Tuesday, 9 February 2010

There is apparently a shortage of

school librarians. This was reported in this morning's paper. Apparently 25% of schools lack a trained librarian. This is a mystery to me. I would have thought this was one of the better and more desirable jobs in schools these days.
I once spent a short time as a school librarian and it was - well marvellous. I had a genuine excuse for telling children about books, all sorts of books. I had a genuine excuse for explaining how libraries worked. I could help them find things and find out things. I could encourage the 'top reading group' (who came to me) to read further and wider than they had before. We talked books and more books.
Of course there were no computers in libraries back then. There was none of the other high-tech equipment which makes a library more like a space station than a comfortable place to read. I had cushions on the floor. There were chess sets and Scrabble for those who did not want to read every lunch hour. Yes, I spent lunch hour in the library. It was my view it should be open. The other staff thought I was mad - but the kids loved it. There would be sixty or seventy kids crammed into the library in wet weather. It would be noisy - but not rowdy. It was mostly the sound of the younger ones reading aloud.
I wonder if computers have made libraries less friendly. Is the library too much like the classroom and the computer area at home? Is the constant struggle to get funds too much for the librarian? Are books considered less important now that computers can provide so much?
I do know that providing factual information, non-fiction, is considered more important than providing reading for pleasure.
Not so long ago a teacher actually said to me, "You know it's a wonder any child actually wants to read fiction these days. There is so much for them to find out about other things."
I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a view held by more than one teacher. Fiction does not, in their view, have the importance it once had. Oh yes, they think children should read some fiction - but not too much and it is preferable if it is fiction with a 'message'. "If kids are going to read fiction then we need to ensure that they are learning something from it, getting a message across," another teacher told me. The idea that you read for the sake of reading has apparently gone along with the cushions on the floor and the joy of discovering a new book by your favourite author. I loved having a child rush eagerly in and ask, "Are there any more like this Miss?"
They say 28% of current librarians will soon retire. Perhaps they could be replaced by information machines, "The material on gene therapy is to be found..." or "The item you require can be accessed on the web at...."
I would prefer to think of a library as a different sort of web, a spider web attracting the reader-flies and swallowing them up into the world of books, of reading, of imagination - into the world of a darn good story which is there for the sheer enjoyment of losing oneself in it and coming out as a slightly different person.


Rachel Fenton said...

Last night i attended my daughter's parent teacher meeting - the one where the teacher introduces herself and her intentions to the parents of her latest class.

The class room has been kitted out in new furniture. The chairs and tables look like something from a Star Trek film. My daughter tells me the shape is to improve posture. My daughter tells me they are not, however, allowed to rest their backs against the back rests in case they damege the new chairs. And they have a new interactive white board - mimeo - the teacher doesn't know what that stands for. It didn't work. It is to be the primary teaching tool. It is to present the days lessons to the children and is the way forward. One father asked "what about handwriting" - the teacher's reply was - "well, that's the dabate of old fashioned versus 21st century"....Libraries are losing librarians because schools are rejecting people in favour of technologies that cannot enthuse, even when they do work. I am considering home schooling. My writing "career" will end but I'm at a loss as to what else to do.

catdownunder said...

Why have the chairs got back rests if the children are not allowed to use them?
Oh - and what happens if there is a power cut? Presumably the inter-active whiteboard relies on power?

Rachel Fenton said...

I asked about the whiteboard - do they have back-up paper lesson plans and activities - apparently yes. Did she have a paper back-up of the evening's presentation - no.

You see, there are hundreds of online pages of knowledge and implementation strategies for improved learning, pdf documents where a child's needs have been reduced and compartmentalised into flow charts and graphs. I am sick of my child being compared to a cohort. My child is a child - one individual person. I HATE the education system. It doesn't work. My daughter is tall - regardless of whether she could rest her back or not she will come home with back ache because her chair is too small! When does common sense kick in?

Effective learners apparently seek out new ways of learning for themselves - funny that because in practice children are told to shut up and not ask questions.

Donna Hosie said...

It is down to money. There is only a certain amount of funds available and the fact is we live in a world now dominated by technology. Principals are under a huge amount of pressure to make their school the most progessively up to date one there is in order to fill places.

I think there should be a balance. It isn't just the schools who should have a library of fiction and non-fiction for children to read. If they aren't doing it in school, then they should do it at home.

Rachel, I totally understand your anxiety. When we lived in the UK, I despaired at the education my children were receiving and often thought of home-schooling - in fact I did do it in order to fill in the enormous gaps.

I have found that the education system in Australia is MUCH better.

catdownunder said...

I think it might depend on where you live Donna. There are good schools and bad schools. I went to some very bad schools - my father was posted to them to try and sort the mess out. The Education Department sent him to several for this precise purpose. Some rural schools, even now, have almost nothing in the way of facilities.
There is another state primary school about 5km from here that has more facilities than the three high-fee schools in the vicinity - and it has a waiting list as well.
I just don't think there is enough money spent on education anywhere - and that a lot of time in school is wasted.

Rachel Fenton said...

My daughter attends the "best" primary school in the area. It has a lot of funds. It has strong leadership and is right up there with the latest of everything but it doesn't matter how much technology, bells and whistles you throw into a classroom - if the teacher is not skilled at including all types of learners and is not prepared to use common sense or is afraid to deviate from the narrow confines of the school's individual policies, then all the technology in the world is worth very little. I just with more time and money went on the things that make a difference to the kids. Having a flash chair is not going to help anyone - it may look state of the art but a chair is still just a chair.

And yes, it's down to money and in order to qualify for more funding my daughter's old school - back when we lived in the UK, threw out a whole IT suite - chairs, pcs, desks, all less than two years old, in order to increase their budget allowance for the following year. It's strategic money wasting that goes on all too often.

Old Kitty said...


So big thumbs up to JK Rowling for igniting some kind of unleashing of imagination among kiddies!!! And adults too.

I say this time and time again use your library, support your library - they try their best under extreme financial/political pressures to keep the integrity of all things literary, of all things community, alive whether in e-form or in print.

Take care

catdownunder said...

Our local library is a meeting point for the community - it is just a pity that the local government authority fails to recognise it with more funding!

Janet said...

I'm following this library debate with renewed interest. I am here in Seattle with 2 granddaughters in elementary school. There appears to be a good school library and also a well-supported public library system. I am enjoying seeing what the children are reading and trying to remember what I read at their age.

catdownunder said...

I will be interested to know what you make of the facilities in Seattle Janet - after all you were a librarian! I believe that the US varies from appalling to absolutely superb. Seattle should be pretty good according to a friend of mine who was brought up in Washington State.