Simon Sinek (2009) makes the point that people do not buy into what we do (mission), but why we do what do (purpose).
Purpose, as I understand it, is the reason why we exist, and why it would matter if we didn’t.
The difference between why (purpose) and what (mission) is subtle, but profound, and I would bet that most cases for the school library would start with what the school library does.
This is the reason for starting my presentation with Harold Howe’s observation that what a school thinks about its library is a measure of how it feels about eduction – our focus is not what the school thinks about the library, but how the school feels about education. The fact that a school has committed itself to the IB MYP and DP – in which inquiry is a curriculum stance (Tilke, 2011) – strongly suggests that it feels a certain way about education, which predisposes it to thinking about its library in a certain way. Being clear, therefore, about how the school feels about education must be our focus and starting point.
While it will not be possible in the time available to develop this line of thought more fully, or even summarize it more helpfully, the following may be useful.
(All Guidelines are inspirational and aspirational – the more inspirational they are, the more aspirational they can be.)
It is not possible to discuss library staffing, especially in this country, without clarifying what we understand a school library to be within a broader educational context, which is why Harold Howe’s observation that “what a school thinks of its library is a measure of what it feels about education” is so insightful.
Definition of a school library (p. 16) | A school’s physical and digital learning space where reading, inquiry, research, thinking, imagination, and creativity are central to students’ information-to-knowledge journey and to their personal, social, and cultural growth.
Distinguishing features of a school library (p. 17) | More than 50 years of international research, collectively, identifies the following distinguishing features:
It has a qualified school librarian with formal education in school librarianship and classroom teaching that enables the professional expertise required for the complex roles of instruction, reading and literacy development, school library management, collaboration with teaching staff, and engagement with the educational community.
In order to meet the teaching and learning needs of a school community, it is essential to have a well-trained and highly motivated staff, in sufficient numbers according to the size of the school and its unique needs. … The operational aspects of a school library are best handled by trained clerical and technical support staff in order to ensure that a school librarian has the time needed for the professional roles of instruction, management, collaboration, and leadership. (p. 25)
It provides targeted high-quality diverse collections (print, multimedia, digital) that support the school’s formal and informal curriculum, including individual projects and personal development.
It has an explicit policy and plan for ongoing growth and development.
Role of the school library (pp. 17-18) | A school library operates within a school as a teaching and learning centre that provides an active pedagogical program integrated into curriculum content, with emphasis on the following:
Resource-based capabilities – abilities and dispositions related to seeking, accessing, and evaluating resources in a variety of formats, including people and cultural artefacts as sources.
Thinking-based capabilities – abilities and dispositions that focus on substantive engagement with data and information through research and inquiry processes, the processes of higher order thinking, and critical analysis that lead to the creation of representations/products that demonstrate deep knowledge and deep understanding.
Knowledge-based capabilities – research and inquiry abilities and dispositions that focus on the creation, construction, and shared use of the products of knowledge that demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding.
Reading and literacy capabilities – abilities and dispositions related to the enjoyment of reading, reading for pleasure, reading for learning across multiple platforms, and the transformation, communication, and dissemination of text in its multiple forms and modes to enable the development of meaning and understanding.
Personal and interpersonal capabilities – the abilities and dispositions related to social and cultural participation in resource-based inquiry and learning about oneself and others as researchers, information users, knowledge creators, and responsible citizens.
Learning management capabilities – abilities and dispositions that enable students to prepare for, plan, and successfully undertake a curriculum-based inquiry unit.
Conditions for an effective school library program (p. 18) | Research has shown that the most critical condition for an effective school library pedagogical program (i.e., a planned comprehensive offering of teaching and learning activities) is a qualified school library professional.
Human resources for a school library (p. 25) | Because a school library facilitates teaching and learning, the pedagogical program of a school library needs to be under the direction of professional staff with the same level of education and preparation as classroom teachers. … In order to meet the teaching and learning needs of a school community, it is essential to have a well-trained and highly motivated staff, in sufficient numbers according to the size of the school and its unique needs. … The operational aspects of a school library are best handled by trained clerical and technical support staff in order to ensure that a school librarian has the time needed for the professional roles of instruction, management, collaboration, and leadership.
For comparison, the IB definition of a school library (Ideal libraries: A guide for schools, 2019, p. 2) | A combination of people, places, collections and services that aid and extend learning and teaching … The library and the librarian can be thought of as an interdependent system or a library/ian…that supports all learners’ and teachers’ progress towards becoming better inquirers, consumers and creators of information.
Libraries and inquiry (p. 9) | Libraries are where most forms of inquiry, not just academic ones, begin…and the librarian is responsible for energizing and maintaining the inquiry process. Ideally, the librarian is trained in many ways of creating conditions for inquiry within and beyond the classroom … Inquiry is more expansive than research, and facilitating it requires expertise beyond research methods (Callison, 2015 and Levitov, 2016).
Conclusion (p. 12) | The IB strongly recommends that the library system of people, places, collections and services—or what is referred to as the library/ian—be designed to support and energize academic learning, service learning, and social and emotional support for the community. The library/ian should be directly represented in curriculum planning and development in the school community.
The IB Programme standards and practices (2018 and updated 2019) requires the school to maintain a functioning and active library consisting of adequate combinations of people, places, collections and services that aid and extend learning and teaching (p. 8).