The School Librarian, Volume 70, Number 4, Winter 2022
The IFLA 2022 World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) saw the launch of the latest book in the IFLA Global Action for School Libraries series, Models of Inquiry (2022), which reaffirms the centrality of inquiry to achieving the school library’s educational and moral purpose, and which included two chapters on FOSIL. These chapters afforded us the opportunity to reflect deeply on a journey that began in earnest in 2011 and resulted in an invitation to contribute a chapter to an upcoming IFLA book on digital literacy, to be launched during the IFLA 2023 WLIC. This chapter afforded me the opportunity to reflect deeply on where this journey is taking us.
In wrestling with this chapter, I gained greater insight into the importance and urgency of our calling as school librarians. In reality, we are pitched into battle on the frontline of the assault on what Jonathan Rauch (2021) terms the Constitution of Knowledge, which is the epistemological operating system of our democracy. This view may seem somewhat extreme from the relative comfort of our school libraries, but evidence continues to mount. Having just observed Banned Books Week – with PEN America, for example, reporting 1,648 unique book titles banned in schools between July 2021 and June 2022, with the rate increasing – we might be tempted to view this assault solely in terms of the books themselves. This, however, misses the real threat, which is an assault on the underlying knowledge-building, or inquiry, process.
As school librarians, then, we serve the Constitution of Knowledge in two vital ways. Firstly, we secure physical access to the growing body of knowledge of reality – as uncovered by the academic disciplines/ subjects and – held in our collections. Secondly, we educate our students in the inquiry process that grows this body of knowledge, so that they become knowledge-able – able, that is, to intellectually access this body of knowledge, and utilise it – thereby strengthening the “reality-based community of error-seeking inquirers” (Rauch) that upholds and is upheld by the Constitution of Knowledge. Failure to do so, as Dallas Willard (1999) warns, leaves us vulnerable to “desire and will/ brute force…as social processes come to be managed by people who simply know how to get their way among a mass of those who no longer believe that they can, with the aid of their culture’s texts and the traditional disciplines, determine how things are…regardless of how anyone wishes them to be or how people with social authority present them”.