Thank you for broadening this out, which is a timely reminder that we serve, in the terms of the IFLA School Library Guidelines and IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto, an educational purpose – improving teaching and learning for all – and a moral purpose – making a difference in the lives of young people. While these terms require some unpacking, inquiry – understood as a dynamic process and stance aimed at building knowledge and understanding of the world and ourselves in it as the basis for responsible participation in community – is essential to fulfilling these purposes.
At the risk of oversimplifying, knowledge is built from information, which comes to us either directly though experience or, especially in the context of school, indirectly through recorded experience (mainly secondary, but also primary). Norman Beswick (1967), in making this point also, helpfully, reminds us to be broad-minded about what constitutes a record: “some knowledge, truly, comes from experience and experiment; most knowledge from record, in the widest McLuhan-like sense” (p. 201).
This record includes but is not limited to the library’s collections, which should reflect, as Julian Astle and Laura Partridge (2018, p. 10) so eloquently put it in Education for enlightenment, “the great conversation of mankind – the unending dialogue between the living, the dead and the yet-to-be-born … the best that has been thought, said and done,” and our task, then, is to “equip [our children] to appreciate it, interrogate it, apply it and build on it” through inquiry. It should be noted that it is this conversation, or more precisely the content of this conversation, that is of fundamental concern to us, and not the records, or resources, themselves.
Entering into this conversation remains more or less dependent on reading – “in the widest McLuhan-like sense” – from within an inquiry process and stance. Consequently, a greater understanding of the role of reading, and literacy more broadly, in the inquiry process becomes vital.
How might we start describing this role of reading, and literacy more broadly, in the inquiry process?
Astle, J., & Partridge, L. (2018). Education for enlightenment. In A. Painter (Ed.), Ideas for a 21st century enlightenment (pp. 10-15). London: RSA Action and Research Centre.
Beswick, N. W. (1967). The ‘Library-College’ – the ‘True University’? The Library Association Record, 198-202.