Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Wasteful Decisions from the National Library

Late last year the National Library announced some decisions that will affect teachers, students and librarians from nearly every school in the country.

The National Library are going to enhance their online curriculum service but "from term three 2015 print loans will be reading engagement-focused rather than curriculum topic focused as they are currently. These quality fiction and high interest non-fiction loans will also go to the whole school rather than individual teachers and librarians."

The attached flier states "The emphasis of the new service will be on supporting students to read for pleasure, as a foundation for learning achievement".  

What annoys me intensely about these changes is the fact that they are likely to have a negative impact on support for every curriculum topic covered by schools across New Zealand AND on reading for pleasure.  As librarians we are also aware that reading for pleasure is immensely important for our students.  In fact, most of us have already been focussing our collections on fiction and high interest non-fiction.  However, this has been possible because the National Library has been providing the books we need to support teachers with their curriculum topics.  If the National Library stops doing this then:

  • school libraries will have to use our budgets to buy more books to support the curriculum.  
  • books are going to clog up our shelves because curriculum topics aren't always taught every year and are not as popular with students.
  • we will have less money to spend on quality fiction and high interest non-fiction because buying non-fiction books to support the curriculum is expensive.
  • most schools will be unable to supply a decent amount of curriculum books when multiple classes/the whole school do the same topic (as is often the case).

When asked where schools can get print resources to support the curriculum the National Library replied "The school library has an important role in supporting local curriculum delivery, working across the school to supplement resources. The Ministry of Education also provides print resources, and where appropriate schools can access their local public library."

It makes no sense to me that every school will have expensive non-fiction books sitting around on their shelves when the same books could be used by another school.  This is where the National Library's Curriculum Service has been so important.  Duplicating their service at a local level is a hugely wasteful and inefficient way to spend taxpayers' money.  The changes may save the National Library a lot of money but that will be offset by the additional costs to every school in the country.  Ratepayers may also be impacted if public libraries have to step in to provide resources.  Surely a service run by the Government should have the bigger picture in mind?

But won't the online service be able to replace curriculum non-fiction? 

No!  Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of their online service (I'm the ICT Coordinator at my school so it's not as if I hate technology).  But the fact is that for online resources to replace print ones every school needs to have adequate technology in every class.  And that is just not the case, not yet.  So we need to use digital content AND print resources.  

What's more the National library's response to the question of limited access to technology is  "We acknowledge the challenge for some schools regarding access to connectivity and digital devices. The initial purpose of the enhanced curriculum online service is to support teachers and librarians by providing links to relevant quality online resources including those from the National Library."  So they're saying their online service is not aimed at students anyway, and is therefore not to be seen as a replacement for the loss of their curriculum non-fiction (see more questions and answers here).

Aren't print loans focussing on reading engagement a good idea?

Yes, if the books come from the school library.  If they're coming the National Library then we have the issue of trying to track them across the whole school and make sure we get them back at the end of the year.  We would have to manage this without the use of our Library Management System (LMS) and this wastes our time.  It would also interfere with our ability to track what books are popular, how many issues we have and other high quality information our LMS can provide us with.

I'm doubtful that the National Library could provide the amount of high quality fiction that schools would require.  If a book is really good all schools would want it, so would the National Library buy thousands of copies?  If they're loaned for a year then would some schools have to wait that long for their chance to borrow a popular book?  Would you want your students taking home National Library books or would you have to leave them in the classrooms?

There are far more questions this raises but I think you get the gist of it.  I know we need to focus on reading engagement - I just don't think it makes any sense for that to happen at a national level.  It wastes time and resources.

What does the Government have to say about this?

Although the announcement did have an email address for enquiries I am cynical about the chances of convincing the National Library to change their mind through an email to the people who made the decision in the first place.  So I went straight to Labour MP Jacinda Adern on Twitter and she sent the Peter Dunne, the Minister of Internal Affairs, some questions:

Question: What are the expected costs, if any, of implementing the changes to the National Library curriculum topic loan service?

Portfolio: Internal Affairs

Minister: Hon Peter Dunne

Date Lodged:10/12/2014

Answer Text: Implementation costs have not been finalised, but will be met from within Department of Internal Affairs’ baselines.

Question: Will school libraries face increased loan costs due to the the changes to the National Library curriculum topic loan service ; if so what are those cost increases?

