The New Information Literacy Framework and James Madison by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

Today, the first draft of a new Framework for Information Literacy has been released for comment. ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Task Force  has been charged with revising the info lit standards. (For the record, I am a member of this committee but I do not speak on behalf of the committee here.) The task force’s work address the recommendations made by a previous review group . The task force is working on a product that I believe will be qualitatively different than the existing standards.

The “Old” Standards
The current (old) ACRL Information Literacy Standards were monumental when they were completed in 2000. They had a significant impact on libraries and on higher education by coalescing conversation around information in meaningful ways. Over the years, many of us have been critical of the Standards and highlighted their shortcomings, and I think that we must recognize the important role they have played in shaping information literacy instruction.

However, any of us who have spent time working with the current standards recognize that they pretend to be something that they are not. They, in effect, do not actually set up standards. They do not create a single set of outcomes that all students across higher education could be measured against. They are a detailed set of indicators and outcomes that are intended to measure a set of skills that are so broad and far reaching that the standards could not possibly be successful. There is no single set of measures for the vast degree of information literacy applications that exist. I don’t mean to say that the old standards are not important because they were, but we should recognize that the old standards are not standards in the same way that there are reading, math, or spelling standards.

The New “Framework”
Recently, I was listening to an episode of WNYC’s show Radiolab which I thought was pertinent to the Information Literacy Task Force. The episode featured historian and writer Joseph J. Ellis who was discussing the Constitutional Convention of September 1787 which Ellis wrote about in his book, American Creation. The framers of the Constitution were struggling to find agreed upon answers that would help them form a national government. The founding fathers could not agree on fundamental questions such as, “Who is in charge?” Hamilton and his followers argued to disband state governments and focus on strengthening a centralized government. Jefferson and his followers wanted no central control at all.

James Madison, who eventually wrote the basic document, had a great epiphany. At first Madison was very disappointed that the convention didn’t seem to solve anything. The Constitution didn’t present any answers. Ellis notes, “[Madison] starts to think differently. He starts to say, ‘oh yeah’…this could work precisely because it’s unclear. And he found what he calls a ‘middle station’…The Constitution is not a set of answers. It is a framework for argument. This is a document that allows us to continue to discuss and debate the core issues that we face…” (You can listen to Ellis’ discussion on Radiolab at, “Sex, Ducks, and The Founding Feud” Thursday, December 19, 2013,

Now, I am not trying to equate the Information Literacy Task Force to the Constitutional Convention. (Although it may be fun to try to figure which Task Force members would be Washington, who would be Franklin, and who would be Madison.) But, I am drawing the comparison in that we are attempting to create a new way of thinking about information literacy that does not present *your* campus with answers. Let me say that again – the Task Force is not writing outcomes for your campus. I am not sure how we could actually do that. I do not believe it is possible for us to write all-inclusive skills for all instances of information literacy across the diversity of higher education.

The new information literacy framework outlines threshold concepts that differentiates the novice from the expert researcher. The thresholds may appear different within different disciplinary swansonphotocontexts. They may appear to be different for different institutions. This is a dramatic change from the past standards. The task force is presenting a novel approach that will take some adjustment for many. It is my hope that these concepts open a point of conversation between faculty members and librarians. Since the new framework does not outline skills to teach, but, instead, thresholds of understanding and dispositions for action, librarians and faculty can explore how student’s develop as information literate learners within the curriculum. This is move past the one-shot session toward more meaningful pedagogical exchange.

More importantly, for our profession, I hope that this document is never a completed document. This Framework should not be in existence for 14 years before it is revised. If the next revision occurs in 2028, then we (as a profession) will have failed. We need to consider such questions such as: How do these thresholds grow and change? Do new thresholds appear and old ones disappear? Are there different thresholds for undergraduates and graduate students? Our goal should be to engage in an ongoing conversation about where these thresholds exist.

