Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The "i" in IL: internet or information?

This recent CNN news item covers a new standardized test that has been getting a fair amount of coverage in the press lately. Some librarians think it's a good idea to have some sort of assessment tool that goes beyond how to use libraries and can be applied in various settings. Others worry that if information literacy is conflated with tech skills we'll fail to keep our eye on the ball. And still others (like me!) wonder if multiple choice testing isn't too blunt an instrument for assessing something as complex as mastering the art of inquiry. Still, there are several on-the-ball librarians who are working on this project so I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

The real surprise to me was Dominc Basulto's take on the issue. He thinks librarians are trying to "own" information and be gatekeepers of what will be considered legitimate--and this test is just one more manifestation of our worst control-freak impulses. Though I initially thought "huh? librarians as censors? Where is that coming from?" But on further reflection I do think the word "literacy" carries with it some very odd, controlling baggage. And we do tend to use scare tactics in "selling" information literacy as a cause. Careful with that information! It might explode!!


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