February 2, 2017
Teaching for Justice
Implementing Social Justice in the LIS Classroom
Editors: Nicole A. Cooke and Miriam E. Sweeney
Published: February 2017
Printed on acid-free paper
This book is number one in the Litwin Books/Library Juice Press Series on Critical Race Studies and Multiculturalism in LIS, Rose L. Chou and Annie Pho, series editors.
Borne of a professional development workshop, Teaching for Justice highlights the commitment and efforts of LIS faculty and instructors who feature social justice theory and strategies in their courses and classroom practices. This book is geared towards LIS instructors who have begun to incorporate social justice into their course content, as well as those who are interested in learning more about how to address social justice in their classrooms.
Chapters provide a pedagogical foundation and motivation for teaching social justice in LIS as a stand alone course or as a theme integrated within topical courses that seemingly “have no relationship” to such issues. The experiences and reflections of chapter contributors will prepare readers with strong arguments for the inclusion of social justice in their LIS classroom, curriculum, and school policies, provide an array of practical techniques intended to secure such inclusion, and a instill a sense of confidence for advocating for the incorporation of social justice as a mainstay of LIS education.
This book is available on Amazon.
December 11, 2016
Information Literacy and Writing Studies in Conversation: Reenvisioning Library-Writing Program Connections
Author: Andrea Baer
Published: December 2016
Printed on acid-free paper
Available from Amazon
Since library instruction’s very beginnings librarians and writing instructors have been natural partners. Library-writing program connections illustrate that both writing and information seeking and use (information literacy) share powerful links: both are central to posing and exploring problems and questions and to seeking informed and creative approaches to them. Thus, at the heart of writing and information literacy are inquiry and critical thinking, which many college educators across disciplines view to be at the center of learning. But despite these intersections, there is still a strong tendency for English composition and library instruction to be taught in relative separation, with the latter frequently being viewed as a course “add-on.” Similarly, conversations about writing and information literacy pedagogy have tended to exist in professional silos. Fortunately, dialogue across our professions has begun to expand at what appears an unprecedented pace, as librarians become increasingly vocal about the need for information literacy to be an integral part of college education and as librarians expand their engagement with learning theories and conceptual frameworks for information literacy.
This book is intended to help widen and deepen the conversations between librarians and compositionists. How can we further build and strengthen teaching partnerships that invite students to engage in writing and information seeking and use as processes of inquiry, critical reflection, and meaning making? And what sometimes stands in the way of doing do? Written for both librarians and writing instructors, this publication considers these questions from multiple angles, including through explorations of:
- empirical research on student writing and information literacy development;
- intersections between and pedagogical implications of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education and the WPA Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing;
- interviews with librarian-compositionists partners about their collaborative experiences;
- historical, social, cultural, and structural contexts that influence librarians and writing instructors’ work environments and cultures, and ultimately the potential for partnership; and
- the power of reflective pedagogical praxis.
While considering the possibilities for and challenges to library-writing partnerships from these different vantage points, the author invites readers to continue exploring this area of inquiry in conversations and teaching at and beyond their local institutions.
Andrea Baer is an Instructional Services Librarian at the University of West Georgia. She holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Washington and a Masters in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee. Andrea’s work in libraries and education is deeply informed by her teaching background in writing and literature and by her interests in critical pedagogy and critical inquiry.
October 11, 2016
Tonight’s #critlib discussion is about the “history of critical librarianship.” The moderators give some suggested readings and additional ones for further exploration, a couple of which I would not have thought of. There is a lot out there that relates to the history of critical librarianship. I’ve just gone over to my collection and pulled out a few things I want to add to the list of books for “further exploration.” First I’ll copy the ones the moderators suggest, so that they will be stick with my suggestions here:
Morrone, M., & Friedman, L. (2009). Radical reference : socially responsible librarianship collaborating with community. The Reference Librarian, 50(4).
Harger, E. (2016). Which Side Are You On? : Seven Social Responsibility Debates in American Librarianship, 1990–2015. (especially the Introduction and chapter 1)
For further exploration:
Pettigrew, K., Fidel, R., & Bruce, H. (2001). Conceptual frameworks in information behaviour. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 35, 43–78.
Pettigrew, K., & McKechnie, L. (2001). The use of theory in information science research. Journal of the Association of Information Science and Technology, 52(1), 62–73.
Kagan, A. (2015). Progressive Library Organizations: A Worldwide History.
Samek, T. (2001). Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility in American Librarianship, 1967-1974.
Here are the readings I suggest in addition. These include studies of critical librarianship historically and memoirs and biographies of people involved in it, but mostly classic examples of critical writing in librarianship from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. They are in no particular order. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, just a short list I compiled by going over to my bookshelves.
Bundy, M. L, & Stielow, F. J. (1987). Activism in American Librarianship, 1962-1973.
Schuman, P. G. (1976). Social Responsibilities and Libraries: A Library Journal/School Library Journal Selection.
Peattie, N. (1989). A Passage for Dissent: The Best of Sipapu, 1970-1988.
West, C. & Katz, E. (1972). Revolting Librarians.
Berman, S. (1971, 1993). Prejudices and Antipathies: A Tract of LC Subject Headings Concerning People.
Berman, S. & Danky, J. (1982/1983-2000/2001). Alternative Library Literature: A Biennial Anthology.
Horn, Z. (1995). Zoia! Memoirs of Zoia Horn, Battler for the People’s Right to Know.
Kister, K. F. (2002). Eric Moon: The Life and Library Times.
Progressive Librarian (1990-present).
