ROLES FOR INFORMATION LITERACYThe Contemporary School Library's Role: "Pillar of the Lifelong Learning Community"
School libraries have changed; they are no longer simply collections of print (and some audio-visual) resources, offering instruction in "library skills" within a fixed schedule, often isolated from the rest of the school's curriculum and programs. This change has been taking place for two decades, it is reflected in the philosophy and emphasis on resource-based learning found within Minister's Directive MD-007 on School Libraries, which supercedes (Circular 92-03):
... In today's rapidly changing society, students must have the opportunity to develop the ability to retrieve, assess, and apply information. As we equip students with these skills we will help ensure that learning does not end with the completion of formal education, but continues throughout life.
These goals can best be achieved through resource-based teaching/learning, that is, a library program fully integrated with the school's instructional program with teacher-librarians and teachers using a cooperative program planning approach.
Other existing documents which reflect this same philosophy and emphasis on resource-based learning are:
With the increased use of information technologies within school libraries and beyond in our schools, homes and communities, the school library program and purpose has also evolved. The collection of resources within each school's library facility is now seen as one aspect of the widely accessible information sources available to learners. Collections of print, nonprint, and community resources are linked electronically; other libraries, agencies and databases are available online. In many schools the library-resource centre has also become an access point for the wider community of learners and hours of operation are extended well beyond the school day.
A visitor to many schools in Prince Edward Island may observe students and adult (Community Access) learners from the community, accessing and using part or all of the school's collection of resources, along with many other sources beyond the walls of the school. Students may be collaborating online with others in communities within P.E.I. or in more distant places like Newfoundland, or Iceland, depending on the projects they are completing. Together, these students along with their teacher-librarians, their classroom teachers, school administrators, and other members of the wider community, are ensuring that they are becoming information literate... that they are learning how to ask good questions, to access, evaluate and use information to meet their learning needs. And they are engaged in reflective activities, assessing the processes, (skills, strategies) they are using. They are also involved in evaluating their finished products, whether they are individual written reports or collaborative online project pages. Teaching students the importance of "learning how to learn" is an important part of any successful school library program!
Teaching students the importance of "learning how to learn" is an important part of any successful school library program!|
It is not unusual to find school library programs actually being implemented in a variety of contexts and locations, from a classroom in the school to a local museum, to a virtual link with classrooms or museums in other parts of the world. Students and learning are not bound by the walls of the school library facility; their projects and inquiries take them wherever they need to be for their questions to be "answered." Their teachers and teacher-librarians, along with others who facilitate their learning, have much more than textbooks or their own knowledge to support this type of active learning. Collaboration is critical to ensure that our students are supported by the type of quality school library programs they need, and will continue to need, in the future.
The vision for School Libraries in the Calgary Board of Education document, School Libraries Supporting Quality Learning, (1998) describes information literacy as "the pulse" of student learning... and invites readers to "imagine" the following:
Purposeful Involvement (Imagine... a resource centre where interactive learning takes place, where students, staff, and members of the community find a way to grow. Learners make connections through their own learning with other classrooms, schools, libraries, and the world beyond, as they make meaning, think critically, and arrive at new understandings.)
The Role of Technology and Equitable Access to Information Literacy Instruction:
Interpersonal Relationships (Imagine... navigating this rich environment with collaborative teams who coach, guide, support, trust, and challenge learners in their work at school, at home, and in the larger community.)
Construction of Knowledge (Imagine... a learning environment where the ultimate goal is wisdom, explored through the humanities, arts and sciences in real time and virtual worlds. Through critical inquiry learners make connections between disciplines and events. They gain deep knowledge and share their understanding with creativity and confidence.)
Collaboration is critical to ensure that our students are supported by the type of quality school library programs they need, and will continue to need, in the future.|
Clear Expectations/Relevant Feedback (Imagine...this environment supporting and enhancing school goals. Learners progress along an information literacy continuum at their own pace with responsibility for their own learning. As learners strive for excellence, they seek and provide constructive feedback, relflect on their own learning, assess their efforts and make decisions about future learning.)
Diversity (Imagine... everyone interacting with print, technological, and human resources. Respect for learning styles, beliefs and values are evident in the quality of resources and experiences available. Collaborative learning-communities work together to ensure school libraries are thriving in all schools for all students.)
Integrated school library programs should ensure that our students have greater equity with regard to information technology and information literacy instruction.
