FOSIL Group member Darryl Toerien continues his feature series – Between the Library and the Classroom: Becoming Integral to the Educational Process – for The School Librarian, the Quarterly Journal of the School Library Association.
The School Librarian, Volume 69, Number 2, Summer 2021
If the school library is to become integral to the educational process, we need to account for why the classroom does not lead inevitably and essentially to the library. This is a complex problem, aspects of which we have no direct control over. Jesse Shera, in The Foundations of Education for Librarianship, charged that “librarians have never developed a theory of the role of the library in the student’s intellectual experience [in response to the] characteristic information needs of inquiry as a method of instruction and an environment for formalized learning”. While this alone will not solve our problem, developing such a theory is under our direct control, without which we remain peripheral to the educational process at best.
Depending on how globally-minded we are, more or less progress has been made towards such a theory. As Daniel Callison notes, the evolution towards inquiry has been underway since 1960, which is reflected in the IFLA School Library Guidelines (2015), which frame learning through inquiry; this evolution is also gathering pace, so much so that inquiry is the subject of an upcoming IFLA publication provisionally titled Global Action on School Libraries: Models of Inquiry (2022). In further observing that the school library exists as a learning centre because of inquiry, Callison makes the logic of our emerging theory explicit – inquiry is an educational process that has characteristic information needs that the library is fundamentally suited to meeting, provided that the librarian understands their role in meeting these needs, which is not limited to resources and/ or information literacy.
Arming ourselves with this emerging theory is not, again, enough on its own, mainly because the prevailing educational process, at least in this country, is not based on inquiry, at least not yet. We do not, however, have the luxury of waiting for this to change, because being peripheral to the educational process is but one step away from being unnecessary. Rather, we must “be the change we want to see happen” (popularly misattributed to Gandhi). In doing so, we will find allies, whether individual teachers, entire departments, or even whole schools. We will, however, inevitably also meet with more or less resistance, which is why we need to be increasingly well-grounded in theory-informed practice.
In this, FOSIL serves us well. I have written about FOSIL’s past – https://fosil.org.uk/history/ – but more relevant here is its future, which, in close collaboration with Barbara Stripling and the growing FOSIL Group community, is the subject of a chapter in Global Action on School Libraries: Models of Inquiry.
More than ever, Gil Scott-Heron’s words strike a powerful chord – the revolution will not be televised.