September 16, 2016
Message from Michael Matthews, Progressive Librarian Book Review Editor:
Dear Progressive Library Workers:
Do you like balmy summer late afternoons, listening to the crickets chirp as you paddle a canoe along a mountain stream while watching a mother moose and her adorable calf drink clear, unpolluted water as an eagle swoops down, clutching a PCB-free trout in in its talons?
Because if you do, I would stop reading this message now and book your vacation plans for Never-Never Land. I’m looking for book reviewers for Progressive Librarian #46 as well as for recently published titles in the following fields of interest:
LGBT, queer, and feminist perspectives on library work
Late (neoliberal) capitalism and the politics of information
Libraries, neoliberal ideology, and social reproduction
Poverty, homelessness, and the role of libraries (in either mitigating the circumstances of poverty or exacerbating them)
Libraries, information technology, and the proletarianization of library workers
Climate change, the Anthropocene, and the challenge for libraries in the Age of the (not-so-immediate) Sixth Extinction
Library management discourse, the future of libraries, and performativity
Scholarly communication and the role of libraries in supporting the supremacy of publishers—or their possible role in subverting them
And…as Ron Popeil would say, “much, much more!” If you can find a book that fits these criteria or might even share a shaded portion of the circle within a Venn diagram, then please forward it to my attention. And if you would like to review such a book (or another book, which I may forward to your attention) then so much the better!
We will also entertain reviews of books (or other works) that cleverly torpedo the pretensions of our profession’s self-appointed “thought leaders”, and pitilessly reduce their arguments to a burning pile of wreckage—with eloquence, wit, and substantive scholarship, of course.
Your friendly neighborhood book editor, social raconteur, and mad gadabout,
Head of Serials & Media/
Associate Professor of Library Science
Northwestern State University Libraries
Natchitoches, Louisiana 71497
August 8, 2016
Annie Downey has agreed to do an interview with me about her new book with Library Juice Press.
Dr. Downey is Associate College Librarian and Director of Research Services at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Annie’s professional aspiration is to occupy a constant state of praxis in her daily work. Her research interests help her do that and include critical information literacy, women in librarianship and the status of women’s professions, service design and user-centered research methodologies in libraries, and library administration. She published two books in the summer of 2016: Critical Information Literacy: Foundations, Inspiration, and Ideas from Library Juice Press and Library Service Design: A LITA Guide to Holistic Assessment, Insight, and Improvement with Joe Marquez from Rowman and Littlefield.
Annie, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.
Thanks for inviting me! I am always excited to talk about critical information literacy.
Critical information literacy, or critical pedagogy in library instruction, is a hot topic in the library world right now, especially among Twitter’s #critlib participants. The discussion goes back a few years. I’d like to start by asking you first to summarize what critical information literacy is, and then to talk about how you first learned about it and got interested in it.
My favorite definition of critical information literacy is from Accardi, Drabinski, and Kumbier’s 2010 book Critical Library Instruction. They define it as “a library instruction praxis that promotes critical engagement with information sources, considers students collaborators in knowledge production practices (and creators in their own right), recognizes the affective dimensions of research, and (in some cases) has liberatory aims.” I am drawn to this definition in particular because the authors use plain language to attend to both the student and teacher roles, praxis, and empowerment, all of which are important components of CIL theory and practice.
As our definitions of information literacy have expanded – which we see reflected in the ACRL Framework – it has become harder to define critical information literacy as a distinct type of information literacy. But a primary signifier is that CIL is inspired and informed by critical educational theories and theorists, especially Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy.
Like many CIL converts, I first became interested in critical education and the emancipatory potential of education, and then found my way to CIL when I was looking for ways to connect my burgeoning interest in that set of theories with my work as a librarian. As I was working on my PhD coursework, I had an opportunity to study education theory in depth for the first time. I was inspired by Freire’s work, but also by Myles Horton and Jack Mezirow. Freire, Horton, and Mezirow all worked on critical literacy with adults. The connections between critical literacy and information literacy jumped out at me right away so I began looking for other librarians who were doing work in that space. This was just a few years ago, but there was not a lot out there. I immediately found the work of James Elmborg, Troy Swanson, Kushla Capitzke, and Heidi Jacobs compelling. Of course, since then many others have come forward and a lot of great work is being done on CIL right now.
Regarding Freire, many readers caught that the cover of your book is a riff on the cover of Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I think it’s fun to make that reference, but I have to admit to feeling like it might be false advertising to an extent, because the book is not that directly tied to his educational philosophy. He was strongly marxist for one thing, and your book is not. I wonder if you have any comments about expectations people might form of a more radical book, looking at the cover.
First, let me just say that I love the cover and was so thrilled when I saw it. It’s true that the book is not tied strictly to Freire’s theory, nor is it Marxist. But I would argue that it is fairly radical and heavily influenced by Freire.
The majority of the librarians I interviewed were influenced by Freire either directly through reading his work or reading work inspired by it so the ideas and practices presented in the book provide examples of what librarians have done with his theory so far. In that sense, the cover is more than appropriate as a reflection of the contents providing a Freirian interpretaton of information literacy. However, I also tried to make it as authentic to the academic librarian experience as possible, and in many ways that resulted in me finding ties to critical education generally rather than Freire’s work specifically. I also wanted it to be an authentic reflection of my own interpretation of CIL, which is influenced Frieire, but also by other theorists.
