The Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) has commented on the National Library’s announcement last year its plans to change the Services to Schools programme.
“Because of the complexity of the issues involved, LIANZA has necessarily taken some time to respond,” the company says in a statement. “As a non-profit organisation working on behalf of all New Zealand libraries and librarians, including the National Library and its staff, the situation is a complex one to address.”
LIANZA says the changes announced by the National Library are far-reaching and have implications beyond the National Library and schools, into the wider education and local government sectors.
“The Services to Schools proposal highlights a number of systemic issues for in how literacy, research, school libraries and librarians are supported in New Zealand’s schools,” it says.
The intent of the changes, to increase reading engagement and move services to a more digital environment in order to increase and improve digital literacy is one that is worthy of support, LIANZA says. “Our young people are increasingly operating in a digital world, and need to understand how to work and engage with information digitally,” it says.
“The Ministry of Education has signalled this change of direction, and the proposal works towards a practical response to this.”
However, the changes are highly dependent on other factors to make them effective. “Issues such as equitable student access to ICT resources, the availability of broadband access in schools, the readiness and depth of content offered in ‘Pond’, existing levels of digital literacy in schools and the presence or absence of experienced school librarians are all factors that will impact the success of the changes,” LIANZA says.
The organisation says the current timeframes place considerable pressure on the Ministry of Education and the National Library to deliver an online environment, resources and infrastructure to support these changes.
The changes also highlight many unaddressed issues with the resourcing of libraries, both in the education and local government sectors.
“There is a concern that the declining usage of the service, a key part of the rationale for the change, is in fact an anomaly in the way usage is reported, rather than declining use in real terms,” it says.
“For example, many schools have multiple teachers requesting books through a central librarian or other representative. These schools are counted as having only one person using the service.”
LIANZA says the changes were announced at a time when school budgets were already set, limiting the ability of schools to respond to the changes, and direct additional investment into resources to meet the needs of their students and teachers.
“It is also apparent that the consultation undertaken was insufficient to respond to the concerns of the stakeholders using the existing service,” it says.
The changes have major implications for other parts of the library sector, most notably public libraries and their customers. “In the absence of physical resources to support the curriculum, many teachers will turn to public libraries to fill this need. Our public libraries are not currently resourced to handle this kind of demand," LIANA says.
"While we applaud the focus on reading engagement, digital literacy, and modernising the school library learning environment, the implementation has not allowed sufficient time for the necessary building blocks to be put in place.
"f the suggested changes are to be successful, a measured approach must be taken, which allows time for all parties to adapt to a new way of working, and for the changes to be resourced appropriately.
"LIANZA believes that consultation should resume with the affected stakeholders so that a clear and mutually accepted way forward can be agreed."