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.)
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.
To 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.
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.
A big AHA! moment about 21st century participatory librarianship came from an unlikely source: a book about ancient pueblos of the American southwest. The 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. The 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.
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.
Context Book Assignment: Net Smart: How to Thrive Online
Critics of modern social media and our emerging hyperlinked culture are abundant. So are cheerleaders and utopians, who praise the potential of new media and our always-on, always-connected, society.
Critics warn us that Google might be “making us stupid,” as Nicholas Carr put it. They wonder, as Sherry Turkle has, “Why do we expect more from technology and less from each other?” They worry that we are becoming overloaded with information, unable to focus on sustained chains of reasoning, and “driven to distraction.” They express concern at the tendency for Facebook to make us depressed. They point out that—like junk food, pornography or drugs—the Internet has a great potential to be addictive. Critics often emphasize that the Internet has become over commercialized and is robbing us of our privacy.
At the other extreme are the cheerleaders. Excited by the possibilities that the Internet has created, these cheerleaders are often guilty of wishful thinking that leads to vast exaggeration of Web 2.0′s possibilities. They see it as overturning existing government and business hierarchies, flattening the world, and doing away with the necessity for information authorities and taxonomies. They emphasize its “power of organizing without organizations.” On the extreme edge of this utopian realm of modern communications, are those who see us evolving into an eventual “singularity” with our digital devices—where artificial intelligence will allow us to escape the limitations of our biological bodies.
Until I read Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, I thought its author, Howard Rheingold, was a cheerleader. He is often credited with inventing the term “virtual community,” was advocating for the power of computer networks to create new forms of community long before the World Wide Web was invented, and has long toyed with the idea that computer technology can enhance our ability to work cooperatively and amplify our creativity.
However, in this book, Rheingold’s position is much more nuanced, and indeed helpful, than that of either the critics or the cheerleaders. His goal is to help us use social media well. He sees its potential to do tremendous good. He recognizes the legitimacy of many of the critics, but wants to figure out how to overcome these challenges, rather than simply give up in the face of the problems the critics identify. He wants us all to use the Internet mindfully and wisely, so that we are each able to expand our own personal potentials and at the same time unleash collaborative efforts that could enrich all of our lives.
Rheingold’s thesis is that the Internet can make us either smart, or stupid. It can help us build communities, or isolate us. It can be a great way to learn, or an unproductive waste of time. It depends on how we use it.
The author proposes to show us five key information literacies that are essential to this task. He gives each of these literacy skills a full chapter. The five literacies are:
1. Attention. In my view this is the most important chapter in the book. Attention is a skill that can be trained. Social media can be incredibly distracting. But we can take a “meta-cognitive” approach to it: Paying careful attention to exactly how we are deploying our attention. (Yes, I do mean to say “paying attention to attention.”)
Should we be clicking on the Facebook icon? Or would our attention be more skillfully used in continuing to write a report for our boss?
The answer to such a question is not always obvious. Here is a similar choice: Perhaps you are doing a Google search. Several of the results have nothing to do with the subject matter that you were researching. Should you avoid them? Maybe. Chances are it would be a waste of time to focus your attention on something that isn’t the question at hand. However, it is also possible that serendipity will lead you to uncover something new that you can use in a different context. Yes, answers to questions like this are not formulaic, therefore the point is that you will be better able to make such choices if you are paying careful attention to where your mind is focused—rather than drifting from link to link in a trance-like, mindless, manner.
Similarly, should you be focused on your Smart Phone or watching your kid play soccer? It may depend of the circumstances. Taking a mindful approach, being aware that you are a faced with a choice, and choosing consciously, is a skill that can be learned.
Anyone who has ever tried meditating discovers that their “brain has a mind of its own.” The essence of mindfulness meditation is sitting quietly and paying attention to your thoughts. The most common technique involves focusing on your breath. Almost immediately, your mind will wander off from your breathing. You practice, over-and-over, bringing your attention gently back to your breath. With extended practice, your brain becomes much more able to pay attention, and your mind becomes much more aware of what it is doing. Emerging evidence from neuroscience may confirm that practicing meditation increases our attentive skills.
