So today my clerk told me that the IB coordinator wants to take all the books that have been purchased to support – specifically – the IB program (by adding subject content, and international mindedness) and separate them physically, in a kind of Barnes & Noble type setting, away from the rest of the library collection. Now, I have no objections to genrefication – in fact, I think it is the right direction for many libraries (including my own, over the next several years), given patrons’/users’ positive, nurturing experiences with bookstores and the broadening/redefinition of subject areas that accompanies it – although I DO think that adding music, comfy seating, and the aroma of delicious coffee has a lot to do with their appreciation of the reorganization of materials. I also totally favor highlighting collections of books, especially when they are new or particularly relevant in some time-limited way. I also treasure the role of library/librarian as personal ‘shopper’ and valet, delivering the appropriate materials to the right users at exactly the right time.
But a permanent segregation presents a number of significant issues that require awareness and address, particularly in the context of the IB program’s purpose and character. It ultimately limits the ability of students – ALL students, not just our IB students – to have access to the best, most relevant sources.
First, although our book collection is small, it does in fact contain significant numbers of books already relevant to IB study, since global perspectives, world cultures, and international mindedness have, as guiding principles, informed my collection development always. Students looking for those specifically purchased “IB Books” will miss all of those, should they be directed to the “IB books.” Serendipity is a key element in research (as any real researcher will tell you) – the books next to the ones you’re looking for can often be better for your purposes than the one you had targeted. It’s the reason we have ‘virtual bookshelves’ in our OPACs, so that that searching the stacks serendipity is not lost.
Second, I am so excited about and supportive IB because it presents a perfect forum in which to expose students to the process of authentic research, and to teach them the skills that are necessary for student-as-academic-researchers to become effective, competent. lifelong problem-solvers and consumers of information. One of those essential skills is keyed on the ability to go and look and find. The best resolution of the issue of how best to get students together with the best resources is clearly teaching them how to do that, in the context of a book collection, rather than creating a separate “IB Book collection” that trains them to be passive recipients of resources, and also fails to deliver to them all the resources that are in fact available to them.
Third, segregation clearly impedes the development of several elements of the IB student learner profile, particularly the first: students as inquirers, who “know how to learn independently” and “develop skills for inquiry and research.” If figuring out how to access needed books in a very small book collection, which includes a significant number of relevant books NOT labeled “IB” or purchased with one-time IB funds, I do not know what is. We are taking kids over the next couple of months to see large college libraries, in which they will (as college students) need to negotiate collections numbering in the hundred thousands and millions, and I have to say I would consider it negligent of us as IB teachers NOT to take the opportunity presented in the next three years to teach them how to develop that critical skill for inquiry and research. To be continued….