Academic librarians are worried about power. And powerlessness. They are particularly concerned with the way power dynamics shape their identities as educators and inform their pedagogical capacity.
Recent library scholarship has introduced a number of compelling arguments for pedagogical alternatives to what Freire calls the “banking concept of education,” which conceives of students as passive “receptacles,” teachers as “depositors,” and knowledge as capital. If James Elmborg’s seminal 2006 article Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice is any indication (it’s been cited more than 250 times as I write this), the banking concept of education doesn’t work for information literacy instruction. Elmborg begins his article with a problem and ends it with a challenge: “the real task for libraries in treating information literacy seriously lies not in defining it or describing it, but in developing a critical practice of librarianship — a theoretically informed praxis.” This is a daunting task, particularly considering the logistical reality of information literacy instruction, which typically happens in ‘one-shot’ library sessions. While a “problem-posing” approach is difficult to achieve in the context of the one-shot, a critical approach is not just an alternative but an imperative.
The beginning of each semester always rejuvenates me. There is nothing more stimulating than those first few sessions with a class of expectant students, arriving with their high energy, curiosity, and desire to participate and impress. My new class at Pratt Institute’s SILS came to New York from all over America and the world. The students range in age from their 20s to their 60s, which has so often been typical of my LIS classes. It is a great privilege and honor to work with them to try to answer the accursed questions that continue to plague our profession.
In prior years I have worried for these new librarians about the shortage of jobs in our field, the low salaries, and the uncertainty in the outlook for libraries of all types.
This year, however, I feel much more positive about the opportunities available to these new information professionals and more optimistic about the potential for the future and the careers that they will find. I have no doubt now that they will move us nearer to the resolution of the many challenges we face. Read more…
For all the concern expressed about the imminent demise of the college library, there may never have been a time when librarians seemed more vital, forward-thinking—even edgy—than they do now.
It’s a dated reference, but today’s information professionals often remind me more of Ian Malcolm, the “chaos theorist” played by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park (1993), than of the eyeglass-chain-wearing librarians of yore, if they ever existed in significant numbers. (I have seen only one, Mrs. Evelyn, from my elementary school in the early 70s.)
It’s not that many of today’s librarians routinely dress in sunglasses and black leather (though some do). It’s that, more than any other class of professionals in higher education, librarians possess a comprehensive understanding of the scholarly ecosystem. They know what’s going on across the disciplines, among professors and administrators as well as students. No less important, they are often the most informed people when it comes to technological change—its limits as well as its advantages. Read more…
The two library-related questions I hear most are:
1) Will ebooks replace print books in the near future?
2) How is the digital revolution changing the mission of libraries; what will academic libraries become in the future?
The first question frustrates me on a number of levels, primarily because I hear it so often. The question is asked either in a tone of horror at the thought that the Era of No More Print Books is imminent, or with a bit skeptical cynicism, wondering who would choose to be a librarian in an age when you might soon become “irrelevant” (sigh). My pat responses are: this shift isn’t happening as fast as originally anticipated, print books continue to have lasting power beyond device lifetime and software upgrades, and ultimately the ebook format isn’t killing literature, it’s simply another format in which to digest the content of books. Cultures originally related stories and information orally before turning to stone and scrolls, then becoming books. Books have remained in essentially the same form for centuries because they are cheap, portable, and when printed on quality materials can be preserved for eons. However, stories and information will last beyond the medium of the print book. This is simply a change in format: like VHS to DVD to Blu-ray. Yes, there are other issues inherent in this conversation (for instance, the relative cheapness of a paperback to buying an ereader), but that’s as far as I want to get into that issue now. Read more…
What does it mean to be embedded? We have workshops, blogs, and books, but I’m not sure that we have a common definition. Perhaps it circles around the act of taking content or services outside of our traditional framework (spaces, websites) and integrating them into the natural habitat of our users? Read the whole article