Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Personal Encounters with Information Literacy

"Describing information literacy in terms of the varying ways in which it is experienced by people, that is their conceptions, is the alternative which I propose." --Christine Bruce, The Seven Faces of Information Literacy, 1997
Yesterday, the revised draft of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was released to the profession for public comment. This draft comes after several months of extensive revision to the first draft of the Framework, released in two phases in February and April. I spent the afternoon yesterday reading the revised draft, which overall I am very excited about. There is a new survey instrument provided by the task force responsible for the Framework through which to offer feedback on this new draft, and as I did with the previous survey I plan to publicly blog my responses once I compose them. It's worth noting for now, though, that overall I am very happy with the structure and content of the new Framework in its revised form. I do have some more constructive feedback to offer the task force, but my overall positive first impression of the new draft is important to what I want to write about today.

In sum: I like it, unabashedly and unapologetically, but I hope critically as well.

Last night, at the end of my work day, I participated in the biweekly #critlib Twitter chat, which is an online conversation between librarians and other information professionals about the intersections between critical pedagogy and our work as librarians. One of the most valuable things I get out of these chats is being pushed by my peers (in a good way) to examine critically my own inherent biases, privilege, processes, and dispositions in relation to my work as an information literacy instruction librarian. And, because the new Framework has direct bearing on the instructional work we do, inevitably there was a convergence of the Framework and #critlib during yesterday's chat.

This made perfect sense, but also provided an opportunity for me to observe how we as information literacy professionals encounter information literacy documents, definitions, frameworks, and conceptions, and just how personal these encounters are.

I first noticed it in myself, in how I participated in the conversation begun by Emily's tweet here (click on the tweet's timestamp to see the entire threaded conversation):

As critical pedagogy urges, I took this experience as an opportunity to critically question and explore my own position in relation to the new Framework and the revision process as a whole, in order to unearth any biases I may have. When I did, I realized how integral my personal encounter with information literacy, as articulated first by the original Information Literacy Standards, is to my position, stance, and valuing of the new Framework. And, I suspect the same is the case for my colleagues in the profession who are grappling with this new Framework right along with me.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure (to myself if to no one else), I want to share my personal experience of encountering first the Standards and then the Framework, to better contextualize why I feel the way I do about the new Framework.

I began my first professional library position in March 2008, in an academic library, and as an instruction librarian. Like many others, I took one instruction-oriented course in my MLIS program, which I completed in 2007. The course was geared largely toward the K-12 school media certification track, though my instructor did encourage me to use the class to explore information literacy instruction on the college level. But, it was just one course, and while I think I may have utilized the Standards in it, there was no real context for understanding them at that time.

Once I began in my professional role, I finally did encounter the Standards in a thorough, contextualized manner, with the hope that they would guide my instructional practices, particularly as a newbie librarian. They a point, but as my work in the classroom developed, it gradually became clear the ways in which the Standards fell short for the work I was doing with students to develop their information literacy practices and behaviors.

This is where the full disclosure comes in, but it is central to my point: through my collaboration and partnership with my colleague and friend Teresa Grettano, who works in the field of rhetoric and composition, I found the most transformational way to introduce students to information literacy concepts and even behaviors was by situating these concepts and behaviors on social media, in participatory information environments like those in which they encounter the majority of their information on a day to day basis. In this context, the Standards can only take us so far, and they quickly felt "in need of an update" -- a claim I made at my first professional conference presentation in 2010 with Teresa.

To fast forward a bit, in every presentation I gave between 2010 and 2012 (when I learned that ACRL had finally begun the revision process for the Standards), I stated that the Standards needed to be revised to account for the new information environment our students have grown up with as their only version of what "information" looks, feels, and behaves like.

I was not the only one saying this of course, which was a relief. This is one of the reasons that metaliteracy makes sense to me -- both as an educator and as an information user/seeker/researcher/producer within these environments myself; I am, technically, a millennial, so for the most part the information environment my students grew up in is also the one I only ever really "knew" as well.

But, and this is the crux of my point today: this is why I feel as though I may be perceived by my colleagues as a "champion" for the revision process. You see, I've been waiting for this revision for six years--of course I'm excited about it.

Does that necessarily assume that every detail of the revision, including the process as well as the content of the new Framework, will "get it right" on the first (or second, or third) try? Of course not. This is why critical engagement with the Framework drafts by the professional community is so exciting to me. I love observing my peers poke at all the holes they see (which sometimes I can't see myself, given my own unique context in relation to the Framework), because I learn so much from their doing so. In fact, it's the only way I've been successful at seeing things from a perspective other than my own -- by taking the risk of publicly sharing my own unique but (hopefully critical!) perspective, in the hopes that others will engage it with their own, and we both learn and refine our perpectives in the process.

During the #critlib discussion last night, the importance of my personal encounters with these two information literacy documents (the Standards and the Framework) finally hit me, hard: these encounters are inherent to my reception, interpretation, and enthusiasm in relation to the new Framework. They (my personal encounters) help construct my response to the Framework, which is really important to know as I engage in discussion about it.

And further, this knowledge helps me understand why librarians who have worked in the profession a lot longer than me, and who have built entire instruction programs around the Standards, are naturally going to have a different response than I. And this is good. It speaks to the diversity of the profession.

But my goal with this post was both to challenge myself to "own up" to the strong influence my personal encounters with these documents are having on my reception of the new Framework, and to invite my colleagues and peers to do the same.

I think these kinds of personal stories of information literacy begin by having more power than we perhaps realize or intend; then, once we acknowledge and critically examine them, that initial unintentionally conferred power is lessened greatly; but finally, through being acknowledged, I think these stories can have a new kind of strength we should be encouraging, rooted in the diversity they represent. Acknowledging them is the key. This post was my attempt to do just that.

No comments:

Post a Comment