Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

From Human Vending Machines to Lateral Thinking: Helpful Theories and Models for School Librarians

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

From Human Vending Machines to Lateral Thinking: Helpful Theories and Models for School Librarians

Article excerpt

This paper provides a transdisciplinary perspective on the work of the school-based information professional. In particular, it explores various ideas originating outside LIS but which have special relevance to intermediaries operating in educational environments for young people. The material is discussed in relation to four key issues: the challenge of endowing information literacy instruction with credibility in the eyes of students and school staff, the problem of learners following formulaic patterns in their attempts to find information, interaction between the intermediary and youngsters using the library and priorities for the professional attempting to meet clients' information needs. The article concludes by briefly highlighting the overall value of each of the theories and models.

Introduction

In previous eras, the knowledge required of the school-based intermediary was for the most part restricted to library and information science. Over the last twenty years, however, as the remit of such individuals has expanded from providing "information skills" instruction in the context of library tools and resources to fostering more widely relevant "information literacy" and, to justify their existence, libraries have been expected to demonstrate a more fundamental role within the life of the school, commentators have increasingly stressed the need for information professionals to gain a greater awareness of matters pertaining to education. Tilke (2002), in fact, cites education as one of three key areas in which the school librarian should be well versed; predictably, librarianship itself and technology form the others. Two separate strands can be identified in relation to the knowledge of education that an intermediary may be expected to exhibit. Whilst Markless et al (2009) draw attention to how the professional should be cognizant of "educational issues" (p. 80), the American Association of School Librarians and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (1998) indicate that the librarian's role as an educator necessitates that they be "knowledgeable about current research on teaching and learning and skilled in applying its findings to a variety of situations" (p. 4). For Anne-Marie Tarter, who was, until her recent retirement, one of the foremost school librarians in Britain, a continuing ability to stay abreast of educational initiatives and their implications for their own professional practice is integral to the future development of this type of information professional. She writes, "school librarians will have to continue to navigate through constant changes in the educational environment" if they are to maximize opportunities to promote the value of information literacy (Hyams & Tarter, 2010, p. 30).

Another perspective, which emphasizes the importance of the intermediary venturing beyond traditional LIS territory, is taken by Webb and Powis (2005). They highlight the need for librarians to familiarize themselves with theories associated with psychology, as well as education. Yet, for all the efforts of such experts to encourage practitioners to enhance and diversify their personal knowledge bases, significant theories and models originating outside LIS continue to go unnoticed by information professionals in schools, even though they are of considerable pertinence to them and their duties. This article explores some of the appropriate work and comments on its relevance to school library contexts. Readers may then reflect on how far it may be applied to their own situations.

The paper continues a theme that two of the authors have recently addressed elsewhere. In an earlier piece, they discussed ways in which the overall area of information literacy/information behavior may be regarded as transdisciplinary (Shenton & Hay-Gibson, in press b). Concentrating on one of the four characteristics of transdisciplinarity they identified in that article, namely that increased understanding of phenomena in a particular field may be gained from the use of ideas and perspectives associated with other disciplines, this new paper scrutinizes literature from outside LIS that includes but is not restricted to material pertinent to information literacy/information behavior, and notes its relevance to the work of the information professional. …

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