Essential connections: school and public libraries for lifelong learning.
In 1964 American Professor Sara Innis Fenwick spent six months in Australia as a Fulbright lecturer and consultant, at the invitation of the then Library Association of Australia. Her report School and children's libraries in Australia (1) was published in 1966. That report is worth a backward glance because
* it was to be a catalyst for improvements in school and children's library service
* of what it reveals of the condition of both within the lifetime of many teacher and public librarians today
* it makes the essential connections between school and public libraries, which is the focus of this paper
* a similar national review of libraries for young Australians is arguably well overdue
The Munn-Pitt report
However prior to the Fenwick report, as Fenwick observes in her introduction, school and children's services had certainly not been ignored in surveys of Australian libraries. The watershed Carnegie Corporation funded 1934 survey by Ralph Munn and Ernest Pitt had devoted a full chapter to children's service, observing that
Judged by overseas standards, there is not an acceptable children's lending library in all of Australia, and only a few institutions are even making a creditable service to children. (2)
Of school libraries, they noted
No secondary school was found, even in the largest cities, in which all the elements of satisfactory service exist. (3)
Laboratories are supplied from school funds for the science departments: libraries are the laboratories for all departments. (4)
An outstanding feature of the Munn-Pitt report was its elegant and full preface contributed by Frank Tate, an educator in the true sense of the word, who had been director of education in Victoria, principal of the training college in that state, and president of the Australian Council for Educational Research.
In a prescient commentary he wrote about the pedagogical advantages of the Californian approach to school libraries, but that
Of course, such a method involves great modifications in the system of class teaching which has such a hold upon Australian education ... the use of the school library as an essential factor in educational method, is rarely met with in Australian schools ... (5)
The fact that the educational bureaucracies of Australia and anachronistic teacher education have tended to thwart or slow Tate's implied vision of the independent information literate learner, does nothing to weaken its essential truth. It is a verity which, quite remarkably for 1934 when he was writing, he extended to higher education by observing
... education is in essence an individual matter, and that even in the acquisition of knowledge, the greatest benefit results from what the student finds out for himself by work in a good library, rather than from what he takes down in lecture notes. (6)
Tate was nothing if not consistent in his educational philosophy. As early as the 1901 conference of the Teacher's Union of South Australia, as the principal of the Victorian training college he had given an address which had its audience of South Australian teachers--labouring in a restricting, over regulated, heavily inspected system--cheering. Tate's address would stand well in 2001 with its references to education as a lifelong learning process and the problems of an over crowded syllabus which made thinking impossible. As he noted
Any system which sacrifices thought development to fact acquisition stands condemned as foolish and improvident in the highest degree. (7)
By this criterion much of Australian education was to stand condemned for at least the next sixty years.
The McColvin report
It was to require yet another report to hammer home to complacent state and local authorities just how far behind other parts of the developed world Australia was in the provision of library services. In 1947 Lionel McColvin, city librarian of Westminster in the UK published a report Public libraries in Australia: present conditions and future possibilities (8) sponsored by the commonwealth government, ACER and the British Council
The report was significant in that, at a time in Australia when not only were public libraries grossly deficient or nonexistent but school libraries too were poor, ten per cent of its content was a section Work with children. This asserted
Australia is not serving its children well. And this is all the more surprising because its educational system is probably well ahead of ours in England. How much of the value of that educational system is lost through lack of proper library services--for children and for adults--it is impossible to estimate. (9)
After expressing his trenchant views on the limitations of school and children's libraries in Australia in 1946, McColvin commented on the pedagogical reasons for good school libraries
For such important purposes the school library can never be too good, and in the larger schools it will afford ample opportunity for the wholetime employment of a qualified teacher librarian ... but the provision of general and recreational material should be the responsibility of the public library which should be able to provide it through its normal system of library service points. (10)
It is noteworthy that in 1946 McColvin was using the term `teacher librarian'. Fenwick, 20 years later, did not--her usage was `school librarian'. McColvin argued that teachers were not usually the best providers of general reading because of their curriculum focus
If he is keen and interested, he [the teacher] is only too liable to want to `guide', and the more he does so the more he destroys that essential element of freedom; from the teacher who isn't keen the child needs protection. The teacher who feels--as every teacher should--that it is a major duty to encourage and train the child to use books fully in later life need not fear that the dual school--and--public library system will limit his efforts. On the contrary, he can use the school library as a workshop in which to demonstrate the application of books to life and learning; he can introduce his children, at the same time, to the workshop they must use later. (11)
McColvin's language reflected his times, but allowing for the substitution of `information resources' for books, he focused on an issue which at the beginning of this 21st century of the mind is perhaps the educational issue--lifelong learning and the understandings and competencies required to sustain it. His main point, the complementary but essential distinctiveness of school and public libraries, will be considered later in this paper.
In 1955, eight years after McColvin's report, not much progress had been achieved with school libraries, American Dr R Freeman Butts reporting on six months studying Australian education that
The most curious attitude of all has to do with libraries and the use of books ... the impression I received was that library books are somehow considered to be of quite secondary importance to the educative process. The provision of school libraries is often left by departments of education to ... the mercy of headmasters, and parents who take more pride in school ovals than in library books. I cannot see how an enriched curriculum and broad, educative experience can be achieved without a liberal policy of wide ranging resources for reference, nonfiction and recreational reading under school auspices. (12)
Similarly, Maurice Tauber's 1961 report verdict was that Australia had `few good school libraries'. (13)
The Fenwick report
From the University of Chicago's graduate library school, Sarah Fenwick's reputation ensured national interest in her 1964 seminars, lectures and discussions. Her visit also precipitated a review of children's services by educators, academics, community organisations as well as by librarians. Most significantly it was a precursor to the decision by the commonwealth government to fund school library development. As noted above, the deficiencies in library services for Australian children had received attention in the Munn-Pitt, McColvin, Freeman Butts and Tauber reports. However the slender Fenwick report was the first specialised study in the area. The deficiencies identified for both public and school library services were focused on finance, staffing, career structure, professional education, collection building and selection. Its philosophical basis was overt, and anticipatory of the increasing attention being given at the beginning of the 21st century to the implications of the learning society and lifetime membership of it.
