Jacques Ellul (1989) impressed upon me the view that history is the consequence of ideas, and this is how I read the unfolding history of school librarianship. One of the things that I most value about this opportunity to learn together is your deep insight into this history, which is insight gained from an active role in giving shape to it.
According to Daniel Callison (2015, 2006), the evolution towards inquiry in and through the school library can be traced back to 1960, and he asserts that the school library exists as a learning centre because of inquiry. In this regard, I find the following observations by Jesse Shera (1972, emphasis added) enlightening:
Increasingly, research as a method of instruction and an environment for formalized learning is being introduced into undergraduate as well as graduate programs. This undergraduate research, or more properly, inquiry, has its own characteristic information needs, though academic librarians generally have given these requirements slight attention, while the faculty has tended to ignore them almost entirely. This neglect may doubtless be attributed to the fact that the instructors themselves were not properly encouraged in the use of the library in their own undergraduate years. The textbook and the reserve collection, which in the final analysis is only a kind of multiple text, have too long dominated undergraduate, and even graduate, instruction. The teacher’s own mimeographed reading lists and bibliographies have been imposed between the student and the total library collection, largely because the typical faculty member does not trust either the bibliographic mechanisms of the library or the competence of the librarians, while the librarians, for their part, have never developed a theory of the role of the library in the student’s intellectual experience. This neglect has been intensified by the absence of any real communication between teacher and librarian, both have paid lip service to the library as a “learning center,” and having said that satisfied their sense of obligation with a short course or a few lectures on “How to Use the Library.”
There is much of interest here, but of immediate concern is research, or more properly inquiry, as a method of instruction and an environment for formalized learning that has its own characteristic information needs, which, it seems to me, forms the basis of a theory of the role of the school library in the student’s intellectual experience. This theory is encapsulated in the idea of the library as a learning centre because of inquiry – meaning both that inquiry gives birth to and sustains the library as a learning centre and the library as learning centre gives birth to and sustains inquiry – which demands more of us and our classroom colleagues than lip service.
This evolution towards inquiry is reflected in the 1st (2002) and 2nd (2015) editions of the IFLA School Library Guidelines, with a shift in pedagogical focus from information literacy – which is itself a shift from discrete information skills (1970s) to information skills embedded in an information-seeking process (1980s) – to an inquiry process that embeds media and information literacy skills, amongst others. More broadly, Callison (2015) makes the point that information literacy, media literacy, critical thinking, and creative thinking were all concepts enveloped within inquiry since the mid 1980s.
As I mentioned above, your insight into this evolution towards inquiry is gained from an active role in giving shape to it:
REACTS Taxonomy [of thoughtful research] in Brainstorms and Blueprints: Teaching Library Research as a Thinking Process (Stripling & Pitts, 1988)
Stripling’s Model of Inquiry (2003), which FOSIL (2011) is based on
New York City Information Fluency Continuum (2009)
From this perspective, what value does each stage in this ongoing evolution from discrete information skills through information skills embedded in a research process to inquiry as a skills-enabled process and stance add to the intellectual experience of our students, who, as the IFLA School Library Guidelines forcefully remind us, we serve?
Edit (3 January 2021): Added link to REACTS Taxonomy (see below for overview).
Callison, D., & Preddy, L. (2006). The Blue Book on Information Age Inquiry, Instruction and Literacy. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.
Callison, D. (2015). The Evolution of Inquiry: Controlled, Guided, Modeled, and Free. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.
Ellul, J. (1989). The Presence of the Kingdom. Colorado Springs: Helmers & Howard.
Shera, Jesse. (1972). Foundations of Education for Librarianship. New York: Wiley-Becker and Hayes.
Stripling, B. K., & Pitts, J. M. (1988). Brainstorm and Blueprints: Teaching Library Research as a Thinking Process. Englewood: Libraries Unlimited.