Findings from Softlink's annual Australian School Library Survey have revealed a positive link between literacy results and school library resourcing levels.
The 2012 survey found schools with higher than the national average NAPLAN reading literacy scores received above average levels of library funding and staffing.
A comparable result was identified between schools with low NAPLAN scores and low funding levels, with the relationship's significance increasing from primary to secondary school. These results were echoed in the 2010 and 2011 surveys.
Softlink's Chief Operating Officer, Mr Nathan Godfrey said the survey aimed at identifying the relationship between literacy levels to library funding as well as ongoing challenges faced by Australia's primary and secondary schools (government, catholic and independent).
"Our schools are under more pressure than ever to perform," Mr Godfrey said.
"Yet despite increasing demands to implement the National Curriculum, improve literacy levels and integrate the latest digital resources, the survey found 26% of our schools library budgets have been cut and 52% have remained the same," he said.
The findings concluded that on average independent school libraries received more funding than government schools, while secondary schools had the largest budget decrease with 34% of schools experiencing a decline in funding.
Other challenges for school libraries identified in the survey included inconsistent staffing levels across school type; finding a balance between physical and digital collections; collaboration with school learning programs and staff; and recognition of the evolving role of teacher librarian.
Mr Godfrey said impacts on libraries will continue as demand escalates for 24/7 library or iCentre access.
"Students and teachers want to access resources at school, at home, anywhere, and anytime, on laptops, school and home computers, tablets such as iPads, iPods, e-readers and smart phones. This will continue to drive rapid change to the way schools manage their knowledge assets."
Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Executive Officer, Ms Karen Bonanno said ASLA was encouraged by the findings, which support the library's central role to student learning.
"These preliminary findings suggest that schools with a well-resourced library, qualified library staff and adequate resources support better learning outcomes for their students," Ms Bonanno said.
"There is wide spread agreement that our focus should be on improving literacy for all children. A valid step to achieving student engagement is ensuring access to meaningful and relevant resources. However, we continue to see students' results suffer from budget cuts across vital library areas.
"As demand for interactivity continues to grow, school resources must be seen as valuable learning assets, integrated into literacy and learning outcomes and funded adequately as part of a school's strategic plan," Ms Bonanno said.
More than 600 Australian primary, secondary and independent schools participated in the 2012 survey, which compares Australian school library budgets and NAPLAN Reading Literacy results obtained from the My School website.
The survey has been undertaken by Softlink since 2010. Findings from the survey were tabled in 2011 as part of the House of Representatives' Standing Committee on Education and Employment Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools.
To download the Report on Softlink's School Library Survey Findings, click the following link: