October 17, 2013
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
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
Information Literacy and Social Justice: Radical Professional Praxis
Editors: Shana Higgins and Lua Gregory
Published: September 2013
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
Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction
Author: Maria T. Accardi
Published: July 2013
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.
March 13, 2013
I am going to link to an editorial that is not like what we normally link to here, but it is on a favorite topic of mine, one that I have written about here before (here, here, here, and here), in order to continue asking a question and perhaps to challenge our faith as librarians. Mark Morfords has a column in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle about elitism, in a positive sense, titled, 37 Percent of People Completely Lost. Morfords is asking the uncomfortable question about how a democracy can function when the population is, as measured by surveys, shockingly ignorant and determined to stay that way. He further suggests that providing more and better facts to the ignorant multitudes has not worked and is not going to work, which challenges the faith of librarians who see our mission as supporting the foundations of democracy through information. What do you think?
November 8, 2012
ACRL has embarked on the important, even urgent, initiative to support academic libraries in articulating and demonstrating their value to their institutions at a time in which higher education in general finds itself constantly defending its value. Accountability at numerous levels, from our federal government to our university boards of trustees, is the clarion call of the day. Assessment, accountability, and value have been inexorably linked over the past several decades. Assessing the impact of [information literacy instruction, freshman seminars, general education, fill in the blank] on student learning and achievement is both a means of being accountable to our stakeholders (parents, policy makers, tax payers, etc.) but also demonstrating our value (Why should we continue to exist?). For many academic librarians, specifically those invested in information literacy (IL) instruction programs; the assessment movement has been beneficial insofar as it has meant that IL has become central to many college and university assessment efforts. It has been very satisfying to have our work validated as core to the undergraduate curriculum. However, like many aspects of the curriculum, the value of IL instruction programs is in question, as are the many other services, contents, and processes of the academic library. Assessing the value (financial, impact, or otherwise) of these services, use of contents, and efficiency of processes becomes our means of proving (being accountable) our relevancy in higher education. For instruction librarians this has meant a move from simply recording how many students we’ve reached (whether through classroom instruction, online tutorials, research appointments) to developing IL learning outcomes that are assessed at the course level as well as the institutional level. While we appreciate the growing adoption of IL learning outcomes in core curricula, it is worrisome that it may be simply to satisfy external pressure (i.e. accrediting agencies). Because ultimately the pressure from both external and internal stakeholders is framed in economic terms—return on investment. As educators, the value of assessment should be because it informs our practice (and praxis).
Published in 2010 the Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report prepared by Megan Oakleaf claims that academic library stakeholders “tend to focus on two” particular ways of defining value: financial and impact value (p. 22). The report takes as a given that academic librarians will need to prove that we manage our financial resources well and somehow bring money into our institutions (p. 22). However the report also recognizes that the more meaningful piece for librarians may be in demonstrating “impact value:” “This position posits that academic library value is not primarily a financial concept; rather the value of information is its contribution to making improvements in users (Wilson, Stenson and Oppenheim 2000, 3-4)” (p. 24). Nonetheless impact value as described in the report still pivots on a conception of value as an economic construct of sorts, a return on investment embodied by an improvement in the user. The term “improvement” suggests that information has increased the value of the individual. Information, as object and commodity, and teaching and learning may indeed increase the market value of the individual, but for many information literacy instruction librarians the value of teaching is not measureable in economic terms but is instead that which “transforms”. In other words the transformative value is that which develops critical consciousness, a broadening of one’s worldview in order to appreciate the multiplicity of perspectives and the complexity of any given issue or situation. Transformation may alter but not necessarily improve or increase impact value (i.e. retention, graduation rates, career success, GPA, etc.).
A recent follow-up to the 2010 report, Connect, Collaborate, and Communicate: A Report from the Value of Academic Libraries Summit (Association of College and Research Libraries, 2012) does attend to some transformative values, for example “academic intimacy” (p. 12), yet seems to ignore these in their “Actions for the profession” items. In the spirit of action item 3.3, “to “Build a community of practice to engage and sustain professional dialogue about library value,” we’d like to consider the integration of our understanding of library value with our professional values.
