Category Archives: TTW Contributor Dr. Troy Swanson

Comics, Games, Art, Literature at Graphic Novel Symposium by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

Since I have shared some of our planning on my library’s Graphic Novel Symposium in TTW posts (seeBehind the Scenes of the Graphic Novel Symposium & Grahpic Novel Symposium–#comicculture), I want to share our final video that summarizes our event.

You can watch our faculty lectures from the Graphic Novel Symposium at: Moraine Valley Graphic Novel Symposium,

Graphic Novel Symposium at Moraine Valley

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the co-editor of the upcoming book from ACRL, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Behind the Scenes of the Graphic Novel Symposium: by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

Our college’s design team has been doing a series of videos on our library’s upcoming Graphic Novel Symposium. (I posted video 1 back in May and video 2 in June.) Our library is fortunate to have such talented individuals who make us look good. Learn more about the Symposium at our website.

Behind the Scenes: Graphic Novel Symposium Event Planning


Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the co-editor of the upcoming book from ACRL, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Information as a Human Right: A Missing Threshold Concept? by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

The discussion around ACRL’s new Information Literacy Framework for Higher Education is quickly growing and deepening. As a member of the Task Force that created the Framework, it is heartening to see. (As I have noted in the past, I am a member of this Task Force but I do not speak on behalf of the Task Force here.) One area of discussion that interests me has arisen from librarians interested in critical pedagogy and critical information literacy (the application of critical pedagogy to information literacy instruction). In response to the second draft, a group of librarians has issued a call for a stronger statement within the Framework on civic engagement and social justice.

I have written on critical pedagogy and information literacy several times over the last decade (starting with A Radical Step: Implementing A Critical Information Literacy Model, portal, 4:2, 2004). From my perspective, critical information literacy is a meaningful avenue for understanding information and connecting to the authentic experiences of students. Critical information literacy provides the opportunity to discuss the power structures behind the information ecosystem, the privilege that some voices have over others, and the existing possibilities to diversify participation in the larger scholarly and civic dialogue.

Thus, as I participated in the work of the Task Force, I kept the values championed by critical pedagogy in mind, and I know that many on our Task Force did the same. I believe that these issues came through in the draft document and I’d like to point out how the new Framework connects with critical information literacy in several places:

Information has value: by acknowledging the privilege of some voices over others and by noting some of the pitfalls of the commodification of information;

Authority is Constructed and Contextual: by noting that meaning forms around and through communities;

Research as Inquiry: by noting that inquiry can focus on society and personal needs;

Scholarship is a conversation: by noting that the scholarly record is not made up of uncontested knowledge but that meaning is negotiated and difficult;

Searching as Exploration: by recognizing that understanding search systems is a form of empowerment.

During our process in creating the Framework, the Task Force drafted a potential frame called, “Information as a Human Right.” The heart of this draft frame viewed information and access to information as necessities for freedom of expression, healthy communities, the right to education, and universal human rights. We spent quite a bit of time considering and debating whether this idea would count as a threshold concept for information literacy. Personally, I considered this frame as counter to the view of information as a commodity and as intellectual property which is emphasized in “Information has Value”.  However, as we worked on “Information as a Human Right,” it essentially vanished before our eyes.

While the Task Force recognized a degree of overlap within all of the frames, this frame heavily crossed over into the other frames (as named above). The recognition of “Information as a Human Right” echoes many of the philosophies and values expressed by ALA, ACRL, and IFLA. However, I am not convinced that this particular frame is as transformative in the way that the other frames are transformative. In other words, it is not clear that one must cross this threshold in order to grow toward information literacy. Threshold concepts define areas of knowledge required for mastery of a subject. This frame felt more like an application (knowledge practice) within the other frames. This seemed like an approach that one would use through assignments to advance the threshold concepts, “Information Has Value” or “Scholarship is a Conversation.”

