School library workforce in Australia

Pru Mitchell, Australian Council for Educational Research

Concurrent session 8
Tuesday 30 August 2016, 3:30pm - 3:55pm




A literature review by Lonsdale in 2002 identified several gaps in the research related to the teacher librarian workforce at that time. She observed that ‘a lack of systematically aggregated national data makes it difficult to gain an accurate picture of national trends in Australia in relation to the staffing of school libraries’ and noted ‘an apparent decline in the numbers of qualified teacher librarians employed in school libraries in public schools in Australia.’ The absence of independent systematic analysis of statistical data pertaining to teacher librarians in the Australian primary and secondary school workforce was also acknowledged in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment 2011 report: School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia, Canberra. Recommendation 8 of this inquiry recommended a thorough workforce gap analysis of teacher librarians across Australian schools. This paper analyses data regarding teachers working in school libraries using the Staff in Australia’s Schools surveys from 2007, 2010 and 2013.

ACER researcher, Dr Paul Weldon was contracted to analyse data on teachers working in Australian primary and secondary school libraries using the data available in the Staff in Australian Schools (SiAS) surveys. New analysis of the 2010 and 2013 survey responses from teachers in school libraries was undertaken. Areas of interest included average years of experience, average age, gender and intention to stay in teaching. Socio-economic status (SES) and location and sector of school were also considered.

Significant points of interest in the SiAS analysis centred on equity and out-of-field teaching. The equity concerns arise from the data showing a reduction in teachers in a library role in low SES schools between 2010 and 2013, but a corresponding increase in high socio-economic (SES) schools. The SiAS analysis revealed that in 2013 over one-third of primary teachers and one-quarter of secondary teachers working in a school library role had not undertaken any tertiary study in the library field. Six to eight per cent of all primary teachers had undertaken some tertiary study in library studies and three to four per cent had undertaken three years or more of study. At secondary level, three to four per cent of all teachers have undertaken some study and about two per cent have undertaken three years of study or more.

This presents a challenge for library educators, as well as professional learning providers in the school library sector, especially when combined with the evidence that the population of teachers in the library role is aging.

This study goes some way to providing evidence of trends associated with teachers in school libraries in the Australian workforce. The data provide a potential tool to advocate for increased numbers of courses and places in teacher librarianship education to maintain teacher librarian numbers in the workforce as well as the training of additional teacher librarians. This analysis will also assist tertiary institutions, professional associations and employers to identify the type of courses and programs necessary to support those already working in the field without qualifications.

Paper - Now available.

Presentation - Now available.


Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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