Solid library programs drive digital literacy development

Monday, 14 September, 2020

Solid library programs drive digital literacy development

International Literacy Day marked the launch of the first ever comprehensive study of school library resourcing and staffing. Commissioned by the School Library Association of SA (SLASA), the School Libraries in South Australia 2019 Census surveyed South Australia’s public, private and Catholic schools to better understand the links between library programs and critical skills including reading, digital and information literacy.

“COVID-19 has been a dramatic illustration of the need for digital and media literacy amongst students and the wider community,” said SLASA President Hajnalka Molloy.

“Disrupted delivery of learning for students, the impact of fake news and now the pressure on teachers to catch up are all significant challenges,” Molloy said.

“We know from existing research that qualified library staff are delivering real learning gains, but what we didn’t know, until we completed this census, was what factors are influencing the delivery of those programs or what the profile of school library staffing in SA currently is,” she said.

The independent study was prompted by the findings of a Parliamentary Inquiry in 2011, which highlighted a ‘fundamental need’ for hard data on school library staffing and the link between school library programs and literacy, with a particular focus on digital literacy.

“SLASA commissioned this study to commence answering that fundamental national need.

“Our objective was to gather that evidence for South Australia and to also now encourage other states to replicate the survey, so that the models and contribution of school library programs to supporting students to develop these essential skills is clearly understood at the national level,” Molloy said.

The census was undertaken by the Australian Council for Educational Research and surveyed school leaders on the various models of library program delivery, staffing, funding and school culture in all schools in South Australia.

“We now know that effective delivery of critical literacy and inquiry skills in South Australian schools is influenced by factors such as a culture of support as well as facilities, collections, access and funding as well as staffing,” Molloy said.

“The census provides us with a clearer picture of the current resourcing levels of South Australian school libraries, including that 94% of schools have someone to manage their library collection but the burden of managing resources and providing appropriate support to teachers and students to develop literacy and inquiry skills is now falling on staff who have neither teaching nor library qualifications in just over a third of our schools.

“Just over half of the staff managing school library services in South Australian schools are not library-qualified and only 23% of schools have a qualified teacher librarian on their staff.

“This is a significant concern, as qualified teacher librarians have a distinct skill set that embraces both the key teaching skills and the essential skills to develop and deliver school library collections and programs to the standards we know result in learning gains, including improved literacy and better performance in NAPLAN tests.

“The census results give us the hard data to now work towards implementing strategies that will support schools to address the disruptions of COVID-19 and ensure our school students are fully equipped to deal with the challenges of a digital world.”

Image credit: © Africa

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