Heidi Julien is professor and chair of the Department of Library & Information Studies at the University at Buffalo. She is the former director at the School of Library & Information Studies, University of Alabama. She has taught at the University of Alberta and Dalhousie University in Canada and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Among other current institutional affiliations, she is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Information Studies at Charles Sturt University in Australia. Her research and teaching interests focus on information behaviour and information literacy. Dr. Julien is a prolific author, research collaborator, and speaker. She is past editor of the Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, and served on the editorial board of Library & Information Science Research. She is active in the Association for Information Science & Technology, where she has served as chair of SIG USE, and in the Association for Library & Information Science Education, where she has served on the Board. Dr. Julien is past-president of the Canadian Association for Information Science.
Beyond the Hyperbole: Information Literacy Reconsidered
The conceptual confusion arising from what we variously term information/digital/media/ICT/computer/computational/technological/trans-/meta- literacy/fluency, is tricky enough, but this lack of clarity is less relevant than the burdens placed on these concepts. While the value of developing these knowledge and skill sets appears obvious, claims that information literacy (a term I will use to approximate this set of concepts) is key to achieving an immense range of lofty goals stands on shaky ground. Claims for the expected outcomes of information literacy, promulgated in a range of documents from official bodies around the world, include: sustainable human development, participatory civic societies, world peace, freedom, democracy, good governance, intercultural knowledge and mutual understanding, freedom of expression, an informed and critically analytical citizenry, employability, lifelong learning, and economic prosperity. Such claims place considerable intellectual, political, and practical burdens on the notion of information literacy (or its conceptual cousins). In addition, these claims fail to account for the place of any “literacy” or “fluency” within the context of information practices in general, which are socially and culturally situated, mediated, and constructed. Accounting for social conditions, as well as for the complexity of information behaviour in general, significantly minimizes the potential for information literacy to ameliorate social and political challenges. This talk will discuss misplaced expectations for information literacy, from theoretical and practical perspectives.