I see this Framework as a bold step in the right direction, but it is by no means a perfect or definitive step. There will be many critics. But, to me, that is the point. This will not be a finished document. You should try to poke holes in the Task Force’s work. You should voice your opinions and push us to a better understanding of what we do (click here to go to online survey). I do not know any other way that this Framework will be improved.

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.

Embracing Creativity and Play at CityLibraries Townsville

Warren Cheetham writes:

I am very proud of this, because it’s taken a cultural change of about five years to allow something like this video to be produced.

How so?

Digital storytelling is relatively cheap and easy to do, using the tools that most people carry with them each day – tablets, digital cameras and smart phones. Encouraging staff to take time to play with those devices at work has taken a lot of encouragement and support. It was seen as something outside of the ‘real job’ and the idea of taking work time to play seemed a bit wrong.
The second part of the journey involves the wider organisation understanding the opportunities social media can offer, to engage with our community, and not just communicate one way, in a formal, corporate voice using media releases.

In a world where 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, the production of this video might not seem too significant, but for me, it represents the end of old ideas and methods, and the releasing of staff to embrace play and show creativity in their daily work.

And don’t miss this post about Makerspace “rules:’

WISE Award & Thoughts on Online Teaching

From SJSU SLIS: The Web-based Information Science Education (WISE) consortium recognized three faculty members from the School of Library and Information Science at San José State University with a 2013 Excellence in Online Teaching Award. Dr. Michelle Holschuh Simmons, Dr. Michael Stephens, and Melba Tomeo were all recipients of this national award that honors the accomplishments of online educators. 

I am honored to amongst these incredible educators. As part of the award, WISE asked us to share thoughts about online teaching practice. Read about all of the WISE winners here:


Here are mine:

In the 2012 Horizon Report, the authors explore various trends impacting higher education. Two of the identified trends resonate deeply:

 The world of work is increasingly collaborative, driving changes in the way student projects are structured.

People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.

These ideas have lead me to incorporating these practices into my teaching:

Everything is Beta: We use a bespoke course platform created with WordPress and Buddypress. The platform can be augmented with plugins and enhancements per the request of students or the instructor. We try things. We test the limits. We embrace a bit of chaos.

Learning Everywhere: One of my recurrent themes of late. Students should be able to access course content, their reflection blogs and slaws activity streams in multiple ways. Multiple channels of audio, video and text-based content and a mobile interface allow them to participate wherever they happen to be.

Broad Creativity: I encourage students to think creatively about the deliverables in my classes. The wide variety of tools available to students learning online allows for any number of video, audio, and media-based expressions of their assignments.

Always Learning: This one is for me. I tell my classes that the minute I stop learning, stop exploring, stop moving forward, I need to pack up my virtual office and go sell tomatoes by the roadside. I want to model that behavior so my students come out of our program armed with a thriving personal learning network and a desire to always be learning.

Be Human: I’ve shared this one before but it bears repeating. Be human. Share yourself. Look to make that personal connection. I use a “Guilty Pleasures” forum in my courses. Nothing levels the playing field like confessing your favorite guilt viewing, listening, or reading  habits. This also means giving up a certain degree of authority.  I’d argue we are no longer in the “Command and Control” business, Now, we guide, facilitate and push, ever so gently, our students toward their goals.

This quote from Stephen Barnes resonates with my philosophy of teaching online: ““We must never forget that the human heart is at the center of the technological maze…”

#hyperlibMOOC: Emerging Roles: Key Insights from Librarians in a Massive Open Online Course

Very excited about presenting this paper in Denver at the 16th Distance Library Services Conference  

Emerging Roles: Key Insights from Librarians in a Massive Open Online Course

Michael Stephens, Ph.D. & Kyle M. L. Jones, MLIS

San Jose State University School of Library & Information Science


From the cutting edge of innovations in online education comes the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), a potentially disruptive and transformational mechanism for large-scale learning. What’s the role of librarians in a MOOC? What can librarians learn from participating in a large-scale professional development opportunity delivered in an open environment to illuminate their own practice? This paper explores the experiences and perceptions of librarians/information professionals participating in an LIS-centered MOOC taught by the authors. We will share insights gained from active participants in the course as they encounter this emerging landscape.


