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Inclusive Pedagogy for Library Instruction


This relatively short book is another excellent source for instructor librarians. In discussions about the genesis of the book, the authors pose the question, “Would ideas that didn’t always lead directly to outcomes find a home in our profession?” What a refreshing question to consider in the context of library instruction. This book represents a very comfortable home from which librarians consider the praxis approach, problem-based learning, and the necessity and possibilities of critique. It includes the work of librarian-practitioners, as well as librarians and scholars who are developing critical information literacy praxis and, recognizes those scholars who have established the relevance of critical pedagogy to library instruction.

The book is arranged into 5 sections that can be read in any order, starting at any point.

  1. Conceptual Toolkit – can be used to “jumpstart the librarian seeking new ways to conceptualize library instruction”
  2. Classroom Toolkit – blends theoretical approaches with concrete lesson plans and classroom strategies
  3. Teaching in Context – presents approaches to critical library instruction in specific settings – service learning, community colleges, and high school partnerships
  4. Unconventional Texts – presents strategies for teaching from a range of alternative media, including a thought-provoking use of comics
  5. Institutional Power – aims to critique problems of institutional power

Accardi, Drabinski and Kumbier want their “collection of provocative challenges to contemporary practice” to spur more dialog. Randomly selecting one chapter from each section might be a fun way for instructor librarians to engage colleagues in discussions about critical library instruction, especially those who are new to the issues.

Tags: Theoretical; Practical; Critical Information Literacy

Luvell Anderson (Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Syracuse University) and Verena Erlenbusch (Assistant Professor, Philosophy, University of Memphis) present a framework of how to improve diversity in academic philosophy by suggesting five different models to construct diverse syllabi. One overarching challenge in the field is the domination of white male philosophers and professors in the discipline. The proposed models include 1) The Status Quo Model, focusing on ideas, rather than figures 2) The Critical Model, seeking to present critical voices as a corrective for the exclusionary silence of traditional texts 3) The Reform Model, which insists on the centrality of marginalized perspectives in shaping the history of philosophical conversations and advocates a broadening of what constitutes philosophy 4) The Pluralist Model, presenting multiple traditions in a single course and 5) The Abolitionist Model, which would abolish the traditional philosophy canon all together. This article is not specifically focused on library instruction, but it can be useful to librarians who are working with faculty members to implement inclusive pedagogy and diversity into their syllabus. The article also provides insight on the struggles of how to implement inclusive pedagogy within a humanities discipline.

Tags: Theoretical; Foundation Work

Callan (a Stanford professor who studies the philosophy of education) distinguishes between the ideas of “dignity safety” (trust that one will be treated with respect) and “intellectual safety” (trust that one can continue to resist new ways of thinking). He states that dignity safety can be eroded, not just by overt oppression, but also by the cumulative effect of microaggressions and stereotype threat. Civility is defined as “the personal virtue we show when we express respect for others’ dignity in how we interact directly with them” (70). Thus, civility on campus leads to dignity safety, but not necessarily to intellectual safety. However, to truly achieve a useful conversation about a difficult topic, civility is not enough; the listener must be willing “to interpret what is said charitably” (76). Callan’s work is applicable to library instruction in that we need to be mindful that we need to maintain everyone’s dignity safety, but intellectual safety is not guaranteed. Also, this can apply to a campus as a whole.

Tags: Theoretical

Considine, et al. focuses on how to incorporate inclusive excellence into college classrooms. They define and explain diversity and inclusion as well as the history, theories, and strategies that shape culturally-relevant pedagogy. The approaches to inclusive teaching include 1) Non-verbal immediacy, 2) Active-learning, 3) Trusting the community of learners, and 4) Peer teachers. They address impediments to inclusive excellence, such as low incentives to incorporate changes, pragmatism, and threats to self-concept. However, the greatest barrier other than time is that these principles are being advocated by instructors, who lack the political power and pull to change institutions systematically. Thus, instructor agency will be needed to incorporate these theories and practices into their classroom in tandem with the creation of coalitions of practitioners who will work toward inclusive excellence.

This article has many implications for library instruction: it requires forethought in instruction design, it requires that instructors reflect on their mindset and familiarity with inclusive pedagogy, and the approaches mentioned within the article can be interpreted and embedded into library instruction sessions. However, this article has limited coverage of the intersectional barriers that come into play with student and professor interactions.

Tags: Theoretical; Practical; Foundational Work; Stereotype Threat

If one is new to Critical Information Literacy (CIL), this book is a must read. Even those well-versed in the tenets of CIL will find Downey’s presentation thoughtful and engaging. New instructor librarians as well as library directors will benefit from this book. It is a short read but packed with substantial information on Critical Information Literacy as distinct from more traditional (skills-based) information literacy. It also underscores the idea that instruction librarians often lack the theoretical underpinnings necessary for good teaching. Theory and praxis are essential. This book offers much for wider discussion.

Downey lays out in accessible language the foundations of CIL and takes the reader through the educational theory which provides context. Critical theory, critical pedagogy and critical literacy are discussed, with distinctions and definitions clearly articulated. Downey critiques traditional library instruction as represented in the old ACRL Standards which are viewed as too focused on assessment, falsely portraying neutrality and objectivity, being too mechanistic, and neglecting the sociopolitical, historical, cultural and ideological processes of knowledge construction. Downey acknowledges that the ACRL Framework published in 2015 represents some “progress toward teaching information literacy as a rich and complex set of ideas and skills… but the legacy of the Standards cannot be underestimated.” (p. 22)

Critical information literacy is rather a practice that promotes critical engagement with information sources. It considers students as collaborators. It recognizes the affective dimensions of research and (in some cases) has liberatory aims (p.41 & 42). CIL takes into account the complex power relationships that undergird all information, including its creation, presentation, storage, retrieval and accessibility (p.42). Addressing “the sociopolitical, economic and cultural aspects of all types and stages of information and the research process” is necessary (p.173).

Downey covers the following areas in 8 chapters:

  1. How critical information literacy fits within this context of critical education theories
  2. Teaching techniques of librarians
  3. Ideas on content that works in well in critical information literacy sessions
  4. How librarians have embedded critical information literacy, successful methods of implementation as well as barriers that tend to get in the way (p. 26 & 27).

This entire book provoked a sense of urgency to learn more and do more. Downey does an excellent job in directing the reader to other relevant articles and books. She is successful in her goals "to give librarians and others who are interested in teaching critical information literacy the inspiration, foundational knowledge and tools they need to get started with their own critical information practice” (p.27). We owe her our thanks.

Tags: Foundational; Theoretical; Critical Information Literacy

This chapter provides an excellent introduction to critical information literacy by exploring - and explicitly problematizing - the concepts of literacy, criticism, and information before bringing them together to consider what is critical information literacy. Elmborg crafts a deeply theoretical background though he does provide possible connections to how these theories might inform the day-to-day practice of librarians wrestling with the inherent white, middle-class values of higher education.

Tags: Theoretical; Foundational Work; Critical Information Literacy

This scholarly, historiographical article highlights the lack of race-based scholarship in the field of Library and Information Studies and the resulting myopic and destructive view. The author asserts that the canon of library literature incorrectly places the study of race beyond its boundaries. According to Michael Harris who is quoted in the article, since Library and Information Studies is a “mediating profession concerned with knowledge derived from all other disciplines,” scholarship in Library and Information Studies would benefit from a review of the scholarship of those associated disciplines e.g. social sciences.

In order to unravel the fundamental epistemology, the author investigates the establishment of the public library and the ways in which research and reporting on this foundation have failed to recognize the racial and racist motives and the clear lack of purported neutrality. The author criticizes library historians and theoreticians for a lack of investigation of white hegemony and highlights the role of public libraries in the assimilation of immigrants as an example of this shortsightedness. Additionally, the author characterizes the emphasis on multiculturalism as an emphasis that omits critical analysis of race and racism.

