Information & Discourse in the Learner-Ready School Library

Reflect on the world that our learners live in, one where they are bombarded with information almost literally every minute of every waking hour of every day. Think about where they meet this steady influx of information: on their cell phones, their tablets, their laptops, television, radio, social media, the Internet—everywhere. A 2018 Pew study found that ”smartphone ownership has become a nearly ubiquitous element of teen life: 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis” (Pew 2018).

So where do our learners get information that helps them frame their world? What lens are learners looking through to form opinions and then to engage in thoughtful discourse about the events shaping their lives? How can the learner-ready school librarian support learners as they learn how to assess, curate, and discuss information civilly from a variety of perspectives?

Let’s take a look at AASL’s new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries and the role AASL Standards implementation plays in what learner-ready school librarians do every day to help learners navigate, interpret, and engage in conversation about a wide variety of topics. Consider the following four Shared Foundations within the Learner Framework and how they relate to civil discourse and the discerning use of information:

Inquire: Build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems, and developing strategies for solving problems. (AASL, 2018)

In their Nov/Dec 2017 Knowledge Quest article “Let It Go,” Kelsey Barker and Paige Holden endorse establishing a culture of inquiry in a school library.  One suggestion they give is “using mistakes as teachable moments.” It is important for learners to understand that failures help each of us grow. When learner-ready school librarians embrace and explicitly reflect on their own mistakes, they model using reflection to guide their own inquiry and subsequent decisions. Another idea that Barker and Holden promote is allowing learners “to pursue their own avenues of questioning as they naturally arise.” In other words, all questions are worth articulating. These two strategies build acceptance of ideas within the learning community and foster deep inquiry.

Include: Demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community. (AASL, 2018)

While preparing for this blog, I listened to a very insightful TED Talk by philosopher Michael Patrick Lynch titled “How to See Past Your Own Perspective and Find Truth” (2017). Lynch uses the term “epistemic humility,” which he describes as “seeing your knowledge as being able to be enriched by others.” He says that this means “…seeing your worldview as open to improvement by the evidence and experience of others.” Think about that for a minute. If we can teach our learners (and ourselves) to truly listen to each other in the moment and to consider how someone else’s point of view impacts our own, we are truly fostering inclusion and respect.

As learner-ready school librarians, we are masters at providing and offering diverse perspectives through database resources, guest speakers, and fiction and nonfiction texts. The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning “Inclusive Teaching Strategies” site offers many suggestions for building inclusiveness in your classroom, the learner-ready school library. One of my favorite suggestions is found under the heading “Incorporate Diversity into the Curriculum.” ALA and AASL provide several important supports for our work in resource selection.” ALA’s “Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” provides guidance on offering equitable and equal access to materials and information for minors. AASL’s new “Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries” resource guide applies the AASL National School Library Standards Frameworks to LGBTQ+ resources.

Teaching Tolerance provides a bevy of resources that support educators in championing diversity, inclusion, and empathy in schools. Their “Classroom Culture” professional development activities provide ideas to create a culturally responsive and unbiased environment in the learner-ready school library.

Collaborate: Work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals. (AASL, 2018)

I love this infographic by Tanmay Vora titled “Share to Learn.” It so vividly illustrates the power of collaborating for learning. By creating an environment where courageous sharing is valued, your learner-ready school library truly champions civility, open discourse, and empathy. As this illustration indicates, blogging can help learners collaborate, support one another, and connect their learning to others.

Jennifer Gonzalez, editor-in-chief of Cult of Pedagogy, provides great techniques to support conversation among learners in her article “The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies.” I have successfully used a number of her suggestions with adult learners! All learners can benefit from engaging in explicit ways of sharing and disagreeing agreeably.

Curate: Make meaning for oneself and others by collecting, organizing, and sharing resources of personal relevance. (AASL, 2018)

Learner curation is new to many students. For most learners, an educator has always curated information for them. There are various curation tools like Google Keep, Symbaloo, Pocket, and LiveBinder that help learners organize their information resources.

Kathy Schrock’s blog post “Critical Evaluation of Information” provides rubrics for information resource evaluation for even the youngest learners. The Purdue Online Writing Lab’s “Evaluating Sources” website provides guidance for more mature learners. It describes evaluating information sources as an ”art” and work that requires “detective work.” The site delineates tips for assessing resources in both print and digital resources.

For older learners who want to look at a variety of topics from a range of political views, AllSides provides bias ratings on news reports for a wide variety of current topics. The site can certainly help learners collect information representing diverse perspectives.

In a learner-ready school library, it is imperative to develop a culture of inclusion, empathy, and civility. Teaching learners to select and use information that represents a wide variety of perspectives requires careful planning and expertise.  As a learner-ready school librarian, you possess the unique ability to help learners navigate information and engage in civil discourse that will serve them well into the future as they participate in our democracy.

You’ve got this, learner-ready school librarians!


Pew. 2018. “Teens, Social Media, and Technology 2018.”

Barker, Kelsey, and Paige Holden. 2017. “Let It Go: The Power of Student-Generate Questioning in Inquiry Learning.” Knowledge Quest 46 (2): 36-41.

Lynch, Michael Patrick. 2017. “How to See Past Your Own Perspective and Find Truth.” (accessed 8/26/18).

Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. n.d. “Inclusive Teaching Strategies.” (accessed 9/3/18).

Vora, Tanmay. n.d. “Share to Learn.” (accessed 9/3/18).

Purdue Online Writing Lab. n.d. “Evaluating Sources of Information.” (accessed 9/3/18).

Schrock, Kathy. n.d. “Critical Evaluation.” Guide to Everything. (accessed 9/3/18).

Teaching Tolerance. n.d. “Classroom Culture.” (accessed 9/3/18).

ALA. 2008. “Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.” (accessed 9/3/2018).

AASL. 2018. “Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries.” (accessed 9/3/18).

Gonzalez, Jennifer. 2015. “The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies.” Cult of Pedagogy. (accessed 9/3/18).

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