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  • Anne Pemberton

Spin Cycle: Librarians' Role in Education?

Updated: Jan 28

Hi Interwebs,


A few of my colleagues and I participate in a whenever-we-can-get-to-it journal club. The first rule of journal club is: Do your best to read the article but if you don't, show up anyway.


Today we discussed James Elmborg's 2006 article, "Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice" in the Journal of Academic Librarianship. According to Google Scholar this article has been cited over 600 times and Web of Science indicates it has been cited almost 200 times. [Side note: Google Scholar is free. Web of Science (WoS) is hella expensive. My library subscribes to WoS and that is how I have access.]


I have never read this article or maybe I just do not recall reading it. It is fascinating. Truly.


Here are a few things we noted in journal club:

  • We are having the same conversation in the profession 15 years later!

  • There is so much confusion about the word literacy. See my post about this very thing: https://www.hopefullibrarian.com/post/like-literally-there-are-so-many-literacies.

  • We talked about our experiences in "library school" and whether or not any of our faculty talked about these issues. None of us could recall that they had.

  • We are so constrained by what teaching faculty ask for: "Can you show students how to search X database?"

While the article does not say this, it supports the idea (to me) that our entire educational system in the U.S. is designed around white supremacy. At every turn you are required to fit into a system that was not designed for anyone who does not fit with the ideals of that system. And librarians have had a role in that. But we can also play a critical role in combatting it too. I have spent twenty years talking about why scholarly publications are "the best" and only until a couple of years ago did I start talking about their pros and cons and how they fit into the the larger information ecosystem. There are so many issues: access, marginalized voices, etc.


Some quotes from the article that really resonate for me:

  • "Should librarians be content to teach 'the grammar of information,' or should they emphasize its role in creating privileged discourse?"

  • "We need to talk instead about multiple literacies, both in terms of diversity in human cultures and diversity in message formats."

  • "Should librarians 'serve’ the academy by teaching its literacy skills unquestioningly, or should librarians participate in the critical reflection undertaken by 'educators,’ a reflection that leads us to challenge, if necessary, the politics of academic exclusion, and to participate in the creation of new and better academic models?"

Even though this conversation has been going for what feels like an eternity, there is change. Moving from information literacy Standards to the Framework was a start. And there are so many rock stars in our field talking about these things. And just today a faculty member said in a library board meeting, "I would love for librarians to talk more to the campus and community about evaluating information." YAYYYYYY!!! So I am hopeful.


Love,

Anne


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