Some of the foundational Core Values of librarianship (American Library Association, 2004) include free access to information, democracy as it hinges on an informed citizenry and the First Amendment’s mandate to free expression, the public good, and social responsibility. Is the concept of value as articulated in the ACRL value reports antithetical to these core values expressed by ALA?
In a recent post from In the Library With a Lead Pipe, Emily Ford asks us to consider the “why” of what we do as an intervention in what she sees as failed attempts to demonstrate our value. Ford recommends that the library community develop a philosophy of librarianship. She suggests that engaging with philosophy will enable the library community to move from practice to praxis—professional practice informed by theory, or a philosophical framework. Perhaps we need only look to our Core Values to articulate a philosophy of librarianship.
Barbara Fister emphasizes the importance of Ford’s recommendations (Fister, 2012, August 28) and also shares thoughts on value and values in a recent post (2012, September 19), stating that:
“We librarians seem anxious to prove our value these days, but what we really should articulate more clearly and loudly is our values. When we focus on defending our existence to our administrators, we end up…with a focus far too narrow, too parochial, too myopic to ensure that our values inform what libraries should be.”
We’d like to see this conversation grow on the apparent disconnect between articulating our value with our values, especially in relation to information literacy instruction. We have submitted for consideration a proposal for an ACRL Instruction Section Current Issue Discussion Group at ALA Annual with the hope that other instruction librarians are also concerned about the apparent disconnect between our value and our values. However, it is likely that the proposal is too philosophical to be accepted, so we’d love to get your feedback here, at the Library Juice Blog, or via personal email.
Can we articulate our Core Values while also demonstrating our value in economic terms? Do we risk losing our value as defenders/providers of equity of access, free speech, intellectual freedom, and the public good if we concede to the narrative of crisis fueling the value initiative? How do we fit our Core Values into our information literacy learning outcomes? Is it possible to re-orient the conversation in order to re-value conceptions of value?
Lua Gregory & Shana Higgins
American Library Association. (2004). Core values of librarianship. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/statementspols/corevaluesstatement/corevalues.
Association of College and Research Libraries. (2012). Connect, collaborate, and communicate: A report from the value of academic libraries summits. Prepared by Karen Brown and Kara J. Malenfant. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.
Fister, B. (2012, August 28). The self-centered library: A paradox. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/self-centered-library-paradox.
Fister, B. (2012, September 19). What libraries should be: A values proposition. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/what-libraries-should-be-values-proposition.
Ford, E. (2012, August 8). What we do and why we do it? In the Library With a Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2012/what-do-we-do-and-why-do-we-do-it/.
Oakleaf, M. (2010). The value of academic libraries: A comprehensive research review and report. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.
Wilson, R. M. S., Stenson, J., & Oppenheim, C. (2000). Valuation of information assets. Loughborough: Loughborough University.
October 18, 2012
I have just done an interview with Maria Accardi for the Library Juice Academy news blog. Maria is teaching a class next month called, “Changing Lives, Changing the World: Information Literacy and Critical Pedagogy.” This course is based on part on work that she did leading up to her co-editing the book published by Library Juice Press in 2010, Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods. Maria talks about how she teaches this class in a way that is designed to let participants’ own experiences and insights play a big part in the learning process, and what this class was like when she taught it previously.
August 22, 2012
I just listened to the latest episode of Steve Thomas’s podcast, “Circulating Ideas,” with academic librarians Lauren Pressley and Lynda Kellam. Towards the end of the show, they discussed how they’re teaching their students to evaluate information but questioned how they’re doing with the “finding things” part. “Are they [the students] making the connection that they can go to their public library to do this kind of work?” asked Kellam. “How are we making that jump into – what does this mean for when you get out of here?” Kellam and Pressley pointed out that in school, the students are educated with resources that may not be available to them once they leave. How does information literacy as it’s taught in college library labs translate into living in the real world after they graduate? And, as they put it, how do you make the connection to the public library in an instructional “one-shot”?