Prior to my interviews, I was really into the type of critical pedagogy taught by Myles Horton, which is due at least in part to finding his work a lot more relatable and usable in a personal way. When I was first reading about critical education, I was also involved in a grassroots activism organization that used popular education to move people to action. I loved the curriculum we designed and were teaching, but getting people in the room to learn what we were trying to teach was close to impossible in my small Texas city. I always felt like we were teaching the already converted and the power to change anything in a meaningful way would ultimately reside in our ability to speak to people who weren’t already in the room. Horton, Freire, and other critical pedaogues encouraged teachers to start where their students were and then help them get where they wanted to be. Starting where the students are in order to make learning meaningful is a major rationale behind student-focused pedagogy. A major purpose of this book is to help librarians practice CIL and in order to do that, they have to start where they are and build their practice to include CIL.
All of the librarians I spoke with talked about their inability to do anything too radical in their classrooms – one of my participants was actually leaving the profession for this very reason. I understand that feeling because I am a radical in my own mind, but my at work radicalism has to be moderated because over time, librarians have not managed to position themselves very well institutionally. I believe we can change that, but the change has to be thoughtful and we have to start where we are. I know there are plenty of radical activists that will call this a cop out. But I decided many years ago that I did not want the typical activist life for me or my children. I want to do good meaningful work, but I also want my children to live fairly unstructured lives with one parent at home. I am the breadwinner for my family of five and I work at an institution where it is much easier for faculty and students to take an ideological stance than for staff, including librarians. My work in this area has to be more stealthy and that was definitely what I heard from participants as well. So I think this book is radical in part because we are talking about trying to move a whole lot of disempowerd people to action. When we know that librarians are starting from a fairly disempowered place organizationally and their values have gotten confused over time, big change starts with small steps. Personally, I will just be thrilled if this book convinces more librarians that we are not and should not pretend to be neutral actors in our work.
But I also think the Freirian pedagogy is there, even though the radical politics are largely missing. This is where the practicality and professionalism of librarianship often conflicts with the value structure and political philosophy of librarians, especially teaching librarians. What you’ll find in this book is that many librarians are taking the radical step of trying to adopt Freire’s critical pedagogy for their teaching, but as one participant said it is just really really hard. Feminist critical educators like bell hooks, Jennifer Gore, Carmen Luke, and others speak to this difficulty and I think that is really the next step for CIL – to look at, work with, and respond to the critiques of critical pedagogy. Freire said we have to remake critical pedagogy for our situations and contexts and that is what the librarians in my book are trying to do.
Yes, that makes perfect sense. One thing I have wondered about in relation to that is how Freire translates into the affluent first world context. He was an educator in the third world, and his efforts to empower students had to do with their situation as members of an oppressed class. In what ways are his ideas about student empowerment and student perspectives relevant when you are talking about students who are privileged, like the students at your institution? When they question authority, is it the same thing?
I can’t imagine anything bringing home the importance of questioning authority like the current presidential election. As unfortunate and distasteful as the whole thing is, I’ve definitely thought this book came out at a good time because it points to how important it is for even privileged students to question and challenge authority. It also illustrates how the breakdown of old gatekeepers have really changed what and how issues are talked about. It has turned older notions of information literacy on their head. And that is where the importance of talking about power with privileged and oppressed students alike really comes in. It is no longer acceptable to teach library literacy like it is information literacy or to ignore the power structures behind information access. Students have to be able to understand and use sources outside of our expensive (and privileged) databases and they need to understand the power structures that put that info behind pay walls to begin with.
When I urge students to analyze and question information power structures in my classes, I am also asking students to consider where they are and where others are and have been. A major issue over the last couple of years in higher ed and at my institution involves creating inclusive communities. One of the things that always comes up in trainings and discussions is the importance of identifying and being mindful of your biases. That also happens to be one aspect of CIL. You need to understand where you stand in the discussion. Students have to ask themselves what their privilege is and how that influences their understanding. Half of our student body receives need based financial aid, but the other half have families that can afford to pay around $50,000 per year. When you have classrooms that include students from all places on the financial spectrum, it is really important for everyone in the room to be able to identify and name privilege and power.
In an oppressive system, you obviously end up with people that are born into one side of the equation or the other. It is easier to change the equation if both sides see how it does not add up. My mother has recently been really surprised and upset to discover that so many of the people in her life are racist. What brought that to light for her? Facebook. It has become harder for people to keep their biases to themselves. But the good news is that finding ways to uncover bias and inequities helps us all to get to a place where we can start to analyze and question them. One of the things we can learn from Freire is how to do that in a productive way. One of my favorite pieces of Freire’s work is his explanation of the complexity of dialogue. For him, dialogue is much more than just a discussion where everyone shares their truth. Rather, it is about taking those truths and using them to look deeper, analyze, and make change.
Okay, I appreciate what you are saying, but there is an odd dynamic in current US media and politics, which is that the authoritative voices like objectivity-minded journalists and fact-checkers, as well as establishment politicians, are under attack mainly from the Right. It is Donald Trump and his ilk who claim that Politifact is biased and that scientific claims are politically biased. People on the left, including radicals, tend to be more fact-oriented and science-oriented, and depend for the arguments they make on the possibility of claims to an independent objective reality, facts that everyone must accept and understand for their implications. How does that jibe with ideas in critical information literacy about questioning authoritative information? And how do you deal with right-wing students rejecting Politifact?
