Findings from Softlink's 2011 Australian School Library Survey revealed school library budgets are under threat and creating concern within the school community in relation to library resourcing, library staff development and literacy outcomes.
As the largest supplier of School Library Management Systems in Australia, Softlink's survey focused on school library budgets, staffing levels, and how these factors related to student literacy levels. Over 1,200 Australian schools participated in the study.
The survey revealed four out of five Australian school libraries are struggling to cope with decreasing budgets, despite increasing demands to improve literacy outcomes and cope with digital resources.
Results indicate 28% of school libraries received budget cuts, with 16% of school library budgets experiencing more than a 10% decrease. Out of the schools which responded to the survey, 4 out of 5 school library budgets decreased from the prior year.
Mr. Nathan Godfrey, Softlink's Chief Operating Officer, is concerned that school libraries and librarians are not receiving adequate support on both political and local agendas.
"The role of the librarian is rapidly evolving, due to increasing reliance on technology. Schools need to ensure that library resources are updated and relevant for students. Unfortunately, it seems school libraries are expected to do this on a diminishing library budget," Mr. Godfrey said.
A report produced by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment titled School libraries and teacher librarians in 21st century Australia, noted a clear correlation between school libraries, teacher librarians, and student achievement, and confirmed this was not widely acknowledged.
"This finding is very important, for it has officially acknowledged what we in the industry have understood for a long time. If you have a good school library with qualified library staff and adequate resources, then this will be shown as a positive result in regards to literacy levels for students," said Mr. Godfrey.
"It would be beneficial for the school community to understand these findings and acknowledge that the school library is in fact, central to student learning."
Softlink aims to continue their research into Australian school library resourcing and school literacy levels each year, to help in highlighting the importance of school libraries and the library staff who manage these valuable resources.