The School Librarian, Volume 71, Number 3, Autumn 2023
In September 2021, I was appointed at Blanchelande College as Head of Inquiry-Based Learning and am the first Librarian in the College’s long history. In May 2023, Blanchelande was shortlisted for the SLA Enterprise of the Year Award. The Award is an opportunity to demonstrate this column’s thesis, which is that the library becomes integral to the educational process through the purposeful implementation of its inquiry-centred instructional programme as outlined in the IFLA School Library Guidelines, even within a GCSE and A-Level educational pathway.
The library becoming integral to the educational process at Blanchelande was not inevitable.
As the Principal, Rob O’Brien, explains: Although the creation of a well-proportioned library space and a suitable budget was a highly significant and symbolic statement of intent, this material and financial aspect proved to be comparatively simple to achieve. Our vision was for a library that facilitates liberal education in the truest sense – students capable of independently inquiring into subjects and learning to question perceptively and think deeply. However, it took the appointment of a librarian with deep insight into the inquiry process and the subsequent creation of an Inquiry-Based Learning department for us to begin using this vital resource to effectively equip students (and their teachers) with the knowledge that enables them to get more knowledge for themselves.
This powerfully illustrates Harold Howe’s profound observation that what a school thinks of its library is a measure of how it feels about education. On the one hand, the College’s view of education allowed for a library that was integral to the educational process. On the other hand, this required a librarian who could describe what such a library looks like and does, and explain how it becomes so. For this the Guidelines were necessary but not sufficient. While the Guidelines translate the principles of the IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto into practical terms, it falls to us, individually and as a profession, to wrestle these principles into actual practice. Without realising it at the time, this is what I had been doing since becoming a school librarian in 2003, a struggle that led to FOSIL in 2011 and the FOSIL Group in 2019, and that leads still further on.*
The revolution will not be televised.
*This personal journey, upon reflection, mirrors the evolution of the library’s instructional focus from information literacy in the first edition of the Guidelines (2002) to information literacy within an inquiry process in the second edition of the Guidelines (2015).
The FOSIL Group is an international community of educators who frame learning through inquiry, which is a stance and process aimed at building knowledge and understanding of the world and ourselves in it as the basis for responsible participation in society.