CIL and critical education theory do not just demand that we question authority, but also seek social justice. Justice can only be found by seeking evidence and facts. But beyond that, we also have values to guide us. Part of critical pedagogy is naming values. When working with problem-posing methods and dialogue, teachers should always encourage students to name the values that underlie the evidence, in addition to looking at how they mesh with their own values. To question does not necessarily mean to deny or even disprove. When we say to question, we mean to look at the whole picture with authenticity and hope with the goal of getting closer to social justice. I think Freire’s book titles alone display that approach: Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Pedagogy of Hope, Pedagogy of Freedom, Teachers as Cultural Workers, Education for Critical Consciousness,…
The Right is doing exactly the opposite of looking at the big picture with authenticity and hope -they are focusing on pieces to obscure the whole and they are twisting the truth or outright lying to drive home political points. They lack important information literacy skills. They claim that the media, educators, and science are biased, but they use logically flawed or untruthful arguments. They bring up conspiracy theories for things like climate science because that works for them when actual facts would not. A student in a CIL class could not get away with this.
If you don’t trust the fact-checkers, you should check the facts. If a student disagrees with Politifact, they should fact check it. I actually did a little of that yesterday for my own enjoyment and would happily lead a student down that path. I might ask them to consider whether it is really the fact-checkers they don’t trust or if they don’t trust or want to believe facts, while also teaching them how to check the facts in question. Through this process, they may find that their favorite politicians often treat facts as though they are inconvenient or don’t mesh with how they have decided to interpret the world. But they could not do that with just a discussion or debate where I have my opinion and you have yours, but rather they would have to actually do some searching for facts. This is what Freire means when he says to structure the dialogue. How are you going to push students to ground themselves in their own experiences and think deeply while also considering others’ experiences, the evidence, and the overarching value structure you are working within? There are many levels of complexity there that go beyond an opinionated Twitter war.
There’s an example in my book of a librarian who had students research a fear that the media had perpetuated to try to find the science behind the fear. Basically, he wanted them to see that fears are often overblown by the media and scientific studies can be sensationalized. Unfortunately, almost all of the students found other newspaper articles on the fear rather than digging deeper to find the real science. This example shows that the layers of understanding are complex. I can see why the Right has such an easy time getting people to mistrust the media and I actually think that is an understandable impulse. But they stop there because it helps them meet their goal of obscuring and confusing in order to meet their political goals. With CIL, we teach students to take the next step and problematize, investigate, and dialogue about the issue, the evidence they’ve found, and the value structures they’ve uncovered.
I get what you’re saying, but I still feel like there is a tension involved in trying to empower students to question authority for themselves, and then at the same time exercising pedagogical authority in telling them the right and the wrong ways of doing that. Reed College, where you work, is a selective school, with students who bring their own intellectual motivation to the classroom. (Full disclosure: I know that because I was one of those students, a “Reedie,” for my first two years of college.) I’ve worked at other types of institutions though, where a lot of the students are just there because their families believe that college is the ticket to a middle class life, which is not their own background. Those students are more likely to feel alienated from the educational system and intellectual authorities in general. They might resent “elites” telling them what to think. This is the social position of typical Trump supporters, or so I have been reading. You probably don’t deal with a lot of them in your classrooms, but I wonder what you think about the difficulty of teaching students CIL when they are resistant to intellectual authority because of class dynamics?
I agree that there are students who resent elites telling them what to think. And they are right to resent that. I was poor when I started college and stayed that way until well into my first years as a librarian. My time in the middle class has been short so far. I personally felt disenfranchised for a very long time and I still have to stop myself from identifying as poor. My habit is always to go there, but doing so is not fair to people who are still in the middle of that struggle. I always think of the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quote: “How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand a man who’s cold?” I was once cold, but now I’m warm. And so I can and should maintain my empathy, but alienation sets in when those of us who are living a comfortable life tell others that we have the answers for them or tell them they should think about things a certain way because we know best. This includes questioning students’ motivations for being there. Going to college to try to work your way up the economic ladder is a smart thing to do, and I enjoy working with students who are motivated in that way because I understand it and I respect the stake they have in the game. I also enjoy and feel privileged to work with so many students that are intellectually motivated the way Reed students are, in the same way that I felt privileged to work with the many intellectually motivated students at my alma mater, the University of North Texas. But regardless of their intellectual motivations, I definitely believe almost all students hope to be able to support themselves financially when they graduate and they expect their educations to help them do that, even if they come from more privileged backgrounds.
But the alienation issue is very real. Students who’ve attended public education in this country are likely to have seen how the education system is often set up to keep them in their place. They are not wrong to feel that way because that is how our public education system is set up. It is very hierarchical and racist, funding is far from equitable, and teachers are often encouraged to control their classrooms above all else. It is very steeped in maintaining the status quo. One of the most remarkable things I discovered when I moved to Reed was how focused on personal empowerment liberal arts colleges are. Students are encouraged to think they are very special for being there. They are told they can change the world. And they have a lot of resources to help them think of ways to do that, including hands-on and involved faculty and staff, funding for research trips and projects, planned activities meant to engage them in the larger community, volunteer and paid opportunities in schools, labs, and non-profits, and of course a wonderful library. This is great for these students and this type of education benefits all of society because students from liberal arts colleges go on to do amazing things, but what if we told all students from Head Start through college that they were special? And then actually gave them tools to bring their gifts out?
Critical information literacy can actually help with alienation because it helps students of all backgrounds identify and reflect on where they are on the power structure underlying information availability, access, and distribution. I have found in my experience that students are empowered by that discussion alone. Seeing where you are and how you fit in a larger social system is something people crave, but there are few opportunities to discuss and problematize it in a group of people with a variety of backgrounds. The social system underlying information is something they live in, but may have never been asked to really think about. I find that I don’t need to say much to get that type of conversation going, which means I do very little telling students what to think.
Inequity is one of the things critical pedagogues hope to confront and challenge. But the change we hope to see will not come from us. It only starts with us. One of the librarians I interviewed said that we just have to hope students take what we’ve presented in our sessions and turn it into real learning later. We don’t have the time or space to make real lasting learning happen in our classrooms as librarians – what we are doing is planting seeds. As a librarian, the truth is I don’t get to deal in-depth with issues like intellectual authority or even motivation for being in college. The best I can do is plant seeds that encourage students to question. If there are students that question the questioning, I am open to them doing that. To take it back to the student who challenges Politifact and authority in general, I would say “good, you should be doing that. If you’re not questioning, you’re being complacent.” But I would also tell them that their arguments will be better and stronger and will be more likely to line up with their own views if they dig deeper and make sure they know the truth. Finally, I would encourage them to be open to what they find and realize they are seeing it through their own filter. If you’re going to mistrust someone you see as an intellectual authority, the best tactic is to know their arguments well and then find the facts that either prove or disprove their position.
Thanks for that explanation. I think you present a good way of thinking about it. I’d like to switch gears a bit. I’m curious about how the interviews you conducted changed the way you think about CIL or surprised you in some way. Could you talk a bit about that?
One of the biggest surprises for me was to hear how hard it was for so many librarians to get to practice CIL. I’ve long struggled with the relatively low status of librarians in education. I see library work as the very center or cornerstone of education and just don’t get why we often have to fight so hard to have a voice or be allowed to use our expertise to improve the educational experience of students. But when you’re struggling with something that is as personal as your own teaching practice, it is easy to think you are just doing something wrong when you feel like you have to work so hard to turn your teaching into what you want it to be. So I guess I thought my own teaching struggles reflected a weakness in my practice and hearing from so many librarians that they were having the same struggle was enlightening and oddly empowering. It made me realize that the status and stereotyping issues really do impact librarians’ ability to develop our own authentic teaching practices. It was not just me feeling this way – it is a real thing!
Another thing that surprised me was how little faculty status seemed to influence this. I asked participants to talk about their thoughts about faculty status and if they believed it helped librarians who teach. I don’t talk about this much in the book because it was not something I felt like I got enough information on to find patterns that I felt comfortable making assertions about, but the conversations I had with participants made me suspect that faculty status is not terribly important when it comes to empowering librarian teaching. Librarians that had worked in both types of institutions (as I have) did not find that their faculty status did much beyond giving them opportunities to build relationships through committee work. While I think relationship building is one of the most important things we can do as librarians, teaching faculty often see early career committee work as a distraction from developing their teaching practices. So why do librarians feel so differently about the interplay of committee work and developing a teaching practice? This would be a great research topic for someone interested in CIL!
Now that the book is complete and out in the world, what do you think remains to be said, by another work perhaps? Is there anything you regret you didn’t have a chance to cover, or would cover differently now?
There are so many aspects of CIL that still need to be covered! We need some actual classroom studies that look at how critical pedagogy works in our classrooms. We also have a lot of theoretical work still to do. Our theory is behind other educators so we need to take the time to consider what other educators and social scientists have been up to over the past couple of decades, while continuing to work on figuring out where librarianship and information literacy fit in that conversation. We also need to seek wider audiences for our information literacy imperative. You really make the case for this in your previous questions. There is a lot of evidence right now that society has to start paying attention to the importance of learning to understand and evaluate information. Information literacy is so much more than an academic skill and it is really very crucial for democracy. I would like to write something on the importance of CIL for a general audience.
Researching and writing this book really got me thinking about the positioning of librarians in education and in what ways our standing is related to being a historically women’s profession and librarianship’s bizarre stance on neutrality. The institutional barriers and professional philosophies that get in the way of librarians being able to teach CIL also lead to librarian disenfranchisement and burnout and limits our potential to positively impact students’ lives. This summer, I’ve returned to some previous research and done some new work to prepare a book proposal for you on these intersections. So much of the work that has been done on this has focused on women in public librarianship, but not as much has been done on women in academic libraries and even less on women librarians in K-12. Libraries were the most important part of building the first American colleges. Colleges with libraries made it and those without did not have a good chance. Likewise, the first academic librarians were often chosen from the best of the lecturers. How did we move from librarians holding a position of importance to becoming so disregarded intellectually? Somehow along the way, our management and clerical skills became what we are known for, rather than our intellectual skills. Everyone who knows several librarians knows this is crazy because the breadth of most librarians’ knowledge along with our capacity to problem solve, adapt to change, understand many disciplines and the publishing industry, and commitment to students should make our importance to education indisputable. Yet, many people don’t see our value and even write long, infuriating, ill-informed pieces stating that our profession is approaching its death. I want to investigate the history that led us to this point with the hopes that librarians will be empowered to reclaim our profession.
That’s an important topic, and it sounds like an ambitious project. I look forward to seeing the proposal. Thanks for doing this interview! I think it was enlightening. Best of luck with the book! I hope everyone reads it.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk a little about the book and CIL. I am excited to see where librarians take information literacy next. We still have work to do, but I have been really delighted to see how much critical engagement and reflection on information literacy has gained traction in recent years. It makes me feel really hopeful about the future of our profession.
 Maria T. Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, eds., Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press, 2010), xiii.
July 27, 2016
Editors: Erik Estep and Nathaniel Enright
Published: July 2016
Printed on acid-free paper
The current crisis of capitalism has led to the renewed interest in Marxism and its core categories of analysis such as class and exploitation. In our own discipline — Library and Information Science — voices and ideas that have long been confined to the critical margins have been given buoyancy as forms of critique have gained traction. This volume allows for a fresh look at at the interaction of information, labor, capital, class, and librarianship.
