Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Global Perspectives: Exploring School-Based Brazilian Librarianship through Institutional Ethnography

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Global Perspectives: Exploring School-Based Brazilian Librarianship through Institutional Ethnography

Article excerpt

Introduction

The need to equip today's youth with complex 21st century information literacy and knowledge construction skills is galvanizing educators all over the world to question professional foundations and change traditional practices. Brazil, a rising global economic leader and the largest country in South America, is no exception:

Thanks to an incredible amount of institutional advancement, and a rare combination of factors, the nation burst on the global stage bolstered by its diversified exports, the success of ethanol and a recent conquest in the growth of investment, distinctions usually associated with economies classified as solid and trustworthy (Guandalini, 2008, p. 2).

In spite of its explosive growth and economic stabilization, Brazil still struggles with high illiteracy rates, extreme poverty, and diseases such as yellow fever and dengue fever. Veja, a major news publication in Brazil, asked its readers, "With which pair of wings will Brazil fly?" (Guandalini, 2008, p. 6). The Veja article called for Brazil to invest in improving access to and quality of education so that its citizens are capable of critically analyzing information, participating in scientific inquiry and contributing to a modern economy.

School-based Brazilian librarianship, despite its efforts to answer this call through expansion of its instructional role, reflects the social and economic disparity visible between middle and upper class private schools and government-funded public schools, as well as Brazilian society at large. Although the field faces unique challenges related to culture, government structures and the history of Brazilian education, many of the issues confronted by school-based Brazilian librarians are quite similar to challenges faced by school-based librarians in other countries. In the summer of 2013, the authors of this paper, one a Brazilian immigrant and native Portuguese speaker, were invited to attend the Brazilian Congress of Librarianship, Documentation and Information Science (CBBD) annual conference in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina. This invitation came as a result of the CBBD hosting the first Brazilian school library forum, which endeavored to develop an awareness and advocacy of school library issues in the area of national public policy (Campello, 2013). School-based Brazilian librarianship has not been extensively or critically analyzed in English-language research publications. However, the unprecedented access created by the presence of a native speaker (with North American ties) who facilitated in depth conversations at the CBBD, motivated us to ask: "What are the experiences, practices, and challenges of school-based Brazilian librarians in efforts to meet the needs of 21st century learners?"

In order to answer the research question, in the summer of 2013, the authors spent eight days in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil, attending sessions at the school library forum, connecting with school library researchers, leaders and practitioners, reviewing Brazilian academic research on librarianship, accessing key government documents and conducting multiple school site visits.

In this article, we use the term school-based librarians to refer to Brazilian librarians who work in primary and secondary schools. We use this term in an attempt to accurately identify this library professional's role within Brazilian educational culture and context. The majority of Brazilian librarians who work in primary and secondary schools are not certified teachers, have not completed pedagogical coursework, and do not self-identify primarily as pedagogues. The study participants consider themselves to be first and foremost, librarians.

Brazilian Government Initiatives and the School Library

In the fall of 2003, President Lula instituted a national policy that set parameters for the commercialization, distribution, and access to reading materials, particularly print books, the Política Nacional do Livro, Law no 10. …

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