chapter  13
10 Pages

Understanding our students and ourselves: transformative library instruction through an ethnographic lens


There is a story that was oft told by S. R. Ranganathan, long considered the father of library science and quite possibly its greatest (and most earnest) champion of the role that librarians play in the educational process. Having never had access to a library during his formative years of schooling, he recollected that most students of his generation had never heard of nor could even comprehend the word ‘library’, never mind appreciate the underlying role of a library. Seldom having had exposure to a dictionary (although his teacher would occasionally use one), young Ranganathan learned not through inquiry but through the recitation of rote statements, such as ‘Birmingham is noted for hardware, Reading is noted for biscuits, and Sheffi eld is noted for cutlery’ (1961, p. 19). Yet, he had the benefi t of two teachers: one a Sanskrit instructor throughout his primary schooling; the other a teacher who also was a tenant in Ranganathan’s home. Both took great delight in answering the endless questions the young boy posed, and while much of their shared knowledge came from a lifetime of understanding, they instilled a fundamental structure of critical inquiry that was to last him the rest of his life and, arguably, alter his attitudes and approach to the transformative power of education.