workplace reform.

I have a number of teacher librarians who have contacted me since the inquiry was called and have indicated that they have agreed to a modification of their role. Those modifications might be taking on what is called ‘0.5 of curriculum coordination time’. So, rather than doing the cooperative lessons that they would do, or the resource lessons that they would perform with classroom teachers, they take on curriculum coordination, which would mean that they would either organise programs or release teachers from class so that they can actually participate in curriculum programming themselves. That in itself is a dilution of the role as we see it.

The history of establishing the role of teacher librarians in Queensland state schools is very lengthy. In 1994 we made an application to vary the award to incorporate, in particular, protections around teacher librarians in primary schools and special schools. That was also to bring in line their access and entitlement to non-contact time, which was something else that was achieved in 1994. That was something that fell by the wayside, because through that award review process, or that application to vary the award, there were to be ongoing negotiations between us and the department. In 1996 we sought to reopen that case because of the time lines that existed between the closing of the case, the adjournment of the previous case and the seeking of the reopening. It was not reopened. As a consequence, we negotiated what was called an industrial agreement between us and the Department of Education and Training. Those industrial agreements lost status in Queensland under the 1999 Industrial Relations Act and, through an award review process, which was legislated through the Industrial Relations Act 1999, we sought to incorporate into our award, which is the 2003 award that Margaret has referred to, the industrial agreements that we had with the Department of Education and Training at that time.

That is the process that we have gone through to try to come up with some protections, some description or some identification of the terms of reference or roles for teacher librarians in primary and special schools. I understand that it is a difficult issue, given that this is a House of Representatives inquiry and it is not able to necessarily prescribe changes within legislation within Queensland. I would hope that the recommendations from this inquiry would be of such significance that the departments that have responsibility for teacher librarians in state systems are moved toward re-establishing processes to support teacher librarians and move toward establishing appropriate protocols through the awards. The difficulty that arises from that is whether or not, through the nationalisation of the industrial relations system, state employing authorities become part of the national regime and then, for us, we move into the whole idea of a modern award and what that means with respect to basic working conditions and how we have the subsequent awards. So it is a very difficult question to wrestle with, given the landscape that we are actually working on and possibly working toward here in Queensland and other states.

CHAIR —Terry, in your submission you talk about the rural diocese variety of practice, as opposed to the model that would be supported and hoped to achieve. What is driving that variety, by and large? Do you feel a lack of appropriate personnel—people wanting to put it in place who are out there looking? Some of the evidence we have is that practices have been relatively poor for a long period of time. People have come through the system into senior positions when they have never worked with a teacher librarian and do not understand their capacity and what they can deliver. Therefore, they do not particularly drive an agenda in their school to achieve this. I am interested in your perspective about whether in some of the rural and remote schools we have challenges more broad than simply finding warm bodies who are well trained through our university systems.

Ms Creagh —It is a mixture and I think I could say confidently that each of the rural or country diocese schools, as we familiarly refer to them, do have a system established where teacher librarians are part of the staffing schedule. The distance small schools and the lack of a pool of qualified personnel are the major issues.

CHAIR —One of the pieces of evidence we received this morning was that teacher registration in Queensland does not identify people with teacher librarian qualifications. It is not one things you can list under the registration process. How do you identify and find teacher librarians within your system?

Ms Creagh —If they are a teacher librarian, they would be registered as a teacher. We recruit through advertisement for our schools and generally speaking that would be the way most of our schools are staffed.

CHAIR —Do you do generic advertising or do you do targeted advertising for teacher librarians?

Ms Creagh —We do targeted advertising.

Ms McDarra —Some of the rural dioceses as well would see the ability to train teachers wanting to be teacher librarians, for them to be able to study in situ as one possible way of getting around the difficulty of importing teachers into small country towns.

CHAIR —Yes. It could be seen as a professional development opportunity for existing staff to take on.

Ms McDarra —Yes.

CHAIR —Which brings us to your submission. It has come up significantly in many of the submissions today how important the scholarship program you put in place is. I am wondering why you did it.

Mrs Connolly —We have a long-running sponsorship program where we identify needs in our schools. This became a need. We are an ageing population and in the last couple of years when we have sought suitable teacher librarians, when we have advertised, we have noticed that the pool has been smaller. Based on this, we decided that it was perhaps time to look at upskilling teachers who are interested in doing teacher librarianships, so the sponsorship committee took that on board. It is a sponsorship for three years. I sit on that sponsorship committee. Interestingly, it has been the most popular course in the last couple of years.

