School Libraries in Aotearoa New Zealand — 2019

Inside a school library with books on display.

The 2019 survey built on the 2018 survey baseline information about the nature of school libraries and school library services. It also explored 2 key aspects of school library provision: school library staffing and school library collections.

Executive summary

Scope and objectives

The National Library’s Services to Schools, LIANZA and SLANZA surveyed all schools in New Zealand from 13 August 2019 to 1 September 2019. This survey builds on baseline information gathered in 2018 about the nature of school libraries and school library services, and provides greater detail about two key aspects of school library provision:

  • school library staffing — including employment arrangements, support and continuing professional development, and remuneration
  • school library collections — including information about collection development budgets, format types, and holdings.

Summary of findings


Most primary and intermediate school library staff work part-time in their library. A significant number of primary school library staff also perform other part-time roles in their school. Most secondary and composite school library staff work full-time in their library position.

The majority of all school library staff are employed during term time only i.e. 40 weeks per year (plus annual leave entitlements).

Many respondents’ comments provide context and insights into the impacts these employment arrangements have:

  • on their capacity to provide the library services and support for student learning and wellbeing that they would like to, or are expected to
  • on their ability to earn a wage commensurate with their qualifications and expertise, or the equivalent of a ‘living wage’
  • on their personal well-being, as commitments such as professional learning or keeping up with the workload encroach into non-work hours.

Support and continuing professional development

Respondents generally feel well supported in their library role by the school’s leadership team.

Approximately half of all respondents do not access school-wide professional development.

Channels that provide free and open access to information and support online — such as website content, email listservs, and webinars — are popular with respondents in our sample.

Participation in eLearning offered by the National Library’s Services to Schools and SLANZA is low. Respondents from rural schools reported the lowest participation rates, despite the potential of eLearning to remove barriers to access such as distance.

Collection holdings

School library collections are still comprised mainly of print materials. Holdings are predominantly fiction, supporting reading development and reading for pleasure.

The biggest decrease expected for any format is print nonfiction materials. Respondents commented on the growing reliance on online content for supporting research and inquiry across the curriculum, and the impact this has had on the use and development of the library’s print nonfiction holdings.

Some respondents commented on issues that make a switch from print to digital formats unlikely for their school:

  • equity of access — some learners do not have the devices necessary to access eBooks,
  • affordability — eBook licencing arrangements for libraries can make electronic formats of some titles significantly more expensive than print, particularly paperback editions.

Format types where respondents expect to see growth are:

  • Graphic novels, comics, and manga
    • Comments described the popularity of these formats, especially with boys and those generally less engaged with reading.
  • Digital content that is freely available online
    • There are challenges for school libraries in making this content easily accessible – it requires technology and systems enabling discovery and access, coupled with promotion and education about finding and using these resources.
  • Artefacts and objects
    • Digital devices for loan were the most frequently mentioned resources in this category. These items help ensure learners have access to enabling technology as information, teaching, and learning become increasingly digital.

Collection funding

65% of respondents said their collection development budget was unchanged from 2018 to 2019. 13% said their collection development budget had increased, and 22% said it was less than in 2018.

For most responding schools, the Ministry of Education’s operational funding provides the bulk of their collection development funding. However, there is a significant number of schools where fundraising and grants are the main sources of collection development funding i.e. the school does not provide funding for collection development but relies instead on parents and whānau, or local community support for this.


As a result of this survey, we recommend that National Library Services to Schools, LIANZA, and SLANZA — both individually and collaboratively:

  • share the findings with stakeholders in the education and library sectors, and more widely
  • take the findings into account when developing our services, including resources and professional development and support
  • promote opportunities for others to do further research based on the information in this report and the results of our 2018 survey
  • explore issues raised here, and other key concerns about the provision of effective school libraries and library services, in future collaborative projects.

Download the 2019 report

School libraries in Aotearoa New Zealand 2019 (pdf, 2.2MB).