School librarians shelved by the ‘Net?

I had some good belly laughs from Network Ten’s 7pm Project‘s presentation on teacher-librarians on Friday night. The pithy segment covered the forthcoming government inquiry into Australian school libraries and the roles of teacher-librarians. As always with this kind of TV news satire, when you’re close to the issue it can be hard to see the humour, ie. knowing that some teacher-librarians have felt under fire from a naive principal, or shortsighted Departmental or political decision-making, for many years.

I hope this inquiry into the state of teacher-librarianship has positive results for all stakeholders across Australia, especially the students. NSW conditions are certainly better than in many interstate school libraries; too often, when “equity” comes into a controversial issue, we all end up with less in order to be seen to be equitable. My school’s brand new “stimulus package” library starts being built this week – our local community really hopes I’m still there to work in it when it’s finished. What’s been interesting is that we’ve been without an actual physical collection (and a venue for centralized library visits) for two months now – and yet I’m still doing cooperative planning, programming and teaching, and promoting recreational reading, going from door-to-door. My influence on all class programs is as strong as ever. The TL role is so much more than a school’s information collection, be it shelves of books or a web of Internet sites.

As James Henri rightly says on the 7pm Project‘s web page, “Information is information. Packaging is just packaging”. With the Internet, everybody gets to be their own publisher and having “experts to manage what information is required by whom and when” has never been more important. Someone needs to be showing the students (and the teachers) how to navigate the virtual information overload. I’m not sure I want to evolve into one of those IT guys whom Carrie Bickmore loathes. Teacher-librarianship is so much more (although there’s plenty of IT blood running in our veins; has been for years!).

These principals who supposedly imagine a fully electronic, futuristic school library with no books – and no trained TLs to manage that info – are really going to be in trouble when there’s a power blackout. Or when their child or grandchild wants one last picture book to be shared before bed.

I did try to leave a comment on the 7pm Project‘s web page, but some IT guy’s message was telling me I was “undefined”.