Unpacking Identity Chapter in The Librarian Stereotype

The Librarian StereotypeEdited by Nicole Pagowsky & Miriam Rigby
Published by ACRL Publications

“…why, in spite of evolving efforts, does racial and ethnic diversity among librarians remain virtually unchanged within academic libraries?”

The chapter, “Unpacking Identity: Racial, Ethnic, and Professional Identity and Academic Librarians of Color,” written by Isabel Gonzalez-Smith, Azusa Tanaka, and Juleah Swanson, can be found in the recently published book The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Presentations and Perceptions of Information Work.

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.

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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.

News: Michael Edson to Keynote Internet Librarian International

ILI2014-Email-TopWe’re delighted to announce that Smithsonian thought leader and digital strategist Michael Edson has agreed to give the opening keynote at Internet Librarian International in London this October.

The Dark Matter of the Internet

According to Michael, history is defined by periods in which we thought we had a pretty good idea of what was going on, punctuated by brief moments when we realised we really didn’t have a clue – we’re going through one of those moments right now, and it’s all wrapped up with the internet and scale. Like dark matter, the internet has a force, a mass, and a capability that is often unseen or undetected. For today’s organisations, success comes down to how well we harness the dark matter of the internet and the collaborative, social, peer-to-peer and read/write opportunities it presents. Join us to hear Michael’s thoughts on how the internet’s dark matter is the future of our libraries and information environments.

Michael-Edson_140x165At the forefront of digital transformation in the cultural sector, Michael Edson has worked on numerous award-winning projects and has been involved in practically every aspect of technology and New Media for museums. He helped create the Smithsonian’s first blog, Eye Level; the first alternative reality game to take place in a museum, Ghost of a Chance; and he leads the development of the Smithsonian’s first Web and New Media Strategy. Michael serves on the Open Knowledge Foundation’s OpenGLAM advisory board and was a member of the National Endowment for the Arts “Art Works” task force, which mapped the relationship between the arts and the quality of life in American communities. Michael is an O’Reilly Foo Camp veteran and was named a Tech Titan: Person to Watch by Washingtonian magazine.

Photo: Lars Lundqvist, CC-BY

Office Hours: Library As Classroom

My new May column is available at LJ:

http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2014/05/opinion/michael-stephens/library-as-classroom-office-hours/

I’d argue that our libraries of all kinds also serve as creative classrooms, supporting learners by employing the building blocks mentioned above. Just explore some of the notable examples of academic, public, and K-12 library spaces shared here in LJ over the past few months. You’ll find community learning spaces that help people achieve, game-focused initiatives that make the library a laboratory for exploration, creation zones with requisite digital and 3-D hardware for building things, and potentially endless opportunities to connect virtually with people worldwide.

On Libraries, Teaching, and Learning…and Learning and Learning – A TTW Guest Post by Darren Ilett

This past semester I had the opportunity to take part in Michael Stephens’s Hyperlinked Library course. The course, especially the readings and discussions on reflective practice, teaching, and learning brought together for me the professional and the personal. A little bit about my background: my previous career was in German Studies, but a couple years ago my contract as an Assistant Professor wasn’t renewed. My wonderful, supportive colleagues said again and again that it was due to budget pressures, but deep down and for quite a while I felt I had failed. What the experience offered me, though, was a chance to reflect on where I had been and where I wanted to go.

From Germanist to Librarian

What drew me to LIS is the emphasis on helping others. I realized while reading the Rubin (2010) textbook for one a core MLIS class that the professions—teaching, librarianship, medicine, etc.—are about service. And several of those are the careers that have appealed to me. Yet something that had always bothered me about German Studies was my perception of its relevance. Certainly, some of my former students use their language and cultural competency skills (or become more open-minded and critical) because of what they learned in German classes. However, I still cannot articulate the purpose of the research I was doing (except, formulated a bit cynically, to get tenure). It was enjoyable and interesting to me, and perhaps a handful of other people read it. But that turned out not to be enough for me. In fact, being laid off brought this reality into relief because I could acknowledge my doubts more directly.

It seems much clearer to me that LIS careers have the potential to change people’s lives for the better and perhaps even to transform them. I see this in my work as a volunteer at the public library, teaching mostly older folks computer skills. An hour of caring, engaged conversation and guided play on the computer can change their mood and attitude and help them to begin overcoming their fear of technology. What matters most is that someone cares about their lives, needs, and problems and will take time to listen. They often tell me that the people in their lives won’t or can’t do that—or that they don’t have anyone they can turn to. Working at the public library is the best part of my week because I can often see its positive impact. And people often return repeatedly so that we get to know one another. This is the sort of work I can pour my heart and life into.

