SCHOOLS will be unable to get full value from billions of dollars worth of new libraries because of long-running declines in staffing and book budgets, teachers and librarians warn.Across the country, 3472 libraries have been funded under the federal government’s Building the Education Revolution program, with a combined value of almost $4 billion.But submissions to a federal parliamentary inquiry on school libraries and teacher librarians warn that the potential benefits of the spending will not be realised unless schools are given extra funding to employ staff and update their collections.”The severe decline in the number of qualified teacher librarians staffing libraries … [and] in school library funding … over the last several decades means that despite the welcome injection of federal funds to library buildings, many new BER libraries will have no qualified librarian and no new books,” the Australian Education Union’s submission says.The Children’s Book Council of Australia echoes this view: ”The billions spent by the federal government on library buildings will not translate into improvements in learning outcomes, unless that funding is accompanied by adequate resourcing, staffing, management and administrative support for those libraries.”The school building program, begun in February last year to create jobs during the economic slowdown, has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement and profiteering by contractors.Yesterday the Herald revealed that a contractor had charged 10 NSW schools an identical amount – $1,303,505.22 – for a prefabricated library, even though they were costed at $850,000.Officials from the federal Education Department will give evidence to the inquiry today.A spokesman for the federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, said that while the government provided funding for schools, the states were responsible for their day-to-day management and staff allocation.
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