Eating Animals, With a Side of Transliteracy

Eating AnimalsI know many of you have been gripping the edges of your seats in suspense, white-knuckled, wondering what has become of my quest to avoid meat!  Well, I’ve taken your suggestions and browsed lots of excellent vegetarian cookbooks:  World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.  I’ve also gone against your explicit advice not to read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Eating Animals.  I’d really enjoyed Everything is Illuminated after hearing Foer read from it at a tiny bookstore in St. Paul in 2003.  I associate his writing style with lush, almost giddy romanticism, and thought, “well, that plus vegetarianism, sounds warm and fuzzy.”  Readers: Eating Animals is not warm and fuzzy.

What it is is two things mostly: a philosophical exercise, and an exposé on factory farming.  I really loved it, and recommend it to anyone who’s morbidly curious about the gruesome underbelly of industrial-scale farming.  Foer really crystallized my desire to stop eating meat, and freaked me out about eggs and dairy while he was at it! But I’m not here to proselytize, so I just want to briefly critique two aspects of the book as a whole — one thing that I didn’t like very much, and another that I absolutely loved. Continue reading


Content Creators: Rethinking the Information Paradigm

I can’t believe it was just a few months ago that I was busy putting the finishing touches on my capstone project to graduate from library school.  Back in its nascience, I posted the abstract for this project right here on Librarian in a Banana Suit.  But I wanted to share the final product with you, too, and so now I present: Content Creators: Rethinking the Information Paradigm.

Layout and design work are by Colin Smalter.  (Tip: to zoom in, just click on the image to open it in a new window, and then click again to enlarge.)  Hope you enjoy!

Content Creators

Hip-Hop, Foucault, and Learning Between Borders

Foucault's Hand

I really like hip-hop.  A few months ago, as I was finishing my two years of Library School, I was taking a seminar called “Analysis of Scholarly Domains.”  We were contemplating the structure of knowledge in University settings, and I was spending a lot of time thinking about which voices get included in the Academy, which become excluded, and why that happens.  We’re talking nights spent awake until 2 and 3 a.m., reading Michel Foucault and banging my head against the desk until finally having the “a-ha” moment — so it’s that sort of “a lot of time thinking”!  The result of all that thinking was a twenty page term paper called “Learning Between Borders,” a personal narrative of my own journey through the Academy, including my love of both MLA and hip-hop, and why I think they go smashingly together.

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Content Providers, Content Creators


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”?  Continue reading

Pedagogical Zones

Lev Vygotsky located the Zone of Proximal Development between a child’s “current development level and the level of development the child could achieve ‘through adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers’” (Vygotsky, as quoted in Woolfolk, 44).  He wrote that children are always on the verge of being able to solve certain problems, and that they just need some structure, clues and reminders to help them.  This Zone of Proximal Development is the area “where instruction can succeed, because real learning is possible” (ibid).  Carol Kuhlthau built on Vygotsky’s claims when she described her theory of “zones of intervention.”  She studied the information gathering process of high school students, and noticed that doubt, confusion and anxiety often prevent students from knowing how to move forward in their work.  When uncertainty prevails, mediators can intervene in the search process.   “Mediators” can be friends, family, librarians, teachers—in other words, any capable peer or adult who can provide the student with some clues or structure to help her find her way.

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Reification & The Swamp

The Swamp

“The necrophilous person loves all that does not grow, all that is mechanical.  The necrophilous person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things.” (Fromm, as quoted in Freire, 72)

The inherent danger in reification is that when we attempt to explain or describe a concept, we could transform what is fluid or living into a static thing.  When we theorize about education, for example, which is a very fluid and complex concept, it is tempting to try to make the reality of education—i.e. education-in-practice—fit into our static theories and definitions about education, rather than the other way around.  This is what Freire called “oppression—overwhelming control. . . nourished by love of death, not life.”  And Fromm: “he loves control, and in the act of controlling he kills life” (ibid).

Anne Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola problematize book-love.  Quoting several writers, they argue that books objectify cultures and worlds by encouraging people to imagine linear, concrete selves.  Continue reading

New Literacy at the Public Library

A few weeks ago, Wired magazine published a great article by Clive Thompson on “the New Literacy, debunking that tired old argument that TV, computers & texting are destroying literacy and civilization.

Au contraire, what Andrea Lunsford found in a recent study at Stanford is that more young students are generating so much more creative content in their free time than any previous generation, and that this content is often highly nuanced — they know how to assess their audience and adapt their tone to get their point across.  And my favorite quote from the article: “The brevity of texting and status updating teaches young people to deploy haiku-like concision.”

At my public library I encourage teenagers to blog, create podcasts and produce YouTube videos.  I want them to see themselves as creators of content rather than mere content consumers.  I think this is utterly empowering for them, and it’s fantastic to see some exciting & innovative research coming out of Lunsford’s study to validate these objectives!

The Authentic Librarian, Teacher, Student & Self

Well, the fall semester is finally here, along with all the attendant responsibilities:  lectures, readings, research, assignments, collaborations, conferences, my graduate assistantship, as well as continuing Teen Tech Zone and Teen Advisory Group with the fabulous teenagers at my public library.  Maybe all this will help explain the recent lapse in posts here on Librarian in a Banana Suit…

This semester I’ve noticed something new in my classes, although I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon at all — it’s just the first time I’ve happened to observe it:  my instructors are nervous!  Sweaty palms, self-deprecating jibes, fidgeting with the AV equipment, mumbling nervously to themselves, etc.  They are TERRIFIED to meet a new crop of students who will be judging them on their aptitudes as teachers for the duration of the semester.  As the instructors get to know us, they will become more comfortable and relaxed, I’m sure.  It’s funny how I’ve never really noticed those first-day jitters before.

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Public Praxis: A Vision for Critical Information Literacy in Public Libraries

Update: 10/26/2010 — An updated version of this article is now available in Public Library Quarterly: Vol. 29, Issue 2, p. 162

This paper was a labor of love; it was written for my Literacy and Learning course with James Elmborg this semester.  In trying to understand why public libraries haven’t paid as much attention to “information literacy” as school and college libraries, I ended up writing about how public libraries can devote themselves to the “continuous process of forming whole human beings—their knowledge and aptitudes, as well as the critical faculty and the ability to act” (IFLA ), and about why I think it’s important for them to do just that.  I also talk about Paolo Freire; John Dewey; Web 2.0; New Literacy Studies; and information literacy programs at public libraries in the province of Mpumalanga, South Africa.

Continue reading below to see the full text of the paper, or click here to download the pdf.

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