Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Essential Connections: School and Public Libraries for Lifelong Learning

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Essential Connections: School and Public Libraries for Lifelong Learning

Article excerpt

Stimulated by the 1996 Unesco Delors report `Learning: the treasure within ', lifelong learning has become the educational policy icon of developed countries in the first part of the 21st century. Recognition is now needed that information literacy, not information technology, is the main requirement for an informed citizenry, lifelong learning and an information enabled nation. Worldwide a renaissance of public libraries in response to these issues is occurring, of which teacher librarians need to be aware, and support locally and nationally. Public librarians also need to become more familiar with the pedagogical, information literacy and technological issues being addressed by teacher librarians, and support them locally and nationally. Neither can achieve their full contribution to learning and society in isolation from each other. The individual and cooperative performance of school and public libraries during the formative childhood years of decision makers is critical to future investment in all Australian libraries. Paper presented at `Forging future directions' seventeenth conference of the Australian School Library Association, Twin Waters Resort, Sunshine Coast, Queensland 30 September-4 October 2001

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In 1964 American Professor Sara Innis Fenwick spent six months in Australia as a Fulbright lecturer and consultant, at the invitation of the then Library Association of Australia. Her report School and children's libraries in Australia (1) was published in 1966. That report is worth a backward glance because

* it was to be a catalyst for improvements in school and children's library service

* of what it reveals of the condition of both within the lifetime of many teacher and public librarians today

* it makes the essential connections between school and public libraries, which is the focus of this paper

* a similar national review of libraries for young Australians is arguably well overdue

The Munn-Pitt report

However prior to the Fenwick report, as Fenwick observes in her introduction, school and children's services had certainly not been ignored in surveys of Australian libraries. The watershed Carnegie Corporation funded 1934 survey by Ralph Munn and Ernest Pitt had devoted a full chapter to children's service, observing that

   Judged by overseas standards, there is not an acceptable children's lending
   library in all of Australia, and only a few institutions are even making a
   creditable service to children. (2)

Of school libraries, they noted

   No secondary school was found, even in the largest cities, in which all the
   elements of satisfactory service exist. (3)

And that

    Laboratories are supplied from school funds for the science departments:
    libraries are the laboratories for all departments. (4)

An outstanding feature of the Munn-Pitt report was its elegant and full preface contributed by Frank Tate, an educator in the true sense of the word, who had been director of education in Victoria, principal of the training college in that state, and president of the Australian Council for Educational Research.

In a prescient commentary he wrote about the pedagogical advantages of the Californian approach to school libraries, but that

   Of course, such a method involves great modifications in the system of
   class teaching which has such a hold upon Australian education ... the use
   of the school library as an essential factor in educational method, is
   rarely met with in Australian schools ... (5)

The fact that the educational bureaucracies of Australia and anachronistic teacher education have tended to thwart or slow Tate's implied vision of the independent information literate learner, does nothing to weaken its essential truth. It is a verity which, quite remarkably for 1934 when he was writing, he extended to higher education by observing

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