Thursday, February 5, 2015

Making the Framework Accessible

Update #2: Happy day! ACRL has just announced that a final, copyedited version of the Framework will be made available on the ACRL website soon! Very grateful to have this communicated clearly to the membership. In the meantime, I plan to keep my website-version of the Framework live and available as a resource to anyone who wishes to use it (myself included). I will likely change the welcome message after the official ACRL version becomes available. But in the meantime, I hope it is helpful!

Update #1: I have made some minor edits to this reflection, with special attention to the footnotes at the end, in order to clarify some aspects of my position.

This week, the ACRL Board of Directors moved to 'file' the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education as a guiding document for information literacy practitioners. This action follows an almost two-year process in which the Framework was developed by a task force charged with revising the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. This revision process, which resulted in the Framework, invited members of the profession to publicly comment on the Framework drafts; the task force painstakingly incorporated this public feedback into each iteration of the document, resulting in the version that was 'filed' by the Board on February 2, 2015.

Anyone following this blog in the past two years is aware of my ongoing interest in the development of the Framework--I've spilled a lot of ink (or, computer text) on this blog and elsewhere in hopes that it would help make the Framework into a guiding document for information literacy instruction I could use and be inspired by. The final version offered by the task force, which was submitted for review to two more ACRL committees prior to reaching the Board, is a document I am excited about, and which I fully support. I even had the opportunity to vote to approve this document, as a member of one of the two aforementioned ACRL committees--the Information Literacy Standards Committee. I was very excited going into January, knowing that the Board would receive the Framework for consideration at ALA Midwinter at the end of that month.

January turned into a very complicated month for the Framework, with a public debate in the profession that pit the Framework against the Standards--a confusing (and exhausting) debate to follow considering the documents' premises and presuppositions about student learning are so different. I'd prefer not to recount the play-by-play of this debate here, but a look at the guest posts on ACRLog throughout the month of January will provide a cross-section of many of the perspectives that were voiced throughout. I even authored one of them, which was also cross-posted here on my own blog. To say I care about the Framework's outcome would be an understatement.

Amid all of this, I still felt fairly confident in the likely outcome for the Framework after Midwinter, when the Board considered the document and deliberated in public meetings, including an open mic session for members of the profession to offer comment. I was less certain of the fate of the Standards, even though I advocated for the announcement of a sunset date for them in a letter to the Board the week leading into Midwinter.

As the official announcement from the Board indicates, my two instincts were basically on point. The Board has expressed support for the Framework and chosen to 'file' it in order to allow it to be dynamically built upon by the profession. It has also decided to defer the question of sunsetting the Standards until a later date, as a result of the lively debate surrounding the question of the value of standards juxtaposed with the value of a framework.

All of this is well and good, and appears to be a "win" for all practitioners. The Board is encouraging us to use the Framework in practice, and to share out our findings and practices as we do so.

But my question is this: How are we to use the Framework when the (apparent) final form in which it has been 'filed' and thus made available to us is a complex pdf file (pdf), replete with extraneous documents having to do with the review process?* 

The most important outcome to me was for ACRL to give us the Framework (standards be damned #keepinitreal), so I can both use it and refer to it in local practice. The Board's announcement seems to say that this is what they have done.

But, it's unclear if the act of 'filing' the document is going to result in the document being accessible enough to use--though I welcome finding out in the future I was wrong on this.** I need a version I can see clearly, one which has been copyedited so I can proudly share it with those outside of my field, and which I can easily refer to in the professional development I will be participating in as we implement the Framework both locally and as a profession.

For an example of what I mean: I'm giving three conference presentations in the next three months about the Framework, and a fourth in which I plan to refer to the Framework to those outside of our field in the neighboring discipline of rhetoric and composition--and I'm not the only one. The form in which the final Framework has been given to us at this time will not meet my needs in order to implement it and share out the results, as the Board wishes us to do.

And so, I built a version that does:

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education #acrlframework***

From my Welcome message (links omitted):

The purpose of this website is to facilitate access to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, which was 'filed' by the ACRL Board of Directors on February 2, 2015 as one of ACRL's guiding documents for information literacy practitioners. 

As editor of this website, the tasks I performed in order to make this document accessible to librarians who wish to use it include: extracting the text of the Framework from the final version 'filed' by the Board (pdf); reformatting the text to make it as simply laid out as possible while retaining the integrity of its original form; copyediting the text; and, building this website with the goal of connecting the various elements of the document (i.e., introduction, frames, and appendices) in a dynamic way representative of the Framework's structure and form. I have not changed any of the Framework's content in migrating it to this website.

In addition, I offer the copyedited text as one continuous document, for those who would prefer to have a version of the text they can download, manipulate, and build upon for local purposes.

The ACRL Board has given information literacy practitioners the Framework to use in practice, in hopes that we will share with our colleagues across the profession its impact on student learning. In order to do this, we need an accessible version of the Framework to engage with and refer to in our work. My hope is that this site will enable that engagement. 

I welcome suggestions, corrections, and feedback for the work offered here. I hope it is helpful.

--Donna Witek, Associate Professor & Public Services Librarian, The University of Scranton (donna dot witek at scranton dot edu)

I'm excited to have the Framework, and so grateful to work for a library dean who is 100% supportive of our using the Framework in our institutional context to guide and support information literacy instructional practice.

But I needed a version I could actually use, which I in turn offer to my colleagues in the profession who are interested in: 1) implementing the Framework, 2) sharing the Framework, or 3) simply reading the Framework through a reading process that makes sense to you, in order to better understand it.

It's time to make the Framework accessible. I'm game if you are.


*I hold out hope that my inference here turns out to be incorrect, and that ACRL does in fact plan to give the final version of the Framework the TLC it deserves--copyediting; creating both an HTML web-hosted version and a well-designed pdf pamphlet for the purposes of reading, processing, and sharing; and offering it a home on the ACRL website alongside the other standards and guidelines for the profession.

[Edited to add: And just to clarify: The revision task force's role was to develop the Framework's substance, not to copyedit it and make it logistically/physically accessible, so this critique has nothing to do with them. My understanding is that this work would typically fall to ACRL's staff after a document has been adopted. The move by the Board to 'file' the Framework as it was delivered to them through the review process makes it unclear if this work will be done for the Framework, especially considering it is meant to be a 'living document'. My sincere hope is that it will be, though, as it will be much more convenient and appropriate to cite the the Framework if it is housed on the ACRL website, than it will be to cite the version that was 'filed', or even the version made available on the website I created.]

But even if this does happen sometime in the future, I felt a gut need to create a version I could start using today, now that the revision task force's work is complete. It is very hard to hack and build upon a document which is hard to access.

**This sentence was heavily edited to better communicate my concerns.

***This website represents my first foray into Google sites. Be kind!