When I first stumbled into school librarianship from teaching in 2003, I also stumbled across Jesse Shera’s seminal work, The Foundations of Education for Librarianship (1972), which was “the first attempt to systematically view the librarian’s professional education and to explore their role in society’s “total communication system'”.
In it, he observed (p. 177) that:
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.
Since then, inquiry as a method of instruction and an environment for formalized learning has increasingly been introduced into school programs – the International Baccalaureate is an obvious example, but not the only one, and the IFLA School Library School Guidelines, as another example, frame learning though inquiry, which is a core instructional activity within the school library’s pedagogical programme.
Equally formative was Curriculum connections through the library, which was edited by Barbara Stripling and Sandra Hughes-Hassell, and published in the same year that I first came under Jesse Shera’s influence. I still have two chapters bookmarked: Inquiry-Based Learning, by Barbara Stripling, and Librarian Morphs into Curriculum Developer, by Charlotte Vlasis. Little could I have known then that these two concerns would combine in FOSIL in 2011, and eventually lead to the formation of the FOSIL Group in 2019.
Which brings us to today.
While I have the deepest respect and admiration for what Barbara has done, as Barbara herself will point out, what has been done only matters insofar as it lays a solid foundation for what must still be done. And not by her alone, but any and all who have resolutely adopted inquiry as a stance of wonder and puzzlement that gives rise to a dynamic learning process that is truly empowering for our children, and therefore transformational, both inwardly and outwardly.
In this spirit, Barbara has made her work freely available under Creative Commons, without which FOSIL and the FOSIL Group would not exist, and in this same spirit we meet today to share our part in this important and urgent work that is beyond us on our own.
Our discussion today is framed by two paradigm shifts.
The first requires of us a deeper understanding of the characteristic information needs of inquiry as a method of instruction and an environment for formalized learning. The second requires of us a deeper understanding of what happens to these characteristic information needs in a digital environment.
With thanks and apologies to Gil Scott-Heron, the revolution will not be televised.