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School Libraries

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By Margaret Adolphus


Australia is one of five Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries where literacy and numeracy has declined over the last 10 years. Coincidentally (or not), according to a government survey of school libraries commissioned by the Hon. Julia Gilliard MP, many of these receive budgets below 1975 levels (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment, 2011, p2).

Several large-scale studies in North America have shown that well-organized and resourced school libraries have made a measurable difference to students’ academic performance (and students also rate the performance of their libraries highly).

(For a summary of this research, see Scholastic Library Publishing, 2004.)

This article will look at developments in school libraries, drawing from reports in the UK, US and Australia about the situation in their respective countries, as well as research and opinion pieces from Emerald authors.

By school libraries, we mean those for pupils at primary or secondary level (K12).  A school library can be many things, from a pile of books in the corner of an office to a designated state-of-the-art building with the latest technology and content that it purely digital.

It can be staffed by a teacher as part of his or her other duties, by a librarian, or by someone with qualifications in both areas (a teacher librarian). It can be peripheral to the school, another administrative function, or at its centre, with the person in charge reporting directly to the head or other member of the senior management team.

The school library has a number of functions, most notably:

  • Offering a learning resource for the whole school, which includes providing teacher-led sessions and encouraging information literacy and independent learning.
  • Acquiring, organizing and evaluating information resources, in print, digital and multimedia form, as well as an ICT infrastructure.
  • Promoting and supporting reading.
  • Offering a quiet place to study, particularly to do homework.