Over the course of three summers, I had the chance to travel abroad and visit China, Italy, and Scotland and Ireland. They were each amazing once-in-a-lifetime trips. I traveled with a group of educators, and we had the opportunity to stop and see schools each time. Each trip I learned something from the other educators on the trip. But, the most important person with us on each of those trips was our local guide.
As I think about those guides, I realize they were critical; their advice, recommendations, and knowledge were key to the success of those trips. If I reflect back, the guides played very much the same role that the school librarian does in helping students as they work through an inquiry project.
Someone has to know how to get from point A to point B. Our guides were great at helping the bus drivers get us to our hotel, to the places we wanted to visit, and to food. They had clear ideas of where everything was and the best way to get there. School librarians do the same thing with our students. While we may not always give them the directions (we want them to learn how to figure it out), we are there to help them and to get them from point A to point B.
The guides knew all the ins and outs of each of the major sites we visited. From the Great Wall to Blarney Castle to the Vatican, each guide knew the best way to get us in and to show us all the points of interest. They provided advice and recommendations for each place we visited, such as reminding us not to take photos in the Sistine Chapel or telling us what was appropriate to wear. They knew all the best places to go and could recommend what not to miss and what we could maybe avoid. A school librarian does that with the resources in the library. They know the best resources students have access to in the library and how to use them. Students are wise when they listen to the advice their librarian provides about the resources available both inside and outside of the school library.
A good guide is full of tips and tricks. They know the side stories and are full of trivia and tidbits to share with those along on the journey. A school librarian also does this. They know how to use the resources, but also all the tips and tricks to make using them easier.
Each of the guides we had were just such fun. They were excited about taking us around their countries. While it was their job, you could see how much enthusiasm they had for it. We still laugh thinking about guide who would say "Oh, it's just a little way down this road," when she really meant we had two to three miles left to go on the walk! Or, watching one of our guides wave around this stuffed animal in the air to get us all to find him. Each guide had their own way of doing it, but they all made it fun. A school librarian should be the leader of fun through the learning and research process, too. How can we show students how exciting the exploration of resources can be?
Next time you lead your students on a journey through your library's various resources, consider how we're just like a tour guide. And remember, the guide is key to the success of the whole trip.