Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Schools and phone booth libraries

Today I got a link from my friend Edwina to a BBC article on a re-cycled phone booth in England, being used for an informal library. You put in any books you don't want any more and pick up something that interests you.

Sounds like what they have planned for Victorian state schools - those that are still lucky enough to have libraries at all. There was this article in the Age the other day which mentioned some school in Coburg (in Melbourne) that has scrapped its library altogether, though the Principal sneered that they had kept a few novels, for those kids who still wanted to read something that wasn't on-line. He declared that "the whole school is a library!" Translation: "Why spend money having a place for kids to go and read BOOKS, why pay for a teacher, for heavens' sake, to stamp books all day? They're all using the Internet now, aren't they?" Of course, the academic Kew High, which produces the best results, has refurbished its library and staffed it adequately. But who's interested in that?

A few days ago, my school's library staff had to go and see the so-called architects who are designing the new school. The place they had designed was half the size of my current library - just mine, mind you! It's a Commonwealth library, built in the days when the government hadn't started privatising everything. The new school will have four times the students, assuming we don't lose any.

But the architect lady told us we should be grateful to have a library at all. Seems that someone in the government is all for the idea of school without libraries - like the one in Coburg. And this half-sized monstrosity was supposed to be hosting the IT technicians, in an office that would jut into the main body of the library and make yet another blind spot. There was space for four bays of books - fewer than half of those in my library - and those were to be placed in front of a student lounge area - again a blind spot. No AV room, no library office "because everyone else has to make do with a staffroom, why not you?". They didn't even know we NEEDED a room to produce and process the library's AV resources. Andrew had to explain the difference between teacher-librarians, who have the responsibilities of other teachers plus library responsibilities and no time to leave the library to write reports, for example, and nowhere private to do their report-writing, because if you're in the library, you're on duty. We had to explain about what the AV person does and about valuable equipment.

They told us, with great pride, about their exciting new way of making the place big enough for parent-teacher interviews and information nights: just open the accordion doors on to a breezeway between buildings! How fabulously up-to-date, why didn't we think of exposing everyone to heat or cold?

No toilets, of course; said parents would have to find their way through the school buildings to the staff toilets.

There will be special areas between classrooms with class sets - nobody, presumably, responsible for these.

They said the new library would have no computers because it was the government's policy to have laptops used.

When I asked what the kids would use when they came to do homework at lunchtime or after school, there was no answer. Grudgingly, they agreed to put our computers on the tables.

No air conditioning for the school at all.

Don't get rid of the library, just work hard to make it irrelevant. Nice idea.

And this is the Labor government. What would the other side do, I wonder?

Hell, why bother to have a new school at all if it's going to be worse than the old one?

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