Answer Text: There will be no change to the cost model. The National Library will continue to pay the cost of delivering loans to schools and schools will continue to pay the return freight cost for loans. The return freight cost may change depending on a school’s use of the loan service, but is likely to be between $50 and $150 per year. Moving to an annual loan service may reduce costs for schools that previously had to return books at the end of every school term.

Question: What are the expected operation cost savings, if any, from the changes to the National Library curriculum topic loan service?

Answer Text: Operational cost savings specific to the curriculum topic loan service have not been finalised. However, the Department of Internal Affairs’ 2014 Four-Year Plan signalled an overall savings from the new National Library Services to Schools strategy of $0.392 million per annum.

Question: Who was consulted about changes to the National Library curriculum topic loan service?

Answer Text: Please see my response to Question for Written Answer 10019 (2014).

Question: What will be the standardised system, if any, for school libraries to track fiction lent to the whole school by the National Library under the changes to the National Library curriculum topic loan service, allowing students to take the books home to read?

Answer Text: It will be up to individual schools to decide whether they allow students to take National Library books home. The National Library will provide schools with support and guidance as to how this can be managed should an individual school decide to do so.

Question: When was the decision made to publicise the changes to the National Library curriculum topic loan service?

Answer Text: The decision to communicate the changes to schools was made directly following the endorsement of the new National Library Services to Schools strategy in November 2014. The intention is to help provide certainty for teachers and librarians during their planning for the 2015 school year and provide adequate notice of the changes to be introduced from July 2015.

Question: When was the decision made to introduce changes to the National Library curriculum topic loan service?

Answer Text: The new National Library Services to Schools strategy forms the basis for the shift from print-based curriculum topic loans for individual teachers to an enhanced online curriculum service. This strategy was endorsed by the Department of Internal Affairs on 11 November 2014.

Question: What is the rationale behind the National Library lending fiction and high interest non-fiction to schools?

Answer Text: The National Library’s fiction and high interest non-fiction loan service is supported by a growing body of international research that shows the ability to read for pleasure has a significant and positive impact for the learning, literacy and life outcomes of young people. The change focuses on how children are encouraged to read more and to read for pleasure. The National Library has a large specialised collection of children’s and young adult’s fiction and non-fiction available for all New Zealand schools to access. This collection will now focus on print loans to support the development of reading for pleasure in young people, while enhanced curriculum topic content will be available through the Services to Schools website.

Question: Were teachers and librarians consulted about changes to the National Library curriculum topic loan service; if not why not?

Answer Text: One hundred and seven education sector and government experts, including 59 teachers and school librarians, engaged in a series of external focus groups and interviews undertaken as part of the review of National Library Services to Schools initiated in 2012. The outcome of the review was the development of a new National Library Services to Schools strategy to lead system wide improvement of library services for young people. The shift from print based curriculum topic loans for individual teachers to an enhanced online curriculum service is part of this broader strategy. It is one of the most significant changes in the 70 years of Services to Schools delivery. This is also my response to Question for Written Answer 10066 (2014).

Question: How does the shift from print based curriculum topic loans for individual teachers to an enhanced curriculum online service help schools if they do not operate the Bring Your Own Device system, have over-booked computer rooms or insufficient ICT resources? 

Answer Text: The purpose of the enhanced online curriculum service is to support teachers and librarians by providing links to relevant quality and trusted online resources, including those from the National Library. Individual schools decide how they will use digital technology to support teaching and learning based on what they determine is best for their students and school community. Teachers and librarians can access the enhanced online curriculum service from any connected digital device. Due to the increasing availability of high quality, government-funded internet in schools and digital resources to support learning, I am advised the Ministry of Education is also investigating how to further support schools to ensure equitable access to digital devices for all students. 

If anyone reading this was a part of the external focus group mentioned by the Minister then I would love to hear from you.  The outcry to this decision, from both teachers and librarians, has made me curious about whether this scenario, reducing print curriculum resources supplied by the National Library, was specifically discussed.

For the record, I know some rather awesome National Library Advisors!  My issue is with this decision, not with them.

What should we do now?

  • Leave a comment and tell me how you'll be affected by these decisions and what you feel about them.
  • Make sure your principal knows that these decisions affect every teacher, student and librarian in the school and ask them to get involved.
  • If you are a librarian contact a member of your local SLANZA committee and tell them that you want our National Executive to become actively involved in fighting these decisions.
  • Unions, MPs (@PeterDunneMP and @jacindaardern), Associations, the Ministry - if you think someone can help then contact them.  We need lots of voices, lots of visibility and lots of pressure to be put on the National Library

Update as at 11 April 2015

A number of things have happened since I first published this post.  Some of these have been mentioned in the comments but I thought I would put all the links in one place.  
Here is more information about the Services to Schools Transformation Programme.  Of particular interest is the introduction of an inquiry learning loan in 2016, which appears to be an alternative to the curriculum topic loan administered over two terms instead of one.  It is wonderful that the National Library have listened to the many voices who were opposed to their changes.  In particular, Jacinda Ardern continued to ask the appropriate questions in Parliament and SLANZA are to be commended for all the hard work they have done on behalf of their members.


  1. Excellent post. It hits the nails on the head. Sharing widely.


  2. This is a dreadful decision! There cannot have been any consultation!
    Most schools are working towards Future Focused Learning and using Inquiry which means schools do not repeat a topic year in, year out.
    School libraries are much better off spending their money on fiction of all kinds and taking responsibility for developing a love of reading - they have the advantage of a relationship with a librarian or teacher.
    The National Library must continue to support schools with topic related non-fiction.

  3. Our school library is totally set up to support reading for pleasure and has a wide selection of fiction. As stated, we cannot hold dozens of copies of topic books, which may only be used once in every six or seven years - or even never repeated. These books were in fact severely culled as our library was a leaky building and was pulled down. Our decisions were made in the secure knowledge that the National Library Service was our support partner. How wrong we were! I really don't have any interest in a huge boxes of books distributed to the whole school. I guess it will be like the other services - the science and art advisers for example.These are decisions made with no consultation which are detrimental to us all.

  4. MORTIFIED. Maybe not for my school as such (teachers will get a fright and no, you won't be taking 5-6-7 plus books per topic like you have been...), but for the schools who have no librarian or budget. My library can already support reading for pleasure (in fact this might make library be used a lot more by teachers for classroom borrowing...); what I can't do is support whole school topic. I also have no interest in books distributed around an entire school from NL - it won't be happening. I'm not taking responsibility for another institution's books, when we lose dozens and dozens already...

  5. Michelle, thank you for your proactivity in this regard. This is one of the most informative comms I have yet seen.
    The following is one of the comments I received back from our teachers when I first shared word of these changes with them. "In the Junior School having a book display of our current topic captivates the child's (and their parents) interest. Nothing can replace browsing through books or seeing small groups of students sharing a book and discussing what they see and read !!!" This to me is the 'positive impact of reading for pleasure,' - the subliminal absorption by osmosis of information around the current learning topic that juniors, as well as older students frequently do.
    In late December I talked with our public library manager who was totally unaware of these changes. They serve about 30 schools and she too was agog at the prospect of having to fill these needs.
    I look forward to hearing from our wonderful National Library advisors when they have developed a plan worthy of sharing with all.

  6. All I can see from this is the demise of the National Library. That is one of the saddest things and can only result in more illiterate adults as the students grow. What's next? Maybe a ministry decision to mo=ve from funding librarians in afraid, very afraid.

  7. Hi Michelle
    A very well written post. I agree totally with your following comments:

    ‘most schools will be unable to supply a decent amount of curriculum books when multiple classes/the whole school do the same topic (as is often the case). This is where the National Library's Curriculum Service has been so important. Duplicating their service at a local level is a hugely wasteful and inefficient way to spend taxpayers' money.’

    It makes no sense to me too.

  8. Well done and well said, Michelle. As a school librarian assistant, I find that if librarians have to resource differently from National Library where are we going to find the time and don't they realise that school librarians and librarian assistants have other duties within a school setting and I can't see how teacher will have the time either. It looks like we will have to focus 2015 on curriculum resources rather than recreational reading for children which will be a shame due to school library budget. Thanks again for posting this, I reckon we will have to 'watch this space' and see what the outcome will be.

  9. Andread
    Research for children will not be as independent, vibrant, and motivating without topic books from the National library. Please reconsider this plan.We still do not have enough computers for individual research. There is something special about expensive hard cover books.

  10. A number of subjects, including history and classics, have internal research projects which require students to use a range of resources including primary and secondary book resources. Where are teachers and students to find these if even the National library won't cater for them?

