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Reflecting on the Standards

December 28, 2013

Communications in Information Literacy has just published “Reflecting on the Standards,” a special issue examining the proposed changes to the ACRL Information Literacy Standards. The scope and range of authors and topics selected by issue editor Robert Schroeder is amazing. As Schroeder notes in his editorial:

This special issue of CIL does not consist of a single comprehensive program or plan to revise the Standards; instead, it includes a wide range of worthy and provocative ideas from our colleagues in the information literacy community. Some contributors to this issue have written extensively about information literacy in the past, and some may be new to readers. Some of the contributed ideas dovetail nicely, while other suggestions are mutually exclusive.

In this issue, readers will be introduced to the ways in which the information search process and threshold concepts might inform new standards. Readers will see how metaliteracy, digital literacy, and e-science intersect with information literacy; they will learn what the British models of information literacy and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for the 21st Century Learner might add to the conversation. Readers will also find articles that look at the Standards in the larger contexts of assessment, politics, values, or marketing. In addition, readers will encounter authors who advise caution with any revision of the Standards.

I was delighted to see the article by Ellysa Cahoy Stern, Craig Gibson, and Trudi Jacobson, titled “Moving Forward: A Discussion on the Revision of the ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education” — really a transcript of their discussion that took place at the first PA Forward Information Literacy Summit held at the Pennsylvania State University July 24, 2013 (and which I moderated). Cahoy, past chair of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards Committee, and the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards Review Task Force, and Gibson and Jacobson, current co-chairs of the ACRL Information Literacy Standards Revision Task Force, discussed the process by which the Standards came to be under review, some of the issues involved in the review, and the time line for the review and librarian feedback and comment on the process. Their articles provides essential background and context for the impending changes.

I am planning on thoroughly reading (and reflecting on) the entire issue. Schroeder has selected a very balanced group of articles, presenting some legitimate concerns and critiques as well as positive aspects about the changes to the ACRL standards. The abstract for Heidi Jacobs’ article, “Minding the Gaps: Exploring the Space Between Vision and Assessment in Information Literacy Work” sums up the opportunity/threat we are facing:

Regardless of what the review yields, the [revision] process is an excellent opportunity for us to think broadly and creatively about the Standards and to remember that they are not a fixed set of rules but a malleable and evolving document. Asking questions about the practical, pedagogical, and theoretical implications of the Standards and considering alternative approaches will yield engaging, fruitful, and necessary conversations not only about the teaching of information literacy but about our role as librarians within the educational mandates of our institutions.

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