February 8, 2017
Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies
Vol 1 (2017)
Guest Editors: Ronald E. Day, Andrew J Lau, Alycia Sellie
Table of Contents
Why is the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies Needed Today?
Andrew J Lau, Alicia Sellie, Ronald E. Day
On “Diversity” as Anti-Racism in Library and Information Studies: A Critique
David James Hudson
Towards an Archival Critique: Opening Possibilities for Addressing Neoliberalism in the Archival Field
Marika Cifor, Jamie A. Lee
Mind the Gap: Towards the Integration of Critical Gerontology in Public Library Praxis
Nicole K. Dalmer
Classification Along the Color Line: Excavating Racism in the Stacks
Contextualising Information Behavior: A Methodological Approach
Nicole Marie Gaston
Questioning the Past and Possible Futures: Digital Historiography and Critical Librarianship
Heidi L.M. Jacobs, Cal Murgu
Critical Pedagogy In Libraries: A Unified Approach
Melissa M. Gustafson
Open Educational Resources and Rhetorical Paradox in the Neoliberal Univers(ity)
Four Theses for Critical Library and Information Studies: A Manifesto
Becoming-Infrastructure: Datafication, Deactivation and the Social Credit System
Ramon Salim Diab
Minting the Obverse: Library and Information Studies as a One-Sided Coin
Engaging an Author in a Critical Reading of Subject Headings
Amelia Bowen Koford
Importance of the Intersection of Library and Information Sciences with Systems Theory
A Case for Critical Data Studies in Library and Information Studies
Review of The Undersea Network
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.
February 1, 2017
A little bit ago we presented our first webinar, Working with Library Juice Press: An Orientation. If you attended, thank you, and I hope you enjoyed it. I promised to share the slides and a recording after the event. I must regretfully apologize that I screwed up the recording, and we will not be sharing it. However, the slides are available here: http://libraryjuicepress.com/slides/Working_with_LJP_slides.pptx
We plan on running this webinar again in about six months, for those interested. We should have issues with the recorder straightened out by then.
January 10, 2017
About the Book
Libraries and Nonprofits: Collaboration for the Public Good (Library Juice Press) will consider the range of partnerships entered into by all types of libraries and nonprofits and will provide resources and best practices for nurturing these collaborations. We are seeking domestic and international case studies which highlight successful (or problematic) collaborations between libraries and nonprofit organizations for inclusion in the book. Case studies may address the following themes relating to nonprofit organizations and library collaborations including (but not limited to):
* civic engagement
* public health
* social safety nets/social work
* arts and culture
* environment/sustainability/food justice
* disability rights
* legal aid/human rights
Examples range from collaborations with financial literacy organizations to provide free or low-cost tax preparation; legal aid organizations to provide civic education and human rights workshops; literacy organizations to provide storytime programs, ESL or tutoring services; or museums to provide exhibitions, pop-up galleries, or STEAM programming.
How to Participate
Authors are invited to submit a case study proposal as an email attachment in Word or PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org on or before Monday, February 20, 2017. The case study proposal should be 300-500 words (Chicago Style) clearly explaining the intent and details of the proposed case study as it relates to the topics listed above. Proposed case studies should be based on unpublished work, unique to this publication and not submitted or intended to be simultaneously submitted elsewhere.
Authors will be notified by Monday, March 27, 2017 about the status of their proposals and sent case study guidelines. Completed case studies are expected to be between 2,000-4,000 words, although shorter or longer case studies are negotiable. Full case studies are expected to be submitted by Monday, June 26, 2017.
Proposals should include
* Author name(s), institutional or organizational affiliation, job title/role
* Brief author(s) bio
* Proposed case study title
* A summary of the proposed case study (300-500 words)
About the authors
Tatiana Bryant, Special Collections Librarian, University of Oregon Libraries
Jonathan O. Cain, Librarian for Data Initiatives and Public Policy, Planning and Management, University of Oregon Libraries
January 7, 2017
Working with Library Juice Press: An Orientation
Presenter: Alison M. Lewis, Chief Acquisitions Editor for Library Juice Press
This free webinar will provide an overview of the processes involved in having a book published with Library Juice Press. Topics covered will include types of books we publish, submitting a proposal, working with your editor, creating a quality manuscript, and an overview and timeline of the publishing process. The intended audience is anyone curious about our publishing process, particularly those who are potentially interested in submitting a book proposal to us. Authors and editors who currently have a book contract with us may also wish to attend. The presentation will last approximately 45 minutes, with 10-15 minutes for questions afterwards.
February 1st, 12 noon EST. One hour duration.
No prior registration is necessary. Just go here at the meeting time:
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.
