Elizabeth is so right. School librarianship has changed beyond recognition over the last decade not just through austerity cuts but also through change in the National Curriculum veering away from enquiry based learning and retreating back to a rote learning stance.
In 2008 there was outcry regarding plagiarism and concerns about parents or others completing coursework for school students. Even the exam boards signed up to use Turnitin as a tool for identifying cheats. However, instead of using this as a platform to illustrate good practice in enquiry based learning utilising the skills of qualified librarians (who were definately flavour of the month as cross curricular information experts as this point) those in charge decided to clamp down and remove this element or constrict it through controlled assessment. The librarian skills were no longer in demand and this co-incided with a huge push for literacy and the unfortunate assumption that librarians were simply in a school to promote reading for pleasure. Librarians lost their cross curriclular status along with their positions on heads of department meetings (since invariably they began reporting to the heads of English) and a loss of influence within the school hierarchy. This opened the door in the new austerity era to close school libraries (as provision could be made through English departments, or via a commercial reading scheme) and the skills of libriams as information specialists were no longer required. We have now had 10 years of recruiting people to school librarianship with few qualifications let alone professional degrees and many experienced professional librarians are now of retirement age. It is a tragedy!
However there is hope – the attendence at the JCS conference last November shows there is considerable interest in information and digital literacy amongst the independent school community at least. This year’s LILAC conference has 2 speakers about schools and a record number of school library delegates. Many years ago now I submitted a poster presentation on collaboration between librarians and teachers to the first LILAC conference which morphed into an award winning paper and a friendship with Jane Secker. The IBO qualifications do much to involve school librarians and libraries in these skills and there are even rumblings this week from the Labout Party about abolishing SATS and looking at the pathways to learning in Finland which are of course enquiry based learning. Perhaps the pendulum of change is at last swinging back.
Personally when I was working as a school librarian I found the best approach to collaboration was to select individual teachers and devise programmes with them. I also believe a key to success is to become involved in assessment and to award marks for research and presentation and the ultimate goal is to embed the approach within a Scheme of Work to ensure continuity. It is a slow process but word spreads and it can become the preferred approach. The downside is it highly dependent on the proactivity of the librarian and will disappear if this support is not provided – this of course also becomes dependent on how the librarian is recruited, what they are appointed for and the inclusion of cross curricular enquiry based learning within their job description. That is the big ask and without that change will not happen.
Programmes such as FOSIL help to promote what librarians can do to collaborate and drive the common goal of teaching and learning and we need to highlight this wherever possible