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Michelle, your post reflects how we are all feeling. I also wonder who those 59 teachers and school librarians were (the rest of the people consulted are, in my opinion, irrelevant as they are not "at the coal-face"). To date, no one is putting up their hand - please advise if you were consulted.
    I would have thought that sending Nat Lib clients a survey link might have provided a more realistic viewpoint and also shown that DIA value our thoughts.

  13. Thank you to everyone who is sharing their comments. It is interesting to see how these service changes will impact on a variety of schools.

    Hamish, thanks for sharing a viewpoint from curriculum services. I asked Jacinda Adern to put in a follow up question for me, once Parliament gets back, on the number of schools using the service and how many books are lent out each year to support the curriculum. Those figures would allow us to know how many schools will be affected by this.

    You bring up good points about supply for diverse inquiry topics. Decisions made around which topics to buy for would be difficult but I still think having no curriculum loans at all is not the right solution.

  14. Hi Michelle,
    I've posted this on FB as I am really worried about the effect the changes will have on our ability to provide resources to support inquiry as well as developing information literacy skills - so much for NL's role in supporting the development of an info literate NZ.

    I attended one of the stakeholder sessions in 2012. It was a 3 hour session looking at the range of services provided by Services to Schools and what we felt was important. There was a huge range of people there, with those who felt everything should be online as well as those who recognised the importance of curriculum support resources. I spoke up very strongly in defence of retaining the non-fiction collection, especially as there is such disparity in access to resources/staffing/collection development/budgets. I am also an ex NL staff member who had responsibility for developing part of the Schools collection and it is heart breaking to see it negated like this.

  15. I agree with all these comments! We already provide hundreds of fiction books, circulated via our LMS, so that we know where they are and can retrieve them when necessary. We are unlikely to use the National Library to supplement our collection, as they will not be on the LMS database. We will sorely miss the loans from the National Library for topic-related research. How can we teach students to do research from a wide variety of sources, if printed resources will be limited to what we are able to buy for them?

  16. SLANZA has published an open letter about this - - and brought up some more good points.

  17. support here too [post of Dec 4 2014]

  18. I agree with the sentiments expressed both in the article and the comments. As Librarians we have considered the National Library's collection when assessing and weeding our own collections, and this decision will greatly impact on our ability to support curriculum topics. Our fiction/reading-for-pleasure is well managed within our school library, so it is the non-fiction curriculum topic areas that will suffer. At the end of the day, regardless of how I personally feel, and am affected by this, it is the students that will be disadvantaged. And frankly, that just plain SUCKS!

  19. Some more comments as I had a largely sleepless night and spent a lot of it trying to process the implications.
    1. The non fiction curriculum topic loans were always focussed around the ability of the students to read them, not the teacher; in fact adult level loans were discouraged except for secondary school students. I know, I worked there! Now the statement is trying to tell us the topic loans were for teachers and librarians!
    2. In terms 1 and 2 it is acceptable for staff to visit a NL centre and borrow personally. The implication is that from term 3 we cannot do that.

    3. Does this mean staff will be making interloan requests for particular books via their local library? (and in Auckland's case this might be $5 per title-) better than buying it if the topic is not to be covered by a particular age level in the next 2-4 years.
    4. My question sent to the email address we were given has not been answered; what will happen to the stock at National Library? Will it be given away to low decile schools or will it be kept until it is ready to be withdrawn due to age of information or poor condition?
    5. What will happen to the fiction stock? Is 2015/16 the end of supplying print books to schools?
    6. What is the Ministry of Education doing to address this issue apart from saying "that sounds all right."?
    7. The figure of $392,000 over a 4 year period sounds pretty puny to me considering the millions that are spent in many areas. The bulk purchasing and distribution of books to schools by National Library is a fairly efficient way to use taxes and funding for education compared with the alternative of every school buying books they may use every 2 years or may not use again. $100,000 a year seems a smallish cost to achieve distribution and a good attempt at equity across schools.
    This is like having lollies stuck in a locked cabinet and throwing away the key, a library with an OPAC but no request service, a mockery.
    I wouldn't mind so much if they had said they could only distribute to schools which are decile 6 and below.

  20. I see I have misinterpreted the annual saving figure quoted by Peter Dunne, he says $392,000 per annum. This would not just be from ceasing to send out topic loans though.
    I also wonder what part of that is a saving in staff wages with decreased frequency of loans?

  21. A campaign has been created to gather signatures in opposition of this change: