Joint Use Libraries in Australia: Practitioner Perspectives

By Aird, Glenys; Bergoc, Albert et al. | Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services, December 1998 | Go to article overview

Joint Use Libraries in Australia: Practitioner Perspectives


Aird, Glenys, Bergoc, Albert, Dunford, Helen, Hamblin, Deborah, Perkins, Sue, Shepherd, Cathey, Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services


In the context of continuing interest in, and development of joint use in Australia six joint use library managers of different types of libraries review their operations and issues they face. The libraries represented are rural school community libraries; a university, Tafe and public library; a public and Tafe library; two high school and public libraries; and one serving the public and three schools. Edited version of papers provided for a panel session on joint use libraries at the Australian Library and Information Association Conference, Adelaide October 1998. The substance of the paper of one panelist, Judy Humphreys, was published in Aplis 11(2) June 1998 pp75-82 with the title `Hervey Bay joint use library: lessons for tomorrow'

CHANGE, AND THE CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTOR IN SCHOOL COMMUNITY LIBRARIES IN SA

Glenys Aird Eudunda School Community Library South Australia

In the beginning, 1977, there was the vision and the vision was splendid. Free public library services were to be offered to small, remote, rural communities in South Australia.

Books were to be chosen by unseen selectors, catalogued by unseen cataloguers, delivered mysteriously each week, unpacked, displayed or shelved by conscientious community library aides and loaned to members of the community who hitherto had had to make do with dusty volumes from an institute subscription library.

Local government would match state government financial contributions, a qualified (teacher) librarian would oversee the operation housed conveniently in the local school library. This made more efficient use of the facilities, which would be open out of school hours, and resources, as the school library collection would be available to members of the community.

The impetus for establishment would come from the community itself, and would be ratified by a signed agreement between all parties. The introduction of school community libraries to South Australia would be thoroughly planned and implemented. To ensure its success, special advisers would be appointed. Their particular brief would be to develop in the teacher librarians a strong understanding of the dual nature of the library service they would provide, and the diplomatic balancing act that would be needed to succeed.

And as it was written, so it came to pass.

Progress

By 1991 there were 46 rural school community libraries in operation. Over 100,000 South Australians living outside the greater metropolitan area were, and still are, served by a network of joint use libraries as part of the statewide network of public libraries.

School community teacher librarians have been encouraged by repeated statements that school community libraries have succeeded in South Australia where they have failed elsewhere; that, in fact, they are world leaders in the field!

The criteria for judging success seems to be that, after twenty years, all are still operating and none have closed, but as Alan Bundy points out in Widened horizons (Adelaide, Auslib Press 1997) this was also true of the inadequate institute libraries that school community libraries replaced. I propose that the reason for the continuing success of school community libraries lies in the ability of the teacher librarians to respond to the ongoing and pervasive pressures of change, both in the library and education worlds, and the wider community.

Though the vision splendid may remain and inspire, in practice much has changed in the past twenty or so years.

Constraints

The mid to late eighties saw the introduction of budgetary constraints by the state government in both the Public Libraries Division and the Education Department. Early casualties were advisory staff. Teacher librarians were cast adrift upon the troubled waters of bureaucratic change. In the Education Department (now the Department of Education, Training and Employment--Dete) responsibility for matters such as deployment of staff and budget decisions was increasingly devolved to school management. …

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