The foundation for the educated adult who can make full use of resources of the past and present is to be found in the school library that is accessible from the first day in school ... (he) learns that the prerecorded ideas of men are categorized, arranged in logical order and can be approached through aids that help him learn to ask questions. This experience makes possible the continuing education that will characterise the adult learner of tomorrow. (14)
Fenwick's visit and report addressed three major areas: public library service to children, school libraries and education for librarianship. It was a report to have a lasting impact on school libraries, but less so on public libraries. The commonwealth government proved to be receptive to funding a school libraries program, but refused to dabble in the funding of public libraries which was to remain squarely the province of state and local government.
In her final section Cooperation between school and children's libraries, and in the penultimate paragraph of the report itself, she noted
Both school and public library will be responsible for learning that will span lifetimes, and the education of children will be only the beginning ... there must be continuous planning ... especially of schools and public libraries, for this challenging common endeavour. (15)
This was because children could not be expected to define the special considerations of their `libraries' and `It is only librarians who try to differentiate between a book that is a recreational book and one that provides curriculum enrichment'. Debatable though this latter observation was, Fenwick would have found no debate about her observation that the user's viewpoint on access to resources, wherever located, was critical, or that it was the task of all librarians to plan cooperatively to provide that access. Yet Fenwick failed to reflect on the fact that one key advantage of joint use libraries is that ease of access to total resources which is the user's need. She took the conventional professional line on that physical conjunction of school and public libraries which is becoming more common in rural Australia in particular, in the form of school and Tale housed public libraries
There is a temptation, because the common elements of school and public library service are so many, to provide a single library for both--such a practice denies the essential function of the children's librarians to serve all segments of the community as a specialist in children's library services and of the school librarian, to serve the school population as a teacher librarian. Total service to the community demands both services: the functions--using the same materials--are uniquely an aspect of a parent institution. (16)
This point about the distinctive role of children's librarians and school librarians was emphasised in her section on Education for librarianship
The important educational role of the librarian in the school must be interpreted for the library profession as well as the teaching profession. The concept of this role as that of a children's librarian circulating books within the walls of a school is a fallacious one, and is a denial of the rights of pupils and staff to the service of a school librarian who is a member of the instructional staff ... While much of the core context for librarians in public and in school libraries is the same the overall dimensions of the professional education program are quite different. (17)
The mid 1960s were a challenging, almost heady, time with US precedents of federal funding and interest in school libraries set to influence development in Australia. In the years after 1964 school libraries in Australia achieved more developmentally than in any decade before or since. There were three major stimulants: the Fenwick report; the publication, also in 1966, of Standards and objectives for school libraries by the Library Association of Australia; and a campaign by a number of agencies to achieve commonwealth aid for school libraries. These agencies included the Australian Teachers' Federation, the Australian Council of State School Organisations, the Headmasters' Conference, the Australian Education Council, school library associations, the Library Association of Australia and the newly formed Australian Library Promotion Council which in 1968 issued School libraries, a report to the nation. (18) This publication reiterated the thrust of Fenwick's report and, by detailing the inadequacy of school library funding in Australia, contributed to the success of the campaign for commonwealth funding in 1968.
Under the States grants (secondary schools libraries) act initially $27 million was provided for the 1969-71 triennium, and a further $30 million in 1972-74.
Public and school libraries
Public libraries were also the focus of national attention in the 1976 Horton report, (19) a report which although, due to the demise of the Whitlam government in 1975, it achieved no national funding for them, had other outcomes of enduring value. The report unquestionably acted as a prompt to those states, such as Q1d and SA, which were lagging in providing public libraries, so that Australia can now claim--despite significant imbalances in its system of 1600 public libraries--to be among the top ten public library nations. (20) That system still only receives an investment of about $500 million pa or 6c per Australia per day--less than the annual expenditure of just one large Australian university. Nonetheless, it is used by 60 per cent of the population and is now accessible to 98 per cent of Australians.
Despite their manifest unevenness and needs, both public and school libraries at the beginning of the twenty first century are better placed than they were just twenty five years ago to meet the needs of the clients they have in common--children and teachers. A critical question, then, is to what extent are they cooperating in resourcing and in developing information literate young people of which Australia has much need if it is to progress as an information enabled knowledge nation.
As Fenwick herself concludes in her summary section Cooperation between school and children's libraries
It is only librarians who try to differentiate between a book that is a recreational book and one that provides curriculum enrichment. The child uses libraries, and the differentiation of their use is in conditions and degrees of accessibility, in depth of subject coverage, in range and extent of maturity levels included. Therefore, to the user, the condition of accessibility of materials in a community is described by the sum of all library materials. Since this is the user's point of view, it is the task of librarians to assess the adequacy of the sum of their resources and services and to plan cooperatively to provide maximum service. (21) Cooperation between school and public librarians must, to be successful, involve eventually the entire staffs of the two institutions as well as those of university and special libraries. Changes in society and our modes of living are in the direction of more education, both formal and informal; and the increasing leisure is underscoring the need for a program of continuing education. Both school and public library will be responsible for learning that will span lifetimes, and the education of children will be only the beginning. To recognise these developing needs there must be continuous planning of all community organisations, but especially of schools and public libraries, for this challenging common endeavour. (22)
The international literature From the time that Fenwick observed that `both school and public library will be responsible for learning that will span lifetimes' the literature--international and Australian--about school-public library cooperation has been relatively sparse and locally focused, a US item from the 1960s being a NY State Education report Towards a common goal: school-public library cooperation. (23)
One Canadian item School assignments: a public library responsibility (24) argues that
The unofficial boundary which states that school libraries are responsible for curriculum needs and public libraries are responsible for personal reading is absurd ... Studies indicate that many parents do not take their children to the public library. Unless there are access points other than public libraries, these children will not read good fiction. School libraries can act as natural access points to literature. The roles of school and public libraries are not clear cut and distinct. Young people gain by some merging of responsibilities.
In Denmark in the 1980s, collaboration between school and public libraries was being formalised to the extent of school library committees being established involving local politicians and joint material selection committees, (25) Still in Scandinavia, a review of Norwegian public and school cooperation in 1985 (26) highlighted the inadequacies of both in the context of a concern to have children read more through a provision in the 1985 Norwegian library act that
Section 6. Cooperation with schools Cooperation with school libraries in the municipality shall be ensured by means of agreements, and by placing the professional expertise of the public library at the disposal of the school authorities in the municipality.
The outcome of this requirement is described in a 1988 article (27) which notes that
Current actions to stimulate the interest for children's books together with projects about children's reading habits and the use of libraries have taught us that Norwegian children still like to read books, and that they will read more if they get access to books--many books. We also know that they need guidance about what to read ...
Also expressed is the intention that
Everyday contact will give data on the attitudes of the students towards library services, thus giving information that may lead to changing attitudes among the library personnel and administrators.
Of published studies of cooperation between school and public libraries there are several, one example being published in Texas 1989 (28) and which concluded
This study of resource sharing between school and public libraries in Central Texas agreed in part with earlier studies. Thus There is not a clear definition of what is meant by networking
* Cooperation between school and public libraries is often little more than the public library fulfilling its traditional role
* Cooperative agreements are generally informal
* Funding, time, attitude, and access seem to be the major obstacles to cooperation
A 1989 paper by UK educator Geoffrey Dubber focuses on cooperation in information literacy development, and the need for more qualified staff in school libraries. It concluded
Education needs libraries. We need your professional skills to help us bring to our pupils the information skills they need to approach the twenty first century. Our need of you is developing all the time, and both our professions must grow in understanding of one another. The alternative to such cooperation may not exactly be to die, but it would be to deprive pupils of the resources and skills they need to become truly independent learners. Such deprivation would be in itself perhaps a sort of death!
An interesting approach to cooperation is described in `The public library and the school system: partners in lifelong learning', (30) an article which has a useful list of references about cooperation issues. It describes the partnership of the Vancouver public library system and school board to Capture the creative imagination of children through the development of a Mutual expectation policy. This is a good model for school-public library cooperation anywhere.
The article concludes
Again, in the ideal world public librarians and teacher librarians would work in close liaison with teachers to promote an excitement for literature and a solid grounding in the wealth of information available for formal and informal lifelong learning. Public librarians would regularly be invited to school staff meetings to update staff on curriculum related public library activities and new resources. Programs would be cooperatively planned in order to maximise time and audience participation. Regularly, public librarians would be welcomed to schools and classes welcomed to libraries. Children and parents would know their librarians by name. Education is lifelong and broad based. Many institutions and experiences will contribute to every individual' s educational experience. Schools and public libraries should be pivotal experiences for all who use them. In spite of our frustrations of programs which do not work, we need to take heart from our successes. We must continue to try as did the mother of the baby before King Solomon to put first, before politics, efficiency, self interest or righteous indignation, the best interests of our mutual child.
Another, US, article 'Extending public library resources into the classroom' (31) observes that in the literature most writers agree that cooperation between schools and public libraries is essential, and that there are three common related missions and goals
* ensuring that students are information users
* providing access to a wide range of current resources
* motivating children and young adults to use library materials for information and recreational needs
It also notes that the active participation of public libraries in schools might hinder the development of strong school libraries, and that consequently many in the US had terminated bookmobile stops at schools, ceased purchasing curriculum related resources and halted classroom loans to teachers. A major barrier to cooperation was seen as lack of time, but none of the literature reviewed by the article talked about methods of saving time for students or classroom teachers.
A Danish article describing the differences and similarities between public and school libraries (32) states that at the end of the 1980s some politicians were questioning the need for two types of library service for children
Almost all school libraries and children's libraries cooperate on book selection, acquisitions and book preparation. The librarians meet each week and agree which titles shall be purchased by whom. Sometimes, both libraries buy the same book if it is good and likely to attract many borrowers ... a double purchase. We are asked to explain why both departments need it.
Whilst the literature is focused on school-public library cooperation some of it refers to broader cooperation involving academic libraries. A good example is a Canadian article `Community cooperation in a reference service via a librarian's liaison committee'. (33) Focused on helping develop student information literacy in the 350,000 population city of Waterloo in Canada, the article notes that any college or university library located in an urban or suburban environment will face a demand from high school students and their teachers, particularly where research and independent study is emphasised in the school curricula. It also observes that
The concept of information literacy is ill served if libraries interpret too rigidly the perimeters of their particular user group ... access to resources thousands of miles away is sometimes easier to achieve than a sharing among libraries in a given community.
The article has a useful appendix of the profomas used by teacher and university librarians for liaison.
The value of cooperation in rural situations is emphasised in `The technology knot--tying small libraries together through remote access'. (34) This describes the cooperation of small isolated public and school libraries in Washington State USA through Clear (Coalition of Libraries to Expand Access to Resources).
A paper `Preschool partnerships: school and public library cooperation to facilitate school readiness' (35) stresses the need for quality services to preschool children to achieve the first US national educational goal--by 2000 all children will enter school ready to learn), and to identify ways in which school and public libraries can work together to provide such services. Described are the outcomes of a 1994 five day `Achieving school readiness institute involving school and public libraries.
Away from the North American experience, a 1996 article from South Africa `Libraries and schools: the other viewpoint' (36) assesses the challenges facing school and public libraries, and their need to increase cooperation.
As noted earlier, Norway is unusual in requiring cooperation between school and public libraries, its school act stating
Schools shall have a library and a person who is responsible for the library service. The school library shall have both a pedagogical and a general cultural function and must have permanently established cooperation with the public library in the municipality.
An important aspect of this cooperation is picked up in an article `Cooperation between school libraries and public libraries to promote enjoyment of reading'. (37) This concludes that because cooperation is well organised, children in the large municipality of Baerum have easy access to books, the school curriculum stimulates reading activities, and its children are much better readers than the Norwegian average.
One wonders just how much greater the cooperation between Australian school and public libraries would be if it were mandatory, rather than largely the outcome of individual initiatives as it is at present.
A formal US contribution to the literature on school-public library cooperation is a review of a 1998 conference A meeting of minds: school and public library cooperation, (38) which explores models and methods for cooperation, networking and cooperative goal setting.
Points raised during the conference include
* teacher and public libraries make a powerful impact on children's lives--working together they can enhance that impact
* the need to create win win situations for clients and professional colleagues
* taking small steps to develop a relationship based on communication and trust will result in a powerful and secure cooperative partnership
* avoidance of dismissing cooperation as too time consuming or costly
There has been little discussion of the school-public library interface in the Australian literature over the last decade. One article, set in a context of inadequately resourced school libraries is `The uneasy alliance: formal education and self education for children in Western Australia'. (39) This argues that
... it is a denial to the nonstudent public when budgets are weighted towards student needs [and] when reference staff are using disproportionate amounts of their time to help students with school based problems.
On a more positive note `Library links: public and school library cooperation' (40) focuses on cooperation in the Blue Mountains NSW, to enhance access to resources and the development of information skills.
The December 1990 issue of the national journal for public libraries Australasian public libraries and information services carries two articles on school-public library cooperation. The first `Cooperation between school and public libraries' (41) contends that by cooperating effectively school and public libraries can help create information literate young adults, that persistence towards this is required of both teacher and public librarians, that a minimum of three years is needed for cooperative patterns to be established, and that when cooperation does work the needs that are substantial.
The second article `Partners in learning: public and school libraries in South Australia' (42) reviews a survey of metropolitan and country public libraries in South Australia--a state unusual for its high proportion of school and Tafe housed public libraries---and their level of cooperative activity with school libraries. Considered from a public library perspective, the dominant cooperation imperatives emerging from the responses were to
* encourage a reading, information seeking and library habit that carries into adulthood
* show what resources are available so that information choices could be made
* encourage children to become comfortable and familiar with the public library, its resources and itself
* reduce isolation and disadvantages of children in rural communities
The survey results showed that considerable energy was already being expended on both sides towards these objectives.
Also included in the literature are descriptions of networks involving school and public libraries. An example is a survey of the use of a Victorian union list of periodicals (43) which concludes
Responses to the survey indicated that some school libraries view cooperation with public libraries as being one way--with the school making little contribution to the public library. Surely this viewpoint has to change ... if schools are to send their students out to seek the information available in their communities, they must certainly expect to reciprocate by making their information resources available to the community.
A survey commissioned by the State Library of NSW in 1990 (44) found that students, including secondary students, used school libraries, public libraries and the State Library in descending order of frequency. Of an estimated 289,000 visits to NSW public libraries in one survey week in September 1990 100,800 (35%) were students. 68% of students indicated that their visit was study related. 45% of students were secondary students.
Another survey commissioned by the Victorian Ministry for the Arts (43) in 1991 examined the cross sectoral usage of libraries by senior secondary (VCE) students. The finding about usage of different types of libraries by these students was
School 97.65% Public 70.33% State 12.48% Tertiary 9.82% Tafe 4.38% Special 2.50%
The report concluded
Less than a third of VCE students rely on school and home resources only for VCE information and library resources. The bulk of nonschooI library usage is of public libraries and the usage of the State Library is disproportionately high. Usage of nonschool libraries is significant and it appears that this will continue to be so for some years.
The shift in the early 1990s from teacher directed to enquiry based learning with its emphasis on independent student research also precipitated initiatives to broaden the library resource base available to school students. These included initiatives by all state libraries, and especially those of NSW and Victoria, the University of South Australia Library (National Periodical Service for Schools) and by the University of Queensland Library (Cyberschool).
There are also throughout Australia examples of formal, semi formal and informal cross sectoral library networks largely focused on maximising access to resources by students and teachers. Most of these are not described in the national literature. One which is, is the Nepean Library Network in Western Sydney. This links public and independent schools with the Penrith City Library and the University of Western Sydney. (46) One which is not yet described in the literature is the May 2001 SunLib cooperative development on the Sunshine Coast which involves public, school, university, Tale and special libraries. This has as its final objective to create a full portal of information on the total library resources of the Sunshine Coast, with location, availability and reservation capacity <www.usc.edu.au/library/lib_dir/default.htm>.
Overall, there has thus been sparse attention in the literature to school-public library interaction in the last decade. In one sense this is surprising, given the whole of education contribution of both, the potential of information literacy as a cross profession connector, and the increasing focus on the lifelong learner. That literature gives little sense of what is occurring nationally in the interaction, and what may be inhibiting it. It was therefore decided to undertake for this paper a national survey of public and secondary school libraries to identify their current level of interaction, and perspectives on it.
This consisted of a one page five question survey which was mailed in May 2001 to all 1,496 public library branches in Australia, including the 115 which are school, Tafe, and university based. The response rate was 27%.
It was also sent to 2,325 government and independent secondary schools in Australia some of which, particularly in rural areas, have primary students as well. The response rate was 31%.
There was no follow up if no response was received. However the percentage of forms returned was beyond expectation, suggesting that for many public and school libraries school-public library cooperation is an issue of interest to them. The response rate was certainly statistically high enough to be representative of school-public library interaction nationally.
Public library responses: examples of cooperation, suggestions, issues
* Exchange of displays
* More involvement in organising Children's Book Week
* Bulk loans to school libraries
* Nestle Writers Annual Australia competition
* Homework help club and website
* Staff giving children's literature sessions in schools
* Author visits
* Invite public library staff to all TL events
* Coordinating and hosting debates for Bankstown
* Schools Debating Competition
* Assignment alert sheets provided to schools
* Class visits from private and Arabic schools without a library
* Access to Ebsco World magazine bank
* Better communication from schools about assignments
* Head librarian attends school executive meetings
* Public libraries need to develop a program of visiting schools
* Advertisement of public library activities in school newsletter
* Joint grant applications
* Creative writing workshops
* Catalogue available through the internet
* Contacts with high schools are more with subject teachers than with teacher librarians
* In a growing area the school libraries have no resources and the public library is the default school library without the advantage of curriculum knowledge
* Higher school certificate information workshops
* Internet training courses
* Invitation to schools to exhibit art works
* Email contact
* Teacher librarians are often defensive of their role and act as `gatekeepers'
* Area of vital importance--we want kids to see reading as something that happens as a pleasure and interest rather than as an extension of school
* Library staff in school libraries are very scarce--private/Catholic schools seem to have more fulltime teacher librarians
* We refer students to each others' collections
* Often students who come to the public library have not even visited the school library
* Public libraries are used heavily by students from all levels of schooling--funding bodies need to recognise this
* We order interlibrary loans for the school library
* We share the same customer base
* Mobile library visits to school library sites ... they do not contribute financially
* Provision of work experience placements
* Low level of cooperation compared to what I have been used to in Victoria (Qld public librarian)
* Teacher librarian/public librarian meetings still our best communication
* Teacher librarians are stressed, too short of time and money. We are the ones who try to reach out, with varying success
* Social meeting at beginning and end of the year
* Bus costs are considerable and the organisation needed to transport children is sometimes a constraint that can make schools reluctant to plan excursions
* Return of books * `Open evening' for teachers and teacher librarians
* Initiatives come from teachers and principals rather than teacher librarians
* Our Bookweek staff attended local schools for story sessions but felt they were seen as `babysitters' as teachers left the room, marked papers and held discussions during the session
* Students still lack information skills whether using computer or print resources
* There has been a steady increase in the number of teachers who utilise our service ... but school libraries don't feel the need to work with us
* Annual letter to schools about our services
* Local schools have used our libraries as a performance venue/showcase
* Invite local hub group to meet in the public library
* Local primary schools have very poorly stocked and staffed libraries---the high school library is well equipped and staffed
* It is really annoying when teachers take all of our resources on a topic--and then send their students in to find more resources
* We see the teacher ... but the students less which is disappointing as the students are being spoonfed and not exposed to the wonders of their library
* Annual resource sharing workshops with TLs
* Advertise holiday programs high schools
* Use Library and Information Week as a focus for visits
* Placing local history in study areas so children can come in to find answers to questions
* The public library is open longer than schools--good for out of school hours discussion groups, displays, talks etc
* There is a need for teacher training modules on the role of libraries in education
* School resource centres seem to be in many cases just about computers!
* Conduct inservice programs for TLs at conferences
* I am studying for an MEd (Teacher Librarianship) and at residential schools and subject forums am continually amazed at the lack of knowledge about public libraries and what they have to offer schools/TLs in general
* I started a RIBIT (Read in Bed It's Terrific) club for 9-13 year olds ... out of 10 local schools, 3 promoted it well but that was through the classrooms--the libraries were not interested
* Teachers that do get to our library are amazed by the resources--we want to do more, but get no feedback from schools on what
* School libraries could promote public library databases they don't have
* Integrate library systems
* Some TLs are on community consultative committees
* Schools are busy with their own issues and problems and seem to see public libraries as more of a threat than a help--public libraries need to be a bit more sensitive in the way we approach schools
* It would be easier if the local schools employed qualified teacher librarians---some do not have a librarian at all!
* I am finding a barrage of school students using our library and the internet. These students appear very poorly prepared in their library skills--particularly their knowledge of internet resources/research skills
* The children make up a large proportion of our customers using the internet and borrowing nonfiction books for assignments ... their own school libraries are letting them down
* We have excellent liaison with local special school
Teacher librarians don't seem to be interested in cooperation
* I'd like more feedback on curriculum changes
* Project G.O.A.L. Grade Ones at the Library)--statewide project (Qld) to enrol grade one studies in the public library and introduce them to our service
* Net discussion lists for teacher and public librarians
* When I visited the teacher librarians recently I don't think they realised just how many students come to us for help
* Reduce red tape at their end!
* Public libraries are quite enthusiastic about cooperation, but schools don't really consider it to be very important
* Schools are turning to their local library for fiction--especially as their budgets are often used for computers, not books
* Greater cooperation is needed on user education programs from primary through to matriculation
* Cooperative collection development would be fantastic
* We have the same automated online network
* We are looking at joint purchasing schemes
* There doesn't seem to be much need for cooperation. School libraries seem to be fairly well resourced and self sufficient
* Too often, teacher librarians view public librarians as professional rivals, rather than the source of support and cooperation we are
* Public libraries have longer opening hours and are more student friendly
* Invite teacher librarians to select bookstock from book suppliers visiting public libraries ... these suppliers would often not bother visiting small school libraries
* The possibilities are endless--it's a matter of time and priorities
The responses from public libraries featured a number of recurring issues
* The very longstanding issue of lack of consultation and notification about assignments. About 40 per cent of responses referred to this, with some recognising that the difficulty is usually with teachers, teacher librarians themselves often having the same problem as their colleagues in public libraries
* Issues were identified by one respondent as
1 why don't students learn to use technology before looking up information?
2 why don't teachers tell us in advance what assignments they are setting?
3 why don't teachers visit the library to see what we have before they set projects?
* Lack of qualified fulltime teacher librarians with whom to work, particularly in primary schools
* Their contact is often with teachers rather than teacher librarians
* Communication difficulties caused by turnover and absences of school library staff
* Lack of time to give cooperation a high priority
* Those public librarians who had worked as teacher librarians were finding cooperation easy to justify and facilitate
* Those teacher librarians in joint use libraries were generally very supportive of them. As one noted
Having worked in a school library previously I can see the tremendous benefit derived by students in having a public library on site. The availability and ease of procuring `hard to find' resources is fantastic, and the interaction between the general public and students is good
One respondent astutely observed that
We interact on many levels--school students as borrowers/casual staff/work experience/ volunteers; teachers as borrowers and parents
There are positives and negatives to be found in the responses. The fact that 39 per cent indicated that interaction had increased in the last five years, as against the 10 per cent reporting a decrease is noteworthy, with several of the 10 per cent indicating that it was not due to lack of desire but rather due to time and school library staffing changes.
A number of responses also emphasised the need for communication between teacher and public librarians, expressed by one respondent as
Public library staff need to understand the syllabus, especially the changes to the new HSC, and schools need to understand how public libraries can, and do, assist their students. We need to cooperate in teaching children information skills for lifelong learning
School library responses: examples of cooperation, suggestions and issues
* Each term the librarians in town meet to discuss events and issues in the town--the secondary school supports and advertises events and programs held by the local library
* The public library is very helpful to students, realising our isolation
* Public libraries are encouraged to attend hub group meetings with a view to initiating or extending cooperative ventures
* Public libraries should try and make contact with all schools in their local area, not just some
* We spent considerable time detailing all our holdings and sent this off to the public library as requested--we received no acknowledgment, thank you or follow up
* Cost of transport for students is prohibitive
* My local public library has now put its catalogue online, which is great to refer to
* We will use public libraries more now that we have online access
* In this age, a union catalogue with daily delivery of hard copy, internet searches should be a reality. Their strengths could be our strengths and vice versa. Could swap staff for a day or week
* Our school library is well resourced for our students' needs--better than the public library
* We always invite town library staff to our regional SLAV group meetings
* More exchange/mentor/trainee cooperation
* Public librarians offer a highly professional service (yet are paid a pittance). TLs can learn from them (and vice versa in some cases)
* I am going to join the public library closest to my school to access their online databases from my own pc
* It is difficult to know how many students use the public library as a result of TL promotion
* Web pages should be linked
* More interaction would be good but our local library is a small branch of the regional library and the staff are not qualified but are volunteers
* Response from local public library to query re resources was that schools were low on list of priorities--primary function is to serve needs of general public
* Minimal use now that I am in a very well resourced and staffed private school library
* Our public library offers a very good literature festival for school students
* I would have to be convinced of the benefits--I am very busy and it would be a low priority at the moment
* Public library membership forms in school library
* The local city library doesn't see the need for communication at the librarian level--student users are just library users with no special consideration
* We've visited them, but they didn't seem very interested in continuing the contact
* Seems to be a lack of interest--maybe because the public library has no young people's librarian
* We should meet to discuss our students needs--especially for senior research topics
* The local public library needs upgrading
* As we are an IT based school, we don't have that much need for books. When we need specific curriculum resources, the local library is very helpful
* Given the costs of interlibrary loans it is really appreciated when this is done--councils need to be made aware of this. Should we write more thank you's?
* An enormous hindrance to my using and liaising with the public library are its hours
* We in Brisbane are starting a joint networking group between TLs interested particularly in children's literature and public librarians. We start with an Ideas sharing conference in July
* Access to video resources in SA public libraries
* We are a multicampus school with four well staffed and resourced libraries--so keep all our library activities inhouse
* Many items are requested to cover gaps in our school library as we have very limited funding
* Schools should be able to become members of public libraries--this would enable TLs to use their facilities
* We have an ex public library employee. This has encouraged the use of the public library as she knows the collection and organises loans for us
* The perception is that the two libraries are competing when in fact they should complement each other
* Both are members of the post primary library network
* I'm not sure why we would need to interact with the pubic library. We have a very well resourced library ... all the online databases we need
* Cooperation must be needs based--no use setting things just for the sake of it
* I've joined the Friends of the Library
* Daytime speakers--because they are getting very expensive for schools to provide
* Promote writing competitions
* Their attitude is that school students with research requirements are a bit of a nuisance `Can't you get the information from your school library?'
* We're very appreciative of their colour copier-saves the school leasing one!
* A group scheme local government electronic consortium for school and public libraries to get good rates
* We have a very high level of cooperation with the State Library of NSW--the local public library is more poorly resourced than we are
* Public libraries are inclined to find/hand resources to students or their parents without any educational/learning process--this undermines our function
* The chief librarian is in my gym class so we chat about library issues
* 1996/7 the school was included in `Campbelltown Library for students'. Result was HSC collection plus increase in spending on students from 2-3% to 10% of budget
* What resources do public libraries offer that aren't available in schools?
* Regular newsletters arrive to keep me informed of local library activities
* It's nice to have friendly relations, but the needs of our client groups are quite different
* Difficult for high schools with classes of 30 to use the local library in a `civilised' way
* Orientation sessions particularly for senior students would be useful
* Include compulsory unit on information literacy, with emphasis on public library usage, for all teachers, especially secondary
* Judging by the number of books returned to us we have many students who use the local library
* I have a library notice board with one of its main sections News from other libraries
* When working in the public library sector I championed school libraries--now that I'm back in schools I champion the public libraries
* There should be meetings of librarians working in a particular local council area
* Our school library is only one third of basic size requirement. The local public library also needs a new building
* We have tried--no response
* Public libraries need to be conscious of entering schools through their TLs (not through the principal)
* The public library service to suburbs and at the city centre are just fantastic--we use both to full advantage
* More qualified public library staff needed to advise the public and interact with schools
* Our public library provides a wonderful resource for our students
* It's always in the too hard basket
* We have an excellent main library in Penrith-full of energetic librarians who do great things to help our kids and the whole community
* The whole topic could include all the library networks that our students need access to--school/ public/tafe/university libraries
* Public libraries are poorly resourced--don't have a lot to offer
* The high point of cooperation was joint production of a local history CDRom
* Schools aren't the problem--push it!
* Desk service at the public library is not friendly--need training in PR
* Public libraries have been increasingly used as venues for children's literacy events--some co hosted
* The public library has access to the state's resources and large databases. I do feel a little guilty as I use it for school needs so often Regulations make it impossible to foster the use of the public library during school hours
* Most of our students are members of thc public library. I will not get bulk loans on their behalf--they need to be independent learners
* Each year I survey a sample of students years 8-12 on their use etc of our services [and others]
* This school is very well resourced so there does not seem to be the need
* I have done `information evening' talks for our public library eg `Assisting your child with school projects/research
* Cooperate on pupil free days to have visits by your levels. Bookings would need to be made to commit students to attending
* The quality of country `librarians' needs to improve--many are well meaning local ladies but without professional training
* Public libraries need to be more proactive contacting schools
* Relationship is positive, enhanced by two weeks I spent there during my Med (TL) studies
* Now that we are moving into RBL we are using the public library more
* Maroochy Shire Librarians are just great!