Additionally, a frame that emphasized social justice issues would make (or appear to make) a political statement for the sake of being political. When compared to the other six frames, this one stood apart. It felt less like a definition of interaction within the information ecosystem and more akin to a values statement. Considering that its key components were part of the other frames, “Information as a Human Right” didn’t fit the Framework.

swansonphotoAs I noted previously on this blog, I believe that this Framework should be a living document and that part of its value is the opportunity to create a research agenda for information literacy. With this in mind, I would like to see librarians within ACRL take up “Information as a Human Right” (or a related concept) and write it as a frame. Perhaps, it exists and a broader conversation would better define it?

I (speaking for me and not the Task Force) would like to see this discussion move forward. How would such a frame be written? What are the knowledge practices and dispositions that would make up such a frame? This would be useful for the discussion and practitioners who could utilize it. The Task Force is recommending that an online sandbox be created to pull together examples of curriculum that use the new Framework. The online sandbox will provide an excellent opportunity for those working with critical pedagogical approaches to share their outcomes, sample assignments, and other materials.

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the co-editor of the upcoming book from ACRL, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Being Bounded. Being a Discipline. Owning Information Literacy by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

I have written several times on this blog about ACRL’s draft Information Literacy Framework that is set to replace the Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education. The new Framework has generally been well-received, and the Task Force is working diligently to address questions and concerns expressed by members’ responses to previous drafts. (As I have noted in the past, I am a member of this Task Force but I do not speak on behalf of the Task Force here.)

The new Framework is built upon a set of threshold concepts that define a continuum between novice and experienced researchers. Threshold concepts were developed by Meyer and Land and introduced to information literacy by Lori Townsend, Korey Burnetti, and Amy R. Hofer (see Townsend, L., Brunetti, K., & Hofer, A. R. (2011). Threshold Concepts and Information Literacy. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 11, 3, 853-869).

Most of the feedback submitted regarding the use of threshold concepts to reconceptualize and rethink how we approach the teaching of information literacy has been very positive. However, there has been one critique that I feel is significant, but misses the mark. Thus, I wanted to offer these thoughts.

The critique goes something like this:  The new Framework defines thresholds that are transformative, irreversible, and integrative, but the new Framework fails to meet the criteria of being bounded. Basically, the new Framework fails to meet the definition of a threshold concept as defined by the literature. Those making the critique note that information literacy threshold concepts can’t possibly be bounded because information literacy is developed within other disciplines. The critique states that information literacy and librarianship are not disciplines, and therefore, the dispositions of information literate individuals grow and develop across a range of disciplines (especially for undergraduates). Thus, information literacy cannot be bounded.

I disagree with this critique. I think that the new Framework defines a set of threshold concepts that are as bounded as concepts within other disciplines. The meaning of “boundedness” does not necessarily revolve around course prefixes, numbers of classes, academic journals, or scholarly societies. Threshold concepts define a “conceptual terrain.” This conceptualization is defined around an area of scholarship or practice.

Let’s consider what threshold concepts might look like in another discipline. We could define a set of threshold concepts for psychology, and these concepts would surely cross into sociology, philosophy, education, and many other disciplinary terrains. Psychological concepts are not only taught by psychologists in psychology classes. They will surely touch other areas of study, but, practitioners within those other areas of study may or may not care that they are teaching threshold concepts from an outside discipline. Threshold concepts in psychology only have meaning within a learning context for practitioners seeking to understand how knowledge develops within that bounded area of scholarship. I reject the notion that a domain of knowledge (as defined by a set of threshold concepts) is somehow not bounded because other instructors advance students forward on the continuum of learning. This notion fails to account for the interconnectedness of all disciplines of knowledge.

swansonphotoTo me, the new Framework is a statement for librarians in higher education that helps to define information science as our discipline and information literacy as our pedagogical (andragogical) approach. This does not mean that it is our goal to make students into librarians just like it is not the goal of psychology faculty to necessarily turn all of their students into psychologists. However, aren’t we working to inject our “abilities, practices, and dispositions” into the curriculum? Isn’t that our goal?  For quite a while, librarians have been saying that information literacy is not exclusively ours because we have wanted to push it into the larger agenda of higher education and to use it to foster partnerships. While these should remain our tasks, instruction librarians “on the ground” working directly with faculty members know that instructors are really focused on the learning outcomes of their courses (a sentiment Meridith Farkas echoes here). They are not as concerned with standards, and they are often less concerned with definitions of information literacy. They are focused on the nitty-gritty of keeping ahead of their students each week, and if librarians are able to engage in the instructional design process in meaningful ways, then faculty are often open to collaboration. The new Framework gets us out of the business of defining information literacy for everyone else and provides librarians with deeper understandings of the ways that information literacy connects to the curriculum. It provides definitions and knowledge practices but lets librarians define learning outcomes that are appropriate for their context.

