Canberra, 19 June 2020: Following today’s announcement of changes to government-subsidised fees for university courses, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) has written to Education Minister Dan Tehan seeking his support for Teacher Librarian courses to be aligned with teaching qualifications ensuring that students will therefore benefit from fee reductions.
ALIA CEO Sue McKerracher said, “While we still have to work through the likely impact of the government’s announcement for the library and information sector as a whole, this would be a welcome sign from the Education Minister that our strong case for the value of Teacher Librarians has been heard and acknowledged.”
ALIA’s correspondence with the Minister warns of a potential double whammy created by today’s announcement of increased student fee payments for humanities degrees.
In an information age, Australia will need information professionals but an as-yet-unpublished ALIA survey of employment in the sector suggests that there will a dearth of qualified staff due to retirement. The effect will be most acute for TAFE libraries, Teacher Librarians in schools, and staff in public libraries, with between a quarter and a third of respondents in these categories stating their intention to retire in the near future.
This draining of experienced staff will not be mirrored by an influx of new talent if university courses are unaffordable. Library and information science (LIS) is not a particularly well paid profession, and most positions are in the public sector. This means it will take more time for LIS graduates to repay their HELP loan than those in higher paid industries, such as the law and commerce. This will deter people from entering the profession and, for some, it will make an LIS career economically completely unviable.
ALIA is concerned that there may be further negative ramifications of these fee changes for the sustainability of LIS courses – there are fewer than 1,000 EFTSL studying for an LIS degree in Australia – if LIS is included with the arts. However, as LIS has evolved into digital technologies, data management and other areas of STEM, some courses now sit within industry and science faculties. ALIA will be seeking clarification about how the fee changes will be applied.
And with local students filling the gap left by international students, feared cuts to university library budgets may be mitigated. Sue McKerracher again, “We would expect that current library budgets would be maintained and that any overall increase in the number of university students over the next decade would be matched by an increase in funding and staff numbers for university libraries.”
About the LIS sector
Library and information science (LIS) is an occupation with a relatively small, highly qualified workforce and an even smaller educational footprint. Although the LIS workforce is small, the sector has significant reach and profile. In the recent publication, 2019: A Year in Libraries, the following statistics were given:
• 13,650 library locations in metropolitan, regional and remote Australia,
• 27,500 workers in libraries and information services,
• 12.9 million users in communities, schools, universities, TAFEs, government departments, research agencies, hospitals, NGOs, law firms, banks, media channels, technology companies and other knowledge-based enterprises across Australia, and;
• $2.8 billion is the estimated annual investment in library and information services in Australia.
About the Australian Library and Information Association
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is the professional organisation for the Australian library and information services sector. With 5,000 members across Australia, we provide the national voice of the profession in the development, promotion and delivery of quality library and information services, through leadership, advocacy and mutual support. www.alia.org.au
Sue McKerracher, ALIA CEO, M 0404 456 749 T 02 6215 8215 E [email protected]