A few months ago, I talked to a librarian at one of the City University of New York (CUNY) campuses who had also started thinking about how the concept of “lifelong learning” fits into what he does at work. I don’t know whether he’s been able to incorporate any new techniques into his instruction, but I think it’s a great thing for academic librarians to consider. After all, we spend many more years – decades – navigating life and (ideally) learning as we go along than we do figuring out how to limit proprietary periodical database results to peer-reviewed articles just because the professor told us to. More recently, a colleague and I met with a few librarians (including the marvelous Alycia Sellie) at one of the local CUNY campuses. We talked about creating handouts that would cross-reference community college and public library resources, and we brainstormed programs at the public library that could supplement academic library instruction (such as “Got a Paper?” clinics).
Because, of course, we in the public library are already seeing your students, academic librarians – at least in my system in NYC, we get lots of CUNY and other college students coming to the reference desk, usually in search of books on their various syllabi. Sometimes we have what they’re looking for, but often we have to gently explain that the public library doesn’t have any university-level economics textbooks, much less the 12th edition of the one that their professor has assigned. Many times the patrons are just accustomed to going to their neighborhood library when they need a book or articles or “information,” and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to disabuse them of that notion – even though at this stage in their life they need to realize that we’re more likely than not going to refer them back to their school.
In California, LILi (Lifelong Information Literacy) is “a group of librarians from various types of California libraries, investigating information literacy definitions, standards and instruction in California, in order to craft effective models of lifelong, sequential information literacy instruction.” Maybe one day we’ll have something similar in New York City (and in your town or city as well) that formally brings together school, public, and academic librarians. But regardless of whether it’s institutionalized – how can academic and public librarians work together now to prepare students to handle all of the information needs they’ll encounter throughout their lives?
July 18, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a presentation of research projects at METRO, New York City’s major library consortium. The researchers were almost all practicing librarians, mostly at academic institutions, who worked in groups on topics of their choice. The approach of three out of the four groups was primarily to kind of shop themselves out as information experts available to assist in the work of the given organization or individual.
I was particularly interested in the fashion blogging project, not because I’m interested in fashion blogs but because their report combined several things that I do find engaging – the ways in which librarians try to get people in other fields to pay attention to us and our training, librarians’ desire to be helpful and share our expertise, the communication channels of specialized communities, information behavior data gathering methodology, and people’s desire for “authenticity.” Here, that last element manifested as the fashion bloggers’ general unwillingness to ask for or accept research and citation assistance in their writing, since research was part of their job as a blogger. Instead, they said they wanted help along the lines of a photographer or an image organizer.
In the case of the librarians who chose to work with Occupy Wall Street, they were challenged by mistrust from OWS in general (fear of infiltration, of course; it didn’t seem like they had any ties to NYC lefty communities who could vouch for them), but especially, they said, from the OWS librarians. They ended up establishing contact with the Eco Cluster, who were enthusiastic about the prospect of research help. Ultimately, they all decided that an annotated bibliography on climate change impacts would be a useful project to tackle. The bibliography was presented at relevant events this spring – some people from the OWS group brought the bibliography to the Climate Impact Day in May and Rio+20 in June. They got some nice feedback: “[W]hat MyMetro Reseachers have handed grassroots campaigners is a compendium of information that would be tricky for the general public to track down using a common search engine,” wrote an eco blogger and activist.
Take a look at that bibliography and read the other groups’ reports – besides fashion blogging and OWS, the topics were lifelong learning for seniors and social media use by an elementary school’s Friends group. I think it’s great that METRO is encouraging this kind of real-life inquiry and extension of library skills.
May 29, 2012
Call for Papers
TITLE: Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond (An Edited Collection)
EDITOR: Melissa Morrone is a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library and has been involved in Radical Reference as well as other social justice groups.
BOOK ABSTRACT: 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. Following in the tradition of works such as Activism in American Librarianship, 1962-1973; Revolting Librarians; and Revolting Librarians Redux, this title will be a look into the projects and pursuits of activist librarianship in the early 21st century.
