From 1991 to 2002 I was an active committee member of the Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA) – and gladly gave up many hours of personal time to attend School Libraries Section (NSW Group) meetings, ALIA NSW Branch meetings and national ALIA Renewal meetings – only leaving when I returned to classroom teaching in 2003. (Sadly for the local School Libraries Section, it did not survive the “renewal” program of ALIA, or the retirements of many of its committee. Try as we did, we couldn’t tempt too many new/young TLs to commit to advocacy from a professional association stance.)
What other strategies can TLs can use now, to make sure that we do have the ongoing/evolving support of “politicians, unions, and professional associations”? Yes, of course every student in Australia deserves equity, but has recent Australian research demonstrated that it really is the “services of a professional qualified teacher librarian” in NSW that increases student achievement of outcomes? What else can NSW TLs and their professional associations do to convince other states’ powers-that-be that they need trained teacher-librarians in every interstate school?
As I said a previous post, NSW TLs can (and do) at least send messages via our actions in schools to the people making the decisions about NSW schools. Furthermore, we can make presentations at annual NSW DET and ASLA NSW conferences, (as I have been doing these past three years since returning to teacher-librarianship – so far no interstate invitations, but I’m willing to travel). The whole point of evidence-based practice is so we can actually prove that TLs make value-added contributions to our students’ educations. Then, hopefully, we find ways to bring those successes to the attention of the other states’ stakeholders, demonstrating that they are missing out on a crucial human resource: a trained TL.
Something very dramatic does need to happen to alter the current state of play. If the advocacy load should not be on the already-overburdened NSW TL, how will the politicians and unions suddenly be convinced to take up advocacy on our behalf, especially if we decide we are simply too over-burdened to do it ourselves?
We can blow a lot of hot air their way, sure, and write lots of letters and blog entries – and the other states can gnash their teeth in jealous misery – but it is solid action research that is going to provide the evidence for change. We have a prime minister bequeathing grants for new BER school libraries – all over NSW – over the next two years. Isn’t that a strong sign of someone noticing the work of NSW TLs? (Why wasn’t the money shunted into other types of buildings?)
NSW TLs do need to commit ourselves to proving that these promising, current efforts are going to be worthwhile. Unfortunately, that’s more advocacy work for us. A lot more.