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At the Learning Festival I fell into conversation with a colleague from public libraries, which covered the following issues:

Do you have an information literacy programme?

Who wrote it?

How much time do you have?

Do you teach it or is it taught in other classes?

How do you make sure you cover everything?

A lot of challenges, particularly if your clientele don’t see the point.

My school does not have an Information Literacy programme as such. What it does have is me trying to cover as many bases as possible across as many departments as possible

This approach is not without difficulties: timetabling clashes are a nightmare, changes to curriculum can make long established investigations obsolete overnight, unexpected visitors can take classes away, and even within the same department, not all teachers bring their classes to the LRC anyway, But sometimes, even when everything is going right, something goes wrong.

For example …

…once upon a time, there was a Librarian who worked hard with a Department to create an investigation. It was important that the pupils were given a degree of choice in their research, as quite apart from being embedded into Curriculum for Excellence, it’s only common sense that pupils will work harder, concentrate better and be more involved when investigating something they are personally interested in.

However, the Librarian was also aware of the pitfalls of a completely open choice:  the greater number of resources to be investigated and the greater uncertainty being piled onto both learners and staff. And so, having investigated all the possible events available, she identified a collection of eight for which she could identify a range of suitable resources, both in hard copy and online.

And so the Librarian created a website with relevant links and keyworded all of the existing books on the catalogue. When she went to buy new books, she examined them carefully for the events required. And when classes came to the LRC, she explained each option and reminded the pupils about searching the catalogue, scanning indexes, contents pages and captions, and spoke to them about synthesizing a whole pile of information into a single piece of work. And the pupils enjoyed the work and the staff were happy with their final products.

But one day a New Person came to the school. This Person wasn’t familiar with the careful planning and told the class that they could investigate any event they wanted. And so the Librarian was hit with a stream of complaints from pupils because they couldn’t find the information they needed. Even using all her secret powers, she wasn’t able to find information for some of the pupils. It simply didn’t exist.

True story. A massive amount of work out of the window because the teacher didn’t consider the resources required to complete the task and actually expressed surprise because “everything’s on the internet, isn’t it?”

No, it isn’t. Not that the teacher had bothered to look.

When you do something well, it often becomes invisible, but when something goes wrong, the spotlight suddenly comes on. None of these pupils had the chance to practice information literacy that day: they couldn’t find any information to work with. That’s why it’s such an important responsibility for school librarians to make teachers aware of our role as resource specialists.

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