More personal librarianship and the issue of information literacy.

Think of a project where a student is tasked with producing original historical research from archival materials. She would likely enter an archive with the guidance of an archivist and perhaps work alongside other students and researchers, picking up tacit knowledge about historical research (a field that is in flux) the way. To make sense of what she finds, she might very well need to connect with other students/scholars that also are knowledgeable about the topic and this connection could be evolving and dynamic with multiple feedback loops. (Emphasis mine) -Mark Dahl

More so than information, knowledge is personal. We either build it ourselves, or in some form or fashion we gain knowledge through interactions with other people.  Makes sense: knowledge is something sentient beings do pretty well. Starting with this, I’d like to take up an issue with the ACRL information literacy standards. The emphasis they place on the accessing of information and incorporating it into one’s “knowledge base” takes all kinds of precedence over understanding the social factors that surround the use of information. Essentially, the ACRL standards demand that we teach everyone to play ball within the confines of the library/archives system without ever introducing them to the social system that surrounds it.

We as librarians need to illuminate these things to all of our patrons, and stop hiding the messy truth about what it is we do under a fine layer of jargon that overlays our work. More than measurable outcomes, sometimes I’m more interested to see if I can impart  (on good days) these kinds of “soft” skills alongside the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am of teaching people how to  find the stuff they need:

Attunement: the ability to enter other minds and learn what they have to offer.

Equipoise: the ability to serenely monitor the movements of one’s own mind and correct for biases and shortcomings.

Metis: the ability to see patterns in the world and derive a gist from complex situations.

Sympathy: the ability to fall into a rhythm with those around you and thrive in groups.

Limerence: This isn’t a talent as much as a motivation. The conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God. Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others.

David Brooks, The New Humanism

These kinds of things are as important to information literacy, especially for Mark Dahl’s hypothetical student,  who needs to be able to learn from others, monitor their own biases in assessing original historical documents, and find patterns in what they are exploring. That’s what we call “being social.” What we have put at risk in the information literacy objectives is that the researcher is under no obligation to look examine the contexts in which information and knowledge occur before engaging with others, on paper, online, or in person, and the standards systematically ensure that the social aspects of research remain obscured.

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