December 11, 2016

New Book: Information Literacy and Writing Studies in Conversation

Information Literacy and Writing Studies in Conversation: Reenvisioning Library-Writing Program Connections

Author: Andrea Baer
Price: $28.00
Published: December 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63400-021-5
Printed on acid-free paper
202 pages

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.

August 8, 2016

Interview with Annie Downey about her new book, Critical Information Literacy

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.”[1] 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.

[1] Maria T. Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, eds., Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press, 2010), xiii.

July 19, 2016

New: Critical Information Literacy: Foundations, Inspiration, and Ideas

Author: Annie Downey
Price: $28.00
Published: July 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63400-024-6
Printed on acid-free paper
204 pages

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.

May 3, 2016

Emily Drabinski’s Keynote from the Information Literacy Summit

Emily Drabinski’s Keynote from the 15th Annual Information Literacy Summit, hosted by DePaul University Libraries and Moraine Valley Community College Library…

December 8, 2015

Interview with Angela Pashia

Angela Pashia is an Assistant Professor and the Instructional Services Outreach Librarian at the University of West Georgia, where she regularly teaches a credit bearing information literacy course. She has a Masters in Information Science & Learning Technologies, with an emphasis in library science, from the University of Missouri, and a Masters in Anthropology from the University of Virginia. She is currently focusing on practicing critical pedagogies, incorporating social justice issues into “the library course”, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Angela is teaching a class for Library Juice Academy in January, titled Developing a Credit-Bearing Information Literacy Course. She has agreed to do an interview for the LJA blog to tell interested people a bit about her course…

July 23, 2015

A Decade of Critical Information Literacy: A Review of the Literature

A Decade of Critical Information Literacy: A Review of the Literature

By Eamon Tewell

From Communications in Information Literacy, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2015)

ABSTRACT

As information literacy continues in its centrality to many academic libraries’ missions, a line of inquiry has developed in response to ACRL’s charge to develop information literate citizens. The literature of critical information literacy questions widely held assumptions about information literacy and considers in what ways librarians may encourage students to engage with and act upon information’s complex and inherently political nature. This review explores the research into critical information literacy, including critical pedagogy and critiques of information literacy, in order to provide an entry point for this emerging and challenging approach to information literacy.

Full text: PDF

March 5, 2015

Drabinski receives 2015 ACRL Instruction Section Ilene F. Rockman Publication of the Year Award

For Immediate Release
Thu, 03/05/2015

Contact:

Chase Ollis
Program Coordinator
ACRL
collis@ala.org
CHICAGO — Emily Drabinski, coordinator of instruction at Long Island University-Brooklyn, has been chosen as the winner of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Instruction Section (IS) Ilene F. Rockman Publication of the Year Award for her article “Toward a Kairos of Library Instruction,” published in 2014 by The Journal of Academic Librarianship. The award recognizes an outstanding publication related to library instruction published in the past two years.

The award, donated by Emerald Group Publishing Ltd., consists of a plaque and a cash prize of $3,000. Drabinski will receive the award during the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco.

“Given the recent discussion and examination of the ACRL IL standards within the profession, Drabinski’s article couldn’t be more timely,” said award committee chair Susanna Eng-Ziskin of California State University-Northridge. “She offers a new approach to information literacy, one that will withstand the test of time by constantly adapting to new realities. The use of Classical Greek theory is an interesting way to reconsider the way librarians interact with students and develop teaching strategies that engage students and promote critical thinking. This exceptionally written thought piece is a must read.”

Information literacy instruction in libraries has traditionally been organized by the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. These standards define a set of external, abstract learning objectives that have been productive of a teaching role for librarians. Simultaneously, the standards have generated a substantial critical literature that contests the objectives as a “Procrustean bed” that distracts from the particular teaching and learning contexts. Drabinski’s paper offers an alternative organizing heuristic for instruction in libraries.

Kairos is an ancient Greek theory of time married to measure. Used by both Plato and the Sophists to understand the emergence of truth from context, kairos has been deployed by composition studies to gain a critical perspective on teaching student writing. Used to understand the context that generated both the first set of standards and the newly approved Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, kairos can usefully direct the energy of teaching librarians toward their particular students and classrooms.

Drabinski received her B.A. from Columbia University, her M.S.L.I.S. from Syracuse University, and her M.A. in Composition and Rhetoric from Long Island University-Brooklyn.

For more information regarding the ACRL IS Ilene F. Rockman Publication of the Year Award, or a complete list of past recipients, please visit the awards section of the ACRL website.

##

About ACRL

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 11,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship. ACRL is on the Web at www.acrl.org/, Facebook at www.facebook.com/ala.acrl and Twitter at @ala_acrl.

About Emerald

Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society. The company manages a portfolio of more than 290 journals and over 2,350 books and book series volumes. It also provides an extensive range of value-added products, resources and services to support its customers’ needs.

Emerald is a partner of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation. It also works in close collaboration with a number of organizations and associations worldwide.

ALA Units:
Association of College and Research Libraries
PR Category:
Awards (Professional Recognition)
Log in or register to post comments

March 4, 2015

Interview with Andrea Baer

Andrea Baer is the Undergraduate Education Librarian at Indiana University-Bloomington. 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.

Andrea has designed and taught three different courses for Library Juice Academy thus far. They are: Information Literacy, Composition Studies and Higher Order Thinking; New Directions in Information Literacy: Growing Our Teaching Practices; and Backward Design for Information Literacy Instruction. We interviewed her about her background and about a couple of these classes last summer.

