The Training Needs of School Library Staff for Service Delivery to Disabled Students

By Murray, Janet | School Libraries Worldwide, July 2000 | Go to article overview

The Training Needs of School Library Staff for Service Delivery to Disabled Students


Murray, Janet, School Libraries Worldwide


Staff development programs dealing with library service to students with disabilities are scarce. A four-year study that evaluated school library services offered to disabled students in two Australian states considered staff development needs. The study assessed the availability of staff development activities for school library staff that would assist them in teaching, communicating, and providing for the information needs of disabled students. Results showed that there were limited opportunities for school librarians to participate in such programs beyond those offered in individual schools to the teaching staff as a whole. There is a need for library-specific staff development programs that cover policy formulation, collection development, and adaptive technology aspects of library services for disabled students. Professional education courses should also cover this area as an integrated element of the core curriculum. A model for staff development programs is suggested.

Background

This article expands on a theme first put forward in a paper at the 65th ILFA Council and General Conference, in Bangkok, August 1999, in the Session of the Section for Libraries Serving Disadvantaged Persons. Earlier, in compiling the bibliography Equity and Excellence (Murray, 1994) for the National Library of Australia, I had found a lack of library-specific training materials on the provision of services for people with disabilities. I also found that few staff development programs on this aspect of service run by libraries had been reported in the literature. This situation is little changed eight years later and, if the viewpoint is narrowed to staff development programs for school library staff, evidence of any library-specific training is hard to track down. Wesson (1995) suggests school librarians can provide themselves with staff development by visiting other school libraries that cater for disabled students, or can undertake some action research in their own library that focuses on disabled students. In Australia, some staff development programs on service provision for people with disabilities are available (Spriggs, 1997), but provision is still sporadic (Murray & Wallis, 1996). None of these programs has been targeted at school librarians. Research by Herr (1989), Klauber (1990), and Galler (1997) found that there was limited coverage of library services for people with disabilities in preprofessional training programs.

There appears to be little staff development of any type available for school librarians. Such programs as are offered are rarely reported in the literature. Heeks and Kinnell (1994) found that in the United Kingdom, a range of staff development activities were available to school librarians, but the identification of those suitable for individual school librarians was inhibited by the lack of confidence by line managers in assessing the individual school librarian's staff development needs. Earlier research by Edwards and Schon (1986) identified professional reading, attendance at conferences and seminars, training provided by school districts, involvement in professional associations, and formal tertiary education courses as being the chief training activities engaged in by school librarians. There appeared to be no evidence of staff development programs being run specifically for school librarians to assist them in providing services to disabled students. Comprehensive literature searches conducted over the last two years have not identified any articles other than those discussed here.

If little is being done for these professionals from the library perspective, what is happening in education circles? Bradley and West (1994) investigated the staff development needs of classroom teachers who were teaching disabled students in mainstream schools. Results showed that teachers wanted staff development that covered: how to modify educational programs; working and teaching in a team; the impact of the inclusion of a student with a disability on other students in the class; knowledge of specific disabilities; attitudes to disability; expectations of disabled students included in their classes; and background information about special education, integration, and inclusion. …

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