I am ready to say that the threshold concepts as defined within the new Framework are bounded and by saying this, accept that we are a discipline. We should own information literacy. We should value our knowledge, our skills, and our impact on the curriculum as much as educators in other disciplines. But by owning information literacy, this does not mean that librarians exclusively teach it just as faculty in other disciplines do not exclusively teach ideas within their domains. By owning information literacy, we acknowledge our expertise, we can further define a scholarly practice, and we can set a research agenda that explores student learning around information literacy.

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the co-editor of the upcoming book from ACRL, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

2014 Information Literacy Summit Keynote (post by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson)

On April 25th, we held our 13th annual Information Literacy Summit in Illinois. This event is a partnership between Moraine Valley Community College Library and DePaul University Libraries. We are excited to share the keynote address on metaliteracy, information literacy, MOOCs, and threshold concepts featuring Trudi Jacobson and Tom Mackey.

Changing Models, Changing Emphases: The Evolution of Information Literacy featuring Trudi Jacobson & Tom Mackey

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book,Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Using the New IL Framework to Set a Research Agenda by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

[I have posted on the new (draft) Information Literacy Framework from ACRL here, and you can also read the thoughts of others here.]

As we approach the upcoming ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas (in June) where our task force will unveil a more complete draft, I wanted to offer some thoughts on how this Framework connects to undergrads with a special nod toward my community college colleagues. (I do not speak for the Task Force in this post.)

As the Task Force has acknowledged, we are basing our work on the groundbreaking work of Lori Townsend, Korey Burnetti, and Amy R. Hofer who almost single-handedly have pushed our profession into a new way of thinking about information literacy (see Townsend, L., Brunetti, K., & Hofer, A. R. (2011). Threshold Concepts and Information Literacy. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 11, 3, 853-869). The new Information Literacy Framework is built around a series of threshold concept that define a line between the expert and the novice. When the novice crosses these thresholds, the novice moves toward becoming an expert.

To me, it is very important for those of us working with first-year students to understand that many of our students will not cross these thresholds in the first year. For those of us in community colleges, we must recognize that many of our students may not cross these thresholds while they are attending our institutions. They may cross these thresholds as upperclassman after they transfer or maybe after they have entered the workforce. However, this does not mean that these thresholds do not apply to us or are not useful to those of us working with first and second-year students. It is our job to assess where our students are in reaching these thresholds and then to find ways in our curriculum to increase their ability to move forward.

I have heard from several community college librarians who are concerned that the new Framework does not connect to our career programs (vocational certificates). While I understand the concern, I do not agree, and I wanted to offer my perspective (not speaking for the Task Force).

To take an example, the most common concern is that the threshold concept “Scholarship is a Conversation” does not connect to these career programs. I would argue that there many areas of discourse around the careers/professions offered by community colleges. These areas look much like scholarly discourse in many ways. They deal with theory, ethics, technology, and general approaches to what counts as knowledge within the respective professions. Professions as wide ranging as welding (yes, there are welding journals), nursing, automotive, massage therapy, polysomnography, respiratory therapy, and others have professional literatures where ideas are exchanged, new approaches are developed, and old approaches are invalidated. All areas of professional study have a level of discourse–a conversation–that makes meaning for the profession. The threshold concept “Scholarship is a Conversation” refers to the scholarship around traditional academic disciplines as well as the scholarship around all career programs.

I think all of the thresholds in the new Framework can be equally applied to career programs. Each vocational program has a living literature, professional ethics, and core theories upon which the profession rests. It is up to those of us who work to build information literacy skills within career students to adapt these concepts to meet their programmatic needs.