Now available on Amazon.com
Table of Contents
The Academic Library as Crypto-Temple: A Marxian Analysis, by Stephen Bales
Social Reproduction in the Early American Public Library: Exploring the Connections Between Capital and Gender, by Alexandra Carruthers
From Steam Engines to Search Engines: Class Struggle in the Information Economy, by Amanda Bird and Braden Cannon
Working with Information: Some Initial Enquiries, by Steve Wright
Crisis Talk, by Toni Samek
Poverty and the Public Library: How Canadian Public Libraries are Serving the Economically Challenged, by Peggy McEachron and Sarah Barriage
Lost in the Gaps: The Plight of the Pro Se Patron, by Carey Sias
July 19, 2016
Author: Annie Downey
Published: July 2016
Printed on acid-free paper
Academic librarians are exploring critical information literacy (CIL) in ever increasing numbers. While a smattering of journal articles and a small number of books have been published on the topic, the conversation around CIL has mostly taken place online, at conferences, in individual libraries, and in personal dialogues. This book explores that conversation and provides a snapshot of the current state of CIL as it is enacted and understood by academic librarians. It introduces the ideas and concepts behind CIL and helps librarians make more informed decisions about how to design, teach, and implement programs. It also informs library science scholars and policy makers in terms of knowing how CIL is being taught and supported at the institutional level.
This book grew out of the author’s dissertation research, which was a qualitative study investigating the institutional support, nonsupport, and barriers to CIL programs and the effectiveness of experiential critical pedagogy for information literacy learning as taught and studied by 19 CIL librarians and scholars. Experiential education served as the broad theoretical framework for the study, which stems from the tradition of critical theory, and used the work of two major experiential learning theorists and theories specifically: Paulo Freire and critical pedagogy and Jack Mezirow and transformative learning. Mezirow and Freire focused their work on adult education and grounded their approaches in critical theory and focused on power relationships, reflection, and the emancipatory potential of education.
Each chapter expands on the themes discussed or illustrated by the study participants, to include how and where librarians learn about CIL; the three major critical teaching methods critical librarians employ, including student-centered approaches, discussion and dialogue, and problem-posing methods; the struggle between using critical teaching methods and incorporating critical content; the argument for teaching within the broader context of academic disciplines and the crucial importance of strong relationships with faculty; support for CIL at the institutional level; and the role of professional identity and the culture of librarians and librarianship in CIL teaching and thought.
Annie Downey has written and presented on user studies, information literacy, K-20 library instruction, assessment, and academic library administration. Her current research interests include critical information literacy, service design in libraries, women in librarianship, and the student research process. She has an MLS and a PhD in Higher Education from the University of North Texas and is currently the Director of Research Services at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
June 8, 2016
We want to recognize and celebrate that June is GLBT Book Month, and draw attention to a few of our titles:
May 19, 2016
Progressive Community Action: Critical Theory and Social Justice in Library and Information Science
Editors: Bharat Mehra and Kevin Rioux
Published: May 2016
Printed on acid-free paper
Title page, Table of Contents, Preface, and Introduction (PDF)
Social justice in library and information science (LIS) seeks to achieve action-oriented, socially relevant impacts through information work. This edited volume includes papers that explore intersections between critical theory and social justice in LIS while focusing on social relevance and community involvement to promote progressive community-wide changes. Contributors include LIS researchers, practitioners, educators, social justice advocates, and community leaders who identify theories, methods, approaches, strategies, and case studies that apply these intersections in mobilizing community action to deliver tangible community building and development outcomes.
Demonstrating and articulating these community outcomes are particularly important today, as stakeholders increasingly require LIS professionals to provide evidence of relevance and accountability. This timely book offers a unique perspective in identifying what LIS professions are doing (or can do) in the contemporary context of the 21st century.
The critical theoretical base of the book frames a proactive, less-traditional concept of the LIS professional. It showcases and markets LIS in new ways that highlight its role in taking progressive social actions, bringing positive community changes, and developing relevant community services.
The frame of study is inclusive of (though not limited to) academic, public, school, and special libraries, museums, archives, and other information-related settings. An international context of analysis is included along with a focus on social impact and community involvement in LIS practice and research, education, policy development, service design, and program implementation.
About the editors:
Dr. Bharat Mehra is Associate Professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee. His research furthers diversity and intercultural communication and addresses social justice and social equity agendas to meet the needs of minority and underserved populations (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people; racial and ethnic minorities; international communities; low-income families; rural residents; amongst others). He has applied conceptual frameworks in LIS (e.g., human information behavior, information seeking and use, social informatics, etc.) in combination with interdisciplinary approaches from critical theory, feminist and cross-cultural studies, postcolonial literature, race and gender research, and community informatics or the use of information and communication technologies to enable and empower disenfranchised communities to bring changes in their socio-cultural, sociopolitical, and socioeconomic circumstances. Drawing on the intersections between the research-teaching-service missions in the American academy, Mehra’s work helps to re-conceptualize institutions of higher learning in an expanded capacity of community engagement to partner with people on the margins of society to bring significant changes in their everyday lives.
Kevin Rioux, PhD, is Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at St. John’s University, New York. In his teaching and research, he uses social justice metatheory, information behavior frameworks, and integrated human development models to explore issues related to information access and information technologies as tools of social and economic development in both local and international contexts. Rioux is also a Senior Vincentian Research Fellow and is on the faculty of St. John’s Center for Global Development, which offers a hybrid Rome-based M.A. program in global development and social justice. His work with the Center involves supporting graduate curricula and research on the causes of poverty and social injustice in urban areas, slave labor practices, human migration, education, gendered health issues, food security, and sustainable development.
Now available on Amazon.
