School libraries have played an important role in the education of young people around the globe for many decades, but today they are more critical than ever. The school library is often the best-equipped ‘classroom’ for educating digital youth accustomed to self-directed information seeking, personalized learning and content creation. Evidence for what works is increasingly important as education transitions from an industrial-age model of teaching to a digital-age model for learning. What do we want students to learn? How will they best learn it? How will we know that they have learned it? In an attempt to address these questions, school libraries are embracing EBLIP to validate and gain support for new ways of learning. This chapter examines several dimensions of EBLIP and illustrates how evidence-based approaches are changing school libraries and the work of the school librarian or teacher-librarian.
Overview of school libraries today
Initially conceived as traditional libraries defined by their collections, school libraries evolved to support school curricula. When audio-visual media began to package information in sound and image, school libraries became media centres and information literacy replaced bibliographic instruction as best practice. The most recent evolution of school libraries is as networked, digital and physical environments for young learners where they confront information overload and screen-based reading. The curriculum is guided by a definition of information literacy that includes critical reading and thinking. The pedagogy is information-based enquiry that requires learners to construct new knowledge within a curriculum-based learning task, such as the following:
You are a journalist who uses primary sources to refute the claims of Holocaust deniers. Publish a print or online news report that contains your strongest evidence and arguments for the Jewish Holocaust as a historical event.
This kind of intellectual challenge requires librarians and teachers to work collaboratively, gathering evidence of students’ progress, or lack of it. Evidence resides in students’ work and instruction takes the form of feedback. As students use feedback to revise their work, so the teacher-librarian team uses feedback to revise their teaching.
Everyone is a learner as students work in a participatory culture of face-to-face and online learning communities and educators collaborate in communities of practice. This kind of evidence-based approach to instruction has significant implications for the school library and the work of the teacher-librarian.