Guest Blog: A school library within a global community

Klaudia Janek, IB Teacher-Librarian, International Academy, Bloomfield Hills, MI

Working in an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, as a school librarian, presents the opportunity to focus on a more global perspective and to have set expectations when it comes to research and information literacy. What really stands out to me is that research is at the core of the IB curriculum and at the high school level it takes the form of an Extended Essay. What is even more exciting is that the role of the school librarian is clearly written in the Extended Essay Course Guide.

The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, MI is an authorized IB World School.
The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, MI is an authorized IB World School.

The Extended Essay is a 4,000 word investigation into an academic area that the student has a personal interest in. The subject the student chooses should be one that the student has taken an IB course in and understands the fundamental methodology of that subject area. The students are then expected to take what they learned in class and apply it to their topic of choice.

For the sciences, in order for the student to score well they have to carry out an investigation (usually a lab), and not just report on things that have already been done. Students have to come up with a research question that will allow them to set up and carry out a lab procedure that will test their hypothesis. They need to collect data, analyze, calculate and display in charts and graphs evidence leading to their conclusion.

For the humanities, like history, students have a different way of collecting data. For the Extended Essay, students must choose a topic with a lot of primary and secondary sources available. Students need to look at the historiography of their topic. They need to be able to research orthodox and revisionist interpretations from historians and based on primary sources, students need to come to their own conclusions. They are encouraged to agree or disagree with historians and state their reasons why. These are some of the ways that the Extended Essay is an investigation and not a traditional report.

The role of the school librarian is critical in this process because the work starts in 9th grade (at the high school level) and continues on through the 12th grade. Students cannot be successful in the Extended Essay without a solid foundation in research basics. Part of the Extended Essay rubric grades “quality of sources.” Students need to demonstrate that they can find monographs, academic journals, magazines, and newspaper articles. It is the school librarian’s job to teach students that research databases provide access to a variety of sources. It will then be up to students to demonstrate they can find a variety of sources for their specific topic. It is also a perfect opportunity to teach students how to use inter-library loan through either their school library or public library.

The IB Extended Essay is an opportunity to do academic research at the high school level. It really prepares students for research at the university level. Students who complete the IB program have been taught research skills so that they know to establish the credibility of an author, they can create a Works Cited or Bibliography, they know how to parenthetically cite (or footnote) their sources, they understand that a variety of quality sources will give them will give them credibility as researchers as opposed to taking the easy way out and uncritically surfing the internet.

I also think that a well done Extended Essay makes students realize that there are a variety of perspectives on every imaginable topic. In order to be a good researcher, one has to acknowledge that all these different perspectives exist and make issues complicated. A global citizen needs to be aware of all the different viewpoints before coming up with their own opinion and justifying it. As a teacher and a librarian, I believe this is a life long skill. Knowing that my library has to be prepared for all kinds of research is challenging, but fun. It takes me a long time to do collection development, both print and online, but it’s satisfying to know that my students are going off to college with a solid grasp of academic research.


Klaudia Janek

About the Author

Klaudia Janek
IB Teacher-Librarian
International Academy, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Klaudia is a high school librarian certified to teach history, and has a Media Specialist endorsement. She worked in an IB school for 13 years and leads official IB workshops in IB librarianship and the Extended Essay. Klaudia runs online courses and face-to-face workshops for the IB. She’s a member of LIBRES, reviewing from the perspective of school librarians. Currently the president of MAME 17, is a regional branch of Michigan Association for Media in Education, Klaudia also co-chairs her NCA AdvancED school improvement committee. For “fun,” she runs an IA online book club, publishes her school literary magazine and is experimenting with MakerSpaces in the library after school.


10 thoughts on “Guest Blog: A school library within a global community

  1. Our school is so fortunate to have Klaudia as our teacher-librarian. To have a professional as well-versed as she about research in our school community is a major asset for students and teachers alike especially as the students embark on the Extended Essay process. Additionally, she is a resource for teachers in all types of lesson planning. Her feature speaks to her diverse background , all which support te community.

  2. I am always amazed when I see Klaudia interacting with our students as they work through the process of the Extended Essay. Her rich knowledge of the EE process coupled with her passion to help our students provide an outstanding resource for students who are excited but unsure of their work. After students talk through their ideas with Klaudia, they see the true purpose and value of this research opportunity. Beyond the work for our students, she supports the teachers in our building who serve as EE Mentors. From training PD’s to one-on-one guidance, she covers it all! I am proud and honored to work with Klaudia on a daily basis!

  3. Such a great article, Klaudia! Your students are so lucky to have your expertise and insight as they prepare for the end of high school and look toward their futures in education!

  4. What a thorough and informative article, Klaudia. The IA is fortunate to have you as a staff member. Your insights into what students really need to have to do thorough research that itself becomes not just a one-time task to be accomplished, but a life-long skill to be developed are most impressive. Kudos!

  5. Great job Klaudia! I wish I had an IB Teacher- Librarian leading me like this through academic research back when I was in high school.

  6. What a great description of the whys and wherefores of research. All students should be exposed to this process during their high school “career,” whether in an IB program or not. Unfortunately, for many reasons, this doesn’t happen very often, if at all. I haven’t figured out how you get everything done that you do….is there a clone hiding on the side?

  7. Klaudia makes it crystal clear what is expected of these students at the high school level. It makes my job as a Preschool -3rd Grade PYP Media Specialist (in the same district) easier to know where my students are headed. Klaudia gets it … our students, all students, are global citizens who need to understand different viewpoints.

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