Posted by: savingaussiebooks | March 29, 2010

It’s elementary, my dear Watson, T-Ls make libraries ZING!


Guest blogger:   Claire Saxby’s latest picture book is There Was an Old Sailor, published by Walker Books, Australia. The beautiful illustrations are by Cassandra Allen. 

I have great memories of school libraries and school librarians from my childhood. My family moved around a lot and I was the new kid often. But the libraries, though their room sizes and stock changes were a constant.

The librarians knew their shelves and would guide me to the familiar and to the unfamiliar. They taught me how to search for information for projects and homework, and how to search for information for fun.

My children were fortunate to have a teacher librarian for their early years at school. She did so much more than just check books in and out. She taught my children how to use a library, how to find information, how to find fiction and non-fiction.

Then the school decided they didn’t need a librarian. They put a very competent teacher’s aide in the library on reduced hours. She was very pleasant and helpful but she was not a teacher librarian and she was unable to give the children the library learning experience they’d had before.

Over the next few years, I watched library use diminish and the quality and variety of the books decrease. Library sessions gave way to borrowing at recess or lunch. The children knew more about the computers than the teacher’s aide.

Not her fault at all. It’s not her role. It’s the role of a teacher librarian and our schools are poorer for their lack.


Guest bloggerKylie Hillcoat – parent

I am a parent with children at Shellharbour Public. I was at the school library for work placement for a Library Technician Diploma Course I am currently doing. I am also trying to be an author but I am quickly realising that it is harder than I thought!

I wanted to write a comment for this blog too because of my children’s school library – I reckon it is the best there is!

The librarian at Shellharbour Public School is Mrs Cooper. I have to say Mrs Cooper does an absolutely terrific job. She is constantly thinking about ways to engage the kids and encourage their use of books and the library in general. The children love going to the library, as most weeks there is something new and exciting to see.

Our kids wouldn’t know about half the books they end up loving to read if it wasn’t for the likes of Mrs Cooper prompting and encouraging. I hope Teacher-Librarians remain within the school system forever!

Posted by: savingaussiebooks | March 27, 2010


Several authors talk about their personal experiences in school libraries … sometimes the one place in a school that can be a haven for a child.

Guest blogger:  LEE FOX – Author

(Lee Fox is the author of the hilarious picture book Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair, illustrated by Cathy Wilcox. Lothian, 2006)

It was the scariest school I’d visited. The kids were scary and the teachers were even scarier. As I walked across the playground, one kid told me his play lunch had been stolen. Another kid cried because she’d fallen over and grazed her knee. A teacher yelled at two boys for not wearing hats. In a concrete thoroughfare ten kids flew passed me screeching like a flock of white cockatoos. As I walked up the steps to the school library I felt jangled – and it was only 8.45 a.m.

I walked though the library door and stepped into another realm. It was silent. Two calm and rather lovely teacher librarians spoke quietly to children about stories they might like to read. Other children sat on bean bags with their heads in books. Five children raced up the library steps talking loudly. But when they walked through the library door, their voices dropped as they headed for the shelves to find a favourite book to read before the bell rang.

On the wall there was a display the kids had made for Book Week. As I set up for my talk I felt my previous anxiety subside and I thought, ‘I love school libraries and I love the teacher librarians who make them a refuge for young book lovers.’


Guest blogger:   GABRIELLE WANG – author

(Gabrielle’s book Little Paradise has just been released by Penguin Australia)

When my children first started primary school, there was a lovely teacher librarian who enthused the students with a love of books and reading.

Then in Year 5, there was a change of school principal. He moved the TL to the computer room and employed a library assistant instead.

At the end of the year the TL resigned.

The library went from being an exciting classroom with displays of new books and colourful posters, to a lifeless, dull space.


Guest blogger:   HELEN ROSS – author/poet

(Helen is a regular visitor to school libraries. Her latest book is 10 Yellow Bananas)

I was recently invited to Sydney for two school visits as a visiting author, as well as conducting poetry workshops. My story telling sessions with the Preps were conducted in the libraries.

It was lovely being surrounded by aisles of lovely books and the librarians acted as ‘hosts’ and tour guides of their school.

The librarian knew all the children and lunchtimes were abuzz as children poured over their favourite books, and chatted to the librarians about their favourite books. The librarians had such a wealth of knowledge as they assisted children in choosing books of interest.