Learning across Disciplines

One aspect of changing careers that has caused me to grieve, however, is the notion that I had wasted over 20 years on a field that is no longer a part of my daily life. However, the readings on teaching and learning in the Hyperlinked Library course showed me the many connections between LIS and language teaching and learning. It has taken me time to understand and believe this, but no learning is wasted time or effort. Here are some connections between the two fields that will inform my work in LIS:

  • Engaging in the practices of a given field leads to real learning. Contrary to traditional approaches, learning (actually, acquiring) a language is not primarily about memorizing grammatical structures or wrapping one’s mouth around strange sounds. Rather, it’s about communication of ideas and feelings among people, no matter how “imperfect.” Proof of this is that speakers of a language usually don’t correct a learner’s errors unless they interfere with comprehension (Shrum & Glisan, 2010). Learners need to use a language, not just learn to analyze it. The same emphasis on real practices applies to LIS education, as Michael points out (Stephens, 2011). We LIS students need to use the actual tools of the profession and engage in dialogues with practicing professionals, not just learn procedures and facts from a textbook. This is also something to keep in mind whenever we encounter teaching situations in our work as LIS professionals.
  • In order for such practice to happen, learning cannot remain within the classroom, nor can communication be restricted to each individual student speaking with the teacher. In language learning, learners need to communicate with a wide variety of people about a range of topics, not just listen to canned dialogues, parrot preset responses back to the teacher, and fill in the blanks of a verb-ending worksheet. Again, Michael addresses this issue (Stephens, 2011) when he talks about LIS students sharing their learning products beyond the classroom on an open platform. It is within a conversation that learning happens.
  • Learning is a lifelong endeavor. People frequently ask me how long it takes to become fluent in a second language. (First of all, what does fluent mean?) My stock answer is “forever” because one is always learning language, even a first language. Continuous learning in the LIS field is crucial as well, especially because of the constantly changing nature of what we do. As Grant and Zeichner (2001) argue so eloquently, if we aren’t reflective in our professional practice, we simply follow inherited practices and unquestioned routines, which can have horrible, oppressive consequences, such as fixating on procedures and forgetting our mission serving people’s needs. Reflective practice means being open to learning new ideas that may upset our longstanding way of doing things.
  • Mistakes are a good thing. Research in language acquisition shows that errors are a sign of learning. A common example is the over application of the -ed ending to mark the past tense in English. Children go through a stage in which they produce forms like “goed” or “eated.” Why? Because they have correctly understood that “-ed” is the marker for the past tense, so they apply it everywhere despite the fact that they hear adults saying “went” and “ateinstead. This proves that children are applying rules, not just repeating what they hear (Lightbown & Spada, 2006). Frequently, errors are evidence of the learning process. Along the same lines, Michael writes (Stephens, 2010, March 2) that the new gaming generation shows us that learning is fraught with errors. Instead of a negative, errors offer rich opportunities for learning. We can impart this attitude to our library members as well. It’s one of the main things I want the folks at the public library to take away from computer instruction sessions with me. I model for them problem-solving strategies when things go wrong. Equally important is the modeling of affect: “If things go wrong, let’s look around for ways to fix it or find someone who can help.” It’s my way of combating the tendency stare at the monitor, afraid of making a mistake. Being open to risk is a crucial component to learning.

So I’m going to take my own advice. Nothing was lost in my career change, and I didn’t fail. In fact, something was gained. Ending one career has enriched my life and helped me find a field I can devote my efforts and heart to.

I know that many folks come to LIS from previous careers and other fields. I wonder what your experiences have been.

References

Grant, C. A., & Zeichner, K. M. (2001). On becoming a reflective teacher. In J. H. Strouse (Ed.), Exploring socio-cultural themes in education: Readings in social foundations (pp. 103-115). New York, NY: Pearson. Retrieved from http://www.wou.edu/~girodm/ foundations/Grant_and_Zeichner.pdf

Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2006). How languages are learned (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Shrum, J. L., & Glisan, E. W. (2010). Teacher’s handbook: Contextualized language instruction (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Heinle.

Stephens, M. (2011). Beyond the walled garden: LIS students in an era of participatory culture.

Student Research Journal, 1(2). Retrieved from http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1067&context=slissrj

Stephens, M. (2010, March 2). The hyperlinked school library: Engage, explore, celebrate [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2010/03/02/the-hyperlinked-school-library-engage-explore-celebrate/

Darren Ilett - Guest PostDarren Ilett is currently in his third semester in the MLIS program at San José State University. At the moment he is enjoying an internship at the Fine Arts and Design Library at the University of New Mexico where he is helping to create online instructional materials. Upon graduation he hopes to work as a subject librarian in an academic context and with a focus on instruction. In his spare time he likes to play Scrabble, read Patricia Highsmith novels, and watch old German movies.

