Update: 11/15/2010 — I thought this post could use a little extra explanation. So here you go! This piece served as the abstract for my capstone project before earning my Master’s degree from the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science. I wanted to focus on a common thread I saw through most of my work in Library School, which is that Librarians and Patrons are always creating things, instead of just getting access. (The final project is also now available here):
Librarians often conceive of themselves as information providers: they select and provide the resources that they consider most authoritative in given contexts. But this approach can exclude multiple valid perspectives. In my research, I’ve sought to understand how librarians might implement a more inclusive yet critical approach to information. How can librarians encourage patrons to consider where information comes from, and to seek the “missing voices”? To address these questions, I turned to theories such as information literacy, critical literacy, and new literacy to construct my own conception of critical information literacy. I then explored methods to apply these theories via my work with teenagers at the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL).
My qualitative analysis surmises that patrons are more able to conceive of information as a construct rather than an a priori truth when they themselves engage in the processes of information creation. They realize that they are more than passive recipients of authoritative sources – this is the critical perspective. At ICPL, teenagers create and re-create content by blogging, podcasting, and adding personalized content to the library catalog. These practices allow them to critically engage with library texts.
Librarians have long been creating content without recognizing or formalizing their processes as “information creation.” They build metadata, construct finding tools, develop instructional materials, produce scholarly work, and present research to their peers. By formalizing the processes of information creation and extending these opportunities to their patrons, librarians can participate in the liberating practice of critical information literacy.