The Federation's current position on joint use libraries is derived from a 1980's submission to the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries.
The policy is being reviewed by the Special Interest Group.
Submission to Committee of Inquiry Into Public Libraries
This submission strongly takes the following lines of argument:
- that the school library and the public library are two separate concepts with different, although complementary roles.
- That school libraries and public libraries make two separate systems, neither of which is fully developed on the Australian scene.
- That any process of amalgamation - whether it be glorified by the name "community library" or not - which attempts to web the concepts of school and public library, will only make certain that neither system is ever fully developed.
By school library we mean a library which is physically part of the school, whose resources and services are designed to implement the school's educational programme and to cater for the students' co-curricular activities.
By public library we mean the traditional public library which exists to meet the informational and recreational needs of the community in a particular area. By the term community library we mean the combined school and public library which offers both school and community some form of library service.
Aims and Structure:
The submission is in three major parts:
- It indicates to the committee the aims and functions of a school library and the role of the school librarian.
- It discusses the reasons why the committee should take great care with the community library concept, and why there are inherent dangers to both library systems in a forced expansion of the role of either.
- It outlines what the Federation believes are desirable patterns of future development, including the types of relationship we believe should be established between school and public libraries.
Part 1: Aims and Functions of the School Library
School library resources constitute a specialist collection purchased and/or prepared as a result of co-operation between classroom teachers and the teacher librarian and geared to the school curriculum and co-curriculum activities. Frequent personal contact between the teacher librarian and the student enables the teacher librarian to implement a developmental programme from the child's first day in the school to the time he leaves. This is achieved by:
- Providing resources that will enrich, extend and support the total school programme, taking into account the varied interests, abilities and maturity levels of the students.
- Encouraging independent learning, both within the curriculum and outside it, by supplying materials that will stimulate students to explore a wide range of interests and achieve discrimination in the selection of resources to meet their needs.
- Assisting students to acquire the range of skills necessary for the effective use of books and materials. The development of such skills will include the fostering of techniques for evaluation all types of media communication.
- Providing students with materials that will enable them to make informed and responsible judgements on issues affecting their own lives and their future roles as citizens in a democratic society.
- Stimulating students in all aspects of their reading experiences so that they may enjoy reading and read with developing taste and discrimination.
- Working with staff responsible for students with special problems so that the library may assist the disadvantaged, the under-achieves and all those with reading and learning facilities.
The school library also develops a specialist programme for the school staff which aims to:
- Stimulating experiment and innovation in teaching by the provisions of new materials and up-to-date information on developments in curriculum and education generally.
- Identify and provide for the needs of staff regarding their special requirements in their own subject fields.
- Initiate as well as contribute to in-service and training programmes for teachers and trainee teachers so that they may use library resources more effectively in their work with students.
The school library also has a responsibility to:
- Help students to understand and use the school library as part of a wider range of library and cultural services in the community.
- Co-operate with school, college, public and other libraries in the community with the aim of extending and improving library services and promoting the growth and recognition of libraries generally.
The statements above illustrate most clearly the specific function of the school library in terms of the individual children who attend the school and the staff with whom they work. They also illustrate the need for the teacher librarian to be an experienced teacher with training in the fields of curriculum construction and child growth and development. We would submit that teacher librarians, by virtue of their training and school experience are those most suited to cater for the special requirements of their professional colleagues.
(See Appendix I - Extracts from the Vaughan Report).
The central point of this submission is that any attempts to change the role of this library, particularly while it is still developing, will greatly reduce the potential of the school to serve the needs outlined above.
A Developing Situation
For most of the history of secondary education in NSW, the school library has never received anything like the attention - either theoretically or materially - that it has needed. During this time, libraries were afterthoughts, collections of books housed in odd corners of the school, in spare rooms, often in converted storerooms, clinics, hatrooms and basements. Until 1968, there was no recognition by the Commonwealth that it had a role to play in developing this field.
However, with the establishment of an Australian government commitment to the raising of the status of school libraries and the influence of the Commonwealth Secondary Schools Library Committee, there has been a substantial improvement in conditions and an increasing development of debate and study around the school library. This has gone hand in hand with marked improvements in architectural efforts and planning. It is our claim that improvements and developments in philosophy go together with improvements in material conditions - and that without one it is difficult to get the other.
While teachers' organisations have spearheaded the concept of Commonwealth involvement in education - in a campaign with extends at least from 1945 - it has not been a campaign just to improve teachers' working conditions. The arguments about the kinds of staffing and facilities needed are arguments concerned with being able to effectively implement programmes which will meet the needs of pupils. In any kind of educational context, whether it be "traditional" or "progressive" or any shade between, the library has been seen as an essential. Progress in providing this "essential" has been remarkable since 1968. With the added impetus of the programmes of the Schools Commission and the recognition by the NSW State Government of the need to plan for, and provide, adequate library facilities, there has been a substantial development in the provision of libraries over recent years. By the end of 1976, 66% of NSW secondary schools will have at least reasonable library buildings and one primary school in five will be in a similar position.
Whilst these material developments must be seen as an essential part of a total development of school library philosophy, they must also be seen as having reached an intermediate stage only. There is still a considerable distance to travel in relation to questions such as the role of the library in the total learning situation provided by a school, the kinds of materials which should be contained in the library, the amount and nature of the staffing which is needed, and the continuing efforts to create links between various parts of the school library system. There is a great need for these developments to be allowed to continue without interference. Any attempt to interview in this development with alternatives which could divert attention from the major role of the school library system could be disastrous. School libraries and teacher librarians must be given the opportunity to show what they can do in an atmosphere which they see as supportive.
Part II: The Case for Separate Development
- "Sometimes as part of this community involvement, but more often as a means of economic rationalism, the suggestion has been made for a community library, more properly termed the combined school and public library. The history of combined school and public library services has not produced overwhelmingly favourable results..... The reasons have been stated in many places before - conflict in administrative responsibility, conflict in siting and conflict in hours of operation. In Australia, these are aggravated by the dual legal responsibility in provision - state government for school libraries, local government for public libraries." (Margaret Traks, Library Service and the Community: Australian Library Promotion Council, 1974, p.18).
- Probable areas of conflict.
- Administration and Control:
Level One: Authority over the Library.
There is bound to be some conflict in a joint school/public library around the status, salary, qualifications, areas of authority, etc. of the person selected to be in charge of the library. Teacher librarians and public librarians are employed under different awards, have different training, have developed specialised skills in different aspects of librarianship. Should the public librarian determine selection policies for the school, for example?
With other professional library staff, there may well be friction over hours - teacher librarians leave at 3.30pm the public librarians have to work the night and weekend shifts; and holidays - teacher librarians have 10 weeks to the four weeks allowed to the public librarian.
Level Two: Authority over the whole unit.
If the library is on school property, should the school principal be responsible? In NSW all school staff are responsible to the principal, but would this include a public librarian or public library staff? If a controlling body is set-up, such as a board of management or advisory council, then the principal's decision can be nullified by a majority vote.
Level Three: Authority over the region.
School libraries and public libraries in NSW come under different government departments, as do local councils. Also, they are funded from different sources. Who is to be ultimately responsible?
We note that at the Minto Education Complex Community Library, despite intensive study and planning over a number of years, there appears to be no satisfactory solution to the problem of who is to be in control of this library. We also do not believe that the system of dual administration, as practised at Boronia Community Library is acceptable. (See Appendix 2. 1a: Extracts from Report on Boronia High School Library. 2: "Settlement of Disputes Between the two Librarians". 2a: "Local Lines of Responsibility".)
As school/public libraries are presently organised, it appears impossible to have the library open to the public as the same time as it is used by the school. This arrangement would disadvantage the users of existing public library services as the hours between 10 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. are very popular with pensioners and mothers with young children. Public library standards suggest that central libraries should be open for 60 hours a week.
- Hours of Opening
Public libraries should be situated in or adjacent to shopping areas, easily reached by public transport with parking facilities close by. Most high schools are situated away from these centres, and not always easily accessible to the public.
- The Library Collection
According to a study made in Tasmania in 1973, there was only a 13% overlap of book materials in the large primary school library and the children's section of the public library. School libraries and public libraries overlap in areas such as fiction, sports, crafts, hobbies, etc. but these are areas of maximum use. School libraries are fare more advance than public libraries in their collections of audio-visual materials and equipment, but would not be able to satisfy general public usage of these items.
School libraries offer a range of very specialised services to satisfy the needs of staff and students. Public libraries try to satisfy the information and recreational needs of the community as a whole.
- Disadvantages for the School
- "A school library can play its full part in school life only if the teaching staff also look upon it as fully under their control collectively, under the head and through one of their number as librarian and available to them and to their pupils without restriction." (From a statement by the English School Library Association. For complete statement, see Appendix 3).
- The school library is a highly specialised library whose functions are to serve the community, support the educational programme and provide adequate teaching, learning and recreational resources for staff and students. It cannot do this unless its policy is determined exclusively by the schools.
- Shared use of library facilities (i.e. use by the public during the school day) will discourage teachers from bringing classes to the library, discourage pupil use, and adversely affect the service given to pupils by the school librarian.
- "... as school library should be very much more than a 'service point'. If it is to be accepted by the pupils as an integral part of their schooling and so play its full part in their education, they must feel that it belongs to the school and grows with it, and is not a facility provided from outside." (From a statement by the English School Library Association. For complete statement, see Appendix 3.)
- Disadvantages for the Community
- Joint use of the facilities will restrict the right of the public to access during the school day.
- The school location and "atmosphere" may discourage members of the public.
- The considerable capital and recurrent costs involved in a community library may prevent the community developing more flexible and varied forms of information services.
- A single "information authority" would exercise too great a control over the resources available to the public.
- The complex authority structure will lead to the "bureaucratisation" of the library administration, with consequent resistance to change, delays in decision-making and an ability to respond to the needs of people at the grass roots level.
- There is no evidence that community libraries lead to increased usage among the 70% of the community who never enter a public library.
As an example of some of the points made above, the Federation would like to draw the committee's attention to the material in the appendices on the Forster Community Library:
Appendix 4: Report on the operation of the Forster library
Appendix 5: Report on the Forster Community Library by two teacher librarians.
Appendix 6: Decisions of a statewide general meeting of teacher librarians held on April 19, 1975, which heard reports on Forster and related matters.
Part III: Future Roles
In looking at the future roles of the school library and the public library, it should be kept in mind that school libraries are still developing from small, print orientated collections with limited programmes and untrained personnel, to multi-media, learning resource centres with flexible programmes geared to individual and small group needs, and student orientated methods. With the growth of resources, there is much greater scope for closer co-operation between school libraries. Some of the ways in which this co-operation could develop are listed below:
- High school and "feeder" primary schools:
- Inter library loans
- Copying service - audio and video.
- Union list of periodicals and newspapers
- Exchange of materials for joint programmes, e.g. remedial reading.
- Rationalised buying of expensive selection aids and bibliographic tools.
- Group visits by primary pupils to high school library.
- Access to any special resources held by any one school, i.e. an extensive picture file, a large video-tape collection.
- Horizontal networks - between high school or primary schools in an area. While these networks would also co-operate along similar lines, larger units, with additional finance would operate centralised processing and purchasing schemes. It is also envisaged that the new education centres and teaching resources centres may play an important part in future developments, depending on the sort of services the teachers in the area see the centre as providing.
- There could be much closer links between school and public libraries, and this is an area in which a great deal can be achieved in the future. We do not see school and public library co-operation as being a one-way process, where the school draws upon the great resources of the public library but is unable to offer anything in return. Rather, we see the two, library systems developing their own forms of assistance and information sharing, based on the special character of their area. Listed below are some of the activities and forms of co-operation that could develop:
- Seminar/In-service programmes for school/public library staff.
- Assistance by school libraries to public libraries developing multi-media collections - loans of materials and/or copying services; standardisation of equipment, union catalogues of audio-visual materials.
- Joint purchasing of books/materials, where there is an advantage in buying in larger quantities.
- Expanded inter-library loans - the public library having access to specialist areas, such as professional journals held by the school and the school having access to material that it would normally hold.
- Special programmes, such as assistance for migrants or other groups within the community.
In conclusion, the Federation emphasises that it fully supports the concept of a strong, adequately staffed and financed public library system. We consider that a good library and a good library system in an area or region offer the community a more satisfactory pattern of service than a single "community" library.
Community Libraries and Working Conditions
Federation notes that at present school libraries are grossly under-staffed at all levels, and considers ad hoc arrangements to open school libraries at weekends, nights or in the holidays will undermine the working conditions of all teachers, weaken the case for additional professional staff and jeopardise future developments in this direction. Federation directs all members not to be on duty in school libraries during school holidays, weekends or at night.
Further, that where a teacher librarian has been asked to breach Federation policy that he/she inform the Federation and/or the local Organiser.
In order that neither library service to the school nor library service to the public should suffer, Federation urges that no amalgamation of service should be attempted unless both school and public library are fully and adequately developed.
In such a case the Federation would see the following as essential conditions:-
- that the needs of the pupils be at all times paramount.
- That in regard to staffing there be full consultation and agreement between the Federation and the employer prior to any implementation of the scheme.