Question everything is a principle to live by–and to learn by. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) promote inquiry-based education, thrusting students into a hands-on relationship with their education. This is a great power and responsibility, but luckily the students have help. Every school has a secret resource, trained to support students and teachers alike. Who is this mysterious superhero? The school librarian, of course.

The librarian is a resource to teachers and students alike. Librarians help teachers find primary sources and high-quality reading that will engage students in their coursework. Often certified teachers themselves, librarians have the skills to help create uniquely enriching curricula. In fact, this educational model encourages creativity and innovation in instructors, according to Marcia Mardis, assistant professor of communication and information at Florida State University. Ms. Mardis, also a former librarian and educational digital library director, maintains that the relationship between teacher and librarian becomes one of “two creative partners working together.” Teachers can create an engaging classroom environment with help from librarians and their various resources.

Librarians and teachers work together to build a curriculum that will invigorate the minds of students and provoke questions: This is the intention driving inquiry-based educational models. Students should generate questions that will enrich their understanding of the topic. Questions should be researchable and indicate a complex inquiry. “If your assignment can be answered on Google, it’s void of higher-level thought,” says Paige Jaeger, who manages 84 school libraries in the Saratoga Springs, New York, area. The journey to an answer can be as educational as the answer itself: Instead of learning the properties or the names of the planets in the solar system, students could ask, Why isn’t Pluto a planet? This is a complex question that encourages students to dig deeper.

Then begins the exploration. The student must investigate, evaluate and analyze–important CCSS verbs–and librarians know how to connect the students to the sources of their inquiry. Librarians have knowledge of an entire school’s curricula, and they can help students learn the cross-disciplinary impact of their inquiry. This type of education teaches students that life is complicated but also connected. An educational system can be connected too, when supported by the superpowers of the school librarian.

Further Reading

“Common Core Thrusts Librarians into Leadership Role,” Education Week, accessed November 19, 2012,

“Finding Resources with Your School Librarian,” website of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), accessed November 19, 2012,

“Common Core Verbs,” Instructional Coach Corner, accessed November 19, 2012,

Image by Bill Branson