These programs are integrated with the school curriculum and should provide regular opportunities for teachers and teacher-librarians to collaborate and to implement resource-based learning activities where information technology and appropriate skills are taught within the context of classroom and subject programs, themes and units of study. Isolated instruction of skills, not relevant to the school's curriculum and the students' learning needs, will not likely occur when a flexible schedule allows adequate access to the school library's program. In schools where an integrated school library program is not fully developed, and there is not a qualified teacher-librarian available, the development of information literacy and equity with regard to this type of instruction may be hampered. Resource-based learning is a focus in the Atlantic curriculum for all public schools; the reality is that schools with a quality school library program and an effective teacher-librarian will have an advantage through the leadership and support they are able to provide for their teachers and students. Schools lacking this advantage need to look for ways in which this inequity can be addressed. This may include sharing resources, including professional services, with (an)other school(s), and making better use of learning resources from community libraries and other agencies. All schools, including those without adequate school library programs and services or teacher-librarian availability should nevertheless have a plan for the development of information literacy through resource-based learning. This will be coordinated by the teacher-librarian, the information specialist in most schools, but this responsibility will be shared among all teachers, in schools without a teacher-librarian. The plans for effective resource-based learning activities will be coordinated by another instructional leader in the school, such as the school principal. A plan for the development of information literacy, just like any school-wide improvement plans (especially those for developing information technology competence,) should not be viewed as an additional job for any school; this should be a critical part of the school's overall instructional plans.
The reality is that schools with a quality school library program and an effective teacher-librarian will have an advantage through the leadership and support they are able to provide for their teachers and students.|
The Ontario School Library Association (draft) document, Information Studies, Grades 1 - 12 (1998) contains the following advice with regard to providing equitable access for students:
Learning programs must provide students with a wide range of information, access to information technology and information skills training. This is important for all students, and crucial to the success of those who, because of background or economic conditions, do not have access to information technologies in their homes.
Equity of access to information instruction and technologies in schools will help to overcome economic barriers to achievement. It will also help educators reduce barriers that prevent some students from both imagining and realizing their potentials. Information technologies can:
Provide new learning opportunities to geographically isolated communities and individuals
Enhance instruction in French and other languages. Information technologies will make it possible, through the sharing of resources, for Francophone students, native students and those students for whom English is a second language to have greater access to information, learning materials, instruction and support.
Expand racial and ethnocultural perspectives. By bringing new worlds of information to schools, information technologies and information skills training will give students of all races and ethnic backgrounds improved access to information and knowledge about their cultures and the opportunity to develop greater confidence in their cultural and racial identities.
Enable students to work and express ideas in an environment relatively free of gender stereotyping and other biases. In comparison with other forms of communication, electronic networks have the greater potential for allowing students to interact without regard for gender. They also allow students with any impediments to social interaction with others in ways that build confidence.
Provide new opportunities for students with special needs and abilities. Information technologies are easily modified to meet the needs of students with visual, motor and learning needs.
Information technologies have the potential to provide physical access to a broad range of information, but it is the equity of access to (information skills instruction) that will produce information literate students prepared to live and work in the 21st century.
The issue of equity with regard to students' access, not just to various learning resource (in all formats) through the school library, but to instruction in the evaluation and use of this information, is a major issue for schools everywhere. Educators cannot simply disregard their students' rights to information and resource-based learning, the best way to develop information literacy. The development of students' information skills and strategies is critical to their academic achievement and to their evolving ability to "learn how to learn" throughout life. The Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada published the following Students' Bill of Information Rights. This is posted in many of our school libraries, in the belief that we must provide equitable access to information literacy instruction for all our students.
The Role of Reading (Independently, and For Enjoyment)
The development of students' information skills and strategies is critical to their academic achievement and to their evolving ability to "learn how to learn" throughout life.|
Research by Krashen and others connects student achievement and reading proficiency to the amount of time spent reading, and with access to reading materials.
School libraries have traditionally provided this important type of accessibility for all students, and today's school library facilities and collections with greater emphasis on electronic sources and learning tools, should continue to offer this important service. Literacy programs are usually centered in school libraries and are often connected with those offered for the wider community. Students need to value reading for enjoyment and they will become life-long readers if/where this is nurtured through the provision of:
collections of current, quality learning resources in print format, as well as those in other formats (nonprint, electronic);
instructional programs that focus on literature and authors, and on reading for information and exploration;
reading activities that are shared among grade levels and with other members of the wider community.