The School Librarian, Volume 69, Number 4, Winter 2021
My appointment as Head of Inquiry-Based Learning at Blanchelande College has allowed me to reflect more deeply on the development of a theory of the role of the library in the student’s intellectual experience (Shera) and personal growth, which is necessary if we are to change the way our colleagues think of the school library by changing how they feel about education (Howe).
Our starting point is Shera’s assertion that the fundamental philosophical question that we address is, “What is a book that man may know it, and a man that he may know a book?” It is clear from Shera’s writing that he understood book as “record, in the widest McLuhan-like sense” (Beswick). The question then becomes, “What is a record that a person may know it, and a person that they may know a record?”
From the perspective of the development of a theory of the role of the library in the student’s educational experience, our concern, then, is with how a person comes to know a record, or, more specifically in our context, how a student comes to know and understand the world and themselves in it through the record of human knowledge. This, as we have argued, is a learning process, and specifically an inquiry learning process, which is largely dependent on thoughtful reading, both nonfiction and fiction. And this, as we have further argued, is the fundamental purpose of the school library, which closely aligns it with the fundamental purpose of the school. In this way, the library actually becomes integral to the educational process.
From the perspective of FOSIL, this deepening insight into an emerging theory of the role of the library in the student’s educational experience coincides with two important events.
Firstly, the imminent publication of IFLA’s Global Action on School Libraries: Models of Inquiry. This includes a chapter on the evolving nature of inquiry (co-authored with Barbara Stripling), Barbara’s chapter on Stripling’s Model/ESIFC, my chapter on FOSIL (which is based on Stripling’s Model/ESIFC), and a chapter on FOSIL in A-Level Politics at Oakham School by Joe Sanders and Jenny Toerien.
The second is the upcoming IFLA School Libraries Section midyear meeting in April, which we are hosting at Blanchelande College, a focus of which is inquiry-based learning.
These events reaffirm the centrality of inquiry to the library’s instructional program, and the value of the library’s instructional program to the fundamental purpose of the school.