Defeating “literacies”

The need to organise information in a meaningful way doesn’t diminish in a post-paper environment, and neither does the desire to discover new ideas. Curation and assisted discovery will take new forms as we bring together speakers, hands-on learning, online information and interactive storytelling. Librarians who ignore these opportunities are unlikely to have a future. Those who embrace them now should expect an exciting one. -Hugh Rundle, Blogs and the Post-Paper Library

Libraries, in their own way, do excel at making connections between information and ideas, but more importantly, they serve as a connection between people. Not just “patrons and patrons,” or “students and staff,” but also between “author and reader.” I mean active readers, who take what it is they read and bring it out into the world, the readers Foucault had in mind:

“I don’t write a book so that it will be the final word; I write a book so that other books are possible, not necessarily written by me.” –Michael Foucault (?) (thanks to the shrinking librarian, the best thing about the heart libraries on the internet)

Some days, I want to retire the word “literacies” from my personal vocabulary not because it is unhelpful, but because it is too helpful.  It’s nice to have an expression that validates what we do when we teach, but sometimes when I’m preparing to do an IL session, I feel lost among overlapping definitions and competing disciplinary fields. In those cases, I look for inspiration in doing, and remember that the thing we excel at is being that connection between people, a connection that we provide for one reason, which is not to prove to anyone that a person is “information literate,” but to give them some tools so that they may act upon the world.


3 thoughts on “Defeating “literacies”

  1. “competing disciplinary fields”. you said it. As someone who has worked to bring attention to the “new” literacies and *try* to shift library focus to the broader and deeper needs of our patrons this is something I run into regularly. “fight-to-the-death-no-ground-given-for-my-particular-literacy” might be more accurate. I have watch professionals from multiple fields including librarianship get so entrenched behind their particular literacy that they are unable and unwilling to see past their own field (ego?) to the larger issues at hand. I feel your pain.

  2. many thanks. i’m cranking trough critical information literacy at the moment (it’s neat), and it aligns itself nicely w/ how i feel somedays, but it’s politics look like they scare some folks. i’m glad the real baseline is: does it help the students?

    thanks for all the cool stuff you’ve done over the years, btw.

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