Senior Management and the Provision of Libraries in Independent Schools in England and Wales

Article excerpt

This article is based on research carried out for an ongoing doctoral project at Liverpool John Moores University about the management of school libraries in independent schools in England and Wales. Findings are based on surveys conducted of school library managers and senior management in independent schools, as well as interviews with practitioners and anecdotal evidence from networks of school librarians. In countries such as Canada, the United States, and Australia, the importance of head teachers' support for the library has long been acknowledged, but in the United Kingdom, this is more recent. Current guidelines for best practice in school library management have recently started to emphasize the importance of the support of school senior management. The surveys separately sought the opinions of both librarians and senior management on a range of library-related issues, and these are analyzed in this article. The findings demonstrate that school library managers understand the importance of the role of senior management and that senior management is starting to appreciate the importance of the library for improving learning, teaching, and attainment.

Introduction

The importance of the support of senior management for the school library has long been acknowledged in many countries, where it is often referred to specifically as principal support. A decade or more ago, both Oberg (1995, 1997) in Canada and Henri and Hay (1997) in Australia conducted research to investigate this significant role, and their work in an international study led to the development of guidelines for research and practice published by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA, 2002; Henri, Hay, & Oberg, 2002).

In England and Wales, this relationship between the nature of school libraries and the role of the school's senior management has become apparent more recently. A report by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED7 2006) on what were the main factors influencing change in school libraries identified senior managers, external reviews, and specialist librarians. 'Overwhelmingly, the most important factor leading to improvements in school libraries is the commitment and leadership of knowledgeable headteachers" (p. 4).

In this article, we discuss this wide acceptance of the importance of senior management in school library provision in the context of library management in independent schools in England and Wales. We draw on findings from the research literature review and on the results of questionnaire surveys sent separately to both the school library manager and the head teacher of a sample of schools affiliated to the Independent School Council (ISC). The findings were supplemented by additional comments from, and follow-up interviews with, respondents.

This research aimed to investigate school library managers' understanding of the role of senior management and whether senior management recognized the importance of the school library and its manager. It was part of a wider doctoral research project at Liverpool John Moores University that aims to investigate the management of libraries in independent school in England and Wales.

We use the term library throughout this article for consistency in referring to the school's central collection of learning resources, although we acknowledge that this collection may be known by other names such as learning resources center, library and resources center, and so forth. We also use the term senior management for consistency in referring to the head teacher, bursar, deputy head teacher, and director of studies (the term principal, familiar in many other countries, is not widespread in the UK).

Independent Schools in England and Wales

In England and Wales, schools are either state or independent. The OFSTED (2005) defines an independent school as "any school that provides full-time education for five or more pupils of compulsory school age . …