TEACHER- LIBRARIANSHIP IN
NEW ZEALAND: A SHORT AND PERSONAL
ACCOUNT OF RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
These are draft notes for a
paper delivered during a series of lectures and workshops delivered
during a study tour sponsored by the NSW Group of the school
Libraries Section of the Australian Library and Information
Association in 1989. Later versions of the notes for these talks
were published in 1990 as Gwen Gawith alive! by ALIA,
School Libraries Section.
[To provide a context for the two papers that follow, a short
description of the training and employment of Teacher-Librarians
in New Zealand may be helpful. What follows reflects my personal
understanding and philosophy, not an 'official' viewpoint. Longer
articles on school libraries and teacher-librarianship in New
Zealand can be found in a forthcoming Australian publication,
Promoting learning: teacher-librarianship in Australia and
New Zealand , edited by Maureen Nimon].
Education in New Zealand has been undergoing rapid and dramatic
change. Many aspects are similar to ongoing changes in education
in New South Wales, but our changes have already happened, and
we are now coping with the results. This means that the past,
with regard to school libraries and teacher-librarians, is no
longer the present, and the present is still evolving, so it
is difficult to talk in absolutes! I shall try to relate the
past to the present and possible futures in a way that you can
relate it to the NSW Teacher-Librarianship situation.
School libraries and staffing
All New Zealand schools have school libraries. Prior to the
changes, each secondary school had a time allowance (approximately
5 hours a week) for a classroom teacher to take responsibility
for the library in conjunction with a fulltime library assistant
(clerical grade). Primary schools had no such allowance.
A teacher was given responsibility for the school library,
but release time for both teacher and teacher's aide were at
the discretion of the Principal. Training for teachers with
library responsibility (TLRs) at both primary and secondary
level was usually confined to short courses (up to a week) offered
by Library Advisers of the National Library's School Library
Service (not part of the Dept./Ministry of Education). Unlike
NSW library consultants, library advisers are librarians, but
not necessarily teachers. The emphasis, of necessity, was on
the skills teachers needed to run the school library in the
absence of centralised cataloguing, like ASCIS, or library automation
systems, like OASIS.
Inevitably this has led to wide discrepancies between schools.
In some schools where students, teachers and parents have been
actively involved, the library has become an essential, vital
and valued part of the school community, the equivalent, in
terms of contributing to the educational life of the school,
of anything I have seen anywhere in the world. The worst? Well..!
At the secondary level this discrepancy is perpetuated; large
vital media resource centres with active student and staff involvement
set against book mortuaries supporting little other than the
notion that a school should have a Library!
While it is a generalisation. I think it is true to say that
one of the positive aspects of the cavalier Kiwi Do-it-yourself
attitude to school libraries has been the greater degree of
student and staff involvement in and commitment to school libraries
than is the case in many countries with more generous library
staffing. The present situation will see changes. Allowances
for TLR release are now up to the individual secondary school,
and at all levels principals and schools/ new governing bodies,
their Board of Trustees, now have an unprecedented degree of
control over resources (staffing and $ for books/media/materials).
It is too soon to tell, but one would expect, in the future,
an even greater discrepancy between schools where resources,
the library and information skills are a leadership priority,
and those with an internalised image of the library as a book
Developments in Teacher-Librarianship:
Until 1986 there was no training for Teacher-Librarians because
there were no positions for full-time Teacher-Librarians. From
1986 15-20 schools a year were selected to receive a supernumerary
senior teaching position for a Teacher-Librarian. Senior teachers
then applied for these positions and did the training as a condition
of appointment. The course was a year-long, Diploma-level specialist
teaching (not librarianship) qualification. It was part-block
and part distance education over a full academic year.
