Category Archives: Information literacy

ACRL & other blogs’ posts: insights for professional identity & practice

I found myself responding to an ACRL Blog post again today. It’s so inspiring to see librarians responding in non-traditional ways when they discuss the things that they consider important to professional practice. I need to go back through this blog & explore the various expressions/descriptions of professional practice & identity – there are valuable insights there for me. I’m going to use this post to collate the posts so I can really reflect on what they mean to me:



Media literacy for kids

Crinkling news  – heard about on Media Watch tonight (20 May 2017)

Curious kids

in The Conversation – kids questions answered –

Info evaluation – more insights for consideration of a “friendlier” & more useful way to think about info evaluation?

Evaluating information

The Rule Number One blog has some interesting posts about info evaluation related issues, including an interesting article that I need to read a couple more times:

While I’m away from the working world (& hopefully healing my poor old migraine-y head) I should think about this topic some more & review a couple of my own learning resources on the topic. Another thing to do to keep being a librarian for my heart & head while I’m away from actual professional practice:

And, I wonder what I’ll make of this work now that I have a little distance??????

Another example of context & liaison?

I’m really getting eager for my copy of Hall to arrive in the post. I think that I’ve had another one of those high context communication experiences.

I was coming into work & an academic client yelled out, “Sandra!”. I looked around & she said to me, “Did you know that our students can’t find books on the library shelves?”. Like so many academic librarians, my answer was “Yep” and an addition, “But, remember most of the books in your discipline are ebooks so there aren’t so many to find as there are in some other disciplines”.

Warming up to the subject, I added “And, some students can’t use a table of contents and can sometimes struggle with an index”. Her response? “I know – it’s Google. And, did you know that lots of students haven’t read a book since primary school?” From me another, “Yep” …  “but, in third year, the smart ones figure out that it’s going probably going to hold them back when they do their 4th year research project so at least they are starting to think about it”.

So, I asked “Are we going to do something about it?” & her answer was “Yes”. I expected that from this client, but the next part of her response took me by surprise.

She also felt that she needed to get back into weeding because we needed to make it easier for these struggling students to find things in the subject areas where their analytical thinking is really challenged (or perhaps more to the point I was thinking to myself, eliminate their chances of being able to just make do with irrelevant items because that’s quicker).

Could it be that context spoke to her, as a truly thinking educator, so clearly that she had started to think like a librarian? Well, perhaps that’s an over-statement but …

Liaison & context – a little more

Today the Scholarly Kitchen has a post – Seven things every researcher should know about scholarly publishing. The post contains a very useful comment – “As an acdemic, you are one of many players in a highly complex ecosystem of scholarly communication and publishing much of which functions beyond the boundaries of your perception”. I think that this is a useful prompt for librarians – we & our clients operate in a highly complex ecosystem, much of which functions beyond the boundaries of the perceptions of each of us in this professional partnership. But, they do influence each other – profoundly so, for those of us on the service delivery side of the partnership.

As librarians, we can identify ecosystem intersections & use our professional relationships to communicate how common aspects of our ecosystem affect each other in different ways, but in ways that inevitably influence both of us. I think that this brings us back to the value of high context communication. Two recent examples of liaison work spring to mind – one related to information literacy & the other to collection maintenance.

Yesterday I had a discussion with a Head of School about problem solving learning in our undergraduate programs. His part of the conversation focussed on the difficulties teaching problem solving in the current format & the students’ complaints about the problem solving courses & their value to their studies. From a librarian’s perspective, I could talk about a number of information literacy issues that I often see when I work with the students who approach me or use the online resources that I create. I have learnt that many students struggle to focus on the problem solving process & look to the outcome as the artefact which must be produced. He agreed & this got us talking a little about information literacy & the problem solving process, which moved us on to the Research Skills Developement Framework & its sister problem solving framework & two “translations” of the Framework that I have developed to support staff & students – a teacher-friendly version of Levels 1-4 & a student-friendly version of Levels 1-4. It also let me talk a little about some RSDF work & interest in the University & some interest that his evolving in his School & a closely related School. This is a valuable conversation as it helps a key stakeholder see how librarians’ work links in with teaching work in a way that he has not experienced himself.

And, back to my big weeding project. My communications here have focussed on the common factor in our ecosystem – Google & free web-based information. Yes, it has led to a student preference to avoid the use of scholarly & professional material purchased by the Library & that frustrates markers who see the impact in assignment work. But, that means that demand for library resources declines & hard copy materials are taking up space for no purpose & so libraries want to weed. Turfing out the physical artefacts/records of a discipline’s knowledge base naturally concerns many academics – for many even more than the assessment concerns, so we have a perfect opportunity to connect the various experiences in our ecosystem to create greater understandings &, hopefully in time, responses to a lack of use of the resources that the library purchases.

What is information literacy?

I don’t think that I have a definition for information literacy & I suspect that it will remain tricky to pin down for a long time to come. I don’t want my definition to be about skills or behaviours as I think that the research & my professional practice tells me that these are way too limiting. I think that these don’t dig deeply enough to truly talk meaningfully about IL. I think that really digging deeply into lifelong learning might be a way to go & the “checking story” that I have used to help me think about definitions of IL is actually a lifelong learning story & I only just realised it. My checking story is about someone that I have known (who is no longer alive).

This person was shockingly racist towards Aboriginal People for the first 80+ years of her life. Much of her understandings seemed to come from the nuns in her family who were part of the Catholic Church’s Stolen Generations activities & she had no capacity to hear anything else that anyone said. But, as child abuse in the Catholic Church was discussed more & more in the public arena, she began on a journey of discovery.

When she tried to raise her concerns about child abuse by church people, the priest told her that it was a con & not to worry about it. As a person with a very strong mind, she did worry about it & eventually stopped going to mass & started doing volunteer work with homeless people. Working with homeless people led her to begin interacting with some homeless Aboriginal People. As she was truly listening to their stories, her standard racist reactions began to be replaced with empathy and a need to understand more about Australia’s history & its impact on the traditional owners & the generational impacts still existing today.

She began supplementing this sharing of personal stories with televsion documentaries & radio programs about Australian history, the Stolen Generations, land rights & more. She genuinely challenged herself & found a new world view. And, she was on a campaign to share her new understandings with everyone else; most frustratingly this included those of us who had been challenging her views for 20+ years only to be with a formidable brick wall.

To me, this is information literacy in action. I think that we can see three of Diehm & Lupton’s six categories of learning information literacy:

  • Learning to use information to build a personal knowledge base (#4)
  • Learaning to use information to advance disciplinary knowledge (#5) – in this case the discipline was the knowledge & world view of people sharing her pre-awakened understandings & prejudices
  • Learning to use information to grow as a person and to contribute to others.

All that information literacy learning – questioning the information provided by previously trusted sources, opening up to the possibility of new & more knowledgable sources, thinking critically about what she discovered & forming new knowledge & sharing that knowledge – and not a computer in sight.

Not a computer in sight …

I hear many librarians say that we can’t support information learning when students don’t have Internet access (for example people who are in prison). I think that they are wrong. I think that the most important & critical thinking is done without the ability to search databases or the WWW. I think that once we learn to do this thinking, the hardest work is done & can be translated to tapping on a keyboard when the Internet finally does become accessible.


Diehm, R & Lupton, M 2012, ‘Approaches to learning information literacy: a phenomenographic study’, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, vol. 38, no. 4, pp. 217-225.