December 9, 2016
We’re looking forward to meeting you if you’re going to be at ALA Midwinter in Atlanta in January. We will have our usual table in the Exhibits Hall. We are table number 1856. Come with your questions. We look forward to working with you.
October 14, 2016
Library Juice Press and Library Juice Academy are looking for someone, or maybe a couple of people, to help us out with our presence in the exhibits hall during ALA Midwinter in Atlanta, January 20th to 23rd. Compensation is $20/hr, with likely 20 hours of work over the four days (flexible). Transportation to Atlanta and lodging are your responsibility. The primary responsibility is to talk to attendees of the conference about our books and online classes. The main qualification is familiarity with our work. Please send a cover letter and resume to Rory Litwin, at email@example.com.
October 1, 2016
October 1, 2016
Library Juice Press is happy to announce the winner of the Fourth Annual Library Juice Paper Contest. Lisa Sloniowski’s paper, titled, “Affective Labor, Resistance, and the Academic Librarian,” published in Library Trends, was judged by the award jury to be the best paper out of 19 submitted in this year’s contest. The award jury consisted of three members and evaluated papers in a blind process. The jury wrote,
“‘Affective Labor, Resistance and the Academic Librarian’ extends the traditional analysis of librarianship as a feminized profession by drawing on Marxist and Autonomist conceptions of labor to make an important and urgent argument for the role of affective labor in librarianship generally, and reference and liaison librarianship specifically. This immaterial, affective work is increasingly subject to post-Fordist metrics that devalue or disregard the emotional and intellectual subtleties underpinning the work of librarians; baked into the long conversations with students and faculty who may “leave [our] office[s] in tears” (647); or the nuance and care required to develop and curate an intellectually honest research collection. Underscoring the value of librarianship in the digital age and in the context of the neoliberal university we are reminded that we need be mindful of the decisions we make as we move forward as stewards of libraries and librarianship and offered potential modes of resistance.”
Ms. Sloniowski is Associate Librarian at York University in Toronto.
The award for honorable mention goes to Anne Gilliland and Michelle Caswell’s “Records and Their Imaginaries: Imagining the Impossible, Making Possible the Imagined,” published in Archival Science.
The Library Juice Paper Contest winner receives an award of $1000. The intention of this contest is to encourage and reward good work in the field of library and information studies, humanistically understood, through a monetary award and public recognition. Papers submitted may be pending publication, or published (formally or informally) in the year of the award. Any type of paper may be entered as long as it is not a report of an empirical study. Examples of accepted forms would be literature review essays, analytical essays, historical papers, and personal essays. The work may include some informal primary research, but may not essentially be the report of an empirical study.
The critera for judgment are:
– Clarity of writing
– Originality of thought
– Sincerity of effort at reaching something true
– Soundness of argumentation (where applicable)
– Relevance to our time and situation
Entries in next year’s award are due August 1st, 2017.
Library Juice Press is an imprint of Litwin Books, LLC specializing in theoretical and practical issues in librarianship from a critical perspective, for an audience of professional librarians and students of library science.
PO Box 188784, Sacramento, CA 95818
September 24, 2016
Litwin Books provides financial support to scholars in LIS and related fields for travel to conferences they attend, domestically or internationally. Travel grants are limited to $500 for domestic conferences and $1000 for travel to a conference outside the recipient’s home country. No more than one grant is available per recipient per year, and grants over the course of the year are limited to available funds.
Applications should include a CV, the accepted abstract for the presentation, or the paper itself if available, as well as any information about the conference that may be helpful. Evaluation will be based in part on the paper’s “fit” with the publishing program of Litwin Books and its associated imprints. Applications are evaluated by a panel of three judges.
Except in unusual circumstances, funds will be a reimbursement of travel and lodging expenses up to the award amount, based on documentation of the expense and evidence that you participated in the conference (nametag, program, tweets, etc.)
Applications may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 1st of each year. Recipients of the travel grant will be notified on December 1st.
We ask that you acknowledge the travel grant in your presentation and on your CV.
