Friday, May 16, 2014

Article Note: On Intentional Informationists

Citation for the article:

Hoffman, Debra and Amy Wallace, "Intentional Informationists: Re-envisioning Information Literacy and Re-designing Instructional Programs Around Faculty Librarians' Strengths as Campus Connectors, Information Professionals, and Course Designers." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39 (2013): 546-551.

Read via Science Direct. 

This article draws on social justice research, and the authors present a new term: intentional informationists. This article has applicability for us here given our very strong social justice history and commitment. This new definition can help further enhance our information literacy program, and I also think it can go well with some programs here like our General Education program. When I came to my current workplace, a big reason to stay was that we share a vision for our students to be lifelong learners. How they apply information literacy skills and critical thinking after college is of interest to me, and the concept of an intentional informationist has potential to enhance that vision here. In addition, some of the article reminded me of previous Paulo Freire readings I have done before (I have blogged about Freire and his influence at various times, such as here and here); no surprise since there is at least one citation to Freire in the works cited section.

The authors advocate creating partnerships outside of the library, especially outside the "usual suspects" of composition and rhetoric. Go with folks in places like education (this actually makes a lot of sense to me, and as a former school teacher and adjunct professor, puzzles me with instruction librarianship does not as a profession and in academia work more with schools of education), business, and communications and media. Librarians can create and design courses for credit; in fact, the authors describe work they have done in this area creating courses that do sound intriguing (and that I would not mind replicating here). In addition, or if that is not a viable option (for instance, I know with my current duties, there is no way I could design a course let alone have the time to teach it), librarians can also serve as guest lecturers in classrooms for topics other than information literacy and library sessions. We do have expertise, in varying degrees, in topics such as writing, community engagement, activism, censorship, copyright and intellectual property, open access, and others. We should leverage this. It would also add to our professional standing if we get faculty to see us in different lights (it might also help the constant feelings of insecurity a lot of librarians tend to display over things like professionalism, expertise, and being an academic, but I am briefly digressing).

In the end, much of the point is for librarians to play to strengths that they already have. 

Notes and quotes to remember:

  • The authors state: "We believe that it is our responsibility as librarians and faculty to provide them with an educational experience and opportunities that challenge them to reflect, engage, and act" (546).
  • The answer to this is yes. For us, this really should be a no-brainer: "If information is a bit part of everyday life and librarians are intimately familiar with the interests and inequalities in the information realm, shouldn't we as a profession work to integrate social critique with pedagogical techniques that help students reflect, advocate, answer, and develop information related questions and issues that impact our students' everyday lives?" (547). Then again, this may include giving up to a big extent on the illusion of neutrality the profession so often wants to cling to no matter what. Sooner or later, as a profession, we have to choose to do the right thing. Sure, presenting a diversity of information and opinions is a noble thing, but it should not be at the expense of allowing misinformation and ignorance to stand. 
  • On this question, the latter should be the answer (in my humble opinion, which if you add it to a couple of pennies you might get some gum from the gumball machine): "Should we be teaching undergraduates concepts and skills in order to simply function in the information age, or should we be equipping students with the theoretical framework and critical thinking skills to define, consider, solve, embrace, and champion the ethical, political, social, and cultural opportunities and dilemmas that are presented to them?" (547). 
  • This is sad, and it needs to be addressed if we are to create better citizens: "The typical undergraduate has not, and probably will not, receive an introduction to information theories on the ethical, political, social, and cultural opportunities and dilemmas surrounding its creation and use" (547). By the way, I did read The Information Diet, which the authors cite in their article. 
  • The authors observe that many libraries employ standardized assessment measures for information literacy competencies. Here we use the HEDS assessment; the college piloted this past year, and we will decide whether to do it again or not. I think we'll likely continue a year or two, in part to see how it works. However, between reading this article and other reflecting and thinking, I know we will outgrow that eventually, but for now given we are building up a culture of assessment, it does give us something to start and get at least a base. I do want to know more, and I want my students to know more, so there goes my thinking for the future as I want to be able to assess critical thinking and reflection when it comes to information and its various implications. 
  • The authors' term: "Our definition of an intentional informationist is simple: she is a person that has the contextual, reflective and informational skills to identify information opportunities, tackle complex information problems and pitfalls, and provide solutions or considerations that do not just meet her individual needs" (547). 
  • "We believe that undergraduate students can and should be introduced to theories of commodification and ownership of information, ethical  uses of bio-recognition and genetic information, and convergence, as well as age-old dilemmas such as information haves and have-nots, information noise and overload, misinformation and privacy which impact them on a daily basis" (548). I certainly believe this as well. These are issues that are out there, even if more often than not the mainstream media ignores or hides them, and that affect them. Even the so-called "old-age" issues are barely touched, and libraries have a great opportunity in their advocacy roles to help with this.
  • This caught my eye: "Those who use libraries will need to reframe the discussion away from cost cutting to bigger issues of information access, information literacy, circulation monitoring, and safe information spaces" (549). Then again, this would mean common people would need to pay attention, something they are notoriously negligent about given topics like net neutrality that rarely get news coverage anyhow. Again, something librarians could be doing something about in the larger scheme of things instead of fussing about the not so large molehills they often do. 
  • And again, on librarians needing to do more than "the usual" things: "We believe the first big leap for librarians is to consider themselves as full partners in curriculum development, and not just there to inform collection development and promote library collections and services" (550). For some, it may mean more education and/or more training, but the way I see it this is a profession where you are supposed to continue learning throughout your life and career. For me, having a teaching degree in addition to being a librarian has been very handy. 
  • The authors mention finding success via outreach programs and activities. Certainly helps validate for me why instruction and outreach are linked. 

Side note for me on a couple of things cited I need to read or review soon:

  • Accardi and Kumbler, eds., Critical library instruction: theories and methods.  On the positive, my library has it. On the negative, they have it as an e-book (and reading books that way on the EBSCO platform is, to be perfectly blunt, a pain in the ass. I know this both as reader and from students who constantly ask for "the real book" when offered an e-book. I may either order a print copy or get one via Interlibrary Loan).
  • Jacobs, H. (2008). "Information Literacy and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 34.3. I honestly thought I had read this, but I have no record of it on the blog, so either I read it and did not jot it down, or did not. So, may as well grab it again.
  • I. Shor's books Critical Teaching and Everyday Life and Critical Literacy in Action. The first one we have here. The other I would be requesting via Interlibrary Loan. 

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