WHAT A DAY FOR PORTUGUESE SCHOOL LIBRARIES COMMUNITY!
FIL / Lisbon International Fair Exhibitions facilities (Parque das Nações, Lisbon) received during June 26th the RBE’s Forum, on Portuguese School Libraries Network, RBE, now with over 2000 school libraries, started 13 years ago (1996), and coordinated since the beginning by Maria Teresa Calçada, who opened the Forum with a simulating speech.
A large space, inside one of the emblematic buildings of 1998’s EXPO, beautifully decorated with images, large printed, and images & sounds (3 big screens), from and about Portuguese school libraries, filled with about 1500 participants, including teacher librarians, public librarians, school principals, and other school libraries staff members, showing a strong interest on presentations and a feeling of joy.
Participant’s joy, even in a Portuguese discreet way, was sensible on everyone’s faces, and it is quite understandable, for last week the Ministry created places in all schools for teacher librarians (one to 4 professionals by school, estimated on 1500 all over Portugal – except Madeira e Azores, where there are Regional Governments with specific laws on Schools), recognising the value of SL teams, and creating also 70 places for Network Intermunicipal Coordinators (expert teacher librarians working with schools and other SLN local partnerships, specially with Public Libraries). These new working positions are expected to start now (September 2009), in a 4 years working stability periods for those in such positions, renewable in the future.
It was rather important the presence of Education Minister, Maria Lourdes Rodrigues (speaking in the Opening Session), as well as many political decisors connected with the Network birth and growing: Marçal Grilo, Education Minister back in 1996, presently administrator of Gulbenkian Foundation, was one of the speakers.
After a rich Panel on today’s and tomorrow’s School Libraries, including 5 “SL actors” (Carlos Pinheiro, teacher librarian running a school library, Elsa Conde, SL Network inter-municipal coordinator from the South, Vera Silva, public librarian director of a large Municipal Library near Lisbon, Manuela Barreto Nunes, university teacher and researcher, from the North, and Ana Bela Martins, member of National Network Coordination Cabinet), lunch was a pleasant moment for sharing ideas and laughs.
Afternoon started with Professor António Firmino da Costa (a specialist from ISCTE, expert on evaluation, he directed also some Literacy Surveys) presented conclusions on external evaluation of the SL Network, which he is been conducting since 2006. Defining 2009 as the beginning of a new and challenging stage for SL Network, school libraries and their professionals nuclear role for learning, he argues on 3 main factors for SLN success evidences:
1. 1996’s vision, which keeps actuality in 2009,
2. leadership (including essential role of Teresa Calçada, all through SLN development), and
3. political/institutional support, including government’s financial effort (total: 40 million Euros, during 13 years).
Later, participants followed very attentively presentations on National Educational Technological Program, PTE, Professor José Luís Ramos (researcher from Évora University) from National Reading Plan, PNL Comissária (Isabel Alçada, who also directed the group who produced the 1996’s official report and recommendations on School Libraries Program), and a precious speech on Reading Pratices of Digital Natives, by Professor Daniel Cassany (Pompeu Fabra University/Barcelona, Spain). Finally, music filled our souls, provided by Lisbon University Chorus.