The Quest for Better Questions

As a librarian, my professional life is held tightly together by a beautifully tangled nest of questions;

 the research questions;same quesiton

the location questions,

the good book questions,

the Waldo questions,

the computer questions,

and of course the bathroom questions

As an elementary school librarian, my professional life is held tightly together by a staggeringly daunting effort to get better questions. 

“When you say research on an animal… which ones did you have in mind? Are you asking about our scary fiction books or our scary nonfiction books? Did you already look on the waldo shelf for Waldo?, What were you doing when those pictures “just appeared” on your screen? and of course, no you can wait.

To date I have developed a 4 step plan for daily library use in answering questions:


Step 1: Listen for what is being asked as well as what is being said.

The teacher asking for Whimblery Worried may want books about kids with anxiety, 


Step 2:  Make certain the kids see me AND MY THINK as I ask questions.

“9 out of 8  elem.teachers don’t ask students to do a research project without showing them how so we may need to just find some cool animals.”


Step 3:  Get the kids to think about their own questions. 

“Dude, where was Waldo every other time you have checked out every other Waldo.”


Step 4: Make certain the kids see me AND MY THINK as we answer questions.

“I can think of several ways those pictures could have “just appeared” but most of them are awfully complicated, so walk me through what you were doing when this miracle occurred.

The thing is this; questions can be used as a shortcut to thinking or they can be used as a tool for more powerful thinking. The trick is to figure out how to get into one while avoiding the other.

Teaching children how to ask better questions, and find their own answers to those questions. That may be the most important part of this job and possibly our best hope for humans to get out of the 21st century without self-destructing.

So, the questions at this point should be. What are your thoughts? What am I missing and what should I be thinking about?


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