Uproar over National Library's changes to school services



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Achieving.jpgThe National Library’s intention to phase out its provision of print non-fiction books in favour of digital resources has dismayed many in the education sector and the wider public.

As part of a four-year transformation to its Services to Schools, the National Library will be replacing its current print curriculum topic service with enhanced online curriculum support and a new print-based reading engagement service, providing “quality fiction and high interest non-fiction resources” to support reading for pleasure.

Overall savings from the new Services to Schools strategy are expected to be $392,000 a year.

However, schools say that as a result of the National Library’s changes they will now be spending more to obtain books that are no longer available to them from the national loan collection.

“It is a ridiculous waste of money for hundreds of schools to be buying the same books to support the same study topics when they could all borrow them from the one central collection,” said Denise Torrey, president of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF).

“Digital resources are great for supporting pedagogy but are no replacement for books,” she said.

NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Louise Green agreed, and urged the National Library to "put this decision on ice" until it has talked to teachers.

“We support modern digital learning but it needs to be balanced. Books in classrooms are an essential tool for learning.  Children still need access to reference books and they need them in classrooms."

Green said schools that are struggling with funding will be hit hardest, especially those that are not yet up to speed with fast broadband.

Torrey said rural schools in particular will suffer from the changes.

“Not all schools and students have access to reliable technology to make use of digital resources. The National Library’s shift to digital delivery penalises rural schools as many have inadequate broadband connections, if at all,” she said.

However, according to the Ministry of Education, 95 per cent of schools are expected to be connected to ultrafast broadband by term three, when the National Library’s lending services will change.

The 2012 Review of the National Library’s Services for Schools, upon which the new services are based, acknowledged the changing role of school libraries, and talked about the “new vision that is emerging for school libraries in a digital age.”

Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne supported the move to a more digital approach.

“The reality is that for children today, access to quality digital resources is far more important than
ever before, and that will only increase in the future.

“The current changes will ensure the National Library will continue to support these requests by providing the information digitally, rather than in hard copy, so that it is up-to-date and in formats the current generation of New Zealand students need.”

Thousands of New Zealanders have signed a petition organised by Action Station, requesting Minister Dunne stop the cuts to National Library lending services to schools.

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  • I am from a small Area School. We are dismayed by the National Library 'Transformation' .
    It is not a matter of access to digital information. We have that, we can keep upgrading that. That is NOT the issue.

    The issue is the assumption that digital information is omniscient. It is not.
    We are a tiny school, but let me give you some specific examples.

    One NCEA student viewed the Taika Waititi film 'Tama Tu'. She had whanau connections with the Maori Battalion and asked to study this further as part of her English Information Literacy. standard. There is stuff on the 'net but not in the depth she required. What she required was Wiri Gardiner's definitive text 'The Story of the Maori Battalion'. We don't have access to this text. It is going for over $80 second hand. No local Library has it (and we are a long way away from any physical library that has) We may never need it again. This is where we turn to National Library.
    When text such as this one come out digitally, then maybe we are ready for the National Library's 'transformation'.
    Not yet.
    I could give you dozens of similar situations:. one student has ties to the North Africa campaign - we turn to National Library; a student wants to do a Level 3 History study on why single women so often put babies up for adoption in the 50's and 60's. Again, it's a personal family link that motivates her strongly to pursue this study. National Library send us texts that have the detail and depth our student requires; one wants to study the Battle for Crete, another the polio epidemic and the vaccination programme.

    So, National Library - Curriculum Support; simple, efficient, cost effective for everyone, it supports our students' curriculum needs and the imperative of choice.

    Nothing that is proposed can substitute for this amazing service.

    We cannot acquire texts like this for our small number of students. yet the curriculum and NCEA stress student choice. How are we to provide for our students?
    Can I also just say that the National Library does not necessarily have adequate data on the needs it provides. Our Librarian co-ordinates most of our National for many students over many years. It's cost effective to buy our own.Library requests.. I believe that means that Nat Lib count this as one request, when in fact it represents dozens over the year, in response to student need.

    National Library proposes to send us high interest literacy texts - great but we can afford to provide these types of texts. We don't NEED National Library to do that. What we cannot supply, given economies of scale, and that would be true of most schools, is the specialist non-fiction curriculum support.
    More digital info support is also great, but digital alone, as I think I have shown, is not sufficient for our needs.

    Please, whoever is out there, please try to get this distressing 'transformation' amended and made responsive to the real needs of schools.

    Posted by Moira Spicer, 18/02/2015 10:56pm (5 years ago)

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