Appointed TLs came from all over the country, on full salary,
fares paid and with living allowances, to attend three month-long
study blocks in Wellington. For the remainder of the time they
worked full-time on course-related school-based assignment work,
with the course director peripatetic between schools to provide
school-based support. Despite the documented success of the
first graduates, in the form of an interim research report into
the educational effectiveness of teacher-librarians compiled
by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER)
as part of a three -year research project into the scheme, the
course was suspended in 1988. i.e. in its third year of operation.
The course director was seconded to the Department/ Ministry
of Education to investigate alternatives. In 1991, after a two
year hiatus, a very different course will commence, as indicated
in this press release.
( press release not included here)
The new Teacher-Librarianshlp policy has several elements which
make it different, interesting, and possibly controversial set
against developments in NSW.
• Like the first course it remains a specialist teaching qualification,
not a library qualification, and it will continue to emphasise
the teaching role of the TL.
• Unlike the first course it will be modular. Five out of the
seven modules, however, will be information studies modules
directed at and available to all classroom teachers. Only Units
6 and 7 will be specialist Teacher-Librarian units for teachers
intending to work as full-time TLs.
• It will be a three-year part-time mediated distance-education
course. This means that there will be one national curriculum,
national standards, teaching materials and co-ordination, but
the course will be delivered through each of New Zealand's 6
teacher training institutions using a combination of distance
education materials and technologies, and face-to-face tutoring
by Teacher-Librarians who did the course 1986-1988.
• Tutor training and co-ordination will be ongoing, based on
distance education technologies (initially teleconferencing,
but also exploring a wider range of options). Considerable emphasis
will be placed on providing tutors and their schools with additional
resources and opportunities for inservice and professional development,
so that these schools become examples of effective integrated
Information teaching and use (no, not model school libraries).
We need to be able to demonstrate how the high level teaching
and management skills of the TL as part of the school's executive
are used to plan and co-ordinate effective Action Learning,
resource and reading support on a school-wide basis.
Employment of Teacher-Librarians:
Why the emphasis on classroom teachers not teacher-librarians in this policy? While we now have policy for a course to train Teacher-Librarians, unlike NSW we do not have even part-time positions for Teacher-Librarians. So, while we can now train Teacher-Librarians, we cannot employ them!
We currently have 55 positions, and 42 practising Teacher-Librarians for New Zealand's 3,000 (approx.) schools. These existing positions will gradually disappear, I suspect. Theoretically it is up to individual schools to choose to deploy some of their discretionary staffing allowance to employ a Teacher-Librarian. In practice this is possible for only a handful of the very largest urban secondary schools, and totally impossible for small primary schools even when the need is perceived. This is obviously a ludicrous situation, and now that the policy for training is in place, we can work to change it so that we have a parallel policy for employment of Teacher-Librarians.
Philosophy: empowering from top and bottom!
Our response to this situation has been, of necessity, a pragmatic one, but it is, I feel, based on a sound philosophy. After all, if all classroom teachers were equipped (with training and school policy and management support) to take responsibility for information skills and reading development across the curriculum, the Teacher-Librarian's role would, surely, become a coordinator, executive management role.
This reflects my personal belief that unless the Teacher-Librarian is a member of the school executive and in a significant decision-making role with regard to school-wide, across-curriculum resource and learning skills development, i.e. in a position to influence teachers and teaching methods, we are fighting a slow and losing battle in current education climates. While this is a personal belle, not shared by many New Zealand librarians (and some Teacher-Librarians) who think the role of the Teacher-Librarian is to run the school library. no one can deny the need for all teachers to take more responsibility for Information skills teaching, Information Technology and reading development at all levels and in all curricular areas.
If the new course goes even a short distance towards achieving this it will, as far as I am concerned, be a success, whatever the outcome for the long-term employment prospects of Teacher-Librarians in New Zealand.
So, Units 1-5 consciously emphasise the skills needed by classroom teachers to encourage effective information use and reading development in classroom as well as library contexts.