In the United Kingdom, high-profile Children’s and Young Adult authors like Philip Pullman have been campaigning to make school libraries a compulsory feature in all British schools.  The Guardian Newspaper – July 2009

The campaign’s supporters, who also include the Carnegie medal winners Mal Peet and Beverley Naidoo, are concerned that while prisoners have the statutory right to a library, schoolchildren do not, and they believe it is essential that children get the habit of reading for pleasure.

“[We] wholeheartedly support the right of prisoners to a library. It can be part of the process of rehabilitation through education. We are concerned however that school students do not have the same right. Research indicates that many young people who offend have low literacy levels,” they say in a letter that will be sent to secretary of state for children, schools and families Ed Balls this evening by the campaign’s head, the twice Carnegie-shortlisted author Alan Gibbons.

Posted by: savingaussiebooks | March 24, 2010


Authors speak out for school libraries

Our first guest blogger is Janeen Brian, an award-winning author of picture books, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, short fiction and novels for young people and the educational market. Her latest book is Shirl and the Wollomby Show, a picture book written in verse.

Janeen (left) with illustrator, Kat Chadwick at launch of 'Shirl and the Wollomby Show'

In the early 80’s I was asked to run a small library at a small Catholic School for a small amount of time each week. That extended to running two school libraries at two Catholic schools, which ended up swallowing most of my week.

Finally I quit one school, remained in the other, acting as a permanent, part-time teacher-librarian, three days a week for six of the happiest years of my teaching life. I left only to go writing fulltime in 1990.

One other point. I was untrained as a teacher-librarian.

In those days, in that situation, it was not a school problem. I took a short Librarian-Technician course, which I’m pleased to say I passed. But for the rest, I taught myself. I was my own apprentice. However, my aim was that the library should reflect my passion for books, reading, enjoyment of discovery and illustrations. To that end, I devised all sorts of interactive games and curriculum based programs as well as filling the library with children’s work, displays, and featured books.

And I read to the children.

Nowadays, as a visiting author, I can sense what is happening in a school library the moment I walk into it. Call it a seventh sense. Times have changed. Rows of computers now sit placidly along benches. And not every school has a teacher-librarian.

But in the schools where there is a strong, committed teacher-librarian, there is a vibrancy. Whether the teacher-librarian is in the room or not, I can hear the conversations with individual children; the genuine interest in what they are reading or their thoughts on a particular book. I can sense the effort to help a child deepen or broaden his/her reading interest; the encouragement to participate in Premier’s Reading Challenges, MS reading Programs or other such extending programs. I can see their ideas displayed on pin-up boards and notice the enthusiasm of children to find books. I become aware of book clubs in the school.

And I hear those teacher-librarians read to the children.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. It was my job and I loved it. Hopefully I turned some children onto reading. Hopefully many are still reading.

We need teacher-librarians to foster that love of reading, that confidence in book choice, as well as the confidence to step into any library or any bookstore as they grow into reading adults.


Posted by: savingaussiebooks | March 24, 2010

The state of school libraries … A SURVEY

In 2008,  a survey was done about School Libraries and Teacher-Librarians.

It was carried out by Edith Cowan University for the Australian Library and Information Association and the Australian School Library Association, the Australian School Libraries Research Project . Here is the INITIAL REPORT.

When cherry-picking some of the findings….

  • The majority of government school library budgets are abysmal.
  • It found  75% of government schools have annual budgets of under $20,000, half are under $5000, and one in six budgets are under $1000.
  • Meanwhile, 3/4s of Anglican school libraries have budgets over $20,000 (10% over $100,000!). 65% of Christian schools have budgets over $20,000. Almost 50% of Catholic schools have budgets over $20,000 (10% over $50,000).
  • And one third  of Anglican schools have 2 or more teacher librarians.  35% of Australian government school libraries have no qualified teacher librarians.
  • Anglican and Christian schools have more full time professional staff in their libraries.
  • Anglican and Christian schools received higher salaries than TLs in other school types.

Provided by Georgia Phillips from THE HUB.



Thank you for the use of this material from THE HUB – Campaign for Quality School Libraries in Australia

The Past (The Past: Longer Version)

It was intense lobbying which kick started Australian school libraries in the 1960s and 70s. In the twelve years 1969-1980, it is suggested some $200 million of federal government funds were spent on school libraries. This was the result of reports commissioned by library associations and submissions from a broad range of education and library groups.

About 1200 new secondary school libraries were built by 1977. By 1978 there were some 3500 qualified (at least the equivalent of one term full-time training in school librarianship) teacher librarians in Australia.

All this was as a result of pressure on the Federal government.

The Accountability and Rationalization Years

An excellent account of economic and political forces which affected schools and school libraries in the 1990s can be found in the Teacher Librarians and School Library Policy of the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Education Union (2008). Commonwealth school library grants ceased.  School staffs were rationalized, and teacher librarians were counted as part of the teaching staff, not extra to it. Central school library services dwindled.  IT was seen by many as a panacea. Library courses in South Australia and Tasmania were cut. And the TL workforce is greying.

The Present

So almost 30 years after the halcyon days, school libraries are again facing a crisis. Faced with global budgeting shortfalls, principals are forced to make cutbacks, and unfortunately, the library has often been the easiest place to do this.

Anecdotal evidence tells us that library budgets have plummeted across the country. Staffing levels have also been greatly reduced in an effort to save money.

Without the strong state school library services which existed in the 1980s, state and national statistics are hard to obtain. The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) fortunately have undertaken a project with Edith Cowan University to gather statistical data. (See Combes, 2008.  Australian School Library Research Project). It tells us that the situation in many, if not most, government schools is dire. Meanwhile, tertiary places for teacher librarians are decreasing. The University of Melbourne has ceased the only course available in Victoria.

Posted by: savingaussiebooks | March 23, 2010



To inquire into and report on the role, adequacy and resourcing of school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia’s public and private schools. Specifically, the committee should focus on:

  • the impact of recent policies and investments on school libraries and their activities;
  • the future potential of school libraries and librarians to contribute to improved educational and community outcomes, especially literacy;
  • the factors influencing recruitment and development of school librarians;
  • the role of different levels of government and local communities and other institutions in partnering with and supporting school librarians; and
  • the impact and potential of digital technologies to enhance and support the roles of school libraries and librarians.

Your submission can focus on issues around all or some of the listed reference points. For many of us, as parents, teachers, authors, illustrators and book-lovers, it may only be the first two points.


Posted by: savingaussiebooks | March 19, 2010

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more….

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

Somehow it seems fitting to use Shakespeare’s immortal words from Henry V to start this blog.

Last year we fought off Parallel Imports of books. Now, there is another threat to Australian children’s books. Children’s books are gradually disappearing from the shelves of school libraries. Why? Because those libraries are in crisis. They are disappearing, along with trained Teacher-Librarians.

It has been going for over a decade. Education Departments of State and Federal Governments of both political persuasions have allowed the whittling away of resources, staffing and funding for over ten years.

Many school libraries have become Resource Centres full of computers and set up for teaching with desks, chairs and whiteboards – space that was once shelving for fiction collections.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite. I use computers daily for research, communication and contact. Of course there is a place for computer research and writing in school libraries, but not at the expense of losing story books.

We authors owe a huge gratitude to Australian school librarians and public librarians – they are like the forward troops in any battle, the foot soldiers, and maybe the engineers. They prepare the ground by encouraging and enthusing children to read. They invite children’s authors into their schools to talk to children. They use their depleting funds to buy books. They have the skills to integrate literature into every subject area.

Concerned Teacher-Librarians, teachers, parents and authors have signed a petition against the culling of libraries and librarians.

The Federal Government has listened.

This week The Honourable Julia Gillard MP has called for an inquiry into and report on the role, adequacy and resourcing of school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia’s public and private schools.  There is only one month given for submissions so it is urgent. Here’s how to write your submission.

NOTE:   I will put PROTEST LETTER SAMPLES and BRIEFING NOTES on the site soon.

Sheryl Gwyther – children’s author

Posted by: savingaussiebooks | November 21, 2009

Predatory pricing practices in the US book market

by Sharyn Lilley

Alan Fels derided the recent Government decision, and referred to the opponents of the PIR abolition as being ignorant and uneducated.

I was opposed to the particular changes being put forward to abolish the PIR’s and as I left school at fifteen, almost three decades ago, I guess he could have been talking about me. I think, however, that such name calling by someone who could do a lot more for the cause he championed, provided he was prepared to work with both sides of the argument, somewhat lacking in graciousness.

Peter Donoughue, could also do more by getting together with the people at the coal face, and working with them to lower prices of Australian books, rather than slyly referring to Chicken Little scare practices of industry organisations, pandering to their lowest common denominator membership.

In fact if you are an author, publisher, printer, an agent, an editor, illustrator, a bookseller or in the distribution side of the Australian publishing industry, we all need to start thinking of ways to get everyone together to discuss seriously how to improve things here. Because there is a bigger threat waiting in the wings if we don’t.

The Huffington Post (United States) has an article highlighting the problems being faced by predatory pricing practices in the US at the moment.

I note that the key players in this book war are Amazon, Walmart, and Target. It’s tempting to make gratuitous comments about evil empires striking back, but I’ll refrain. Because the ones being wounded by this war’s shrapnel as much as authors and publishers, are the booksellers.

The legitimate booksellers are those who specialise in books. They can’t use books as a loss leader, they don’t bank on people buying other more profitable goods while they are in the store.

Hands up anyone who was able to find someone in their local K-mart or Big W book section who knew what books were in stock, and when other books might be available?

No hands? Ahh, yes, that would be because your local supermarket has no say over what stock comes into their book shelves, and they can’t order anything in for you.

But the Huffington Post article raises a very valid point. When the mass market retailers use their market share to try to force competitors out of business you are left with no alternative but to buy from them.

The image of 500 buyers for different stores (as portrayed in the article) being replaced by a single buyer responsible for stocking 500 stores is chilling. Mass market retailers are only interested in products that give them the best profit.

SUPPORT AUTHENTIC BOOKSTORES before we all lose out!


Posted by: savingaussiebooks | November 18, 2009

What the dickens? writes economist, Martin Feil

Some relevant and rational comments by an Australian economist…

Martin Feil’s article is in the The Age (Business section) Nov 18 2009.  Here are his final few paragraphs.  Read the complete article and be informed.

Writing and publishing in Australia are not occupations for an upwardly mobile, asset-acquiring, gilded and persuasive intellectual. It simply doesn’t pay enough. No amount of psychic income removes the need for real dollars to buy houses, education and overseas trips, and afford children.

Professor Fels’ opinion demonstrates a steadfast allegiance to the tyranny of the economists and a steadfast commitment to the merits of unsupported assertions. How can he say that the Government is unable to deliver this simple reform because of the ”uneducated clamour of a few authors, driven by publishers’ interests”?

I am sure and am thankful that authors, generally, haven’t got an education in economics. It is a discipline that inculcates the baseless assertion and the unnecessary insult……

Plenty of global economic reputations have been burnt in the bonfire of the global financial crisis. Maybe it is time to look at the facts rather than defend, to the death, some outmoded theories about the operation of the unregulated market.

Martin Feil is a tax and industry policy consultant and a former director of the Industries Assistance Commission.

Posted by: savingaussiebooks | November 14, 2009

PI issue ‘goes to the heart of Australian culture’

by Sheryl Gwyther

The decision by the Federal Australian Labor Party to throw out the Productivity Commission’s recommendations was a victory for those who support the integrity of Australian authored and published books. But with all the ranting and raving by commentators in The Australian and some other newspapers you’d swear it will cause the demise of our economy.

Australian authors, illustrators, publishers, printers et al celebrated last week, but if we care about this industry it behoves us all to be vigilant because there will be no let-up from those who continue to push for total deregulation of Australian industries – including the publishing industry. (I must add that, while I’m voicing my opinion here I’m not Robinson Crusoe.)

We’ve allowed this to happen to other Australian industries in the past – in textiles, cars, petrol, shoes and food, and many Australian manufacturing and primary industries have gone to the wall. I urge you to read some of the articles from Ross Gittins, economics editor from the Sydney Morning Herald.

We have the right to ask a pertinent question … what good has free-marketeering done for Australia already? We still face higher prices and lack of choice in supermarkets. Are clothes any better made now they pour in from Asian sweat-shops, and are good-quality shoes cheaper?

Some will call this a simplistic view of economies. But non-economists, ordinary Australians can only judge and decide on what we experience now.

Bunheang Ung's cartoon

Buy Aussie books!

In The Australian on Friday Nov 17, Peter Donoughue, a Parallel Importation supporter and publishing commentator, said – ‘the campaign against the reforms had been based on a “big lie” … and that … “the Australian book-buyer shouldn’t have to put up with high prices unrelated to today’s exchange rates, frequent out-of-stocks and slow delivery times.”

Given that the Aussie dollar exchange rate has reached amazing heights against the US dollar for well over six weeks, overseas orders would’ve been purchased at a much cheaper rate. If so, why haven’t bookshops passed on the savings by reducing their prices on overseas books sold in Australia now?

The threat of Parallel Imports of books won’t magically disappear any time soon. It is vexing is for all involved in this industry, including authors. But it also concerns many Australian readers – we know that because of the animated, passionate and concerned comments they’ve added to the SAB’s online petition.

For this reason, the SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS blog and campaign remains open.


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