POSSIBLE TOPICS: Essays should describe specific activities undertaken by the library worker and how the work was received by fellow activists and/or the constituents of the project. Such activities may include:
- Programming and collection development that gives voice to underrepresented communities and subjects.
- Conducting community-based reference or other information services outside of any institutional affiliation.
- Setting up libraries or archives in political organizations and contexts.
- Doing research on behalf of social justice campaigns.
- Training people in technology and content creation with the goal of community empowerment.
- Other creative ways of using library and information skills to support activist causes, both inside and outside of conventional library settings.
Essays should also include analysis of the ways in which these activities are in sync with but may also challenge the “core values” of librarianship.
OBJECTIVE OF THE BOOK: This edited collection, to be published by Library Juice Press in June 2013 asks: How and to what end are people using their library skills in the service of wider social justice causes? What do these activities say about the future of library work, both inside and outside of traditional institutions?
- 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.
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: Please submit abstracts and proposals of up to 500 words to informed.agitation AT gmail by July 15, 2012. Notifications will be sent by September 1. A first draft from 1,500-7,000 words will be due by November 15, and final manuscripts will be due by January 15, 2013.
January 7, 2012
A site set up by tricky spammers, potentially useful in information literacy instruction: “CNBC” report on “income at home system.”
October 7, 2011
I was honored when Rory Litwin asked me to write for Library Juice. I have followed the blog for some time now and have always found it a source of interest. As this is my first post, I thought I’d write on an issue that I find to be central to librarianship, namely, the tension between our role to provide general access to information and our roles as reference librarians or research assistants. Historically, librarians were responsible for relatively discrete collections about which few people had much knowledge. Consequently, the main service that librarians provided was to help patrons find resources — particularly the best resources – available in their collections. Furthermore, there wasn’t much chance of accessing holdings outside of those collections, so when librarians could acquire more resources, they needed to be very sure that the new acquisitions were the best that were available. Librarians were constantly making judgments about the quality of the resources that they were providing to their patrons.
To some extent this is still true, but during the past half century or so, our profession has concentrated on expanding access. Our roles as reader advisors, research assistants, and collection curators have declined, and our role in linking our patrons to vast storehouses of information through interlibrary loan systems, aggregated databases, and automated search tools has expanded. In many circles, arranging access seems to be taken to be the whole of librarianship. It isn’t surprising, then, that the success of Google and other popular search engines has caused such anxiety among librarians. If access is our sole reason for being, then what do we do when our “competitors” can satisfy our patrons’ needs more quickly, easily, and effectively?
Recently, I’ve come to think that we should remember that providing access is only one of our professional responsibilities, and that it probably has become overemphasized. We need to reengage in the activities we left behind when we turned our efforts so much to providing access. In a time when information availability is exploding, we should remember that our patrons need guidance through the morass of data that lurks behind every poorly constructed search. We can do this, not just by “going to where they are” and offering to do their searches for them, but by seeking out the best resources and making those particular resources more readily available.
Practically speaking, this means that librarians must begin to de-emphasize the value of access in general and re-emphasize their role as research assistants. We need to provide our patrons with the reader advisory services that were once a core element of our work. In academic libraries, this can be done most readily by creating guides to the literature, but those guides need to go far beyond what we see in most guides. They need to be more than simply lists of useful databases and video tutorials on using various search tools. They need to do such things as introduce patrons to the nature of the field of study, provide a history of its devepment, and identify its most important figures, and its classic and important current works. Library administrations will need to hire subject specialists with significant expertise, who are potentially capable of teaching courses in the departments they serve.
Of course, this presents a challenge to our desire to remain “neutral” or “unbiased” with regard to the subject matter that we make available, but we need not shy away from the challenge. We must conscientiously identify the information that we judge to be most worthwhile, while remaining reasonably humble about our abilities to discriminate the wheat from the chaff. We need to exercise our right to the freedoms that our teaching colleagues have in expressing our views about our fields of expertise. We owe it to our patrons to apply our professional judgment about the value of the resources available to them and not simply serve as human cogs in an access providing machine.
