School libraries rise from DOS
The NSW Department of Education and Communities is to replace a 25-year-old school library system that serves a million borrowers in the state's school system.
The new web-based system will be introduced over two years, beginning in June, with 230 public schools involved in phase 1.
In total, up to 2274 instances of the new system will need to be installed in the state's schools to replace the present DOS-based OASIS system, first installed in 1988, and the less common iteration, Oliver.
The new system will need to integrate with existing applications and with the major e-book platforms, while managing the 40 million resources in the state's school libraries. The budget for the project has not been disclosed.
The Education Department says the goal of the new system is to act as a one-stop shop for information retrieval 24/7 and the use of digital materials for the state's 980,500 school users, including students, teachers and administration staff.
Although the rocketing rise of online resources at first challenged the central role libraries played in helping students and the public find information, Australia's libraries have adapted to embrace the online world.
The provision of internet and online database access at many libraries around the country is one example of this evolution.
The creation of the Trove portal as part of the National Library of Australia to give public access to digitised media, such as newspapers and magazines, is another high-profile example of the new role libraries play.
However, while welcoming all efforts to improve literacy levels, the Australian School Library Association has called for greater funding.
"There is abundant evidence from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia that shows students attain higher levels of achievement when they have access to a library program that is adequately staffed and well resourced," ASLA's Karen Bonanno said recently about the federal government's education reform program.
"Yet our school libraries continue to suffer from funding decreases and our teacher librarians are being replaced by unqualified staff."
A 2012 survey run by library software vendor Softlink - which is the Australian supplier of the Oliver system - and supported by the industry associations, claimed a "correlation between school library budgets and literacy levels".
But the survey showed the number of schools doing more with less was greater than those that had received a budget increase in the previous 12 months.
The survey also found that most school libraries considered mobile technology - such as smartphones and tablets - was having a big effect on the facility's role and that only 43 per cent had integrated their libraries with their learning management system.
"The report findings support a relationship between budget, staffing and student achievement," the survey report concluded.