Sunday, July 29, 2007


Many people have ideas about what the information literacy standards should be, and just as many people don't know that such standards exist.

The standards written by librarians are my favorites.

The Association of College and Research Libraries has had a long list for a long time. Check it out and see how many of these things you know how to do. And did you learn them in college?
They will also tell you how to create a program that teaches the standards in the document Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices: A Guideline.

The American Association of School Librarians also have standards, newly revised this year, and still in process. You can see the draft document here: 21st Century Library Learning Standards

I like them best because they focus on theory and concepts, and will be useful for a long time. They focus on what learners will be able to do, and the goals are practical and useful.

In the State of Wisconsin, information literacy for grades K - 12 is included under Information and Technology Literacy. The curriculum standards are listed in a book length document:
Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Information and Technology Literacy.

There is good information in this document, but there is also a lot of emphasis on specific technology skills, many of them 20th century skills. Yes, there are people in the world who cannot create email or word processing documents, but not many of them are children. It seems more useful to me to frame the concepts in broad terms e.g. use computer programs to create products that can be shared. Saves a lot of re-writing, and focuses on the strategy, not the skill.

The best technology literacy standards come from the International Society for Technology in Education, and they list them for students, teachers, and administrators. This is their vision of what students should be able to do: National Educational Technology Standards: The Next Generation.
The whole web site is worth looking at
and if you're a teacher or an administrator, take a look at the standards for your job and use them as a little self test. [How did I do? Between 80 and 90% on both lists, but libraries, information literacy and libraries are intimately intertwined, and I've been a librarian for some time now. . . ]

Intellectual Freedom

Intellectual Freedom, and it's counterparts, Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of the Press, have been one of the foundational ethical values of my life.

It began when I was an editor of my high school newspaper. During a teacher's strike, we took photos of the picket line and the teachers crossing it, and interviewed the teachers we could reach. When school resumed, we wrote a story on the strike, and published it, along with the photos. One of the scab teachers made a huge fuss, and tried to get the story suppressed. The editorial I wrote in response ran under the quote "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, which cannot be limited without being lost." -- Thomas Jefferson.

I have had more education on the subject, and have expanded my values beyond the freedom of the press to the broader idea of intellectual freedom, but my basic ideals have not changed.

In library work, I have had the opportunity to do a lot of collection development, and have striven for balanced collections -- making an effort to overcome my own prejudices to be sure that as many points of view as possible are available to library users.

I had the very great privilege of being taught by Dr. Lester Ashiem at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His iconic article, Not Censorship But Selection, seems to me to still be relevant. It is posted on the American Library Association's web page, and I have provided a link to it for you.

The relationship between information literacy and intellectual freedom goes beyond having both things in a library -- though the concept of balanced, selected collections in an Internet age needs to be carefully explained and guarded.

What are the issues?

Access. This is an issue both in what materials are available, and what equipment, Internet connections, etc. are available, and under what rules. If I were in charge of the public schools, there would be no Internet filtering. I am not suggesting wholesale disregard of federal law, but I am suggesting that we should rethink that law, and the assumptions behind it. It is our responsibility to educate our students to live in the real world, which has no safety net. If they do not learn how to evaluate information and stay away from dangerous sites and situations, what have they learned?

Education. Students have to be explicitly taught both online safety and how to evaluate materials and information found in any format. This is an ongoing project, and it should involve all parents and teachers. And it is a much more complex subject than most people realize. We need more, not fewer, librarians, all of whom should be teaching information literacy in an online environment.

Materials. We need school and public libraries that provide a wide variety of sources of information, including books, magazines, video, and online databases. We cannot afford to either ignore emerging technologies because they might not catch on or because they have dangers associated with them, or to imagine that the need for print and for balanced collections has ended.

I could talk about this forever. . . but I need to move on to my other assigned topics.

For more on Intellectual Freedom and Young people, check out this ALA page:

And this page from the Young Adult Library Services Association Development Center, which I worked on several years ago, and which has been recently updated:

Why Blog?

I've always liked to write, and I have quite a few opinions, so blogging seems like a natural fit for me, but I've never taken it up, in part because I thought it would take too much time. Why am I here now?

A class assignment. I'm taking a class called "Development of Information Literacy Skills". I've been teaching information literacy for almost nine years, now, but I've gone back to school to get a teaching license, and this is a required course.

The assignment?
"Create an online presence that highlights the elements of your information literacy program. Make sure to include policies and procedures related to intellectual freedom, access to information, equity and accountability, and other area addressed throughout the course. (30 points)"

So, here I am. I'm not sure a blog is the ideal choice for the project, but I already had set up this blog, just never had the time to post to it, so I'm going to use it. . . and see what happens.

Fortune Cookie

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.
Frank Zappa