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Report: Understaffing in South Australian school libraries

ACER Report highlights understaffing in South Australian school libraries

The School Libraries in South Australia 2019 Census, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), represents the most comprehensive research into school libraries undertaken in Australia.

Profile of school library staffing in SA

The results indicate school libraries in South Australia are currently managed by a cohort of dedicated but underqualified staff managing a complex array of library and information services, often in isolation and at levels below staffing recommendations.

  • 94% of schools have someone to manage the library collection and to select resources.
  • Less than 23% have a qualified teacher librarian.
  • 20% are a library qualified SSO/ESO.
  • Most school library managers are not qualified librarians – 51% do not have an appropriate qualification in library and information service management, with 36% being an unqualified SSO/ESO.

Do qualifications matter?

  • The evidence suggests that school libraries without a qualified teacher-librarian on staff (77% of schools), are less valued and less effective as a basic library service and may lead to lower student literacy outcomes. Schools with a teacher-librarian show stronger NAPLAN literacy results (Dix et al. 2019, p. 9).
  • In an information age, students need a qualified information specialist to support them to locate information from a range of sources, develop the skills to critically evaluate, analyse and synthesise information and to use it ethically.

Where to now?

All school library staff play an important role in the effective management of school libraries and the delivery of high-quality service to both staff and students.

There is a need to address pathways to build the cohort of qualified staff, enabling dedicated but unqualified school library staff to attain the skills to better support their schools and develop their careers.

There is also a need to address equitable funding of school libraries to allow collection development and management. Teachers and students deserve access to sufficient up-to-date resources to undertake and complete curriculum requirements and achieve competence in critical information, media and digital literacy skills, develop essential inquiry skills and become safe and effective cyber citizens.

How can you help?

  • Start a conversation with your school leadership.
  • Download, read and share the full report from:
  • Work with the IEU SA to advocate for school libraries and their staff.
  • Follow Students Need School Libraries on your preferred social media platform and share their tweets/posts.


Dix, K, Felgate, R & Ahmed, S , Carslake, T, Sniedze—Gregory, S 2020, School libraries in South Australia 2019 Census, Australian Council for Educational Research, Adelaide, viewed 17 October 2020,

Author: School Library of South Australia Committee