* Collection specialisation--the public library sends users to the school for our specialist books. We do the same
* School staff need convincing of the value of access to a wider range of information sources beyond the school library and the internet--there is a belief that students can find everything on the net
* Never given it a thought
* I`d like a slip from the public library telling me what requests my students make, to tell me what I need to buy more of
* We dislike letters saying that we have one month to collect our `lost' books or they will be sold
* YA librarian attends the TL meetings
* The library assistants have been more than helpful--the librarian is aloof and unfriendly
* It would be good to have a forum to discuss issues, but of course we all wait for `someone else' to organise this kind of non threatening meeting
* They have no idea of the size of our collection or our resources--we are a well resourced school
* I haven't pursued it because of lack of time (though I think this is only an excuse!)
* Having the Brisbane City Council's catalogue online now is excellent--if the local library had this service it would increase my promotion of its resources
* The principal focus of our public library is recreational--that of the school library is education/research. There is little overlap in aims
* Student statistics have to be at the maximum to justify funds from school budget--I do not want students using public libraries rather than school
* We often phone them to advise when we have a research assignment
* They are very helpful at returning our library books which have been returned to them by mistake
* School libraries should be self sufficient--public libraries should be serving different needs
* Public library is even worse resourced than us!
* Needs to be valued by shire and school management and endorsed by policies--otherwise it gets down to personalities and is more likely to fail
* Many public libraries feel out of their depth in a school situation--even though they are quite skilled enough
* Lack of school library funding makes contact with the public library a necessity
* l'm a strong believer in joint use libraries having grown up in SA--we encourage use of our school library by the local community but obviously can't provide for them as we lack funding (Victorian TL)
* From discussions with students, I know that the three local libraries are well used
* Public library staff would be impressed by the size and quality of our collection and displays
* A pickup and delivery service, would be good as time is at a premium for teachers and TLs
* Public libraries should be within walking distance of schools
* I would like to see a mega action from both parties to make this happen--both are significantly cut off from each other
* We shared staff for a short time--allowed for collection development/familiarity to be built up
* We are currently negotiating cooperative cost for online subscriptions throughout the NT * Web pages are being developed for joint school and public library use
* Web pages are being developed for joint school and public library use
* Students are free to visit public libraries--I see no reason for schools and public libraries to interact
* Our public library offers a whole lot of databases free to online users--we are able to get an enormous benefit from this for the school
* Our school library is exceedingly well resourced--the need to use the local public library is not there
* I would like them to take on our school archives for local history
* We are envious of their access to interlibrary loans
* The philosophy of the local library is that it should not spend money on secondary resources as the schools are well endowed--a sheer nonsense
* I find our local public library of great assistance
* SIN--Southern Area Network--consists of private and government TLs and public libraries in region --Melbourne)
* Would my cynicism show if I said they wanted our support when they applied for increased funds--have not seen them since!
* Time is needed to `think tank' concerns and ideas
The responses from the school libraries featured a number of recurring issues
* General acceptance of the desirability and importance of school-public library cooperation
* Lack of time to initiate interaction with public libraries
* Cost and other difficulties of transporting children to public libraries
* Annoyance at the policy of many public libraries of requiting collection of school library books returned to them, threats to dispose of items not collected, and refusal to reveal names of student borrowers
* The need for more qualified librarians and children's librarian in country public libraries in particular, and with a greater curriculum understanding
* Desirability of public library catalogues and databases being available on the internet
* Desirability of greater email communication
* A good awareness of the heavy use made by students of public libraries
* Especially in state schools, a dependence on public libraries because of their own poor resourcing
* In NSW in particular, an appreciation of the State Library's service
It is also fair to observe that a number of responses manifested professional narrowness and self satisfaction. Clearly insularity and ivory towers exist not only in universities.
A challenging common endeavour
In her report Sarah Fenwick referred to school and public libraries as linked in a `challenging common endeavour'.
The overall conclusion from the literature, and from the survey, is that school and public libraries in Australia in 2001 have a sense of that common endeavour, and that many are making an effort to extend their interaction to that end. One indicator of this is that 39 per cent of public libraries reported an increase in interaction over five years, against a reduction of 10 per cent. Less convincingly, 18 per cent of school libraries reported an increase, against 10 per cent reporting a decrease. There are grounds for optimism that there is something worth building upon.
School and public libraries have three goals in common
* ensuring that students develop as information enabled learners
* providing access to a wide range of analog and digital resources
* motivating students to use libraries and their professional staff for informational and recreational purposes
Four other factors described in the literature generally apply to school-public library interaction in Australia in 2001
* different understandings and enthusiasms about the need for, the reality, and the potential of that interaction
* cooperation is often essentially the public library pursuing its longstanding role
* cooperative agreements are usually informal
* funding, time, attitude and access seem to be the major constraints on cooperation
One issue particularly worthy of reflection and action is that 71% of public librarians assessed their knowledge of school library issues and developments as very low or low. This compares with 63% of teacher librarians assessing their knowledge of public library issues and developments as very low or low.
This is a very high level of professional unawareness, which needs to be addressed at the local, state and national levels, the leadership in which should be taken by the Australian Library and Information Association and the Australian School Library Association in the context of their recent partnership agreement. It is difficult to see how school and public libraries will achieve their cooperation potential until they understand better the perspectives, contexts and needs of their professional colleagues in the other sector.
Both should also be mutually supportive of each other at the local, state and national political levels with evidence based advocacy for better public libraries employing more children's librarians and better school libraries employing more teacher librarians. Both are surely goals worthy of greater shared endeavour, an endeavour ultimately very important for all Australian libraries in the years ahead.
During their formative childhood years, nothing will convince tomorrow's decision makers of the value of investing in libraries more than school and public libraries which are client friendly and responsive individually, and which demonstrate partnership in developing the bedrock of a 21st century information enabled learning nation--Australia's children.
