Ward, Dane. "Revisioning Information Literacy for Lifelong Meaning." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.4 (July 2006): 396-402.
I read it via ScienceDirect.
This is probably one of the best articles on information literacy I have read this year. I found myself making a lot of little notes and underlining various passages. The author states that "information literacy consists of a broader array of competencies than our instructional practices and competency standards would suggest" (396). The author argues for looking at information literacy in broader terms, and in the process discusses ways to revision learning. As I often do, I will make some notes from the article I found interesting or that invited reflection. I will add some thoughts here and there.
- "Critical thinking is not always sufficient in itself as a strategy for navigating through the information universe" (396). Ward argues that information literacy is not just about critical thinking. We need to know how to manage and make meaning of the information we find. This also includes having opportunities to engage in reflection.
- "This conceptualization would dictate that as librarians and faculty, we devote as much attention to helping students make a personal connection to a topic as we do to the analytical aspects of conducting research and generating a paper or presentation" (396-397).
- "Teaching students to think critically about information is a fundamental goal of information literacy instruction, as it should be. Without a well-developed capacity to evaluate and use information from books, library databases, or the Internet, students make questionable decisions, and sometimes about very important matters. The lack of adequately developed information skills among a nation's citizens hinders the successful functioning of democracy and decision-making for the common good" (397).
- "Personal, interior experiences of information are fundamental to a vital information literacy that can make a difference in our lives and in the world" (397). This sounded a bit idealistic to me, but it's something to strive for nonetheless.
- A couple of challenging questions: "Can we be information literate if we possess the technical ability to find and evaluate information, but not the human capacity to experience and value it? Can we be committed to an issue if it fails to resonate with anything within us?" (397).
On those two questions, personally, I would answer probably not to the first question. Information literacy is more than just the technical prowess. Unfortunately, I have heard people on my campus assuming that if students can use Google, then they are information literate. It makes my blood boil when some administrator embraces that limited line of thinking. As for the second question, that's a question I would have asked some of my students back in my days of teaching composition. I still ask that question at times during some research consultations. Maybe it's more proof that faculty and librarians share common goals regarding students' education if we are asking the same questions.
- "Relevant information skills are those that permit us to navigate the Web and to understand more fully how our lives are shaped by the information and information choices we are given" (398).
- "It is not enough for students to learn how to think critically about information for a research paper. They must learn how to be engaged and why to care" (398).
- Ward ventures a prediction: "I predict that the future of information literacy instruction will increasingly emphasize other ways of understanding information, and that this will include teaching students about personal engagement and self-knowledge" (398). It should make for an interesting time in information literacy if we could work towards it.
- Ward considers the problem of student engagement during library sessions. He has a different take: "I would argue that it is a problem of information literacy, a failure on our part to address a fundamental information issue--the necessity of addressing both sides of our interaction with a complex information universe" (398).
Ward tells us that we get information from the outside and the inside. As I think about it, I recall that in teaching writing, you would ask students to first write from the inside, from what they know, and then to go outwards, do research, so on. But we used to talk about being engaged with the topic and making it meaningful to the writer. Maybe some things don't change. Maybe librarianship is starting to discover (or rediscover) some of these things. Or maybe I am seeing this as a teacher would. Not many librarians have pedagogical training, though programs like Immersion work to fill that gap. It's not something in an LIS curriculum, other than the occasional BI class. I think if instruction is your path in librarianship, either a degree in teaching or extensive training in teaching help a lot in my humble opinion. I was fortunate. I came to librarianship with a teaching degree and experience. But I can ponder on that some other time.
- "To teach students about personally meaningful information and non-analytic information processes means first and foremost to create a space where the inner life can be nurtured, where creativity can emerge, where students can love the questions. Librarians and teachers must design information literacy instruction that permits this possibility" (398-399).
- "Being information literate means having the capacity to apply different systems of evaluation for different information needs" (400).
- "This broad view forces us to recognize once and for all that information literacy is not a synonym for library instruction" (401).
- A question: "Do libraries have anything to offer to the process of teaching the other side of information?" (401).
- On talking to the faculty: "When we talk to faculty about the library's curricular participation, we must emphasize the possibilities inherent in this broad information domain, and the repertoire of learning that far exceeds critical thinking alone. We must talk to faculty about supporting student engagement by bringing additional information into the classroom that elicits a personally meaningful response, and that permits students to understand themselves better through the content of the course" (401).
- "In order to help students become lifelong learners, we must not only help them understand themselves better. We must understand them as well, understand that their lives are more complicated than we can often appreciate. They do not turn off their lives when they step into our library session or class. We need to open the doors of communication, to be co-learners with them, to grow with them. We must live the reality that life is a relationship, not about separation by goal or department" (401).
I am reminded constantly of how complex some student lives can be. A lot of the work I do is getting to know the students; it is a never-ending task, but if I did not believe in its importance nor enjoyed relating to them, I would be doing something else entirely. Maybe some of the L2 movement is grasping at this when librarians open MySpace accounts and implement IM for reference. But as long as the tone and attitude is formal and distant, L2 will remain clueless. You have to blend yourself with the masses. You learn with them and from them. It's another part of life. Good educators have known this long before L2 or any other movements came around. I have come to learn it along the way.
- "Librarians with a broad understanding of the two sides of information literacy will become partnered with classroom faculty, technologists, student affairs personnel, and students in a seamlessly integrated curriculum" (402).
- And finally: "I believe that such a revisioning of information literacy would give birth to the future academic library--a place thoroughly integrated into the flow of campus learning where librarians, possessing diverse knowledge and expertise, would assist patrons in a multiplicity of information-related processes. These would include finding quality information, exploring the personal significance of a topic, framing an aesthetic experience of music, and facilitating personal awareness. Our area of expertise would be the entire field of information process, now taught in piecemeal fashion on our campuses" (402).
As I wrapped up my reading of the article, I wondered about that last statement above. I wanted to ask how does this challenge our "basic" notions of what we can and can't do in reference? I am talking about what we often learn in library school regarding borders of answers, interpreting, so on. And then there are the challenges to instruction. Overall, this is more than just showing students how to find the stuff. But this is a challenging proposition. How many librarians out there would be willing or able to embrace this?
Update note (12/4/06, 6:11p): With apologies to readers as I forgot to put the citation information as I usually do at the top. It has been posted now.