Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Follow the Yellow brick road.                                                                                                      Follow, follow, follow follow,                                                                                                       Follow the Yellow Brick road.

The way I see it, learning about the foundation of reference services is a lot like taking a trip to the land of Oz.

According to Riedling (p.3), “Information literacy…begins with an information problem, based on a question, problem to solve, or just plain curiosity.”

In my mind, Dorothy and her whirlwind trip to the land of Oz, relates to some of the tasks Teacher Librarians and students encounter when dealing with reference resources and problem solving frameworks.

Working as a Teacher Librarian, you do what you can to assist those who rely on you. With each problem, question or hint of curiosity, it is your responsibility to respond accordingly. To think critically, draw conclusions, share information, make informed decisions, and apply knowledge to new situations. Not only did Dorothy demonstrate the use of all of these skills, she provided the opportunity for others to apply them as well.

Life – Long – Learning

It all began when Dorothy was presented with a problem. A problem that sent her on a fantastic information gathering journey. A journey filled with surprising encounters and a number of problems to solve.

For some of you my way of thinking is probably a bit of a stretch.

Luckily, Riedling (p.13) indicates that “there are many different, acceptable paths to the same end.”

My path just happens to be yellow and made of brick.

So put on your walking shoes, we are about to follow the Yellow Brick Road.

When I first began reading Ann Riedling’s book I felt a tad overwhelmed. Just as Dorothy felt when mean old Miss Gulch came with her sheriffs order to scoop up Toto.

Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy was flooded with new information and hadn’t a clue what to do. As such, she RAN AWAY!

I too felt inundated and wondered if it was my time to RUN.

[I am certain none of us have actually ran away from a reference services task…however, I imagine for a brief moment, your mind has done the running for you.]


Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

That was until I bumped into my own Professor Marvel (Riedling). On page four I was given the nudge I needed and was sent right back.

“…there is a significant positive relationship between the quality of reference sources and services provided in the school.”

Dorothy felt guilty.                                                                                                                                        I felt guilty.

Professor Marvel reminded Dorothy that Aunt Em depends on her. Just as the students and teachers depend on their Teacher Librarian.                                                                             On the heels of this reminder, Dorothy and I go back and face the storm and are promptly transported to the land of Oz.



As Dorothy finds herself being whisked away, the information she houses swirls through her head. As oddities appear in the window she works to make sense of it, so that she can align them with the right sources of guiding knowledge.


For example Miss Gulch = the Wicked Witch

Teacher Librarians undergo the same act of conversion when addressing a student or colleague regarding a reference resource task.

“…the school librarian must have the ability to translate student questions into terms that can be understood by aligning them with proper services.”

By the time Dorothy’s house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East the journey is set in motion and the information flow begins.

Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy begins to put her reference skills to work when she consults the Munchkins and Glinda the Good Witch from the North. They inform Dorothy where information can be found.

And she begins to follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Whilst travelling the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy’s journey takes on a binary purpose, one as an information seeker and as an information guide. Two roles Teacher Librarians always perform.

This occurs when she stumbles upon the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion. Dorothy immediately begins to ask questions and implements a problem solving process with each of them. She then invites them on the journey where they outline a plan of action.

Plan – “what do I need to do? What information do I need to do it?”                                         Do – “Where can I find what I need?”

With each step of the way Dorothy acted as their guide. Providing them with the information each one required to complete their individual journeys.

The journey along the Yellow Brick Road forced each one of them to think critically, draw conclusions, share information, make informed decisions, and apply knowledge to new situations. They were constantly required to learn from the information being provided and respond accordingly.

Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Together in collaboration they continued to follow the Yellow Brick Road to see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Reference Source).

Along the way they had some unusual encounters.                                                                 The encounters with the apple trees, the sea of poppies, the Wonderful Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Flying Monkeys all represent the need to evaluate reference sources. As sources of information may not always be as they appear.


Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

As such, all of these represent the variety of references available and the need to evaluate them. The effective selection and evaluation of resources is essential. Without, you could pick a bad apple, doze off inundated with too many options, be mislead or worse deceived.

Properly evaluating these sources has been found to take a considerable amount of time.


Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Time, sadly, isn’t always on our side. Especially when the Wicked Witch is involved.

However, if time is taken to evaluate reference resources, the likelihood of achieving the end task is greater. Supporting those who depend on you and needed your services.

Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The most important lesson to take from the Yellow Brick Road however, is that though the path may seem clearly defined it can always take an unexpected turn and send you in a different direction. For this reason it is imperative that providing guidance and teaching appropriate skills continues along every step of the journey.

Dorothy was willing to seek guidance and travel the Yellow Brick Road. On her journey she not only supported those who required the use of information she also refined her own abilities to:

inquire, draw conclusions, share knowledge and pursue personal growth.


Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

In so doing, the next time, someone had a problem, question or hint of curiosity they were lining up looking to her.


Image Source: (All Creative Commons) The Wizard of Oz (1939)

“The mission of the school library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.” (Rielding, pg.9)


  • Riedling, Ann, Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Linworth.



2 thoughts on “Follow the Yellow Brick Road

  1. Well done! A very engaging narrative to help explain your thinking and reflection. The journey through the Wizard of Oz was a perfect metaphor for our roles, our journeys and our motivations. You have captured a very useful example to help explain a complex task and role that is ever changing, but meant to be ultra responsive. You’ve used concrete examples to help showcase the many facets of our role, program and collection that connect with our central purpose and motivations. Well done!


  2. Haha! I love the Wizard of Oz metaphor. I always feel the same way at the beginning of a course. I look at all the new language, new ideas, and the list of readings and whats to come and freak out. My internal dialogue is as follows: “What the heck?! What does any of this even mean? How can I possibly learn it all? Everyone knows more than me! I’m never going to finish! How do I even start! They are all going to find out I am a complete fraud!!” Every time.

    However, I have found that if I calm down and just do one thing at a time it all comes. Weird, right? But at the moment I do find the topic quite a large one to tackle. Evaluating and weeding or selecting resources seems like a daunting task, especially because it will have a lasting effect if I make the wrong choices. One has to have some ability to look into the future and right now the future appears to be digital. But what if I am not able to stay on at my school? …and the next librarian disagrees!


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