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Portugal, 1986-2010 Government Policies - a long walk to significant School Libraries for all


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Chapter of Book published by IASL and IFLA SLRC Section (2010).
New Global Publication on School Librarianship: IASL-IFLA Joint publication
Global Perspectives on School Libraries: Projects and Practices
The publication is edited by Luisa Marquardt, Director Europe for IASL and Dianne Oberg, former editor of School Libraries Worldwide. Available here

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Portugal, 1986-2010 Government Policies - a long walk to significant School Libraries for all

  1. 1. Portugal, 1986-2010 Government Policies - a long walk to significant School Libraries for all Maria José VitorinoAbstractPortuguese National Library was created in 1911, but public libraries were rare until the 80s, and schoollibraries even more rare. Mandatory primary education for boys was legislated in 1956, and for girls in 1961.Iliteracy was impressive until the last quarter of 20st Century, and only in 1976 Constitution recognizeduniversal rights to Education and Culture. School Libraries Development is the aim of PortugueseGovernment Program RBE Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares (School Libraries Network), in order toassure School Libraries services to every school and every student (K-12). This Program, created by 2Ministries – Culture and Education - in 1996, 10 years after Public Libraries Netwotk started, is stillrunning, based on partnerships between Public and School Libraries, supported by Local Governments(Municipalities) and National Government, all over the country, except in Autonomous Regions of Azoresand Madeira. In 2010, RBE integrates 2402 school libraries, publishes national School Libraries guidelinesand promotes teamwork, through a national coordination Cabinet (directed by Teresa Calçada since 1996),57 School Libraries full time network advisors with defined working area (several schools and SchoolLibraries, public libraries, local authorities, teacher training centres and others to work with), and about 1400teacher librarians, and other school staff. New school buildings, primary as well as secondary, follow RBEguidelines for facilities.Schools must apply to get their school libraries integrated (and supported) by School Libraries Network –and for that they need to have Public Library and Local Government support, too. Each Municipality havesigned a formal agreement with school principals and also with Education Ministry representatives,designing partnership principles and general trends. Teacher Librarian full time positions were created in2009, and were 10% reduced the next year – however, more new school libraries were integrated.Government created a National Reading Plan, to be developed with RBEs support in schools. LocalLibraries Networks emerge. RBE, with PNL support, is also running a special project on School Libraries &reading promotion, aLer+, within 80 School Libraries all over the country, and also cooperation projectswith School Libraries overseas: Mozambique, Timor. School Libraries Evaluation Model is used since 2007– Modelo (2010). External evaluation on School Libraries Network Program by a specialists team wasrecently published, recognising positive impact and recommending further measures.For 14 years, School Libraries Network (RBE) contributed to create and improve School Libraries in everyschool, as well as to build an educational culture valuing School Libraries and involving teachers, principals,education administration authorities, parents and community leaders. Expectations on School Libraries arenow much higher, and claim for political vision and public resources enough to consolidate what has beenachieved or simply started, not compromising future generations rights to quality education and culturalcapital growth.Keywords:Government Policies, Portugal, School libraries, Public libraries, Partnership
  2. 2. Full Text: Image 1. Presentation document of RBE Portuguese School Libraries Network Program (2010) Source: RBEPortuguese School Libraries development is part of a long and hard story, for more than a century.Portugal National Library was created only after 1910 Republican Revolution: its collection shouldbe supported with mandatory books deposit by publishers. Even if Portugal first Public EducationLaw was from 1836, Public Schools, as well as Public Libraries, were rare. Nevertheless, someHigh Schools, Liceus, created since 1904 – quite at the same time Government give up policiesimposing mandatory text book for Primary Education -- have beautiful buildings, with a specialroom with wooden shelves, large tables and severe chairs, for their School Library, designed forteachers use and books. We still can visit some of these School Libraries, for those buildingsresisted time, even if not always preserving Library rooms. After 1936, and during dictatorialEstado Novo policies, mandatory text books (selected by National Committees) were legislatedagain, for all school levels, and Government policies simply ignored School Libraries until the1950s.In 1956, “Rural Libraries for Primary Schools” were created – each primary school should have asmall collection of books, kept in a small closet, used according national rules by teacher andstudents, provided by Education Ministry, and teachers were in charge. There were no officialpolicies, nor funds, regarding secondary schools. In 1957, started an essential service of free ofcharge mobile public libraries all over the country, promoted by a private entity, CalousteGulbenkian Foundation. Those mobile libraries were the first and, until 2002, the only publiclibrary many populations will know, and the only library services all students could really attend.Primary education during 4 years was not mandatory until 1956, for boys, and 1961, for girls, andthat explains also Portuguese actual generations educational gap. Emigration, a Portugueseimportant reality since the 19th century, increased more and more after 1960, mainly to Europeancountries like France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, bur also to USA, Canada,Brazil,Venezuela and African Portuguese colonies – even during 13 years long independence wars.Meanwhile, School Libraries development depended on teacher’s voluntary effort, and rare funding,and only some schools benefit of that.Illiteracy was impressive until the last quarter of 20st Century – by 1974, non literate populationwas 30%. In spite of an huge progress, in 1991, 11% of Portuguese population cannot write norread; that value is hard to decrease – in 2001, 11 % of women and 6 % of men were totally illiterate.Assuring further Education for all is a Portuguese 21st century crucial goal.1986s National Education Law ruled K-9 mandatory school, recognising it as a right of every child,since pre-school until 9th year - recently, this was extended for 12 years. Public Libraries Networkalso started in 1986, except at Azores and Madeira Regions: it supposes that, with some financial