March 8, 2016
“The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom” named 2016 Eli M. Oboler Award winner
Office for Intellectual Freedom
The Intellectual Freedom Round Table has announced the winner of the 2016 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, which recognizes the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom. The 2016 award goes to The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom, edited by Mark Alfino and Laura Koltutsky. The publisher is the Library Juice Press.
In recognizing The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom, the Oboler Award selection committee said it believed that the book was an enormous contribution to the existing literature and indispensable to a thorough discussion of the subject of intellectual freedom. The book looks at intellectual freedom from a wider range of theoretical perspectives and in connection with a wider range of cultural topics, under the premise that “thought and action about intellectual freedom needs to be informed by a broader and more complex range of topics and theoretical reflection than it typically has been.” The 21 articles focus on topics including threats to intellectual freedom, academic freedom, the arts, the internet, censorship along with connections to contemporary social issues and institutions, and historical and cultural theories.
The Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, which consists of $500 and a certificate, is presented for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom. The award was named for Eli M. Oboler, the extensively published Idaho State University librarian known as a champion of intellectual freedom who demanded the dismantling of all barriers to freedom of expression. The award has been offered biennially since 1986.
The award will be presented at the IFRT Award Reception & Member Social at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando in June.
The Intellectual Freedom Round Table is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award.
The Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) provides a forum for the discussion of activities, programs, and problems in intellectual freedom of libraries and librarians; serves as a channel of communications on intellectual freedom matters; promotes a greater opportunity for involvement among the members of the ALA in defense of intellectual freedom; promotes a greater feeling of responsibility in the implementation of ALA policies on intellectual freedom.
February 7, 2016
Robbie Franklin of McFarland Publishers was generous in his advice when I was first starting Library Juice Press back in 2005/2006. So I have often thought of his press in relation to books we’ve been working on. In 2010 and 2011 there was a project we had gotten going on Generation X librarians and the issues they face. The project was in the works for a few years, at a time when people were still talking about Generation X, and Millennials had not quite yet taken their place in the world. They were thought of as students, while generation X-ers had come back from their post-college slacking in the former Czechoslovakia and were in the workforce, dealing with Boomer supervisors. The editors of this collection of chapters pulled it all together and sent it to me, and at the time I was unhappy with it. I was interested in sociological studies about what made Gen Xers different, and the book ended up emphasizing case studies and personal reports of workplace issues. I was not happy with that, but I had also grown somewhat bitter about the discussion of generational issues in general, and increasingly skeptical of that discourse. So I decided not to publish the book, and I suggested to the editors that they take it to McFarland. McFarland published it in 2011, and I think it was a successful book for them. (It is still in print.)
I now regret not publishing the book, because I find myself bothered by the way my generation seems to have been forgotten. The discussion is all Millennials versus Boomers now. Boomers used to be very anxious about Gen-Xers and what our differences implied for society. There was a discussion in librarianship at the beginning of the internet era about the “new breed” of librarians, who had tattoos, etc., and who were more connected to technology. Now that we are no longer the new breed, it has become less clear what we represent. Part of the Gen X discourse in the 90s and early 2000s was about how we were getting the short end of the stick economically, and existed on the fringes of a society that was geared toward Boomers. I think it’s clear that Millennials are the ones who really got the short end of the stick economically, but Gen Xers still seem to be in the margins in some way, at least in the margins of people’s awareness of generational difference.
My feeling about generational differences, really, is that the way generations are described would be more accurately understood as descriptions of what our society is like at the present moment, for anyone who is really connected to the present moment. That is why it always bothers me when Gen Xers or millennials are blamed for their supposed failings. These “failings” are reflections of the society in which the new generation enters, not of character issues that young people can be held responsible for. I hate seeing younger generations bashed by older generations, as though generational differences originate from anything other than the world that older generations have left in their wake.
I also feel that the way generational differences are so much discussed and emphasized is a product of the “generation gap” of the 1960s, which was stronger than previous intergenerational experience. I think that has resulted in a heightened awareness among Boomers in particular of generational differences, where Gen Xers or Millennials might not have found them so important independent of these discussions. (Not a criticism, just an observation.)
So those are the thoughts that fed into my decision to drop the project after the editors had finished it. I regret it now because as long as these generational differences are going to continue to be discussed, I would like to play a part in seeing Gen Xers remembered in it. Not that it makes a difference; the book has done well with McFarland. I hope people will continue to buy the book and read it. I think it’s still relevant.
January 21, 2016
Where are all the Librarians of Color?
The Experiences of People of Color in Academia
Editors: Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juárez
Published: January 2016
Printed on acid-free paper
Now available from Amazon.com
This edited volume addresses the shared experiences of academic librarians of color, i.e. Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans. These experiences are very similar and offer a narrative that explains the lack of librarians of color in academia, especially those librarians that have experienced the daunting academic tenure process.
This monograph offers a comprehensive look at the experiences of people of color after the recruitment is over, the diversity box is checked, and the statistics are reported. What are the retention, job satisfaction, and tenure experiences of librarians of color? The authors look at the history of librarians of color in academia, review of the literature, obstacles, roles, leadership, and the tenure process for those that endure. What are the recruitment and retention methods employed to create a diverse workforce, successes and failures? Finally what are some mentoring strategies that work to make the library environment less exploitative and toxic for librarians of color?
Rebecca Hankins is an Associate Professor and a certified archivist/librarian. She has been at Texas A&M University since 2003. Her previous employment included 12 years as senior archivist at The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans, the premier research repository on Africana historical documentation. Her expertise includes building collections and scholarly resources for the study of the African Diaspora, Race & Ethnic Studies, and Arabic Language and Culture.
