Monday, June 7, 2010

My information literacy manifesto

It's not about the tools...

Following on from yesterday. My head is in an epistemological, ontological, pedagogical three way over information literacy right now. There, I've used all my big words, now I can get down to business (or try to make some sense anyway).

The traditional notion of the library and librarian are changing (when are they not).

Libraries are no longer the gate-keepers of information and knowledge they once were. With easy access to an explosion of information online, today's learner can find almost anything without the mediation of a library. Despite this change, libraries have evolved since the spread of web 2.0 into an important part of the new information seeking ecosystem. Rather than become redundant repositories of the old way, libraries have become vibrant social spaces.

Learners now have access to more information than ever in a multitude of media. However, with great freedom comes great responsibility and that's where librarians come in. The stereotype of the scary pearl and twinset wearing librarian is slowly dissapearing as learners begin to consider us a partner in their everyday life information seeking. We are on facebook, twitter, YouTube and other spaces they inhabit and when they can't find something in google we know how to help (among other things). We need to reexamine our role as mentor and focus our teaching on ways of thinking/seeing rather than technology to be mastered.

Web 2.0 and social media has led to a more social and collaborative approach to information seeking and this is where we should look to reinvent our framing of information literacy (IL). Traditionally IL has been described as a set of skills or competencies that we can teach individuals regardless of context. However, we must consider information seeking as a social process based on the context of learners. By this I mean the socio-cultural time and space within which learning occurs. Too often the tools are the focus of IL training when it should be on the symbiotic relationship between technology and changing social practices. By situating learning in context, we allow learners to construct and attach meaning to new skills rather than seeing them as apart from their everyday life information seeking.

Web 2.0 has created a blurring of work/play in everyday life as new technologies enable collaboration and sharing like never before. Social learning and collaborative construction of meaning in context is the crux of a 21stC model of information literacy. With my postmodernist hat on, 'there is no truth, all meaning is socially constructed'. This theory brings to mind the creative commons movement and how critical it was in developing the 'share and reuse' revolution that has led to a more open web. This open, sharing and collaborative online environment allowed a new way of finding, reusing, sharing and creating information which is available via multiple pathways in a multitude of media and user-created content. Learners are now active content-creators and we must take up the challenge ourselves and collaborate in creating shared meanings. All this creativity has led to a push for more fun and games in the library which should of course be integral to any 21stC model of information literacy.

To sum up, I've been thinking about how information literacy came to be and where it's at now. Since developing out of a print paradigm (sorry another big word) IL has failed to naturally adapt, as it should have in response to constantly evolving technologies within a wide range of socio-cultural contexts. I believe we have an opportunity to revitalise IL by taking a more social approach to the way we consider learning, and situating it in socio-cultural context, rather than as a set of competencies or skills/tools that need to be mastered.

Hope that wasn't too out there...
I'm now reading it back and wondering what the hell I'm going on about...

Some of my inspirational reading:
2010 Horizon report
Tuominen et. al. 2005. Information literacy as a sociocultural practice
Kapitzke, Cushla (2003) Information literacy : a review and poststructural critique. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 26(1). pp. 53-66.

p.s. we got a new mac today and photos in this post are 'librarians being silly while playing with Photobooth'.


  1. Ta for reading - shall read them at work tomorrow. I really want to revamp our IL at work. We've just started an info lit community of practice and I'm looking for stuff to stir people up with and put the cat in amongst the pigeons.
    Another great post! *slinks off to write about food... again*

  2. Please stop using big words or I'll ban you from our library.

  3. Either that or I'll start calling you Belinda.

  4. Has Ashley been taught how to read books by George W. Bush?

  5. *AHEM* I would like to point out, MAL, that Sophie's book is upside down in the first picture. Not all of use can use big words without looking them up in the dictionary.

    Love it Sophie!!! You take me right back to our MA IKM!!!

  6. I think that a barrier to good information literacy instruction in academic libraries is that narrow focus of what is considered "core". Too often it is about how to use library tools, regardless of whether that is the best way for the learner to find information, and it pays little attention to the "presearch" process - what people do to track down and find the best terms and tools to use.

    People don't begin and end their search with library materials. Showing people how these materials can fit into everyday search patterns is vital - but rarely done well. Your ideas go a long way toward addressing this...

    BTW - would you consider opening up your comments so that people can sign in with non-google login ?

  7. We show them how to use the tools but we don't give the context of how to embed them in the research process and make the most of them. Students just don't know where to start in that 'presearch' stage. Just because they can search the databases doesn't mean they're going to find anything 'good'.

    Fixed the comments thing - I didn't know I had it on google only!

  8. Hiya Sophie! I totally just had one of those DUH moments at the RHD just now and just knew you would want it on your blog. I was writing about the differences between Researchers and thought about something Mal said to me about the immense differences between students. How a one-size fits all approach doesn't work, nor does labeling people into 'generations'. This immediately made me think about this blog entry (you know - context!). I then had a little sad dejected moment where I thought "How can we possibly create individual personalised experiences that meet everyone's needs" :*(

    Then sunshine rays, strawberries, glitter and joyful times! I realised "We should just make something that they can customise to meet their own needs." I can't believe it took me this long to realise that.

  9. I hate big words too- especially p words (pedagogy and paradigm are my pet hates).
    It has been great to read this post and yesterday's particularly and surprisingly with my name and reference to an article in 2007. I guess I was one of the first to make the connections between IL and Web 2.0 and then came the book (Information Literacy meets Library 2.0) and I'm still blogging away trying to update from the book.
    I thought a few weeks ago that it was all drying up and then this week I suddenly found I had about an inch of reading to catch up on and at the very top were these posts!
    I really like your idea of "information seeking as a social process based on the context of learners."
    I too have noticed that there is a move away from seeing IL as a set of skills and toward users as creators of content and the importance of sharing. Readers of my blog will know that I have seen and commented on a number of articles re. metaliteracies, transliteracies etc. I sill come back to information Literacy as the centre of the literacies but we still have the problem of having a label that grabs people.Let alone having a concept that is easy to market to academics!

  10. Thanks so much for all your comments! I have so much to think about and I look forward to where these thoughts will go. It's amazing that by sharing my ideas here I've been able to connect, share and create with colleagues around the world!