Dr Lyn Hay’s School Libraries Research Report
School libraries are the hub of school literacy, an essential resource and support for students in their learning journeys, and for the increasingly stretched teacher workforce. One of the largest library sectors in Australia, school libraries occupy a unique place in the library and information sector (LIS). The specific nature of the challenges and opportunities of school libraries was identified early on in ALIA’s Professional Pathways Project, and Dr Lyn Hay was commissioned to undertake a specific research project addressing the continuing professional development (CPD) needs and employment pathways of those working in school libraries.
Working with an expert reference group that helped identify key issues along the way, Dr Lyn Hay has completed the comprehensive School Libraries Research Report. This invaluable resource complements Dr Gilliam Hallam’s Technical Report.
The School Libraries Research Report looks into different employee groups, (Teacher Librarians, Library Technicians, Library Assistants, Librarians and Teachers) acknowledging the broad nature and different makeups of school library teams across sectors and geographies. The report identifies necessary skills for school library staff and ways to support them and makes recommendations on current LIS course development, identifies potential micro-credentials for qualified and non-qualified staff, CPD interest areas, and PD challenges and opportunities for all employee groups.
A broad literature review of scholarly publications, grey literature and reports on school libraries and library access, from Australia and internationally was undertaken. Dr Lyn Hay then conducted interviews with key stakeholders and held a series of focus groups from November 2021 to January 2022, in which 47 people took part. These informed a gap analysis of CPD offerings, and identified issues, concerns and challenges around gaining qualifications and existing professional pathways into and across the sector.
The data collected in the research, interviews and focus groups informed the development of a 28-question survey that was open from February to April 2022. There were over 750 respondents resulting in 693 complete responses from across employee groups and with good representation from government, independent and Catholic schools.
Chapter 1 looks into the role, function and importance of school libraries in supporting education in Australia; Chapter 2 focuses on the nature and demographics of employee groups working in school libraries in Australian schools; Chapter 3 summarises existing LIS qualifications for those working in school libraries and existing qualification pathways; Chapter 4 examines the knowledge, skills and competencies required by school library employees; Chapter 5 explores ethics, professionalism and professional identity in the school library context; Chapter 6 evaluates existing CPD for school library employees, identifies areas of need for each employee group, and identifies opportunities for ALIA and partners; Chapter 7 presents key findings and conclusions, followed by five recommendations.
One key finding is demographic: the respondents to the survey would indicate school library sector is predominantly female and has an ageing workforce (with 60% of survey respondents aged 50+), which on both counts is higher than the rest of the of LIS sector and schools. The report also found that, regarding employment contract types, many are being employed in positions beyond or outside of their qualification level, especially those employed as Library Assistants.
The limited number of available options for people wishing to qualify as Teacher Librarians (TL) is not a new phenomenon, with the most expedient option being to complete an undergraduate teaching qualification followed by a postgraduate LIS qualification with a TL specialisation. Feedback confirmed that most agree the TL component should be kept at Masters level rather than lowered to Grad Dip level. However, the decreasing LIS HE market certainly reduces the options and chance of attracting younger people into the profession. Many TLs join the workforce as a later career choice, which presents both an opportunity and challenge in finding ways to harness the diverse skills that people come with.
The report identified many potential avenues to encourage people into the sector such as creating a campaign targeting careers counsellors in schools, greater use of VET traineeships, establishing subsidised or sponsored courses for LIS education for those already working in the sector and creating a way to acknowledge certified stackable training.
Also identified in the report are thirteen priority CPD topics.
- Collection development issues and challenges
- Selecting and evaluating Indigenous resources
- Digital content curation
- Designing library spaces
- Marketing library collections, programs and services
- Information/digital/media literacy
- Reading and literacy in schools
- Diversity, inclusion and equality in school libraries
- Managing digital collections and databases
- Social media for school libraries
- Library data and learning analytics
- New and emerging technologies
In the final chapter, Lyn discusses five key recommendations for ALIA and partners to address key challenges and priorities for the school library sector:
Recommendation 1: Establish a Professional Pathways for School Libraries Working Party
Recommendation 2: Clearly articulate professional pathways for the school library sector
Recommendation 3: Work with educators to develop new professional pathways and contextualise accredited courses for the school library sector
Recommendation 4: Develop an employer engagement strategy with school education systems
Recommendation 5: Strengthen professional identity and professional engagement of school library employees in Australia
You can watch the latest Research Review webinar in which Dr Lyn Hay discuss the report and its findings here.
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