Although the majority of the examples in this article are derived from public librarianship, the extensive research and analysis of foundational concepts in the field of Library and Information Studies encourages wider applicability; and as a result, this article deserves a more expansive audience.

Tags: Theoretical; Structural Racism

This book chapter offers a comprehensive and accessible introduction of the social-psychological science behind threatening environments. The authors describe what contributes to threatening environments, and how the stress of these environments impact student learning. This is an excellent text for anyone who wants to learn the mechanisms of certain phenomenon, like stereotype threat, and how they might affect the classroom. While the chapter provides essential information about threatening environment, it does not go into much depth about how to minimize a threatening environment. The chapter ends by discussing one strategy—how framing intelligence as something that can change over time (as opposed to something that is fixed at birth)—can foster an inclusive environment, but beyond that does not outline many practical tips. However, by reading the chapter closely, librarian educators can glean their own ideas for how to improve the tone of their classroom environments.

Tags: Theoretical; Stereotype Threat

Cultural Competence: A Primer for Educators is an excellent resource and it should be read by all types and levels of educators, including librarians. Chapter 4, “Understanding Privilege and Racial Consciousness among Whites,” is a challenging and powerful article. The chapter examines the concept of White privilege, including the ways that European Americans are afforded certain benefits and rights based solely on the color of their skin. The author also points out how it is difficult for Whites to acknowledge the existence of such privilege. Throughout the chapter, the concepts of racial consciousness and how Whites think about race and racial differences are explored. For example, “White” and “American” has become synonymous in many people’s minds. Numerous examples are provided that demonstrate how White privilege is infused into the very fabric of American Society. In order to acknowledge white privilege, Whites need to take personal responsibility to change and grow, including becoming aware of and working through unconscious feelings and beliefs about one’s connections to race and ethnicity. The author also includes a description of identity development in the college classroom. Educators need to be aware of the existence of white privilege and its influence on teacher-student behavior. If white educators can acknowledge the centrality of race to a non-white student and grasp the nature of their own attitudes and about racial differences, the cultural distance between them can be reduced. One of the best attributes of this chapter is the inclusion of two reflection exercises, “Becoming Aware of Race” and “Costs of Racism to White People.” Librarians will greatly benefit from completing the exercises and reflecting upon them. Highly recommended.

Tags: Practical; Theoretical; Foundational Work; Structural Racism; Microaggressions

This article reports on a study to evaluate how students with vision impairments use digital technologies during their transition to university life. As a result of the findings, the authors expand current theories regarding transition and propose a paradigm shift, Transition 2.0. Transition 1.0 is characterized as an individualized experience during which the student acts as an independent learner and adapts to surroundings through specialized services and resources. Much of the previous research regarding technological tools in Transition 1.0 concentrate on assistive technologies to compensate or lessen the impact of the impairment, neglecting the impact of other emerging technologies.

Transition 2.0, in contrast, incorporates digital equipment (e.g. cameras and audio recorders), social media, online resources, and mobile devices in the various stages of the transition process and introduces a collective approach as well. In addition, Transition 2.0 identifies five distinctive stages during transition (exploring university as an option, discovering university life, coping with turning points, readjusting the transition experience and settling in at university) while previous theories identified only three. The researchers found that students with visual impairments operate similarly to non-disabled students, utilizing digital tools to collaborate, participate, learn and adapt.

The visually impaired students relied heavily on social media, websites, videos, digital cameras and recorders which could have an impact on library instruction. Libraries might also want to consider loaning cameras and audio recorders.

Since this study focused on qualitative results, the applicant pool was very small. The fact that the students and university were located in New Zealand might also affect its applicability.

Tags: Theoretical; Inclusion

In this opinion piece, Richards, an associate professor of sociology at University of Richmond, laments the institutional racism that is pervasive throughout American academia, or what she terms historically white institutions (HWI). While racism is most often viewed as behavior by individuals based on prejudicial attitudes towards people of color, Richards suggests that institutions also perpetuate attitudes and behaviors that reflect racial prejudice. To identify institutional racism, Richards proposes that administrators, faculty, and staff look at five questions designed to reveal the state of real inclusivity at institutions of higher education. These questions concern 1. Belonging. 2. Dominant norms, values & perspectives. 3. Power holders. 4. Institutional policies. 5. Institutional Interests. Additionally, she suggests that institutions could develop workshops and mandatory racism awareness programs, along with changing institutional policies to include establishing real consequences for behavior that demonstrates racism. Library administrators could benefit from looking at these same issues to investigate latent institutional racism in library services.

Tags: Theoretical; Structural Racism

Saunders examines the ACRL framework through a social justice perspective and analyzes the opportunities and limits of a new frame. She lays out a convincing argument to add another frame which she calls “Information Social Justice.” Her proposal follows the format of the existing frames which include a definition, knowledge practices and dispositions.

Saunders’ proposal is apropo given ACRL’s representation that the framework is not considered exhaustive or prescriptive. She also invites other librarians to adapt and implement her proposal. Saunders does an excellent job of making the case that key elements are missing from the current frames and she is not persuaded by arguments against a frame on social justice or information as a human right. Whether the Saunders’ proposal is accepted by the ACRL or not, her article is a timely reminder that instruction librarians should adjust their teaching as they see fit particularly where the framework is concerned. Saunders’ proposal clearly enhances the current frames which do not adequately address issues of inequity with regard to information. This proposal encourages the type of engagement among instruction librarians that will lead to continuous improvement in the frames. Any librarian who has felt unsettled by various aspects of the frame would benefit from Saunders’ perspective.

Tags: Theoretical

The phenomenon of stereotype threat is a vital theme to inclusive pedagogy because it underscores the impact of stressors that might emerge in a non-inclusive environment. While there is a wealth of literature on stereotype threat, this particular article stands out because it is the foundational study on the topic. The authors focus specifically on how negative stereotypes related to race and intelligence can cause members of the stereotyped group to self-conform to the stereotype and underperform academically. The article does not go into much detail about how to prevent stereotype threat--although much of the literature borne from this study test interventions to diminish the effects of stereotype threat. Taken in a larger context, the findings from the study suggest that the mere existence of a stereotype can be harmful to a student. Librarian instructors might consider whether there are any stereotypes related to libraries or research (i.e. help-seeking, ability to cite information) that could form a stereotype threat.

Tags: Theoretical; Foundational Work; Stereotype Threat

UNC-Chapel Hill biology professor Kelly A. Hogan, in response to troubling data showing that minority or disadvantaged students failed her class at higher than average rates, devised an inclusive approach to teaching that has proven successful. First, she identified widely held misconceptions about college students such as: facility with reading long assignments, knowing how to take notes, knowing how to study, knowing how to express what they’ve learned, and comfort level in asking for help. After a realization that her traditional teaching methods may have contributed to the inequity in her classroom, Hogan revised her class. She began with flipping it and devoted class time to structured active learning, regular practice, and lessons designed to provide experiences that the students might have lacked in their secondary education. These actions helped to level the playing field. Evidence from the class data demonstrated reduced failure rates for minority students. This article describes many of the specific actions Hogan took to make her classes more structured and more inclusive. These specific actions could be adapted to library instruction classes, library web page and libguide designs and to the teaching done at the library reference desk.

Tags: Theoretical; Inclusion

The Inclusive Pedagogy for Library Instruction project (IP4LI) is a collaboration of librarians from several small, liberal arts colleges to discover resources and best practices for applying inclusive pedagogy in library instruction settings, particularly one-shot sessions. It is supported by a grant from the Associated Colleges of the South.
Birmingham-Southern College Davidson College Furman University Sewanee - The University of the South University of Richmond Washington & Lee University