In September 2013, the San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SJSU SLIS) launched its first massive open online course (MOOC), the Hyperlinked Library MOOC (#hyperlibMOOC). The Hyperlinked Library course centers on key theories and concepts that merge trends in participatory culture with library and information environments. At its core, the Hyperlinked Library encourages transparent, participatory, and user-centered information services that employ emerging technologies to increase open, collaborative information experiences.

#hyperlibMOOC was adapted from an existing online graduate course of the same name created by SJSU SLIS Assistant Professor Michael Stephens, an author of this paper. The course had been previously only offered to SJSU students enrolled in the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. The #hyperlibMOOC was not for credit and was intended to serve as a professional development opportunity for librarians, library staff, and professionals who work in libraries, archives, and other types of information environments.

Clive Thompson Talks Librarians on Circulating Ideas by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

Recently, journalist Clive Thompson was on the Circulating Ideas podcast with Steve Thomas. They discussed Thompon’s book Smarter Than You Think.

I wanted to share this because I have read the book and found it to be very appropriate and timely for libraries. (I also wanted to share it because Steve does a great job!) The book’s main point is a shot across the bow of the Google-is-making-us-dumber argument (Nicholas Carr). Thompson builds a compelling argument that technology (including Google) is, in fact, making us smarter. Many new technologies are a form of extended cognition that enhance and ideas. Thompson is not a technological idealist by any means, but his thoughts are timely and well-supported.

He spends several sections of his book acknowledging libraries and the role librarians play in leading the charge on information literacy. In the podcast Thompson notes,

There’s this structural disconnect inside schools…
Library science is more important on an everyday level than ever before but schools haven’t figured out that they need to integrate that and their librarians into everyday teaching.

swansonphotoThis podcast (and book) compliment many developments within librarianship. Specifically, I think they connect well with the thinking of David Lankis (and others) in the conversations around new librarianship.

If you’d like to find the Circulating Ideas podcast featuring Thompson, you can find it here: Circulating Ideas, Episode 37: Clive Thompson

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.

#hyperlibMOOC: Student Lissette Gonzalez Guides Participants in First MOOC Offered by SJSU SLIS

During the MOOC, Gonzalez met information professionals from all over the globe. There was a large contingent from Australia and New Zealand, as well as participants from countries in Europe and Asia. This gave her a sense of connectedness with other information professionals, who brought diverse perspectives on the issues explored during the MOOC.

“That was a tangible, positive experience for me,” she said. “It was also an opportunity to serve others and help them meet their goals, which is important to me. Overall, it was a great experience.

By serving as a MOOC guide, Gonzalez also gained knowledge that will help her pursue her future career goals. “Having been part of the MOOC behind the scenes for its duration, I walked away with a strong sense of how to present content for learners so it’s useful and usable,” Gonzalez said. “I also got a sense of how to improve experiences for course site users, specifically how to tailor information to their needs. I definitely connected that with my ongoing interest in user experience and my long-term professional goals, as well as with several courses I’ve already taken at SLIS.”

Click through for the whole article.


ALISE 2014 Juried Panel:

New Landscapes: Exploring MOOCs as LIS and Professional Development Spaces with Kyle Jones, Joanne de Groot, Jennifer Branch. ALISE Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

As a professional development opportunity for a global audience, the Hyperlinked Library MOOC was designed to offer an online space for learning and community-building. Panelists reflect on the MOOC, reporting on participants’ sense of community, the technical and instructional design of the MOOC, and present reflections of its students.

Below are the videos recorded by panelists Joanne de Groot, PhD, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Alberta , Department of Elementary Education and Jennifer Branch, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Alberta, Department of Elementary Education and School of Library and Information Studies, as part of our panel presentation at ALISE 2014. Their insights about feelings of community within the MOOC resonate deeply with me.

My slides from the panel are here:


People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens