The School Librarian, Volume 71, Number 4, Winter 2023
Following the SLA Enterprise of the Year Award <tinyurl.com/4v9vpxyj>, we travelled to the IASL Annual Conference in Rome. This provided a further opportunity to demonstrate theoretically and practically how the school library/ian becomes integral to the educational process through its inquiry-centred instructional program as outlined in the IFLA School Library Guidelines, which included demonstrating how inquiry, and specifically ESIFC/FOSIL-based inquiry, counters all four debilitating tendencies that rob inquiry of its educational potency <tinyurl.com/yc23e5yt>. I then presented my chapter – Digital Literacy: Necessary but Not Sufficient for Life-Wide and Life-Long Learning – for an upcoming IFLA book at the World Library and Information Congress in Rotterdam. This provided an opportunity to argue further that a library/ian-centred educational process in school makes school integral to broader efforts to strengthen the “reality-based community” of “error-seeking inquirers” (Rauch, 2021) on which liberal democracy depends <tinyurl.com/u4m47m3j>. This – a school library/ian integral to the educational process, and an educational process integral to strengthening the fabric of democratic society – requires the school library/ian to understand themself as “a teacher whose subject is learning itself” (Knight, 1968).
This, by and large, is not who we currently are as a profession, although it could be who we aspire to be, given suitable inspiration. This makes the recent SLA publication of Making School Libraries Integral to the Educational Process: An Introduction to the IFLA School Library Guidelines especially timely, given (1) the inspirational and aspirational force of the Guidelines, which derives from more than 50 years of international research into the effectiveness of school libraries, and (2) a widespread and growing concern with the instructional identity of a school librarian, or lack thereof, which the Guidelines treat as of fundamental importance.
Lance and Kachel (2021) recently lamented mounting school librarian job losses, often motivated on financial grounds but more broadly driven by a disconnect between school librarianship and education. Davies (1979), perhaps more prophetically than she intended, warned:
Because [of the] persistent downgrading of education, the profession itself must make a value judgment as to which criticisms from without the profession and which criticisms from within it are justified. Having identified the legitimate criticisms, the profession must then painstakingly set about to correct what is wrong, to strengthen what is weak, and to safeguard what is excellent. “The whole aim is to lift the critique from a set of complaints to a set of purposes” (Barzun, 1978). Only then can a plan for action be formulated and disaster, always lurking in the wings, be forestalled.
The revolution will not be televised.
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.