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A Regional German School Library Association: A Story of Success? H. G. Brée/Günter K. Schlamp


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The article describes the history of a regional German school library working group 1987 – 2017 (LAG). A group of teachers and school librarians founded it in the federal state of Hesse. For some time they had been quite successful.

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A Regional German School Library Association: A Story of Success? H. G. Brée/Günter K. Schlamp

  1. 1. A Regional German School Library Association: A Story of Success? Hans Günther Brée / Günter K. Schlamp Abstract: The article describes the history of a regional German school library working group 1987 – 2017 (LAG). A group of teachers and school librarians founded it in the federal state of Hesse. They advise the government and achieved some improvements. These are presented here. There is no national or stateside legislation and regular funding for school libraries in Germany. The responsibility for school libraries is left to the municipalities and local public libraries. It is questionable if a private association, i. e. a NGO, could in the long term be a viable solution for the development of an underdeveloped school library system. But as a take-off it was quite successful.
  2. 2. “A country without a library would be like a gardenwithout plants, a meadowwithout flowers …” wrote Umberto Eco in his novel “The Name of the Rose”,and in the course of a school library seminar the participants collectedstatements, which were just as striking, such as “A school without a library is like a journey, which takes you nowhere” or “A school without a library is like a desert without an oasis”. These metaphors emphatically express the necessityforschool libraries. In 1987 30 personsfrom 16 schoollibraries in Hesse came to a first informal regional meeting, that was later called the first Hessian School Library Day. Long beforethe so called PISA-shock,the disappointing outcome of the achievements of German students in reading and math, the main concern of the LAG-founders was to work on the students’ problems extracting informationfrom texts. Wellequipped school libraries could be helpful. A travelling library, which goes to its customers in the schools,was put into practice in 1995 with a “mobile forlibrary and cultural purposes”. The suggestionwas made by LAG and it was really put into practice. When the high-flying plans for regional help centers came to nothing, LAG had proposed this traveling advice center.The Ministry of Education developedthis mobile educationunit, a truck with a draw-out extension for cultural and instructional purposes. Insert Slide 1 Mobile education unit Soonthereafter the Project Office for SchoolLibraries was developed. The ProjectOffice, under responsibilityof the Ministry of Education advises schools in the development of and the work in the library.
  3. 3. Additionally there are two teachers with half of their workload working in the Hesse Department for Public Libraries that belongs to the Ministry of Science and the Arts. In 2017 the 23nd School Library Conferencewas held. Like the years before this day is the Hesse further education event with about 30 seminars each time and through the years 170 speakers (among them 14 authors) on reading promotion,media education, IT and data protection, guided inquiry, library education and organizational matters. Guests, who take part regularly, are doing a round trip of the Hesse school libraries, because each time one of the memberschoolshosts the conference. For years the Hessian School Library Meeting has been unique in Germany. “The mother of all schoollibrary meetings” now has imitators. There are now schoollibrary meetings in several states, like North Rhine-Westphalia, Berlin/Brandenburg, Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, Lower Saxony and in Schleswig-Holstein. The founding of LAG Schulbibliothekenin Hessene. V. enabled teachers to becomeactive and work on school library topics outside the official channels. The Hessian Ministry of Education was open-minded and a close cooperationbegan- the LAG became a non-governmental organization, whose recommendations were highly valued. Up until the central Hessian Teacher Further EducationInstitute was closed down, 25 one-week-courses onschool library topics were held. More than 400 teachers, librarians and parent helpers participated. There was also a course in working with the thematical book case “Die
  4. 4. Bibliothekin der Kiste” - library in a box-, a reading project. The participants could spend a week reading and planning how to use the bookcase in teaching. Insert slide 2 Thematical book case The successful project“Die Bibliothek in der Kiste”, also financed by the Ministry of Education, has reached 60,000 pupils up until the project’s end after 20 years. The list of 30 to 40 books and other mediafor one topic was oftenused by schools to help build up their own library. Other schools could use the bookcases for8 weeks - free of charge. 1992 was an eventful year for the school libraries: It was not only the start of this reading project, it also saw the introduction of the Austrian library program LITTERAin the school libraries in a version which met all the users’ needs in Hesse. Supported bythe “Servicestelle EDV in Schulbibliotheken”, a special institution to help work with LITTERA cataloguing software in schools, the program became available for their libraries and their text bookstocks as well, for a moderate fee. In the meantime the program is used by two thirds of all schools inHesse. Their catalogues can be networked through a commonweb.OPAC, the hessen.OPAC. There is an organigram that sums up, what was already mentioned and that also shows further initiatives and perspectives. Insert slide 3 Modules of a school library system Not all initiatives were realized.