Miguel Juárez is a doctoral student in the Department of History at the University of Texas at El Paso with over 14 years of academic library experience. He has worked at the State University at Buffalo Libraries, the University of Arizona Libraries, as an Assistant Professor of Library Science at Texas A&M University Libraries, as Head Librarian/Associate Librarian at the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA and most recently as an Associate Archivist/Librarian at the University of North Texas. Miguel has been a member of the ALA Diversity Committee and served as inaugural chair of the ALA Diversity Grant. His expertise includes building Latin@ studies collections and Chican@ archival collections.
December 22, 2015
Archival Research and Education
Selected Papers from the 2014 AERI Conference
Editors: Richard J. Cox, Alison Langmead, and Eleanor Mattern
Published: December 2015
Printed on acid-free paper
Available from Amazon.com
This book is number seven in the Series on Archives, Archivists, and Society, Richard J. Cox, editor.
The sixth annual Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI), hosted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences in July 2014, brought together doctoral students and faculty engaged in Archival Studies from around the world, although principally from the United States. Supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, these institutes are designed to strengthen education and research, as well as support academic cohort building and mentoring in the archival community.
This publication features fifteen essays by both emerging and established archival scholars and faculty from four continents. Subjects include: dictatorship archives in Brazil, affect and agency in the archives of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, archival images in recent movies, archival systems interoperability research, cross institutional usages of EAD 2002 , Ernst Posner and archival scholarship in Washington, D.C., technical infrastructures and digital heritage preservation, the challenges of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, enabling Big Data curation in a non-archival organization, personal archiving of Web pornography, the history and future of archival education in the United States, innovative archival teaching methods in China, rights in records as a platform for participatory archiving, and archival readings of Derrida’s Archive Fever. These contributions reflect the range of new archival research, the continuing maturation of archival education, and the growing international collaboration among archival scholars and faculty.
The volume is offered in memory of Terry Cook (1947-2014), the plenary speaker at the first AERI conference in 2009.
The contents of the volume are as follows:
In Memory of Terry Cook Anne Gilliland
Introduction Richard J. Cox, Alison Langmead, and Eleanor Mattern
International Perspectives, Human Rights, and Archives
Lucian Heymann, “Dictatorship Memories and Archives in Brazil: Reflections on Politics and Projects.”
Anne Gilliland, “Studying Affect and its Relationship to the Agency of Archivists in the Countries of the Former Yugoslavia.”
Anne Gilliland and Sue McKemmish, “Rights in Records as a Platform for Participative Archiving.”
Lindsay Mattock and Eleanor Mattern, “Looking at Archives in Cinema: Recent Representations of Records in Motion Pictures.”
Archival Systems and Standards
Gregory Rolan, “Archival Systems Interoperability: Research Themes and Opportunities.”
Sarah Buchanan, “Cross Institutional Usage of EAD 2002 as an Archival Description Standard.”
Jane Zhang, “Archival Scholarship in the Nation’s Capital: Ernst Posner.”
Digital Heritage and Archives
Patricia Galloway, “Technical Infrastructures and Digital Heritage Preservation.”
Tonia Sutherland, “A Culture of Collaboration: Bridging the Gap Between Archive and Repertoire.”
Lorraine Richards, Adam Townes, and Yuan Yuan Feng, “Curation through the Back Door: Enabling Big Data Curation Capabilities in a Non-Archival Organization.”
Sarah Ramdeen and Alex Poole, “’Leaving the mouse on the left is the new leaving the tape in the VCR’: Personal Archiving, Personal Information, and the ‘Pariah Industry’ of Web Pornography”
Archival Education and Knowledge
Alison Langmead, “The History of Archival Education in America: What’s Next?”
Huang Xiaoyu, “The Innovation of Archival Teaching Method: Introducing Archival News into the Classroom.”
James M. O’Toole, “Understanding Understanding: What Do Archivists Need to Know, Then and Now?”
Robert Riter, “Derridean Influences: Archival Readings of Archive Fever.”
Richard J. Cox, Alison Langmead, and Eleanor Mattern are faculty in the Archival and Information Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences.
December 9, 2015
A review of our Handbook of Intellectual Freedom was just published on the website of ADBS, the main library association in France. The review, by Joachim Schöpfel, is in French, but Google translate makes it fairly readable in English. The book is very timely in the French context, as the reviewer points out. We’re very happy to see this connection to our colleagues in France.
November 18, 2015
A couple of paragraphs from Roy Scranton’s Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, from City Lights Books, 2015. Pages 108 and 109:
Wars begin and end. Empires rise and fall. Buildings collapse, books burn, servers break down, cities sink into the sea. Humanity can survive the demise of fossil-fuel civilization and it can survive whatever despotism or barbarism will arise in its ruins. We may even be able to survive in a greenhouse world. Perhaps our descendants will build new cities on the shores of the Arctic Sea, when the rest of the Earth is scorching deserts and steaming jungles. If being human is to mean anything in the Anthropocene, if we are going to refuse to let ourselves sink into the futility of life without memory, then we must not lose our few thousand years of hard-won knowledge, accumulated at great cost and against great odds. We must not abandon the memory of the dead.
As biological and cultural diversity is threatened across the world by capitalist monoculture and mass extinction, we must build arks: not just biological arks, to carry forward endangered genetic data, but also cultural arks, to carry forward endangered wisdom. The library of human cultural technologies that is our archive, the concrete record of human thought in all languages that comprises the entirety of our existence as historical beings, is not only the seed stock of future intellectual growth, but its soil, its source, its womb. The fate of the humanities, as we confront the end of modern civilization, is the end of humanity itself.