Natalie Baur, to travel from Mexico City to Portland, Oregon, as co-organizer of a one-day forum on community archives during the Society of American Archivists meeting in 2017. $1000
Jamila Ghaddar, to participate in a panel titled, “Archival interventions: Anti-violence and social justice work in community contexts,” at the Association for Information Science and Technology Annual Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2016. $500
Nathaniel Moore, to present his paper, “Speaking Truth to Power: Archives, Community Engagement and Advocacy,” at the Northwest Archivist Annual Conference in Denver in 2016. $500
Jen LaBarbera, to present her paper, “History in the Making: How Archives and Activists Can Work Together,” at the Gender & Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium in 2016. $500
Marika L. Cifor, to present her paper, “Blood, Sweat, and Hair: The Archival Potential of Queer and Trans Bodies,” at the Gender & Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium in 2016. $500
Julie Winkelstein, to present her paper, “Safe in the Stacks: Public Libraries Serving LGBTQ Homeless Youth,” at the Public Library Association Annual Conference in 2016. $500
Nathaniel Enright, to present his paper, “The Austerity of Literacy: The Financialization of Information and the Politics of Debt,” at the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians in 2015. $1000
Anna Wilson, to present her paper, “Comparing Indigenous Approaches to Autism with Western Approaches to Autism,” at the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians in 2015. $500
August 29, 2016
Pushing the Margins: Women of Color and Intersectionality in LIS
Editors: Rose L. Chou and Annie Pho
Literature on diversity in librarianship has mainly focused on recruitment and increasing numbers of librarians of color. This book shifts the focus beyond numbers and instead on the lived experiences of those who are underrepresented in our profession. Using intersectionality as a framework, this edited collection explores the experiences of women of color in libraries. With roots in black feminism and critical race theory, intersectionality studies the ways in which multiple social and cultural identities impact individual experience. Looking at race and gender isolated from each other fails to see the many dimensions in which they intersect and overlap, creating a complicated lived experience that cannot be captured by studying one identity.
Libraries and librarians idealistically portray themselves as egalitarian and neutral entities that provide information equally to everyone, yet the library as an institution often reflects and perpetuates societal racism, sexism, and additional forms of oppression. Women of color who work in libraries are often placed in the position of balancing the ideal of the library providing good customer service and being an unbiased environment with the lived reality of receiving microaggressions and other forms of harassment on a daily basis from both colleagues and patrons.
Typically these conversations and discussions of our experiences as women of color have happened behind closed doors, within trusted circles of friends. Our hope and intention is that by bringing these conversations into a public space, we will raise consciousness of these experiences and start changing perceptions and expectations.
Proposals may consider the following themes and questions:
– Invisible and emotional labor
– Intersections of multiple identities, such as sexuality, gender identity, and socioeconomic class
– Leadership, management, promotion, and authority
– Gender presentation and performance
– Treatment of women of color library workers who are either not in librarian positions or do not have a library degree
– Experiences of women of color as library patrons
– How identity affects approaches to collection development
– How does structural oppression reproduce itself in spaces that are touted to be egalitarian and democratic?
– How does one maintain respect in the library when confronted with oppressive treatment or being stereotyped based on one’s race, gender, or other social categories?
– How can library organizations create better work cultures and environments for staff and patrons to exist as their true selves?
This is not an exhaustive list. Proposals are welcome from anyone involved in libraries, archives, and information science. Contributions from people of color, those who belong to communities underrepresented in LIS, and those who work in school and public libraries are strongly encouraged. Essays that are straightforward scholarship are invited and welcome, as are more hybrid or creative approaches that incorporate scholarly writing with personal narrative, illustrations, graphics, or other strategies consistent with feminist and antiracist methodologies.
This collection will contain papers and essays of approximately 2000 – 5000 words. Proposals should include an abstract of no more than 500 words describing the proposed contribution and a short biographical statement. Send proposals to email@example.com by October 28, 2016.
Notifications will be sent by November 4, 2016. First drafts of manuscripts will be due May 31, 2017. Editing and revision will occur June-December 2017, with an anticipated publication date of Spring 2018.
This book is forthcoming in the Litwin Books/Library Juice Press Series on Critical Race Studies and Multiculturalism in LIS, Rose L. Chou and Annie Pho, series editors.
About the editors
Rose L. Chou is Budget Coordinator at the American University Library. She received her MLIS from San Jose State University and BA in Sociology from Boston College. Rose serves on the ARL/SAA Mosaic Program Advisory Group and is part of the LIS Microaggressions project team. Her research interests include race, gender, and social justice in LIS.
Annie Pho is Inquiry and Instruction Librarian for Peer-to-Peer Services and Public Programming at UCLA Libraries. She received her MLS from Indiana University-Indianapolis and BA in Art History from San Francisco State University. She’s on the editorial board of In the Library with a Lead Pipe, a co-moderator of the #critlib Twitter chat, and a Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians 2014 alumnus. Her research interests are in critical pedagogy, diversity, and student research behavior.
August 18, 2016
This is a position for an independent contractor (so really a business relationship rather than a position), where the successful candidate would do straightforward research projects for Library Juice Press and Library Juice Academy on a contractual basis. A typical project might be a literature review on staff training and professional development for librarians, with document delivery (sending selected articles) as part of the deal. Payment would be on a per-project basis. Since you’re the contractor, you’re setting the price, as long as it is reasonable. This is a good way to make some extra money, put a nice item on your résumé or CV, and help out a publisher who you may believe in. A plus would be very good access to LIS literature through an academic library. Please send your resume and cover letter to Rory Litwin: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
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.