Further Reading in Information Literacy

Advocacy for Information Literacy

Stubbings & Franklin (2015) describe the situation at a tertiary institution, where the library staff have worked over the course of several years to integrate information literacy instruction into the degree programs.  Major obstacles were a lack of understanding of information literacy by the lecturers, lack of time in include more content in an overcrowded curriculum and lack of teaching skills and teacher training of the librarians.  The time taken to convince academic staff and have it incorporated was also disheartening, and information literacy instruction is often carried out in sub-optimal conditions, such as large lectures containing hundreds of students or answering information literacy questions ad hoc in the library, with no ongoing relationship or instruction.  My main take-away was that advocacy works, but will take time, and that teacher-librarians are in a better position than the academic librarians in question, as we already have the pedagogical expertise and background.

Information Literacy as Oppression

Beatty (2014) argues that information literacy is inherently oppressive because it is based in neoliberalism and treats the learner as a commodity instead of a person.  It is an interesting, challenging read that, ultimately, asks more questions than it answers.  Is it just that the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)’s documents are oppressive due to their commodification of people or is information literacy as a concept inherently oppressive?  Is there a way to frame and teach information literacy that does not treat the student as a commodity? These aspects are left unexplored and it is something that I will have to ponder further.

Information Literacy for Disabled People

Williams (2015) discusses Project @PPLE, an information literacy project for intellectually disabled people, many of whom are “illiterate” in the sense of not being able to read.  The project aimed to empower the students to communicate about themselves to assist them and their caregivers in making important life decisions.  This is the first article I have seen that doesn’t overly or covertly assume that language literacy is a prerequisite for information literacy.

Never Neutral

While not strictly information literacy, Meredith Farkas’ (2017) article does touch on search algorithms which are integral to our modern information seeking.  She discusses the proven inherent bias in many search functions, and how that is harmful, particularly to minorities.  Farkas says we need to educate patrons about algorithmic bias, and empower them to find information and points of view that might be obscured by the “filter bubble” on Google and Facebook.

Dewey Decimal System

Also on the topic of bias is Sullivan’s (2015) article on homophobia in the Dewey decimal system.  She argues that information seekers can be put off their search, or stigmatised by finding the books they seek, in this case on homosexuality, alongside books on topics such as “abnormal psychology” or more recently with obscenities and pornography. She traces the changes over time as to where homosexuality was catalogued, and notes numbers that have since been retired.  While the change in classification is indicative of changing social values, she argues that the changes have not gone far enough, as the current primary classification number for homosexuality (306.76) leaves books on LGBTQIA issues next to books on prostitution (306.74).  While straying from the key focus of this post, information literacy, a little, it does reveal the inherent bias in the very nature of our classification system.

Information Literacy: Origin Story

Paul Zurkowski (1974) is credited with being the first person to write on the topic of information literacy.  This quaint typewritten document, complete with hand drawn diagrams, is an interesting read.  Zurkowski considers those who do not know the value of information as informationally illiterate and determined that likely only one sixth of the US population at the time could be considered informationally literate.  He advocates for resource sharing, freedom of expression, the right to speak and be heard and for education programs to make information literacy universal by 1984.


Beatty, J. (2014, Sept 24) Locating information literacy within institutional oppression. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/locating-information-literacy-within-institutional-oppression/

Farkas, M. (2017, Jan 3) Never Neutral: Critical librarianship and technology. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2017/01/03/never-neutral-critlib-technology/

Stubbings, R. & Franklin, G. (2015) Does advocacy help to embed information literacy into the curriculum? A case study, Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, 5:1, 1-11, DOI: 10.11120/ital.2006.05010004

Sullivan, D. (2015, Jul 23). A brief history of homophobia in Dewey decimal classification. Overland. Retrieved from https://overland.org.au/2015/07/a-brief-history-of-homophobia-in-dewey-decimal-classification/

Williams, P. (2015) Exploring the challenges of developing digital literacy in the context of special educational needs communities, Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, 5:1, 1-16, DOI: 10.11120/ital.2006.05010006 
Zurkowski, P.G.  (1974). The information service environment relationships and priorities. Related paper no. 5. National Commission on Libraries and Information. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED100391.pdf

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