IFLA SL Newsletter

– a commentsblog

Training working techniques in the school library

Guenter Schlamp
Lag Schulbibliotheken in Hessen


Fifteen years ago there was a lot of discussion about functional illiteracy in Germany. A radio reporter had pupils in Frankfurt Main read a newspaper article and then asked them about the contents. Conclusion: pupils no longer understand what they read.

It was also about fifteen years ago at the beginning of the nineties, that Hilmar Hoffmann, then Head of the Culture Department in Frankfurt,  pointed out, that, because of similar findings, the USA had started running programmes to improve pupils’ literacy. He appealed to those responsible for German education policy to run similar programmes.

What was then called functional illiteracy is not much different from what we now call lack of literacy. The PISA results are confirmation for the USA and other Anglo-Saxon countries who took a similar course of action, that their  training programmes were successful.

American school libraries play an important role in improving literacy. There are catalogues of detailed educational aims for all school years, which define which skills are to be trained.  These include all the steps of a research process from the wording of the task to the displaying of the results either as paper, wall news-sheet or HTML document. Getting to know how to use the library is, of course, also part of the training. “Go look it up in the card catalogue!” is a sentence which haunts American students day and night, as a former pupil told me, who was in the USA as an exchange student. She found this training very formalistic  – a process of small steps.

When leafing through American library periodicals you get the impression that it only seems to be about literacy.  Cosy corners and pleasure reading are not a priority.

Now, it is not necessary to go over the top, but the school  library is the right place to teach literacy. School libraries should progress from rooms with many books which are seldom used to workshops where students learn how to work with books and other media. The library teachers, school librarians, are the right people to moderate this process, working closely together with teachers from the various departments. The school library must be seen as an “active” library, not as an “intellectual filling station”.

I have brought some books on working techniques to my recent workshop for teachers and teacher-librarians. These books should be available in the library. It is advisable to have several copies or even class sets of some of them.

Software is ideal for the research process – for example Research Planner which is supplied with Microsoft Encarta, and Mind Manager, a program for creating mind maps.

It seems to me that in class more emphasis is placed on the results.

How often do you hear in Music, Biology or History “Prepare a paper!”

But who takes responsibility for the process? Who encourages the students to think very carefully about how they should do their research? In the past articles were copied from an encyclopaedia; nowadays students just click a few times and print.

For the research process itself a model was presented which has been developed with American models in mind (Big6 et al.). Each step must be accompanied by information and work sheets and also by evaluation sheets. Therefore, as a last step in the research process, over and above the presentation itself, the students are required to reflect on the process. This step can, of course, be dropped, when the students have acquired a certain degree of competence.

A school library, which is prepared to take on this task, becomes an indispensable part of the school. It can afford to stay a “BIBLIOthek”.

Reading Research has coined the phrase “Readers are better viewers.” This is based on the findings of neurologists who have examined the different ways the brain processes texts and television pictures. Experienced readers are more successful at surfing on the sea of digital information. Research into learning using the computer and the internet is beginning to produce similar results. 

Internet adresses:

www.kindred.k12.nd.us/CyLib/B6.html   Big6, the most well-known program for

in­formation literacy

www.isd77.k12.mn.us/resources/infocurr/infolit.html   examples for a curriculu

This paper and including the ppt-presentation are available in German language.

January 14, 2007 - Posted by | 4. Issue 43, 5. Theme 43: Information Literacy, Germany

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