Additionally, I have heard from some librarians that the new Framework is not applicable to one-shot sessions. I would argue that one-shot sessions work to build underlying (often searching) skills in students. It doesn’t really matter whether we are using the existing IL standards or the new Framework, the one-shot session is a very small piece of the larger information literacy picture. Even under the existing standards,  I do not recall anyone thinking that a student would be “information literate” after a one-shot session. I am excited about the Task Force’s work because the new Framework is an attempt to define information literacy with greater depth beyond the information-literacy-as-searching definition which often underlies much of the teaching we do in one-shot sessions. Information literacy is more than searching.

The new Framework is an opportunity to offer a definition of information literacy with more depth and meaning to the communities we serve. Once the new Framework is completed and approved by the ACRL board, our work is not done. As a profession, we have the opportunity to define a research agenda around the new Framework. I would be interested to read research into the following:

1. Are there other threshold concepts not included in this Framework?
2. How well do the proposed threshold concepts hold up when tested in the field?
3. What are the steps that faculty members and librarians must take to move new students toward these thresholds?
4. Do students tend to cross these thresholds at different times?
5. How do we adapt professional and/or disciplinary IL standards into new Frameworks based on threshold concepts?

As librarians, our “discipline” works between traditional disciplines/career fields. But, we should recognize that our discipline swansonphotostill needs a research agenda that builds theory and makes our profession more effective. To me, information literacy is at the core of what we do and our research agenda should be built upon it. The new Framework presents a chance to move our research forward.

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book,Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Graphic Novel Symposium — #comicculture by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

GN CardImage

We are very excited about our upcoming Graphic Novel Symposium, which will be in September of 2014. Check out our website, We are aiming to create an academic event that can be utilized by our faculty members in the arts and humanities (and maybe other areas of the curriculum).  We’ll be featuring faculty lectures, local comic shops, a gaming event, and a cosplay event.

We’ve been working on the marketing for this ,  and we recruited one one of our awesome catalogers, Brenda Lozano, as our model for our images. Yes, it’s true. When Brenda is not cataloging our electronic resources and helping to write our metadata standards, she is modeling.  You can see the results of this shoot at our downloads page.  Also, check out this short video about the photo shoot.

Behind the Scenes: Graphic Novel Symposium Photo Shoot


Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book,Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Your Curriculum is Not About 3D Printers or Zombies By TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Texas Library Association Conference in San Antonio. While there, I had the opportunity to talk with Justin Hoenke (among many folks) who is also a contributor to this blog. We discussed his work at the Chattanooga Public Library and, specifically about the use of their 3D printer. Listening to him talk, it really struck me that at the basic level Justin does not really care about the 3D printer. The 3D printer is all well and good, but the thing that he is really after is the learning, the creativity, that the printer enables. Justin told me, “if libraries want to get into the maker movement, they don’t really need a 3D printer. They really just need a roll of duct tape and some raw materials to use in building” (this quote was given to me over drinks so please take it as more representative of his larger points as opposed to an exact quote). It was clear to me that Justin was not really a technologist, even if he uses technology to do his work. He gets excited about the things that people can do with the technology (even if the technology is a roll of duct tape).

This year my library received two awards for our campus-wide zombie game . We received the Proquest Innovation in Libraries Award from ACRL  and the Innovation of the Year Award from our own campus. I mention these awards partly because of a character flaw where I like to show off. But I also bring these up because our library’s zombie game is comparable to Justin’s 3D printer. We didn’t organize our game because we wanted to play a game. We did it because we wanted to organize a learning event that enriched the curriculum in a unique way that no other campus department could. We could pull together IT support and student activities while still making the event curricular giving faculty a tool to use to create assignments. Faculty members from across the curriculum created assignments so that their students could participate. This included microbiology, nursing, statistics, massage therapy, criminal justice, writing, speech, and others.

It wasn’t too long ago when it was trendy for administrators within higher education to merge the library with IT departments. Obviously, every institution has their own reasons and goals when they reorganize, but this move always concerned me a little bit. I always have felt that moving libraries outside of the academic division sort of missed what libraries are all about. Moving libraries to IT emphasizes their role as learning infrastructure and DE-emphasizes their role in learning. And I have always thought that the whole point was learning. Perhaps, David Lankes makes the best point in The Atlas of New Librarianship. He notes that librarians can no longer think simply about service communities, but that librarians must focus on the learning needs of those service communities. It’s about curriculum.