This kind of meditative practice is one of many suggestions Rheingold makes in this chapter. Most of his tips are similar in that they teach you “to be aware of being aware” and to pay attention, while using social media. They help you to be intentional about your focus, instead of drifting. He also points out that trying to multitask is almost always futile because the attentional energy, in switching rapidly from one task to another, comes at a cost of lost focus and increased cognitive effort.
2. Crap Detection. This chapter will probably be the most familiar to librarians. It is about effectively seeking accurate information on the Internet. He discusses how to sort out true from false or misleading information. Again, he circles back to the subject of attention, advising readers to learn to use disciplined attention while focusing on their many sources of information, and to make sure that their attention is where they intend it to be while digesting information
3. Participation. Rheingold puts a lot of emphasis on knowing how to actively participate in web culture, rather than just passively consuming web content. He says that, “Every PC as well as smart phone is a printing press, broadcasting station, political organizing tool, and site for growing a community or marketplace” (p. 249). Knowledge of how to participate in this arena, which is still in the process of emerging, will be a key form of literacy in the future. He discusses a range of participatory activities—from simply tagging or “liking,” all the way up to curating, blogging or community organizing.
Rheingold emphasizes that this kind of participation is both personally rewarding as well as contributory to the common good. He has a number of tips for being aware of your risks (to privacy, for example) and your impact on others as you participate in online activities. He is aware of the capacity of the profit motive to skew online motivations and warns that you may think you are just playing online, but someone else could be growing rich from your actions by harvesting information about your choices.
4. Collaboration. This chapter discusses emerging technologies and activities that encourage coordination, cooperation and collaboration. Subjects such as crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, virtual communities, non-market social production (for example open source software), and collective intelligence, are discussed. Again this is a chapter that is directly relevant to many of the ideas that we have discussed concerning creating hyperlinked libraries.
5. Network Smarts. This chapter is about how to participate wisely and effectively in networks. The author discusses academic theories about how human beings have participated in networks, and how this has affected our evolutionary development. Even though modern social media has roots going back to the dawn of our species, modern communications technology expands this and creates new types of relationships among people with innovative social possibilities. Rheingold shows us how to bond, how to build social capital and how to enable reciprocity in these new networks. He advises us how to expand interpersonal trust and form bridges that interconnect people from diverse networks. He places a lot of emphasis on contributing. “Paying it forward,” is a key factor in effective individual participation in networked culture.
Again he also warns about the risks. He understands the necessity of paying careful attention to what you are sharing. He wants us to be mindful about protecting our individual privacy and the privacy of others.
Relevance to Libraries and the Hyperlinked Library Model
This is just a taste of the rewarding banquet available to readers of this book. What can libraries and librarians learn here that is applicable to their work?
First, the book has a lot to say about concepts familiar to readers of TTW: Participation, community, the web as a platform, emerging technologies, social information and knowledge production and so forth. It could easily be used as a text or supplementary reading for a course on the hyperlinked library model. It is filled with valuable references and sources that every emerging hyperlinked librarian would find useful. The author knows his stuff. He has taught, lectured and written on these subjects since the dawn of the Internet. In addition, he has interviewed many leading experts on the topics he discusses. He shares that knowledge.
Second, Rheingold has provided librarians with a useful road map to life in the hyperlinked world. I think this map should be added the standard information literacy curriculum. What could be more important to today’s students than learning how to be “net smart?” I think we already make many efforts in this regard, especially concerning what he calls “crap-detection.” But his notions on participation, collaboration and networking, would provide much useful material for information literacy instruction. His understanding of how mindfulness and attention skills interact with these topics is of great value. All of the skills he discusses could be adapted to make valuable additions to library instruction, from the elementary level through college.