September 24, 2011
For those who have noted, along with Jon Stewart, that in the Fox News era the media treats facts in a relative way, as a matter of political taste… This phenomenon was first described by Frankfurt School critical theorist Herbert Marcuse, in his 1965 essay, “Repressive Tolerance.” According to Marcuse, it is a problem of the media system itself. Whatever ideas it communicates, as radical as they may be, become an entertainment commodity that audiences consume. It is a pessimistic standpoint, but it does clarify the fact that there is a way to stand outside the mass media system.
I would like to use this point of Marcuse to challenge librarians to reflect on their own understanding of information literacy and how we teach about it to our students. Are you teaching students to be outside of the world of media messages as thinkers and doers? I think that critical thinking, which is the heart of information literacy, is not possible without that ability.
July 31, 2011
CFP: Information Literacy and Social Justice: Radical Professional Praxis (An Edited Collection)
Shana Higgins and Lua Gregory are instruction and reference librarians at University of Redlands. They recently co-taught a first-year seminar titled, “Bleep! Censorship and Free Speech in the U.S.”
In her award winning essay “Information Literacy and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis,” Heidi L.M. Jacobs draws out the inherent democratizing and social justice elements of information literacy as defined in the “Alexandria Proclamation On Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning.” She suggests that because of these underlying social justice elements, information literacy “is not only educational but also inherently political, cultural, and social” (258). We propose to extend the discussion of information literacy and its social justice aspects that James Elmborg, Cushla Kapitzke, Maria T. Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, and Maura Seale have begun. If we consider the democratizing values implicit in librarianship’s professional ethics (such as intellectual freedom, social responsibility, diversity, democracy and privacy, among others) in relation to the sociopolitical context of information literacy, we will begin to make intentional connections between professional advocacy and curriculum and pedagogy. We hope this book will encourage a renewal of professional discourse about libraries in their social context, through a re-activation of the “neutrality debate,” as well as through an investigation of what it means for a global citizen to be information literate in late capitalism.
Objective of book:
This edited collection, to be published by Library Juice Press in Fall 2012, poses the following questions: What are the limits of standards and outcomes, such as ACRL’s [i.e. Standard 1.2 The information literate student identifies a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information. ], in fitting information literacy instruction to the complex contexts of information in the real world? Would the teaching of social justice and the democratizing values of the library profession strengthen critical information literacy in the classroom? And how do we balance the need to teach search skills and critical information literacy in our instructional efforts?
The target audience for this book includes instruction librarians, library instruction program coordinators, faculty and instructors interested in information literacy, and all librarians interested in the political, economic, social, and cultural contexts of the production, dissemination, suppression, and consumption of information.
We encourage proposals on the intersections of information literacy instruction with the democratizing values of the library profession.
- Possible topics may include information literacy aspects of media coverage of war and embedded journalism, renewal of the Patriot Act, market-based censorship, for-profit libraries (Library Systems & Services), EPA library closures and access to environmental information, immigrants and library access, Wikileaks and government censorship, corporate censorship, anti-communism and anti-socialism in the media, classification of government documents, international and comparative studies on censorship, First Amendment protection to whistleblowers and the press, British Petroleum and oil spill research, global warming censorship, and library database mergers.
- Examples of information literacy sessions focusing on the above topics and/or framed by democratizing and social justice values of the library profession. Examples can also be aimed at specific disciplines.
- Discussions of theories/theorists (e.g. Noam Chomsky, Edward S. Herman, C. Wright Mills, Paulo Friere, Peter McClaren, etc.) and their usefulness in illuminating sociopolitical contexts of information within the classroom.
- Discussions on the “neutrality debate” in light of the sociopolitical and cultural context of information.
Please submit abstracts and proposals of up to 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15, 2011. Notifications will be sent by November 1 and manuscripts from 1,500-7,000 words will be due by March 1, 2012.
June 30, 2011
Julia Skinner has posted a thoughtful review of Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods to her blog. Her review will give readers a good sense of whether the books is for them.