So, what’s your curriculum? Your curriculum is simply the learning needs of community. Your curriculum ties together resources, events, swansonphotospace, classes, technology, and other services aimed at learning. Your curriculum recasts the purpose of your library away from stuff, away from content. Your curriculum doesn’t just bring you face-to-face with your community. Your curriculum brings you face-to-face with your learners. And, most importantly, your curriculum is not about 3D printers or zombie games.

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book,Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Fair Use is in the Eye of the Beholder…or Not by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson


I have a decent understanding of copyright and the process of determining fair use, but I didn’t have a good understanding of how YouTube enforces and adjudicates copyright disputes. I’ll own up to my naiveté, but even after acknowledging this, I am still troubled by YouTube’s approach to copyright enforcement.

I thought about titling this post, “I Fought the Law and the Law Won,”
but the problem is that this whole thing isn’t really about the law at all. In YouTube Land, it doesn’t really matter if your use of copyrighted material falls under fair use or not. What matters is that content creators can use YouTube’s enforcement tools to shutdown your account and make life so difficult that you avoid any use of outside content all together. YouTube has become the default, national forum for online video, and, as such, their approach to copyright has a chilling effect on speech and public discourse.

Our library has 93 videos totaling well over a 100 of hours of content on YouTube, but my problems stem from a total of 45-75 seconds of video. Actually, about 25 seconds of a particular video has allowed Sony Music to put a copyright strike on my library’s YouTube account. My library’s YouTube account is still in place and our videos are still visible, but we are no longer able to upload videos longer than 15 minutes, which pretty much limits most of our primary uses.  When the violations appeared, I probably should have clicked on the “acknowledge” button, which may have helped to avoid the  strike . But, our use falls within fair use, and I decided to challenge the claims against our use.

The following copyright violations were identified through YouTube’s automated system:

1. A lecture given by our campus police chief where he shows a YouTube video (ironically) and YouTube’s bots caught the music in the background of that video. So, the bots caught music in a video within our video. They called this a misuse of 3rd party content, even though the video within our video is made freely available by City of Houston and the music in question is a very small percentage of the work in the background of a video.
Our video:
Video within the video:

2. A lecture and dance performance from a dance company visiting our college. YouTube’s bots caught the music used by a dancer in a demonstration. After filling out YouTube’s forms claiming fair use, this video was eventually given the green light. We won this one after appealing.
Our video:

3. (This is the one that put a strike on our account.) A student created video hosted on our account. This was a video project created for a speech class that used 25 seconds of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. When I uploaded it, I knew that this one might be a problem, but I felt that we were safe under the tests of fair use (see Stanford’s Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors ). I have taken this one all the way through the appeal process and have been given a strike.

Of course, I recognize that YouTube/Google is a private company that can set their own rules on their platform, but I also find it troubling that they make money off of all of the content freely given to them. As someone who has given them useful content and driven traffic to their site, I feel that they have a responsibility to me and to the millions of other users like me. They have a responsibility to write rules that do not allow huge companies like Sony to bully their way through the online world.

Just a few months ago, Lawrence Lessig won a suit against Liberation Music in an effort to fight this kind of copyright abuse (see Lawrence Lessig Wins Damages for Bogus Youtube Takedown). Unfortunately, Lawrence Lessig doesn’t work for my library, and it is unlikely that the swansonphotoElectronic Frontier Foundation will swoop in and fight for fair use on my library’s behalf. More than likely, I will have to wait six months until this copyright strike expires, and then will have to become very strict with future videos. The weighing of fair use under US copyright law won’t really matter.

One positive result from this experience is that our librarians have a new example to use when talking to faculty about scholarly communication issues. Our campus has new justification for a campus-hosted video solution that is independent of YouTube. I am fortunate enough to work at a college large enough to implement our own video management system, which is not always possible at smaller colleges or smaller public libraries who depend on services like YouTube. None-the-less, the overall result for us is a chilling effect that helps to avoid this administrative paper chase.  

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book,Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.