Finally, I think this book is a goldmine of useful ideas for librarians looking for ways to expand and improve upon the practice of their craft as information intermediaries. Furthermore, Rheingold does not merely teach specific skills useful to librarians who want to better understand these emerging technologies, he has suggestions about how to build your own learning techniques and personal learning networks, so that you can stay on top of this rapidly changing world as the future unfolds.
In short, if you are finding this course to be useful, and think that librarians should know more about the ideas presented by Michael Stephen’s in The Hyperlinked Library, then I am sure you will feel similarly stimulated and inspired by this book.
As an additional treat, the book is accompanied by occasional drawings by Anthony Weeks. Weeks commendably summarizes some of the main points that the author is making.
Here is an example:
Rheingold, H. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Bob Lucore is a student in the School of Library and Information Science at San José State University, where he works as a graduate assistant maintaining the School’s Drupal-based web site. For 25 years he worked as an economist, teaching at Colorado State University and Centre College and working for various labor organizations, before serving as Director of Research and Policy for the United American Nurses. He blogs on library issues at Attentive Librarian and on economic and public policy issues for Americans for Democratic Action.
Warren Cheetham’s final report and presentation about his 2013 VALA Travel Scholarship to the USA, to investigate libraries and broadband internet, is now publicly available. The report was presented at the VALA Library conference in Melbourne earlier this year.
This page has links to the written report and a video of the conference presentation. The page linking to the paper seems to indicate that it’s not available yet, but scroll to the bottom and accept the terms and conditions to access the paper. The video link requires a name and email to register, but it should then play right away.
I was honored to host Warren for 16 hours when he arrived in the US and we had a lively conversation about his project and libraries around the #evening fire. If you are interested in his experiences and insights touring the US – Champaign-Urbana, Chattanooga, Chicago & Washington DC – take a look at the paper and the video.
Thank you, Dr. Hirsh, for your generous introduction.
It’s a pleasure to be here with you and your loved ones. To share in the celebration of this special day, when we reflect upon our time as students, delight in our new titles as archivists, librarians, and information professionals…and contemplate our future.
It’s an honor to have been chosen to represent you and share our story.
Remember when you found out you were accepted to SLIS? From the excitement of acceptance, through the anxiety of registration and planning, through each semester, each course, paper, project, assignment, all of the group work and the discussion posts, through each technological hurdle…
We have assembled a versatile toolkit and amassed skills, including traditional library skills,
But, we also enjoyed innovative coursework that pushed the envelope of librarianship, information science, and research into new and exciting possibilities.
We cultivated a strong commitment to service, literacy, learning and intellectual freedom. …all of which equips us to meet the challenges of the future.
We exercised our independence and colossal self-discipline as we sacrificed sleep, finances, vacations and time with friends, family and co-workers, all in order to make time to complete our academic obligations.
Though we took pleasure in the challenge of learning, and digging deep into topics of interest…
We also sacrificed small pleasures that make life vibrant, as we book marked a wish list of reading material, television shows, and movies. We gave up gaming, yoga and other hobbies, and still battled the guilt that washed over us as our loved one’s also sacrificed on our behalf.
We survived lost internet connections, corrupted files, untimely updates, crashed computers and furious efforts to meet our deadlines.
We reveled in both small and large accomplishments. Many of our fellow grad students celebrated weddings and growing families. And many endured hardships through life events, such as moving, heartbreaking loss, military deployment, unemployment, and inconvenient and life-threatening health issues.
Successful completion of a rigorous online program required total immersion while working, interning and volunteering as we managed our time to complete the impossible…even as we squeezed in webinars and traveled to conferences.
Yet, we did not get here on our own. We relied on virtual support groups as well as family, friends, teachers, mentors, role models and coworkers…for advice, encouragement, support, understanding…and especially love, because love does not hold us back, it lets us shine.
We learned from our mistakes and conflicts. We learned to persevere. We are tenacious. We do not forget where we come from…even as we look forward to the future.
However, we are not done. True lifelong learners, as we librarians tend to be, continue to grow, and to contribute to our communities of practice, and the communities we live in.
I didn’t expect that I would learn so much from you, fellow grad students, or the many group projects and leadership opportunities.
Nor, did I expect to develop such a broad geographical network, with students and instructors from all over the world. Or, the many opportunities to connect to diverse and generous professional communities outside of SLIS.
Since the beginning, libraries have been about accessing ideas, information and knowledge, and they’ve weathered significant cultural and technological changes through time.
We are entering a profession with a deep historical and social tradition. Yet, we look forward to an exciting future, where traditional librarianship intersects with new ways of expressing, creating, accessing and sharing information and ideas.
As Dr. Stephens asked: “What will you create that will make the world more awesome?”
Libraries transform lives, and, we each have an opportunity to contribute to the history of libraries and how they evolve to meet information needs at a critical time when the information landscape is incredibly dynamic and prolific,
…and, in which our communities need us, as Sarah Houghton simply states, to “democratize information and expertise.”
Build Your Community
Communities are where we belong, care, connect, and share. We’ve established many connections throughout the SLIS program, but I’d like to encourage you to continue to build your community.
This includes a community of practice made up of those we work with.
I encourage you to carry the torch to light the way for students coming behind us, and to be their mentors.
I encourage you to be generous of spirit and expertise with other professionals and coworkers.
I encourage you to participate, serve and build genuine relationships within professional organizations.
Build the community. Build the community of those, whose unique needs we seek to fulfil, empower and serve. Be human…see the people… and connect with them.
Many have already done so, but if you haven’t…it’s never too late. I happened upon an African Proverb that embodies the value of community. If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
I offer my gratitude to those who helped me get to this moment…and to the awards committee and amazing SLIS faculty for this opportunity to tell our story, and share our accomplishments.
Today, I extend my admiration to each of you in person, and virtually, as champions of librarianship. You have achieved your goal through hard work and sacrifice.
Prepare to celebrate, look forward to a bright future, and reap the rewards of your hard work. I wish each of you peace and prosperity.
I’m very excited to share our new NIGHT OUT program that we’ll be running next month at the Chattanooga Public Library. It’s a simple idea, but it is one of the best library programs I’ve put together. Why? Let me tell you.
Parents and guardians get to have a night out. Kids, Tweens, and Teens get to have a night out. Everyone is hanging out in the library, and everyone leaves the library happy.
Why am I so excited about this? Because I feel that it represents a shift in how we are approaching programs. To make something like this work, all parts of the library (including our great Friends of the Library group who are sponsoring this event) need to work together. The adult program has to be all set up and ready to go. The kid/tween/teen program has to be planned and executed properly. We need to make sure we’re sufficiently staffed. We need our security team to do their best to help us monitor all things on the 2nd Floor. A program like this is truly a library wide effort.
Plus, it all brings it back to our community. It is important for the public library to recognize what all of their community needs out of programming. For parents and guardians, simply not having to worry about childcare for an hour or two can be a big deal in deciding whether or not they’ll visit the library. Hopefully with this idea, we will see adults who may not have considered it a possibility to attend a library event all of a sudden enjoying our programs on a regular basis. Do what your community needs you to do.
This message is brought to you by Justin Hoenke after 5 years of parenting and realizing just how important it is for adults to get out and enjoy library events and not have to worry about what to do with your kid/tween/teen.
Academic 15 (A15), an interview–based research project, explores the perceptions of university library and information technology (IT) staff related to the challenges impacting higher education as a result of technological advances. Faced with disruption on many fronts, academic library and IT staff have adapted and adopted a number of tools and processes to cope with accelerating change. This includes seeking out collaborative partnerships, working within financial constraints, discovering alternate funding sources, and experimenting with new roles in the evolving model of higher education. This paper presents findings to guide the future design and implementation of resilient support systems for library, educational technology, and IT staff.
People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens