School Libraries in Need of a Little L.O.V.E.
Libraries have always been the heart of WA’s schools, but to keep up with our ever changing world in schools since the introduction of “one line budgets”, “flexibility” and “IPS” – some school leaders have unfortunately chosen to reconfigure the operation of their library and sadly often this has meant either or both a reduction in the opening hours (in some cases as little as 1 day per week) and/or- cuts to the hours of library officers.
Some schools choose to bank the funding they receive from the Department of Education specifically allocated by the department for the provision of leave relief cover for library officers, not provide relief staff, this then results in the library officer returning from leave to often find a complete mess and an unnecessary additional workload with no extra time to complete it. In some of the worst cases, library officers positions have been abolished and the library doesn’t have a suitably qualified employee at all. Over the years our members in libraries have embraced change, even if it’s been to their own detriment- they have adapted as best they could often volunteering their own time to get the job done.
One marvelous example of dedication is a group of Library Officers who came together to form Library Information Focused Training or LIFT, who often in their own time, provide library skills and training to other Library Officers in the Education Department. They are highly regarded amongst their colleagues for what they do, as the department currently doesn’t offer library specific skills training or Professional Development for Library Officers.
Due to the increasing workload, cuts to hours and the de-valuing of libraries in many schools, in January 2017 LIFT joined forces with CPSU/CSA to deliver the very first of the Library Officers Voice Events (LOVE). Yes - over the school holidays!
L.O.V.E. brought together the LIFT group/supporters and CPSU/CSA members, the library staff who work in public schools to participate in some Professional Development and discuss some of the current issues affecting school libraries such as, role definition and workload management. Almost officers attended in their own time whilst on leave and it was marvelous to have some regional members travel to Perth to join the event.
LOVE participant Madeleine says getting together with other library staff was a rarity.
“More often than not, the Library Officers who work in our schools are working solo to provide our students and teachers with a library service, so getting together with each other at the recent LOVE event was a rare treat.
“It provided us all with the opportunity to chat with old friends and new, remind ourselves why libraries are a vital part of every school and why we are important members of our school community even though much of what we do is invisible, let alone quantifiable.
“Most importantly, it was an opportunity to be reminded, what we can do to help ourselves by remaining informed and connected to the CPSU/CSA community as well as to each other. Many people think that the union only becomes active when they have an individual issue that requires resolution.
“More of us now understand that the union is constantly working in the background to represent us to our employer and guard against the erosion of our rights under the award.
“The opportunity to share our issues and challenges in this LOVE event is a great first step towards ensuring that Library Officers are properly resourced and can provide our students with the best possible library service.
“We all need more LOVE,” she said.
CPSU/CSA and LIFT plan to hold more LOVE events in the future as we work to strengthen the VOICE of our dedicated school library officers.