'In an education environment, where 'future literacy demands will encompass technologies yet to be invented', the role of the Teacher Librarian has never been so important and pivotal to the teaching and learning experiences within the school environment. It is necessary that Teacher Librarians embrace the use of 21st Century literacies and how they can use them to enrich the learning experiences of the 'digital natives', equipping them with the necessary skills for interacting critically, intelligently and ethically as information literate members of a digital society in the future.'
According to the Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians published by the Australian School Library Association (ASLA), excellent teacher librarians are well-informed about information literacy theory and practice (Standard 1.1); are thoroughly familiar with the information literacy and information needs, skills and interests of learners (Standard 1.2); evaluate student progress in information literacy (Standard 2.4); and promote and nuture a ‘whole school focus’ on information literacy policy and implementation (Standard 3.3). (ASLA, 2004).
Having an understanding of what is meant by the term ‘information literacy’ is therefore crucial to the teaching role of the teacher librarian. In the past, a common definition of ‘information literacy’ may have been easier to articulate. In a world of rapid technological change, where the growth of information is exponential, (Langford, 1998) no one firm definition of information literacy exists, and much debate about the theory and practice of information literacy is available when researching the topic. Langford (1998), explores many of these different theories, all of which encompass aspects of information literacy depending on ones viewpoint.
It is important then, that teacher librarians assess the quality of research and information regarding information literacy in order to be well informed of current best practice theories and practices. The Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice (Bundy, A. (ed.), 2004) provides a comprehensive description of what it means to be an information literate person, encapsulating not only what it means to be information literate within the school setting, but as a lifelong learner, an information literate member of society.
ASLA (2009) describes Information literate learners as being ‘able to access, process, organise, create and present information in a range of ways that make meaning for them and all the construction of personal knowledge.’ ASLA goes on to add that ‘information skills must be embedded across the school curriculum and explicitly taught in the context of teaching and learning programs.’
This is the challenge for teacher librarians as leaders within the school community who must promote and nurture a whole school focus on information literacy. Langford (1998) discussed that ‘school communities are still grappling with the concept [of information literacy] often seeing it as an add-on and not a genuine part of the business of education.’ While this may still be true in some schools, especially those without a qualified teacher librarian, there is a now a lot of evidence to support the teaching of information literacy skills across the curriculum through collaborative integrated units of inquiry.
Kuhlthau’s (2103) decades of research into the Information Search Process has generated a solid foundation of evidence to show the success of the using the Inquiry model in developing information literacy skills. Eisenberg’s (2008) Big6 skills, is another successful inquiry approach used with success by teacher librarians for the development of information literacy.
While a common definition of information literacy may not yet have been achieved, what can be agreed upon, is that educating students to be information literate members of society is a critical role of teacher librarians, as is promoting and nurturing the development of these skills through an inquiry approach. The onus is on the teacher librarian to assess the different approaches to inquiry available, to find the approach that best fits the learning and teaching needs of the school community in order to achieve a whole school focus on information literacy and implementation.
ASLA. (2004) Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians in Australian School Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/TLstandards.pdf
ASLA. (2009) Statement on Information Literacy in Australian School Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/information-literacy.aspx
Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).
Eisenberg, M. B. (2008). Information Literacy: Essential Skills for the Information Age. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.
Kuhlthau, C.C. (2013). Information Search Process in http://comminfo.rutgers.edu retrieved from http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification. School Libraries Worldwide 4 (1) p. 59-72.