Right now Andrea is getting ready to teach a new class, Threshold Concepts in the Information Literacy Classroom: Translating the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy into Our Teaching Practices. If you’re an instruction librarian in the U.S., you know that this class is very timely. Andrea agreed to be interviewed about this class to give you an idea of what it covers and what you could expect to get out of it.

Read the interview….

September 17, 2014

Information Ethics Roundtable 2015 – CFP

Information Ethics Roundtable 2015

University of Wisconsin Madison
April 9th & 10th

Theme: Transparency and Secrecy

Information and the CFP here

June 11, 2014

Interview with Andrea Baer

Andrea Baer is the Undergraduate Education Librarian at Indiana University-Bloomington, as well as an Adjunct Lecturer for the University of Tennessee’s School of Information Sciences. 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 teaches two classes for Library Juice Academy: Information Literacy, Composition Studies and Higher Order Thinking and New Directions in Information Literacy: Growing Our Teaching Practices. The first is a class she has taught for us a couple of times now, and the second she is scheduled to teach for the first time next month. Andrea agreed to do an interview for the Library Juice Academy blog about these classes and about herself as an instructor.

February 7, 2014

New book: Informed Agitation

Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond

Editor: Melissa Morrone
Price: $35.00
Published: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936117-87-1

In librarianship today, we encourage voices from our field to join conversations in other disciplines as well as in the broader culture. People who work in libraries and are sympathetic to, or directly involved in, social justice struggles have long embodied this idea, as they make use of their skills in the service of those causes. From movement archives to zine collections, international solidarity to public library programming, oral histories to email lists, prisons to protests —and beyond —this book is a look into the projects and pursuits of activist librarianship in the early 21st century.

The target audience of this book consists of:

  • People interested in going into librarianship who want an idea of nontraditional and activist areas in which librarians operate.
  • Practicing library workers seeking inspiration for ways to combine their expertise with their political interests outside the library.
  • Practicing library workers who want articulations of how their work fits into a broader context of power structures, politics, and social justice.
  • Activists interested in collaborations with library workers and/or projects related to literature, information, education, and documentation in social movements.
  • People in other fields who want to draw connections between their own work and social justice goals, and are looking for supportive literature.
October 17, 2013

Interview with Andrea Baer

Andrea Baer holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Washington and a Masters in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee. She is teaching a class for Library Juice Academy next month, titled, Information Literacy, Composition Studies, and Higher Order Thinking. She has graciously agreed to do an interview for the Library Juice Academy blog, to tell people more about the class, as well as a bit about herself.

September 29, 2013

Ryer Island Geographic Information Controversy

In the Sacramento River Delta, just a short drive to the south of where I live, there is an area with some confusion regarding the official geographic information that has been disseminated about it. There are two islands named Ryer Island, and because of some errors in the past, the one that is populated is impossible to find using most geographic information tools. Here is a website about it: ryerisland.com.

Among other things, I think this site could be used in conjunction with an information literacy lesson regarding the reliability of authoritative information resources.

September 15, 2013

New Title: Information Literacy and Social Justice: Radical Professional Praxis

Information Literacy and Social Justice: Radical Professional Praxis

Editors: Shana Higgins and Lua Gregory
Price: $32.00
Published: September 2013
ISBN: 978-1-936117-56-7

Information Literacy and Social Justice: Radical Professional Praxis extends the discussion of information literacy and its social justice aspects begun by James Elmborg, Heidi L.M. Jacobs, Cushla Kapitzke, Maria T. Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, and Maura Seale. Chapters address the democratizing values implicit in librarianship’s professional ethics, such as intellectual freedom, social responsibility, and democracy, in relation to the sociopolitical context of information literacy. Contributors, ranging from practicing librarians to scholars of related disciplines, demonstrate how they construct intentional connections between theoretical perspectives and professional advocacy to curriculum and pedagogy. The book contributes to professional discourse on libraries in their social context, through a re-activation of the library neutrality debate, as well as through an investigation of what it means for a global citizen to be information literate in late capitalism.

This book is available through Amazon.com or your library’s book jobbers.

Download a PDF of the front matter, including the title page, copyright page, table of contents, acknowledgments, foreword, and introduction.

July 30, 2013

Just published: Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction

Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction

Author: Maria T. Accardi
Price: $22.00
Published: July 2013
ISBN: 978-1-936117-55-0

Number 3 in the Litwin Books Series on Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies, Emily Drabinski, Series Editor

Providing both a theoretical framework and practical guidance, this title introduces feminist pedagogy to librarians seeking to enrich their teaching practices in feminist and progressive ways. Drawing heavily upon the women’s studies literature where the concept first appears, Accardi defines and describes recurring themes for feminist teachers: envisioning the classroom as a collaborative, democratic, transformative site; consciousness raising about sexism and oppression; ethics of care in the classroom; and the value of personal testimony and lived experience as valid ways of knowing. Framing these concepts in the context of the limits of library instruction–so often a 50 minute one-shot bound by ACRL-approved cognitive learning outcomes–Accardi invites a critical examination of the potential for feminist liberatory teaching methods in the library instruction classroom.

This book is available from online booksellers and vendors to libraries and bookstores. Litwin Books and Library Juice Press no longer do direct retail sales to the public.