Public library responses Is the current level of interaction with your local school libraries very low low high very high 29% 49% 17% 5% Has that interaction in the last five years reduced stayed the same increased 10% 51% 39% What factors determine your current level of interaction or inhibit greater interaction no need lack of time lack of interest/response from school libraries 4% 46% 39% Have school library staff ever visited your library for discussions? yes no 45% 55% Is your knowledge of school library issues and developments very low low high very high 27% 44% 21% 8% School library responses (public library responses in brackets) Is the current level of interaction with your local public library very low low high very high 46% (29%) 40% (49%) 10% (17%) 4% (5%) Has that interacfon in the last five years reduced stayed the same increased 10% (10%) 72% (51%) 18% (39%) What factors determine your current level of interaction or inhibit greater interaction no need lack of time lack of interest/response from public library 22% (4%) 67% (46%) 11% (39%) Have public library staff ever visited your school for discussions with you and classroom teachers? yes no 45% (45%) 55% (55%) Is your knowledge of public library issues and developments very low low high very high 13% (27%) 50% (44%) 31% (21%) 6% (8%) Are you a regular public library user? yes no 45% 55%
(1) Fenwick, S School and children's libraries in Australia: a report to the Children's Libraries Section of the Library Association of Australia Cheshire, Melbourne 1966
(2) Munn, R and Pitt, E Australian libraries: a survey of conditions and suggestions for their improvement Melbourne, ACER 1935 p103
(3) ibid p105
(4) ibid p105
(5) ibid p17-18
(6) ibid p17-18
(7) Tate, F qv Thiele, C Grains of mustard seed Adelaide, Education Dept of SA 1975 p12
(8) McColvin, L Public libraries in Australia: present conditions and future possibilities Melbourne, ACER/MLP 1947
(9) ibid p51
(10) ibid p56
(11) ibid p57
(12) Freeman Butts, R Assumptions underlying Australian education NY, Columbia University 1955 p61
(13) Tauber, M Resources of Australian libraries: summary paper of a survey conducted in 1961 for AACOBS Canberra, AACOBS 1963 p14
(14) Fenwick op cit p24
(15) ibid p35
(16) ibid p36
(17) ibid p29
(18) Trask, M School libraries: a report to the nation Melbourne, Cheshire I968
(19) Public libraries in Australia: report of the Committee of inquiry into public libraries Chairman: Allan Horton. Canberra, AGPS 1976
(20) See Bundy, A How far they have come, how far they must go: Australia's public libraries at century's end, in How far have we come, how far can we go? Proceedings of the ALIA public libraries national conference Perth WA 14-17 November 1999 p245-254
(21) Fenwick op cit p35
(22) ibid p36
(23) Towards a common goal school--public library cooperation NY, State Education Dept 1968
(24) Black, N et al School assignments: a public library responsibility Emergency librarian May-June 1986 p25-26
(25) Sorensom, B How public and school libraries collaborate in Denmark Scandinavian library quarterly 2/87 p19-21
(26) Horn, A Norwegian public and school libraries in cooperation Scandinavian public library quarterly 2/87 p22-27
(27) Baadshaug, M Library services for all children: current projects in Norway Scandinavian public library quarterly 2/88 p22-25
(28) Williams, S and La Grange, J Resource sharing between school and public libraries in Texas Current studies in librarianship Spring/Fall 1989 p28-34
(29) Dubber, G Teachers and librarians working together with resource based learning: the challenges and the difficulties Public library journal 4(5) 1989 pl 11-116
(30) Douglas, J The public library and the school system Emergency librarian 18(2) 1990 p8-14
(31) Czopek, V Extending public library resources into the classroom Emergency librarian 5(22) 1995 p23-27
(32) Christensen, J Cooperation between the public library and the school library Resource sharing and information networks 7(1) 1991 p115-120
(33) Hendley, M Community cooperation in a reference service via a librarian's liaison committee Reference librarian (33) 1991 p191-205
(34) Reng, J The technology knot--tying small libraries together through remote access Wilson library bulletin April 1994 p38-40,140
(35) Myroth, B and Ash-Geisler, V Preschool partnerships: school and public library cooperation to facilitate school readiness Austin, University of Texas Graduate School of Library and Information Science 1995?
(36) O'Connell, B Libraries and schools: the other viewpoint Cape libraries April 1996 pl0-11
(37) Oyno, E Cooperation between school libraries and public libraries to promote enjoyment of reading: experience from Baerum, Norway School libraries worldwide 2(1) 1996 p9-13
(38) Missouri library world Spring 1998 p10-12
(39) Lawton, T The uneasy alliance: formal education and self education for children in Western Australia Australasian public libraries and information services 3(2) June 1996 p94-96
(40) Burrell, J and Foster, J Library links: public and school library cooperation Scan 9(4) July 1990 p10-13, also published in Australasian public libraries and information services 4(2) June 1991 p85-90
(41) Zobec, H Cooperation between school and public libraries Australasian public libraries and information services 3(4) Dec 1990 p245-248
(42) O'Loughlin, L Partners in learning: public and school libraries in South Australia Australasian public libraries and information services 3(4) Dec 1996 p249-258
(43) Williamson, K and Murray, J Resource sharing: a survey of the use of the Source periodical union list Scan 5(3) August 1991 p34-36
(44) Guldberg, H Student usage of public libraries in NSW Sydney, State Library of NSW 1991
(45) Dowling, P Libraries: the other classroom? A report on research into secondary student (VCE) usage of Victorian libraries Melbourne, Victorian Ministry for the Arts 1992
(46) Bounds, J Resource sharing network Scan 13(4) Oct 1999 p44-46
Alan Bundy BA DipEd MLitt MLib PhD FALIA AFAIM has worked in public, Tale and university libraries in WA, Victoria and South Australia. In 1992 he was appointed foundation university librarian of the University of South Australia, where he is also the director of the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library and director of the Australian Clearing House for Library and Information Science. Alan is editorial director of Auslib Press and in 2001/2 is president of the Australian Library and Information Association, a position he also held in 1988. Address: University of South Australia Library Holbrooks Road Underdale South Australia 5031 te1(08)83026260 fax(08)83026362 alan.bundy @unisa.edu.au
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|Publication:||Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2001|
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