  3. 3. and technical support from National Government, local authorities should assure every municipalityprovides at least one public library; this program has known different phases and rhythms.Since 1987, School Libraries were mentioned in several official documents and measures. SomeEducation Ministry measures valued School Libraries projects, specially those connected withmedia education, but many schools have no School Libraries at all, or experienced hard conditionsto create or improve school libraries services.By the end of 1995, Government ordered a group of experts, from Education as well from LIS area,coordinated by Isabel Alçada to elaborate a Report on School Libraries development (Veiga, 1996),and later created a special Program, RBE Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares (School LibrariesNetwork), in order to assure School Libraries services to every school and every student (K-12).This Program, created in 1996 by 2 Ministries – Culture and Education - 10 years after PublicLibraries Network have started, is still running. It is based on partnerships between Public andSchool Libraries, supported by Local Governments (Municipalities) and National Government, allover the country. Each school must apply to integrate the RBE, national level, and eachmunicipality must sign a partnership statement, also signed by School principals and by anEducation Ministrys representative.Many local Teacher´s Training Centres have been also a relevant partnership, offering continuoustraining for teachers working at School Libraries, and, also, for School Libraries non teaching staff. Image 2. Number of school libraries. Portugal 1997-2010For several years, schools received financial reinforcement that enables them to change facilities:rooms, equipment, collections. School Libraries integrating RBE are now 2402, following nationalSchool Libraries guidelines, regularly reviewed – including new school buildings, both in primaryand secondary level schools.As it is possible to understand by this graphic, a huge effort is being done for 15 years, specially inmandatory education level. However, those graphics report just part of the investment – moneyspent by Education Ministry – for there are no statistics available on the amounts applied by LocalGovernments on primary schools buildings and facilities, by School Libraries professionals oncontinuous training and further education on School Libraries issues, and by other entities involvedin School Libraries projects and partnerships.
  4. 4. Image 3. Investment on School Library Network (euros). Portugal 1997-2010Local libraries networks, involving School Libraries and PL catalogues and web portals, aregrowing, and are linked from RBEs website. Those networks increased collaborations amongPublic and School Libraries and staff, but also revealed a significant focus on literacy promotionand digital contents edition, designed for and often with teachers of local schools, of all educationallevels and teaching domains.Schools technological resources, recently increased with PTE Plano Tecnológico da Educação,include free access to Moodle Platforms. Teacher librarians are developing skills on digital contexts,as many public librarians revealed more ad more interest on those development trends, as well.Local and sometimes regional meetings are now quite a routine among Portuguese school libraries,always counting with public libraries presence, including on organization teams. Some of thesemeetings are organized as inter-municipalities project, optimizing resources and connectingprofessionals on School Libraries subjects. Communities of practice emerge.During 2009, RBE started Cooperation projects with Mozambique and Timor school libraries, a bigstep who could be enlarged through other communities using Portuguese language, all over theworld. Image 4. Mozambique RBE Project 2010. Poster
  5. 5. Source: organized, with BAD (Portuguese Librarians Archivists and Documentalists Association), the 38 th IASLConference in Lisbon, 2006 (image below) “The Multiple Faces of Literacy”.It was a great success, involving several hundreds of national participants, and many experts from Europeand other parts of the world, no doubt a large step forward into School Libraries National Network goals.Since then, many local and regional meetings on School Libraries subjects are multiplying contents andcontributions from professionals, principals, public librarians and researchers.At the same time, for training purposes as well as for some researchers interest, School Libraries finally area theme for University research projects, mainly on Education Sciences approach, but also on ICT or LISstudies. Portuguese University/Science Research Open Access Repositorium, RCAAP, started on 2009,presents already 655 thesis and dissertations on School Libraries connected themes (search 2011.02.12). Image 5. IASL 2006 Conference, Lisbon. In RBE Newsletter n.º 1 (2006) Source: RBEHuman resources are a clue factor. RBE promotes teamwork, through a National CoordinationCabinet, directed by Teresa Calçada since 1996, and 57 School Libraries full time network advisers– inter-municipalities coordinators - with defined working area (several schools and SchoolLibraries, public libraries, local authorities, teacher training centres and others to work with). So,every school library and every school library team, including teacher librarians and other staff, withdifferent levels of specific training, are supported by one of these advisers, always connected toNational Cabinet and with Education Ministry regional level authorities. Those coordinators, withfurther training and School Libraries experience, also usually help on school applications tointegrate National School Libraries Network – including since 2008 also some private schools withpublic funds for public education services - and work within local partnerships.All over the years, many teachers and other school staff have been engaged in this changes, oftensupported by local public librarians and technical staff, and many of them benefits from furthertraining, promoted by some Universities – LIS and Education Science Postgraduate or Mastercourses, and Ph.D. Programs, as well as in-service training courses, promoted by EducationMinistry Departments and RBE itself, and, or, by local Teachers Training Centres, among others, asTHEKA (2004-2008).
