From my perspective, the distinction between inquiry and information literacy is very important because inquiry is an approach to learning. Teachers are under a lot of pressure to deliver their own subjects and may feel (often correctly) judged on how their students’ understanding of their subject has increased during their course. This means that when we talk about information literacy it is often seen as ‘our’ subject as librarians – and for classroom teachers may fall into the ‘nice but not essential’ category. Which is why it often gets squeezed into the ‘something fun to do after exams’ slot, for example, and why we sometimes feel we are needing to beg for bits and pieces of time here and there to deliver ‘our’ subject.
Inquiry is not information literacy under another name, it is genuinely a different way of teaching, with intellectual curiosity at its heart and the construction of new understanding as its goal. Of course, information literacy skills are fundamental to this, but because the focus is firmly on developing (subject specific) understanding, the teacher and librarian are now working together, using their different skill sets, to achieve the same goal – we aren’t using access to our resources as a bargaining chip to buy a bit of time to teach information literacy (which may be a caricature, but that is how it felt sometimes!).
As an example, have a look at the topic in the Inquiry and Resource Design Forum on Essay Planners. Joe recognised the value of FOSIL as a mind-set and asked for my help to use it to help his A-Level Politics students plan their essays more effectively – no ‘research’ or resources involved at all, but definitely a fruitful teacher-librarian collaboration and an excellent use of the cycle of inquiry as a tool for thinking with. I don’t believe this would have happened if we had still been talking about and focussed on information literacy.
Librarians are information literacy experts – and that remains a vital part of the process – but we need to become experts in inquiry more broadly too if we want realise our true potential and step up to take our place as co-educators alongside our classroom colleagues.