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LOEX 2024: Branching Out: Growing and Adapting your Information Literacy Practice (Part 1)

by Ana Hernandez on 2024-05-20T13:12:39-05:00 | 0 Comments

On the 3rd and 4th of May, the instruction intern team at Rebecca Crown Library attended the LOEX (Library Orientation Exchange) conference in Naperville, Illinois. The 2024 theme was Branching Out: Growing and Adapting your Information Literacy Practice. This conference focuses on instruction librarianship within academic institutions. 

The morning of Friday, May 3rd, began with the preliminary speaker, Maura Seale, who discussed critical literacy pedagogy, labor issues in libraries, and the influence of AI. Her discussion of one-shot classes, a continued topic throughout the conference, is relevant to our internship at RCL, where we have all taught one-time-only library sessions to students. Seale advised that these work well when it is the beginning of an ongoing partnership, whether through follow-up classroom visits, research consultations, or project collaborations. This provides librarians the time and connections to impart critical information literacy skills. She discussed the importance of human conversation in learning and the value of this labor, which can be undermined by unrealistic demands on librarians' work capacities and by using AI in substitution for research consultations. 

Seale quoted Brian Merchant's blog post from the Substack Blood in the Machine: "There’s a tight labor market, high employment, and companies are very eager to embrace technological tools to either replace human workers or wield as leverage against them.” She mentioned the trend hype cycles of technology in academia, recalling the use of tools such as SecondLife, that were quickly discarded when the trend faded. She referred to slow librarianship as an alternative to fast-paced, trend-chasing, competitive approaches that can lead to burnout and decreased human connections. 

After this session, the interns (Mary Laffey, Keeley Flanigan, and I) attended four sessions throughout the day, starting with: 

Assessing College Students' Everyday Information Seeking: Implications for IL Instruction, facilitated by Stephanie Ward and Rachel Dinnen, who are Teaching and Learning Librarians from the University of Northern Colorado.

This session focused on a study performed by Ward and Dinnen, who asked students who "previously had IL instruction to describe their thinking as they completed information-seeking tasks and selected information sources" (LOEX). They learned that students mainly performed basic verb searches and judged the results by the indicators of the website's appearance and domain name. The librarians noticed a lack of investigation into the author of sources and connected this to a theme of “saying one thing and doing another,” meaning that the students know that sources should be interrogated for authority, but in practice, this is overlooked. To help students improve their overall information seeking, librarians can demonstrate keyword revision in instruction, build on tendencies to examine objectivity and bias, and practice lateral reading.

Our next session was The Incarcerated One-Shot: Applying Critical Pedagogy to Support Information Literacy Skill Development in Higher Education Prison Programs by Rebecca Blunk, a Reference & Instruction Librarian at the College of Southern Nevada. 

This was an enriching talk on a topic outside of any of our day-to-day work experiences. Blunk first introduced us to the prisons she works within and the demographics within, noting the disproportionately large population of people of color, specifically Black individuals, in prisons, contrasted with the overrepresentation of White individuals in academia. Amongst college-seeking incarcerated people, the White population remains overrepresented. She connected this to the school-to-prison pipeline. She then gave a timeline of college education within prisons in America. 

Blunk explained the volunteer training visiting librarians undergo in Nevada, including an acknowledgment that they will not bring any technology into the institution. She discussed the critical pedagogy that informs her work, referencing Pablo Friere, Michel Foucault, and Henry Giroux. She quoted Giroux, who stated that Friere believed education should be a "political and moral practice that provides the knowledge, skills, and social relations that enable students to explore the possibilities of what it means to be critical citizens while expanding and deepening their participation in the promise of a substantive democracy" (Giroux). Blunk stated the difficulty/impossibility of truly implementing this belief when the students are actively kept from participating in many aspects of society. 

Blunk explained the challenges of her role as a visiting academic librarian in prisons, focusing on the "old school" teaching she must use due to the lack of technology. She prints screenshots of search results, online resources, and presentation slides. She discusses imparting information literacy tips by asking the students to share something they are an expert in, how they came to know the topic, stereotypes about it, the most important parts of it, and keywords one could use to research it. 

After this session, we stopped by a poster session featuring Rebecca Crown Library’s Megan Hoppe, who demonstrated the social media overhaul they facilitated in the past year. This was an exciting look at the progress in RCL's outreach efforts and the collaborative effort that our librarians, archivist, and student workers undertake to communicate with library patrons. 

The next session I attended was Growing Critical Information Literacy in our General Education Program by Grounding Ourselves in an Ethic of Care by Perri Moreno, Student Success Librarian, and Catherine Baird, Online and Outreach Services Librarian, both from Montclair State University. 

This session stressed the importance of caring for the genuine well-being of ourselves as library workers and for the student body. They stated, "Working conditions are learning conditions," emphasizing that by caring for our library staff and faculty, student learning will benefit in the long run. They recommended the books Transforming Hispanic-Serving Institutions for Equity and Justice by Gina Ann Garcia and Feminists Among Us: Resistance and Advocacy in Library Leadership edited by Shirley Lew and Baharak Yousefi. Moreno and Baird have switched to taking a proactive approach to teaching sessions rather than reactive. They have decreased their time spent teaching writing courses, which was a strain on the library staff and inhibited their ability to help other disciplines as thoroughly. They learned this partially by tracking their work activities, which showed how packed their schedules were. They maintained a good relationship with the English department while creating more space to enact an ethic of care for themselves. 

Similar to the first speaker, they mentioned embracing slow librarianship and doing "less with less." They also discussed the integration of critical information literacy, explaining how librarians face institutional challenges when working to impart critical thinking skills that challenge and critique hegemonic structures. They mentioned sneaking these teachings into their lessons without naming them directly, which was a strategy mentioned by other speakers in an era of DEI pushback. 

The last session I attended on Friday was Fertilizing the Social and Emotional Roots: Assessing Belonging, Confidence, and Connectedness in Academic Library Programming by Kate Langan, an Engagement Librarian from Western Michigan University. 

This session discussed flourishing, which Langan quoted Deigh in defining as "the ability to develop personal standards and practices to navigate not only for the good of the self but for the collective good of society" (Deigh, 2010). She referred to a LibGuide she created on the topic, which includes her references and slides from the LOEX presentation. She stated that flourishing with information for early adults in college looks like an "increased sense of belonging and legitimacy, improved confidence in academic abilities, and having stronger connections to the university community." Langan was able to help students flourish at Western Michigan University through a library "Amazing Race," which acquainted them with the physical space and varied resources through a collaborative game. This presentation stressed the importance of community for college students, many of whom feel isolated in their experiences. The library has valuable potential to gather students and provide a safe space for exploration and engagement. 

This blog post will continue soon with learnings gathered from day 2, but until then, the intern team is grateful for the opportunity to have heard from professionals in the field! It is exciting to see the kind, thoughtful, and intelligent work librarians are sharing with universities across the country. It was interesting to see the repeated themes of concerns and developments within varied types of academic libraries. 


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