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Hot Topics: Critical information literacy for global citizenship, social justice, and community participation

Justification for embedding information literacy instruction as part of the college curriculum can come in many forms. From responding to the proliferation of unreliable sources of news in hyper-partisan times, to heeding employers’ calls for improved workplace information-seeking skills, to addressing the integral role of information literacy in critical thinking, there are numerous avenues at our disposal when promoting the value of librarian instruction. But, what about the more entrenched social issues that impact our campuses and communities more broadly? What role does information literacy instruction have in addressing long held prejudices? How might it be a component of efforts to expose and redress hidden injustices? Librarians and a faculty member from one small college will discuss new curriculum developed collaboratively on their campus that embeds and advocates information literacy as a means of action against important issues that today’s students are keen to address. In this session, the presenters will discuss the development of an embedded set of instruction sessions that explore information literacy outcomes through a social justice lens, and situate critical information literacy as integral to integrative thinking and interdisciplinary ways of knowing. Emphasis is placed on exploring ways in which students could apply critical awareness to become active, global citizens and make positive change to their communities, through personal and professional choices. A range of topics, rotating and transforming each academic year, are addressed through the lens of informational and professional/disciplinary perspectives. These topics, which will continue to evolve over time, have included the impact of elections on local and professional communities; gender discrimination in professional settings; contemporary social justice movements; and human trafficking. This session will discuss how the presenters have developed adaptable lessons that address these evolving, highly relevant topics through the lens of critical information literacy. The presenters will outline the steps they have taken to meet both the integrative and interdisciplinary needs of the faculty, as well as the information literacy outcomes of the library. In doing so, this presentation will highlight new paths towards meaningful and sustainable models of librarian and faculty collaboration. This session will also illustrate how librarians can expand the scope of information literacy for their students by relying less on ‘library-centric’ instruction. Through guided inquiry and dialogue, students are encouraged to draw connections between available information, their professional/disciplinary expertise, and efforts to remedy various forms of injustice. This method emphasizes the “real world” implications of the skills, practices, and dispositions that librarian instruction seeks to promote.
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