  5. 5. As early as in 1996 the Ministry of Education was prepared to help finance another projectsuggestedbythe LAG.This projectshould improve the use of the internet in school libraries. It was submitted to the Federal CommissionforEducation and Research. Unfortunately, experts from the Federal Ministry of Science rejected to finance the project, with the extraordinary argument, all these things were already available in public libraries! This was slightlyexaggerated in the year 1996. The LAG went online with a homepage and a mailing list. A digital newsletter took its place several years ago. Finally a weblog about topics concerning school, schoollibraries and pedagogicswent online from 2007 to 2017: “Basedow1764”. Johann SebastianBasedow, a philanthropic educator, demandedschoollibraries for every schoolin his home country the kingdom of Prussia in the year 1764.In 1928 the goal was achieved. This is forgottenin today´s Germany. The documentationof teaching, using the library, in orderto publish best practice examples, can be difficult.Teachers cannot be expected to take the time to document examples, becauseof their already high workload. Nevertheless the LAG has asked colleagues to send in reports about their work in the library for publication. How often is the work that goes on in the library invisible, even for the colleagues and the headmaster in their own school. Schoollibraries need support and public awareness. The projects show examples.Ways to enhance the awareness of colleagues about the work done in the library are the prizes ofthe association: At first the prize “The Little HessianBookcase”honored attractive reading activities in the library. Later the “School Librariesof the Year”were awarded a prize. To becomeschoollibrary of the year, one had to document
  6. 6. extensive schoollibrary activities and the presentationof the school library on the school homepage. Then came the prize “The School Librarian/ the SchoolLibraryTeam ofthe Year”,which invited Heads of School to acknowledge the achievements of those responsibleforthe library. These initiatives have spread in other German states. Further vocational education widens the horizon and promotes the personal competenceof those responsibleforthe school library. The LAG pursues the conceptof “teacherlibrarian” bysuggesting a further educationcourse for colleaguesto promote the pedagogicaluse of schoollibraries. The concept has not been realized. The publicationsof the LAG are a service of a special kind, particularly the thematical brochures, which deal with central issues of the daily running of a school library. Insert slide 4 LAG-Publications Some of the brochures reflect the cooperationwith the colleagues in Austria and Southern Tyrol. Topics are reading promotion, the multi- media library, building up and organizing the school library, research, encouragement to read and learn, the use of the Hessian cataloguing program LITTERA and data protection. Not only the brochures, but also the calendars and the “Map of Bookland” are annual gifts for the members,whose number has increased to almost 300 - of those 200 are schools, an equivalent of roughly 10 percent of all Hessian schools. Insert slide 5 Additional publications
  7. 7. The fact, that there are quite a numberof successfully working school libraries and multi-media informationcentres in over two thirds of the 2.100 Hessian schools, is mostly due to a concept of the LAG that can be described with three maxims: The firstmaxim is “Beginhere and now” and do not wait until a local or federal institution presents a library to the school for free.This is the trademark of the LAG, the narrow path to a library, created by your own initative and hard work, using all available school resources. The second maxim:The school library is an essential component of the school’s concept of learning to read and reading promotion, media education and library pedagogics. And the third maxim:The schoollibrary has to be closelyintegrated into teaching and the organization of the school. The library must be stocked in cooperationwith the school departments and in accordance with the schoolprogram. All that creates an active school library, which does not wait for the users, but is visible in everyday life in school and a central issue in all governing bodies ofthe school. It is part of the school, a place for learning. It is regularly evaluated. The latter was proposed by the LAG to the Hessian institute that evaluates schools. The concept is backed by Americanschoollibrary impact studies - the studies carried out in Ohio and Colorado - which, after the evaluation of thousands of school libraries, confirm that students, using good school libraries achieve betterresults in schooltests. It dependson the competenceand commitment of the teacher librarians, whether students and colleagues see their library as a place of learning, even as an
  8. 8. alternative to the classroom. It is hard to judge,if the concept of the “Library From Below” can create permanent structures; howeverin schools, where the project “school library” has beenrunning for ten years or even much longer, certain habits have emerged, not only in teachers, who have directaccess at any time to the mediaof a central multi-media library, but also in students, who can read and learn and work in various social forms in rooms equippedto a very high standard. In its manifesto “What the LAG wants” the associationhas set down its views on integrating the schoollibrary into the daily life at school, aspects, which can advance the Hessian school library concept in a sustainable way. Insert slide 6 LAG-basics Institutions supporting the schools, the Ministry, the municipalities and the counties have to take on responsibility. Last but not least, it’s about equal opportunities forall students in Hesse, independent of where they live or what status their parents have. A part of moderneducation policyis the promotionof multi-mediaand multi-functional schoollibraries. Modern multi-medialibraries enhance the quality of schools. The Hessian school libraries from below, mostlyrun by volunteers, depending on donations, supported by the self-help organization LAG, are a story of success. There is absolutely no reasonto stop here. The future will show if the LAG could laid the foundation for a successful schoollibrary system. More information:
  9. 9. Schlamp, Günter K., mit Brée, Hans Günther und Fritz, Markus (2013). Die Schulbibliothek im Zentrum, Berlin: Bibspider Homepage of the Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft Schulbibliotheken in Hessen e. V. (LAG) A LAG-school library wiki
  10. 10. Slide 1 Mobile education unit
  11. 11. Slide 2 Thematicalbook case
  12. 12. Slide 3 Modules of a school library system
  13. 13. Insert slide 4 LAG-Publications
  14. 14. Slide 5 Additional publications
  15. 15. Slide 6 LAG-basics
  16. 16. Hans Günther Brée Chairman LAG, head-teacher (ret.) Günter K. Schlamp Former chairman LAG, head-teacher (ret.)