The 2022 Softlink report has been released! Each year, Softlink invites school libraries and Teacher Librarians (TLs) around Australia and New Zealand to respond to their annual survey. Each year, Softlink produces a report with their findings. I’ve had a good look at the 2022 report and thought it might be fun to draw out some similarities and differences between the 2022, 2021 and 2020 reports!
To access these reports, you can download them from this page. Please note that you will need to provide some details to download them but I promise it’s worth it!
First up, the major difference between the 2020, 2021 and 2022 reports is that the 2022 report includes schools in Australia AND New Zealand. In the 2021 and 2020 reports, these countries were separated and had their own reports. The decision to combine the results rather than provide separate reports might have something to do with the number of schools that participated. The table below breaks down the number of participants from Australian schools and New Zealand schools for each year.
As you can see, there has been a significant decline in the number of participants in the survey for 2022. I would argue that this is the reason for the combined report rather than the separate reports. It is a little disappointing that the participation rates have not been as high as they have been previously, and I think there’s a few reasons for this.
The first is survey fatigue. It would not be hard to imagine that the same TLs and school library staff are responding to this survey every year. It would be easy to forget or prioritise different jobs, especially if they’ve been doing it since the start in 2010. They might have even thought something like “I won’t do it this year because they don’t need me to; there’s always heaps of responses!”
The second reason might be because of staffing changes. For example, those who have been completing the survey the last few years might have retired and their replacements may not know about this survey. It would be easy to ignore the email that comes with the request to complete the survey, especially if they’ve never done it before. Another frightening possibility might be that the TL who has retired has not been replaced OR that their team has been cut down in size and therefore they don’t have the time and headspace to complete the survey.
The last reason I want to touch on is that perhaps this is just a natural lull in the cycle of this survey. It was started in 2010 and has been running for 13 years now. It’s quite possible that the larger numbers in 2020 (identified by the 2020 report as the largest number of respondents to date) and the lower numbers in 2022 are just part of the cycle of this survey.
So… If you get the chance to complete the survey next year, I highly encourage you to contribute! It’s a fabulous resource that has collected data across school libraries for years and it’s good to be able to go back and look at trends.
The first thing I look at with each report is the Survey Findings Summary. It’s a great starting point to get a gist of the data collected. Some key trends I’ve noticed from 2020, 2021 and 2022 are that…
In 2020, 47% of respondents felt that their library was adequately funded. In 2021, that number rose to 55% and remained fairly stable in 2022 with 54% feeling the same. While the percentage increase is nice to see, I find it difficult to think of the respondents, anywhere between 53% and 45%, who feel that their library is not adequately funded. It’s a little too close to 50% for my liking and the idea that 50% (I’m generalising here) of our school libraries are not well-funded nationally is not good!
The top responsibilities of school library staff is also another interesting theme to dig into. They are listed in order of popularity, meaning that the number one spot had the most votes. For example, in 2020 the top three jobs were:
- Promoting and supporting reading for pleasure
- Curating relevant information and resources to support topic-based learning and curriculum
- Developing or teaching information literacy programs or research skills programs (Softlink Education, 2021, p. 4).
In 2021 and 2022 the top three jobs were:
- Curating relevant information and resources to support the curriculum
- Providing regular timetabled library lessons
- Performing a teaching role (Softlink Education, 2022, p. 3; 2023, p. 6).
The removal of promoting and supporting reading for pleasure from the top three jobs after 2020 hit me hard. Reading for pleasure is my passion and my area of research. To see it removed from the main jobs identified by survey participants in 2021 and 2022 breaks my heart. Additionally, the removal of developing or teaching information literacy programs and research skills programs is also upsetting. This is where the TL can lead and support the development of great critical thinking, analysis and evaluation skills for students and staff! I am sad to see that it was not identified as a top job in 2021 and 2022.
If we generalise from the 2021 and 2022 reports to what’s happening in the TL role around Australia, the focus seems to have shifted away from the teaching of skills to the provision of resources and possibly relief teaching. Don’t get me wrong, providing access to high quality resources that meets the teaching, learning and recreational needs of our school communities is a key part of the TL role, but it is not the only thing we do! Including a teaching role into the TL job is also something I am not shocked by (we are, afterall, teachers first) but I hope that there is adequate time to complete all the other tasks associated with the TL role alongside the teaching role. Somehow, I do not think this is the case…
As you work your way through the report, past the summary chapter, you’ll notice that the reports break up the school sectors into Catholic, Government, and Independent schools. The 2022 report also divides the schools up into Australian and New Zealand schools. This gives readers a good opportunity to compare the following:
- Physical space;
- Tasks performed;
- Promotion of library resources;
- Online resources; and,
- Level of support and engagement.
Not only are the sections good to compare against, but the school size is often represented too. This means that schools can find schools that are similar to their own and compare their various statistics against those reported in the Softlink surveys. I have found in my own professional conversations with TLs that the sharing of staffing and budgeting numbers of like-with-like is a popular conversation that seems to circle back at least once a year. By having this information in the Softlink reports, TLs can use this national data to support their requests from their school leadership as well. It’s part of the reason why the Softlink survey is such an important survey for our profession!
I think that’s all I wanted to touch on for this week. I hope you are able to engage with the report and find some interesting information to support you in your roles and your work. I really do encourage you to contribute to the survey when it rolls around in August this year. The more data we have the better we’re able to advocate for our positions!
Softlink Education. (2021). Australian school library survey report 2020 (pp. 1–32). https://www.softlinkint.com/downloads/2020_Softlink_School_Library_Survey_-_Australian_Report.pdf
Softlink Education. (2022). Australian school library report 2021 (pp. 1–40). https://www.softlinkint.com/downloads/2021_Softlink_School_Library_Survey_-_Australian_Report.pdf
Softlink Education. (2023). The 2022 Softlink Australia and New Zealand school library survey report (pp. 1–52). https://www.softlinkint.com/downloads/2022_Softlink_School_Library_Survey_Australian_NewZealand_Report.pdf
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