Unit 1 looks at how students use Information skills for learning, Unit 2 looks at how teachers can use information to support their teaching, Units 3 & 4 look at how the resources, services and systems of the school library support learning and reading. Unit 5 focuses on Information Technology and learning. As the specialist teacher-Iibrarianship units, Units 6 and 7, concentrate on high level management and marketing skills to equip the Teacher-Librarian to contribute to policy development, corporate and tactical planning, performance appraisal and programme evaluation with particular regard to information developments.
I suspect that there may be some Australian Teacher-Librarians who find this approach challenging because they see 'CPPT' and literature promotion as their professional preserve and prerogative. Consider it from our point of view. If effective information skills teaching and CPPT were to be the preserve of the Teacher-Librarian in New Zealand, we would need 100 years (even if the money were available to employ them) to equip each school in New Zealand with a teacher-librarian! The need for each New Zealand student to get adequate information handling skills simply cannot wait 100 years!
We have to work with what we have - an excellent teaching force who, on
the whole, understand the notion of every teacher being a teacher
of reading and language. The leap to every teacher being a teacher
of information handling is not, therefore, a large one.
Likewise, every teacher plans to some degree. So, building on the familiar, surely it is easier to expand the notion of planning to include planning for effective information handling than insisting on CPPT which is totally alienating and unpronounceable jargon to the uninitiated?
Since the initiated are largely Teacher-Librarians, when you don't have them, you simply have to have faith that all teachers can learn to plan more effectively if they have a model of information use in mind.
The 6-stage question-driven student-controlled Action Learning model (1984) (which influenced your stages in the later NSW policy document Information skills in the school) provides the framework for planning, whether teachers plan individually, in teams or with one of the 42 Teacher-Librarians.
By focusing on the quality of student information-based learning
and introducing teachers to the idea of students controlling Action
Learning, conferencing with the teacher or with each other at
each step of the information process, the emphasis is where it
should be - on helping learners to learn.
While developments in Teacher-Librarianship in New Zealand hardly leave room for complacency. the future will be interesting! If we can retain training policy long enough to ensure that:
• several teachers in each primary and secondary school complete at least Units 1 and 2;
• we can implement simultaneous pre-service equivalents in each of the 6 teacher training institutions;
• we can retain the existing 42 occupied TL positions beyond 1991 so that we can develop the tutoring and regional expertise concept;
• we can develop information needs analysis and planning courses for school Principals and Boards of Trustees;
New Zealand may well end up setting trends as we have done in the field of reading!
In particular, the focus on specifying what schools want to achieve in terms of student information-based learning outcomes, and working backwards from there to work out how, with whom and in what way we can achieve these outcomes, challenges many of the assumptions of Teacher-Librarianship.
In my less Pollyannaish moments the task of achieving this goal without Teacher-Librarians seems impossible. We have struggled to regain policy for training. We will continue to struggle to keep the 42 practising Teacher-Librarians in full time supernumerary positions, and we will struggle for the establishment of more positions.
But the most crucial struggle, in my opinion, is to provide all teachers with better information handling and information teaching skills. Otherwise, trying to market the role of the Teacher-Librarian is like trying to convince people who have only ever used a broom of the wonders of a high-powered vacuum cleaner!
Meanwhile, with so little to lose, and so much to gain, we have no option but to build on our strengths, not lament our lack of teacher-librarians.
We simply have to plug the essence of teacher-librarianship (student information-based learning outcomes) into any socket that lights up!
The two papers that follow are written very much in this spirit - as an invitation to challenge, review. reassess, and cross-examine ye rosebuds while ye may!
To be in our position - having lost the roses, the buds and the bushes - is not comfortable! Building up again will require building TL morale, status and credibility in the fast-changing education world. That is an unenviable starting point in the current competitive climate where a bird in the hand ...
I envy you your head start, your positions, your numbers. But I am convinced
that, out of our adversity will come initiatives that will set
new directions and challenges for Teacher-Librarianship, not just
in New Zealand, but internationally.