 

 

Telling Our Stories – A Lifelong Resource

The Value of Public Libraries – Telling Our Stories – Video Initiative

Chatham-Kent Public Library is celebrating Ontario Seniors Month with the release of a very special video. This video features Una Miklos, a Blenheim Senior who describes the important role libraries have played in her life. The public library is a lifelong resource for members of the community. Chatham Kent Public Library staff will debut this video at the Municipal Council meeting on Monday, June 9  2014.

This video is part of a series that Chatham-Kent Public Library will be launching this year recognizing and celebrating all populations who use our resources and our space. Videos will be uploaded to the YouTube channel: The Value of Libraries – Telling Our Stories. Stay tuned for more great stories from our patrons!

Chatham-Kent Public Library invites community members to create and submit their own videos featuring stories about libraries making a difference in their lives and communities. This initiative will celebrate libraries as places to share and grow with others, to build communities, and make connections. The videos will provide testimonials as to the benefits libraries offer and raise the profile of libraries in our communities.

Chatham-Kent Public Library would like to help build a strong network of library supporters by gathering messages that can be shared and used by libraries and community members alike.

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.

See you at SLA 2014 in Vancouver

I’m honored to be talking about #hyperlibMOOC and our MOOC research at SLA this Sunday:
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are gaining in popularity as another tool in the expanding field of learning technologies. At the same time, the librarian’s role is being redefined as many move from traditional reference and instruction roles to offering more integrated and embedded information services, whether via subject-specific or general expertise. What opportunities do MOOCs offer for librarians, and how can librarians adapt to and take advantage of the opportunities offered by this new platform? In this panel discussion, three MOOC practitioners will discuss where librarians can “fit” as embedded learners, connectors and collaborators within the MOOC learning environment. Q & A to follow.Program Take-Aways

    • Participants will gain an understanding of what MOOCs are, what they offer, and how they compare to traditional methods of instruction.
    • Participants will learn a variety of roles that information professionals can play within MOOCs based on research and the experience of presenters as MOOC teachers, facilitators and students.
    • Participants will have the chance to ask questions of presenters to more concretely link the proposed roles with their individual experiences with MOOCs.
Speaking

Kevin Leyton-Brown

University of British Columbia

Rosie Redfield

University of British Columbia

Michael Stephens

Assistant Professor, San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science

Ancient Pueblo and 21st Century Library – A TTW Guest Post by Paul Kaidy Barrows

A big AHA! moment about 21st century participatory librarianship came from an unlikely source: a book about ancient pueblos of the American southwest.
Aztec Ruins, New MexicoThe author observed that each pueblo was comprised of a collection of living spaces surrounding a large common area – first, the Great Kiva, and later, the plaza. Every living space faced into this common area, which was the hub of pueblo life and ceremony, because, as the author noted, every community needs a center (Scully, 1988).

That’s it! I thought.That’s the 21st century library.
Taos Pueblo, New MexicoThe 21st century library is some combination of physical and virtual space that serves as the hub of its community. It is the community’s place to participate in, contribute to, and experience conversation, information exchange, companionship, debate, leisure, entertainment, shared history, and yes, even ceremony. Stephens (2011) argues that library school programs should teach future librarians to create such spaces for constituents to gather and collaborate – not just to work on their own projects but to collaborate on the library’s content as well.

The identity of a 21st century library can and should be as unique as its community. Rather than limiting itself to building a standard collection, the library can be a place where community members contribute to the creation of a local collection of their most unique things (Stephens, 2011). This is being done at the DOK Library in the Netherlands, for example (Boekesteijn, 2011), where patrons are not merely users but also collection builders, adding their own photos, personal stories, town memories, and even recipes to the library’s material.

How wonderful that, for the first time in hundreds of years, a non-commercial space can once again be the epicenter of its community. Not the downtown shopping district. Not the mall. The library is not trying to sell anything; it is just trying to be. To be the place where everyone interacts, where everyone feels at home, where everyone can contribute, and where everyone feels they are right at the heart of things – even if it is by Internet connection. The library as 21st century pueblo.

References

Boekesteijn, E. (2011, February 15). DOK Delft takes user generated content to the next level [Web log post]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2011/02/15/dok-delft-takes-user-generated-content-to-the-next-level-a-ttw-guest-post-by-erik-boekesteijn/

Scully, V. (1988). Pueblo: Mountain, village, dance (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Stephens, M. (2011, April 15). Stuck in the past [Web log post]. Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2011/04/opinion/michael-stephens/stuck-in-the-past-office-hours/


Paul Kaidy Barrows
Paul Kaidy Barrows is a MLIS candidate at San Jose State University. A web and information services professional for more than a dozen years, his passion is empowering seekers and learners through technology and education.

People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens