LIANZA spoke with Miriam Tuohy about the results...
Why is this survey such important work?
The tricky thing with knowing about school libraries in New Zealand is that they are not compulsory, there's no Ministry of Education mandate that says that schools must have libraries (let alone library books or staff) consequently no schools have to record information about what they offer. So there are no statistics about how many schools have libraries, if they have library staff, how big their collections are, what people do there – any of that information.
So using those statistics will help SLANZA advocate for school libraries?
The first year we undertook this survey we focused on what school library environments were like and the services offered. The 2019 survey looked into issues including staffing – hours, roles, factors affecting library staff decisions about their employment, remuneration as well. We hope the statistics can help increase understanding of these issues and feed into the work that SLANZA are doing with NZEI.
[Listen to The president of the School Library Association, Glenys Bichan on National Radio as school librarians call for protection against funding cuts .]
Lots of school library staff want to know "What should we have?" But there isn't one simple answer to that. People want to know "How much should we be spending per student on books?" or "How big should our library space be?" but there is no easy answer for them to take to their Board of Trustees or school management. While we have this model of self-governing schools it genuinely is up to them to decide. They need to look at their strategic plan and the school charter – their plans for what they hope to achieve and what they hope their learners will achieve around literacy, learning across subject areas and student wellbeing. It's really up to school library staff to say "Here's how the school library is able to support the school to achieve those things, and if we're going to do that these are the resources we will need in the library." That might be money for collection development, or they might need more hours in the library to spend time with students – whatever it might be. Each school will have a unique vision about how their school library supports their school goals and vision.
Where there any responses to the survey that you were surprised about?
Not really, it was pretty much what we were expecting. Within Services to Schools, we have a team of facilitators that are working around the country closely with schools. Anecdotally, we know a lot about schools and school libraries. Many of us in the team came from school libraries, so we know what it's like, but it is powerful to have the data to support that. School library staff are passionate about their work, they want to do lots. They don't have the paid hours to do it all, but they do it anyway because they think it is so important and they love working with the students and teachers.