School libraries & 21st C Literacy

Inquiry learning requires students to develop a range of critical multi-literate skills to work in authentic, problem solving situations, considering multiple viewpoints to come to their own evidence based conclusions.

21st century school library teams support 21st century learning directions when they:

  • provide positive, reflective, supportive learning environments for students who have a range of life experiences, cultural backgrounds and abilities. 
  • continue to collect and give organised access to information from multiple viewpoints over the range of disciplines and knowledge systems, presented in a range of formats
  • use the inquiry approach in their interactions with students.

School libraries support the implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum, especially the Key Competencies:

  • Thinking
  • Language symbols and texts
  • Managing self


Guided inquiry
Collaboration and partnerships
Evidence and learning outcomes
Skills to support inquiry
Tools to support inquiry
Further reading

Guided inquiry and the school library

The library contribution to student learning is a collaborative one. Key thinkers who describe and support the school library contribution to 21st century literacy under the “Guided Inquiry” umbrella include:

  • Ross Todd
  • Carol Kuhlthau
  • David Loertscher

Read more about Guided Inquiry

Collaboration and partnerships between teachers and school librarians

Library staff are part of the professional literacy team in schools that encourage students to make meaning through exposure to and knowledge of multiple texts in an interesting, supportive library environment.

Read more about Collaboration and partnerships

Evidence, learning outcomes and the school library

The principle of evidence-based decision-making relates to those working in school libraries as it does to other educators.   Evidence from a school library perspective can be used to assist in the processes of decision-making, development, and continuous improvement to achieve the school’s goals that focus on student achievement and quality teaching and learning. 

Read more about the Evidence and learning outcomes

Skills to support inquiry: library specialist contribution

Library staff are part of the educational team who guide students thinking from “lower level facts through to concepts and, ultimately to higher level, transferable generalisations (or conceptual understandings)” - Kath Murdoch (2006) quoted in Approaches to social inquiry, p.5.

Read more about Skills to support Inquiry

Tools to support inquiry

There is an enormous range of Web 2.0 tools supporting 21st Century literacy and Inquiry, and the following selection merely scratches the surface.  This selection is not designed to be comprehensive, but we hope you can find some useful tools to use in your library or classroom.

Read more about Web 2.0 tools to support Inquiry.

Further reading

  • Hay, L. (2005b). Student learning through Australian school libraries, Part 1: A statistical analysis of student perceptions. Synergy 3(2):27-38.
  • Hay, L. (2006b). Student learning through Australian school libraries. Part 2: What students define and value as school library support. Synergy 4(2):27-38.
  • Hay, L. (2009). School libraries building capacity for student learning in 21C. Scan 28(2):17-23.
  • N.Z. Ministry of Education. (2008). Approaches to social inquiry, edited by David Chadwick. 'Building conceptual understandings in the Social Sciences' series.