CHAIR —What the evidence seems to be pointing to more general is that where this declining availability is occurring it has been allowed to continue either purposely or by accident. It has become less of an issue because schools say, ‘We’ll just fill it with a technician position.’ There are not many examples with a significant intervention by an authority to say, ‘No, this is a problem. We need to halt and reverse that trend.’ Is there something in particular which you would say the diocese sees as tremendously valuable and why it was really important not to go down that track?

Mrs Tsourounakis —I think two things there. The practical answer is that it is on our staffing schedule, so schools are required to—and in the administration index it actually stipulates that schools will apply and implement this—deploy a qualified teacher librarian for x number of hours, depending on enrolments at the school. It also stipulates, if there is not a qualified person available, that any teacher employed at that school would commit to beginning or continuing studies straightaway. When you have that kind of thing in place, you have to of course provide the scaffolding and the support around it, because if we are saying, as Jane said, that we are at a stage where we have less-qualified pools and so on then we need to do something about that.

I think probably the foundational reason there, though, is that it is a bigger policy approach. What I would suggest is that everybody in a school, under the principal’s leadership, is striving towards providing the best outcomes possible for their students, and for several decades BCE has seen the role of the teacher librarian as being valuable in that. I think that is for quite a number of reasons. Certainly, in the contemporary context, it is because of the functions that a teacher librarian is able to bring expertise to in a school community through leadership or co-leadership in curriculum, through the use of learning and teaching technologies and their application for teachers and for students, and through the richness that literature and so forth bring to a child’s life but also to their learning outcomes. They also bring expertise to the management of a facility that needs to be contemporary, up to date and really a hub, an ongoing sort of connection—communicating, creating, collaborating. Those things are really important to us; therefore, we need to have the personnel there to facilitate all of those things. So what we would like to see is the role of the teacher librarian clearly set and clearly significant within the contemporary learning and teaching context, and valued within the school community for the expertise that they bring, along with everybody else in the school community.

CHAIR —In most of your schools—and I will give all of you a chance to respond quickly to this—would the teacher librarian sit within the leadership team, or is it decided by school level? How does it work in your diocese, to start with?

Mrs Connolly —A variety of situations occur. We do have teacher librarians who are now in leadership roles, but they have moved into that role. I have had teacher librarians approach me indicating a desire to undertake the master study, for instance, and I have actually suggested to them that they look at doing a master of leadership because they are already in a leadership position in their schools. Generally speaking, teacher librarians are not within the school administration team but they certainly have a leadership role. So, if we are differentiating between the two, they certainly have a leadership role in schools.

CHAIR —Yes. For your information, I asked that because we have had some examples from very well to do, independent-sector schools where the senior teacher librarian sits in the executive and drives cyberbullying policy, online citizenship policy and a whole lot of other things that are really critical to schools in this day and age where they are seen to provide some real expertise.

Ms Creagh —I think I can say that, across Catholic schools in Queensland, teacher librarians are not part of the leadership team within the school. They might have a significant leadership role, as might other persons such as curriculum coordinators and those types of people, but they are not officially, on a schedule, part of the leadership team.

CHAIR —Okay. Thanks. Kate?

Ms Seed —In the state school system in Queensland, we have three classifications—school leaders, head of programs and classroom teachers—and teacher librarians are within the classroom teacher classification. They are not identified as heads of programs, who are heads of departments or heads of services, and they are certainly not school leaders of deputy school leaders. So, no, they do not take on that classification. That is not to say that, within a school, a teacher librarian of significant experience or any teacher librarian may not, within their professional practice, lead particular parts of the curriculum.

CHAIR —Is there any inbuilt recognition of their dual qualification?

Ms Seed —No.

Ms Kittson —There has been a precedent set for the support teachers of literacy and numeracy—it might have something to do with national partnerships; I do not think it is rocket science to guess that—where a direction has come down from the department, from the executive level, that the support teachers of literacy and numeracy should be included as part of the admin team. As I see it, there is absolutely nothing to stop the department making exactly the same recommendation that that should happen to teacher librarians. I know it would certainly make my life easier. I am lucky; I have a very good, supportive principal, an enlightened one who trusts me to manage my own time, but I still cannot get to that base because there is nobody up above telling him that that would be a very good idea. I know jolly well that, as soon as somebody does say that, doors will open for me.

Dr JENSEN —First of all, I would like to commend the Archdiocese of Brisbane. I have just had a very brief look at the very clear role description of the teacher librarian. This is something that has been highlighted as an issue. It is the case that in many schools there are teachers and indeed principals who are really not aware of the role that the teacher librarian fulfils. I would like to commend you on that and ask: is this something that is going more broadly through the Catholic education system, or is this unique to the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane?

Mrs Tsourounakis —The role description would be for Brisbane Catholic Education. We are a separate employing authority from all of the others. We work collaboratively, but each is a separate employing authority, so the role description pertains to us.

Dr JENSEN —Is this something that is going more broadly throughout the Queensland diocese or indeed nationally through the Catholic system?

Ms Creagh —I definitely would not know nationally, and I am not clear on whether or not it is in other dioceses. There are a couple of others here who could indicate that. I am advised that certainly in a couple of other dioceses there are roles, yes.

Dr JENSEN —I think that is very important because that seems to have had a lack of focus in the teacher librarianship profession. The lack of that focus and the lack of a clear role can then lead to the profession being dismissed.

This question is going to be a little bit out of left field, and it is not directly related. Terry, you just mentioned science, more or less in passing. The hard sciences and maths and the crisis in those disciplines both in schools and in universities are of great concern to me, and I am sure many members of the committee are aware of the issues related to this, where numbers in universities are decreasing not only in relative terms but indeed in real terms. I would just like you or anyone on the panel to explore the way in which the teacher librarian could facilitate more interest in and greater knowledge of these areas, given that I think it would be fair to say that, particularly in maths and the physical sciences, there is a decreasing expertise with teachers these days.

Ms Creagh —I think it would be better if the two librarians responded to that, if you do not mind.

Dr JENSEN —Okay.

—I think it is fairly clear from the role description that we have for teacher librarians that our expectation is that they work collaboratively with other teachers. One of our recommendations, based on our submission, was that the teacher librarian role be seen almost as an information broker in a school. So the teacher librarian then becomes the person who works with other teachers, understands the broader context and has the opportunity to work with teachers of all disciplines to support them in their teaching, which will ultimately of course lead to better student outcomes.

I think that is a possible way that the teacher librarian role may grow through that understand that this is an information expert in the school across disciplines. All teacher librarians are very keen to become expert prep teachers or expert in the physical sciences in upper secondary. These are areas that they need to resource. They are areas in which they collaboratively plan with teachers. I do not know if this is answering your question, Dennis, but I think they could very much become a very strong support for those teachers.

CHAIR —We have had evidence that collaborative teaching is a challenge and many teachers do not get training on how to do that during their initial training. Would I be wrong in presuming that the teachers least likely to come to the teacher librarian to find some collaborative teaching may well be the maths teachers—not far followed by the sciences?

Mrs Connolly —I sometimes do not think it is a matter of the maths and science teachers coming to the teacher librarian but the teacher librarian going to the maths and science teachers.

CHAIR —They would have a presumption that that is what English and history teachers do. As a secondary teacher myself by trade, I could well imagine that is a challenge to overcome.

Mrs Connolly —As we saw before lunch, we have a science teacher who is actually now a teacher librarian.

CHAIR —Yes; quite amazing!

Mrs Connolly —I think we need to debunk the old myths. Teacher librarians need to be very proactive. They are about resourcing learning—learning across all disciplines. It is important that the teacher librarian goes out and seeks to support those teachers.

CHAIR —Margaret, did you want to comment?

Ms Kittson —Yes, I do. Science stories are fabulous, and I use every opportunity I can to sell them to people. As a secondary TL I did find it hard to sell that to a lot of my science teaching colleagues. I really wish that they would sit down and read some Carl Sagan and watch some of his shows. Education should be exciting. Stories should be exciting. I have a copy of a book by Richard Feynman called The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. One thing that I think a lot of us could read this year is a wonderful short-listed title in the older readers section of the Children’s Book Council by Penny Tangey called Loving Richard Feynman. I think every girl in high school should read this. If I were in a high school I would be so frustrated, because I would want to have 20 copies of that and be giving it to people. The girl in the book is a nerd. She is into science and maths and she is a teenager. It is a wonderful, wonderful story. That is something that we should be supporting all of the disciplines with.

I know I am getting a little bit off track here, but I find the duality frustrating between whether we are wearing our information literacy specialist hat or the fact that we are librarians selling literature and stories. They are not really separate. They are not discrete roles. They do overlap and they are recursive, and we need to remember that. That is the great thing that we are able to do—the right book, the right resource, to the right person at the right time. It might be a digital one. It might be an online one. It is because we have the pedagogy from our teaching background with the library science side of it overlayed over the top of it that we can, through a reference interview, very easily find out what people need and say, ‘Here; have you looked at this?’ We make it look easy. People do not realise just what has gone on behind that.

CHAIR —There is a big disconnects between the number of young people engaged in science online in a wide variety of ways, including their game-playing and all sorts of things—and their participation in science study at school. There is a massive gap between the two. That is a great point.

Mrs D’ATH —Firstly, Margaret and Kate, you said in your submission that DEET was no longer providing paid access to the graduate diploma of teacher librarianship. I understand that course does not exist anymore, or are you saying that it is still running but it is just not funded?

Ms Kittson —The course changed. It is no longer called the graduate diploma in teacher librarianship. It is subsumed, I think, within the faculty of education. You can still do a graduate diploma and a masters in education with teacher librarianship as a speciality. The people who were here before would be able to elaborate on that. I became a teacher librarian first time around in the seventies. I was actually under 30 when I was first appointed to a school—one or two years ago! That was wonderful. I got paid to go to Kelvin Grove for six months to learn to engage with books again and to enjoy stories again. Doing an English major, I had forgotten how to do that. I had to read the books because they were literature and I had to study them. You forget what fun they are and why people read. People read for enjoyment.

Ms Seed —The point of the statement is that there was previously a program that supported teachers to go forward and become teacher librarians but, regardless of which program they enrol in, the funding is no longer available for them to do that.

Mrs D’ATH —Is there any professional development available to the department for public schools, or does Catholic Education have professional development, beyond your scholarships, for teacher librarians?

Ms Seed —Margaret indicated earlier that she is participating in some professional development—the pedagogical digital licence—which is being conducted by a group within the department of education and training, in library services. They certainly do offer some professional development. The accessibility of that professional development may be limited for some of our teacher librarians, given the diversity and the vastness of the state. A lot of the teacher librarians look for that professional development through their cluster involvement.

Ms Kittson —Most of it we have to outsource. The University of the Sunshine Coast runs really great programs but we have to find the money to pay to go along to them. School funds even had to pay for me to do my digital pedagogical licence. Paid release has not happened since 1992.

Ms McDarra —A lot of the dioceses have teacher librarian networks that meet on a regular basis. They build professional development into those network meetings but obviously it is not formally accredited professional development.

CHAIR —Is it formerly supported? Do the dioceses provide release to participate? Is it done on their own time? Is it a formal thing?

Ms McDarra —Most of them are done in school time but they are not—

CHAIR —A formal training session.

Ms McDarra —Yes.

Mrs Connolly —Brisbane Catholic Education has a very strong network of teacher librarians and those networks are professional learning communities. We must remember that, as people who resource learning in all of its manifestations, it is a very important for teacher librarians to also seek professional learning in aspects of curriculum, pedagogy et cetera. We have very extensive professional learning available to all of our teachers, including teacher librarians.

Mrs Tsourounakis —In our archdiocese, funding, generally speaking, goes to the school in particular areas and then the school makes a decision about its use.

Mr SYMON —The QCEC submission notes that some of your teacher librarians believe that they are duplicating procedures that others have already done. How close is the current network? How much would a teacher librarian working at school A know about what a teacher librarian is doing three suburbs away at school B? Are they picking up the good stuff? Is there a formal tie, or is it just an informal arrangement at the moment?

Ms McDarra —It would be informal, talking at the networks about practices across the schools.

Ms Creagh —But, at the same time, it is ‘organised informal, if that is what you mean.

Mr SYMON —Yes.

Ms Creagh —There are certainly planned network meetings where particular topics are placed on an agenda, particular personnel are brought in to speak about activities or topics et cetera. So, when one says ‘informal’, it means that network meetings are organised by the network itself or the education officer within the diocese working with those network groups.

Mr SYMON —Does that extend to sharing resources between schools or even sharing that knowledge between sectors?

Ms Kittson —The answer is ‘virtually’. There have been some great virtual networks set up. There is one called OZTL NET that has been hosted by Charles Sturt University and that is absolutely invaluable. I would imagine that just about every teacher librarian in this room would be a member of it; we could do a show of hands. If you want to know something, you ask somebody. The turnaround for getting information back is absolutely amazing. We have embraced digital technology and that digital networking, so we get to hear a heck of a lot of what is going on in other jurisdictions that other people in other schools may not. There are others. There is a Queensland teacher librarians one that is also hosted by Library Services. So, yes, it is happening at that level.

Mr SYMON —That is good. The other question I had went to Brisbane Catholic Education. One of your recommendations, No. 2, was that the federal government develop national standards related to the provision of qualified teacher librarians in schools. Obviously that has been left up to the states and the various independent education authorities up to now. How would you envisage that that could work?

Mrs Connolly —I think the federal government has developed national standards for teachers, and I believe that with the Australian curriculum it looks as if we are heading national. I believe that, as we said in our introductory remarks, a national statement on the role and the provisioning and enactment of the role is absolutely essential.

Mr SYMON —Thank you.

Ms Seed —I understand that the federal government is developing, in consultation with the relevant jurisdictions, national professional standards for teachers and school leaders. Whether or not they are embraced or how they are embraced within the various jurisdictions will obviously be part of whatever agreements are reached between state governments and the federal government, but they will also be confined by the relevant industrial instruments that govern those particular sectors. For example, the professional standards for teachers in Queensland, which were jointly developed between us and the Department of Education and Training, are embodied in our certified agreement, so the implementation of a federal set of standards will be a challenge that will need to be worked through with respect to the various jurisdictions and how they are embraced. That is not against the idea of developing some professional standards; there are a number of standards that are specific to teacher librarians or a role statement that is specific to teacher librarians. It is about being cognisant of the enforceability or the ability to embrace those from the state jurisdiction perspective as opposed to some of those that are in the federal jurisdiction.

Mr SYMON —If I could just follow up on that, down the track, if that were the federal or national standard and there were some part of the funding tied into that rather than from an industrial perspective, would that achieve where you would want to be in that area?

Ms Seed —That opens a whole different conversation. Obviously there are particular elements of the Smarter Schools national partnerships that are funding linked and also have industrial implications, particularly in Queensland. The agreement to implement some of those matters was subject to negotiation of our certified agreement in 2009, and consequently I am pretty sure that, if there were a funding link and a national funding arrangement through the National Education Agreement that the state governments signed up to, it would be on the table for bargaining in the next round as well. So it would depend on those sorts of processes.

Mr SYMON —Thank you.

Mrs Tsourounakis —At a much more operational level, clearly what is being advocated here is that we need people in these roles who are teachers, who know that learning and teaching is the core business of what they are doing, that they understand learners and learning and teachers and teaching. I think that whether it is at a state level, at a national level, or even within your own employing authority in the agreements that you actually have, there are particular standards that are written for teachers, and some of them are quite good. I guess the issue here is: how best do we recommend forward where a teacher librarian can see a standard set within that picture—within the teaching picture but also the expertise that they bring through it. So is it something that is written within it, is it something that is written beside it, is it something that is there with some examples of how those things happen under particular standards?

We talked before about school leaders and how to influence school leaders to really value the role of teacher librarians and make it operational in a school. What is a touchstone or a reference point that those school leaders can go to that they can also use in reference to the other roles in a school and that they can use both of those things to work as a community to move forward?

Mrs D’ATH —I have questions for the Catholic education representatives. The material that we have that outline the role of a teacher librarian and the staffing ratios for teacher librarians is great on paper. What I want to ask is: are all of the teacher librarians who are employed by the Catholic schools being utilised as full-time teacher librarians or are they being utilised in other roles such as filling gaps because of teacher shortages, IT specialists or other roles in the schools?

Ms Creagh —Speaking generally, across the state many if not the majority are part-time, and they are part-time in two different ways: part-time and only part-time as a teacher librarian or part-time teacher librarian and part-time another teaching activity. It could be a classroom teacher, a curriculum coordinator or another part-time role. Within the staffing schedules, the allocation of a teacher librarian is connected to the number of students in the school. Most particularly in the rural schools, where some of the numbers for schools are smaller, there are definitely part-time teacher librarians and, as we indicated, in some of those schools there are no teacher librarians. There would be a library officer.

Mrs Connolly —In Brisbane Catholic education schools, that guideline role statement is the document from which teacher librarians plan, do their goal-setting, et cetera. I would say that about 30 per cent of our teacher librarians also wear the curriculum support teachers hat, and they do so willingly, because it is a role that dovetails very nicely, particularly with the first key result area of their role statement in terms of partnering teachers in planning, resourcing and implementing. That is in primary schools.

Mrs Tsourounakis —And that is additional to the allocation created for the teacher librarian.

Mrs Connolly —They are not expected to do it within their allocation as teacher librarian; it is an additional role. There is a separate allocation.

CHAIR —Thank you very much, all three groups, for your written submissions and evidence today. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence, to which you can make corrections of grammar and fact. If there is any additional information you can send it through to the secretariat in the same way you sent your submissions through. I very much appreciate your participation in putting a written submission in to the inquiry and then coming to address the questions we had today. It is invaluable for us to hear directly from not only teacher librarians but also the authorities that employ them. We look forward to an outcome that hopefully will reflect some of the issues you have raised.

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