The Illawarra's school librarians say the NSW government's education reforms have put their jobs at risk, forcing them to justify why libraries are important at schools.
The Illawarra Schools Libraries Association (ISLA) this week held a conference for about 100 librarians from the region's public and private schools that included a presentation on how they could "demonstrate their value" in schools.
Association president Diane Ridley, from Dapto High School, said librarians had been forced into the unusual situation because they and other specialist staff were likely to be the first to go if principals had to make budget cuts under the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms.
The new policy, introduced earlier this year, gives principals control over their budget and staffing arrangements, allowing them to choose a different mix of staff depending on their students.
ISLA vice-president Sharon McGuinness, from Thirroul Public School, said librarians were worried this arrangement would allow principals to use money previously allocated to their jobs to employ other staff.
"If a teacher librarian retires, principals would be able to use that money for something else - so they will be able to decide to either employ a teacher librarian or get someone in to do music or reading recovery or physical education," she said.
Ms McGuinness said she knew of examples where a retiring school librarian was replaced by a physical education teacher.
Ms Ridley said teacher librarians, most of who have a masters degree on top of their teaching qualification, were vital for improving children's literacy levels.
"The value of a librarian is to instil a lifelong love of reading, for a start, because without reading there can't be learning," she said.
"There has been research to show that there is a definite link between reading and doing well at school.
"You cannot ignore reading and expect children to do well at school and you cannot ignore information skills, the finding of and reading of information, and expect children to do well or have higher order thinking skills."
A Department of Education spokeswoman said there were no changes to the status of teacher librarians or other specialist teaching staff.
"All teachers, executive and principals in permanent positions will retain tenure," she said.
"Should a vacancy occur, the principal, in consultation with staff and the community, will under Local Schools, Local Decisions, choose the number and roles of staff to best meet local needs."