Friday 27 June 2014

Blog Every day in June Day 27: Amanda Witt on School Libraries

Today's post comes from Amanda Witt, on the importance of School Library Professionals. Thanks Amanda! -Caitlin Williams

I have been a library technician for 10 years and am currently studying towards my librarianship degree via distance, from Charles Sturt University, based in Wagga Wagga, NSW, expecting to graduate in another three years.

After a few short term and voluntary positions in school libraries, I secured a full time job where I was the only library staffer, or OPAL, as ALIA calls it (One Person Australian Library). 
I finally thought I’d landed on my feet but unfortunately the school had had financial problems for years, and at the end of 2010, three years after starting there, I received a redundancy as my position was seen as not important, and the class teachers could do my job. 

The following January I received a phone call from the I.T. technician – ‘what is the password for the library program? Why can’t we access it anymore?”. Until that moment, the principal had no idea that I was the one who arranged the annual subscription for the library software program. So the class teachers could still do my job? Would they contact the helpline when a problem arose?

I am concerned that (especially primary schools) libraries are not even interested in hiring a qualified library professional. Most of this is money and budget concerns. During the ‘building revolution’ of the Rudd Government between 2007-10, new libraries were being planned or included in the buildings, yet the staffing issue did not increase, nor money allocated to pay them.

Some primary school principals have expressed concern that I could ‘get bored’ – by being highly qualified, yet only doing the basics in their library, 2-3 days a week. This shows that they consider the library a not very important place in the school.

To think that everything can be found on Google is a mistake in one sense – during the Bachelor course, we undertake subjects that assist us to further understand how to find information in different forms, and how to catalogue an item to within an inch of its life, to provide the maximum detail so it can be found ten different ways in a catalogue search. Schools, students and teachers need proper library staff, just as every other subject needs its specialist teachers. Why are we seen as dispensable the moment the budget is in trouble? I am still unemployed because of this issue.

Secondary schools and tertiary institutes are discovering some of their new students unable to navigate their way through the library, because they have not had the help and practice in the past.

We not only teach and show students how to locate information, both in physical and electronic form, we also point out the best/more reliable and not so good resources/websites to use. We have learnt this through our study, in the various subjects with feedback from each assignment.

Other subject teachers get employed and their skills used – give us library tech’s/librarians the same chance and respect.

-Amanda Witt

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