Internationalism as Leadership in IASL Research: Accomplishments and Directions

By Asselin, Marlene | School Libraries Worldwide, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Internationalism as Leadership in IASL Research: Accomplishments and Directions


Asselin, Marlene, School Libraries Worldwide


The International Association of School Librarianship [IASL] is a leading source in school library research. Many IASL authors work in academic institutions that now identify internationalism as a priority in their research goals. This article examines how IASL-published research accords with a wider academic mandate of internationalism. Moving toward an international focus that recognizes the scholars and contexts of developing countries requires rethinking roles and responsibilities of researchers, and challenging assumptions about emerging nations. Illustrated by the author's work in Ethiopia, recommendations are made for ways that IASL can support school library research that reflects developed and developing countries.

Overview and Background

As an international organization with members from over 50 countries, the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) has published research that has pioneered a shift from local to global knowledge in the field of school librarianship. Many of the authors of these publications work in academic institutions in which "internationalism" has become central to their vision and mission. Although the concept of internationalism is contested and complex, for the purposes of this paper, internationalism is defined as an "outlook, or practice, that tends to transcend the nation towards a wider community, of which nations continue to form the principal units" (Anderson, 2002, para. 2). For example, the University of British Columbia (UBC) explains its goal of internationalism (or its synonymous term "internationalization") in the following way:

In a world where countries are increasingly interdependent, we share a common responsibility to protect and conserve natural resources, promote global health and well being, and foster international co-operation. The University of British Columbia is already part of a growing network of learning that encompasses the globe; we must strengthen established links and develop new ones through enhanced student mobility and study abroad programs, faculty and staff exchange opportunities, and educational consortia. We shall encourage research projects that link the University of British Columbia faculty and students with their peers around the world, including projects that address global problems in health, safety, economic opportunity, human rights [emphasis added], and environmental integrity (UBC, 2005, para. 1).

Likewise, the work of school libraries upholds the human right to education through the mission of "provid[ing] information and ideas that are fundamental to functioning successfully in today's information and knowledge-based society" (International Federation of Library Associations [IFLA] &United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2006, para. 1). Similarly, IASL identifies itself as an "international forum for those people interested in promoting effective school library media programs as viable instruments in the educational process" (IASL, 2007, para. 1).

In this context of internationalism, this paper pursues the following questions:

1. Within the current paradigm shift to internationalism in academia, to what extent how is IASL research in line with this paradigm?

2. What landmarks have been achieved?

3. What are the unique considerations of school library research in global contexts?

4. How are IASL-published researchers wearing the privileged status of an international research association? Are IASL's researchers wearing this position, as Anthony Stewart argued his September 2009 UBC lecture entitled Pilgrims or sea pirates? Developing a new vocabulary for speaking about diversity, as "something unstable, controversial, possibly unjust, but never taken for granted," or is the privilege regarded as he also stated, as "one wears a comfortable pair of shoes"?

5. What leadership directions should IASL take in encouraging research projects that recognize the issues and research in school librarianship in developing and emerging countries; link established school library researchers with researchers in developing and emerging countries; and ensure access to international school library research to all countries? …

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