  6. 6. Image 6. 2010 RBE poster, a cloud filled with knowledge, and connected tags. Many school library printed this image, as wall paper, and it was quite a popular image embedded in School Libraries blogs all over the country Source: http://blogue.rbe.min Libraries Network developed an evaluation frame applied by each School Libraries team,Modelo (2010) and an external evaluation presents rather positive results (Costa, 2009).National Reading Plan started in 2006, PNL (2008), and is strongly supported by School LibrariesNetwork, including a special program inspired on UK Reading Connects (by National ReadingTrust), aLer+, supporting innovative reading and literacy promotion actions developed by schoollibraries, involving already 78 projects; later, the National Educational Technological Plan alsovalued School Libraries action, mainly for literacy agenda and curriculum support. Image 7. Miranda do Corvo. EBI Ferrer Correia. Portugal (2009). Source: RBESince 2009, the full time teacher librarian legislation provided more than 1500 professionals onSchool Libraries; in 2010, they are a bit less (near 1400). In 2011/2012, government imposed everyteacher librarian to teach one class, reducing his/her time available to work within School Librariesdevelopment.
  7. 7. School Libraries number keep rising, all over the country, including, since 2008, some privateschools with public services and public financial support, always through applications to regularnetwork integration of to a Merit Ideas special program.Each new school building, from pre-school to upper secondary level, recognises its importance,following RBE guidelines for buildings, furniture and equipment. Mayors are pleased to officiallyopen those new school libraries, even when they find sometimes hard to provide regular support toimprove their collections every year – this is rather important specially for primary schools, whichmaintenance is a Municipal responsibility, in Portugal. Teacher librarian are deeply involved inschool activities and planning, and almost always have a seat as member of the PedagogicalCouncil, the main educational management structure each school has, gathering all DepartmentsCoordinators and also the School Principal and representatives of parents and of students. Schoollibrary services representation in this Council is a RBE guidelines statement, however each schoolcan apply it, or choose not to do so.This real impact of political measures promoted since 1996 is also web-visible through webcontents, blogs, websites, wikis and others – so school projects and agents are increasedexpectations on School Libraries work and collaborative partnerships, with natural educationalimpact, in spite of staff reductions and budget cuts.Photos presented next, showing average day scenes on actual Portuguese school libraries of today,are impressive about how 2400 Portuguese School Libraries, one hundred after National Librarywas created as a Revolution aim in a rural and illiterate country, are experienced by students asrich, and common, learning environments. part of their own modern, reading and (critical?)thinking society. Image 8. Loures. Primary School. Portugal (2010). Source: RBE
  8. 8. Image 9. Castelo Branco. Secondary School. Portugal (2010). Source: RBE Image 10. Lousã. Primary School. Portugal (2010). Source: RBE Image 11. Penafiel. Secondary School. Portugal (2010). Source: RBE
  9. 9. References:Costa, António Firmino da (2009). Avaliação do Programa Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares. Lisboa: Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares, at URL: newsId=592&fileName=9789727423194.pdf (retrieved 12.12.2010)Modelo de avaliação da biblioteca escolar (2010). Lisboa: Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares, at URL: (retrieved 12.12.2010)Plano Nacional de Leitura PNL [website] (2008- ). Lisboa: Ministério da Educação, at URL: (retrieved 12.12.2010)Plano Tecnológico da Educação ERTE-PTE [website] Lisboa: Ministério da Educação, at URL: (retrieved 12.12.2010)Portugal. Laws related to School Libraries Network [on line]. Lisboa. Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares, at URL: (retrieved 12.12.2010)RBE Newsletter (2006- ) [on line]. Lisboa. Rede de Bibliotecas Escolares at URL: http://www.rbe.min- (retrieved 12.1.2010)RCAAP Repositório Científico de Acesso Aberto de Portugal [on line] URL: locale=enRede de Bibliotecas Escolares RBE [website] (1998- ). Lisboa: Ministério da Educação, at URL: (retrieved 12.12.2010)THEKA Gulbenkian Teacher Training for School Libraries Development [website] (2004-2008). Lisboa: Theka, at URL: (retrieved 12.12.2010)