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information literacy

Reliability of a source is not binary

A few of us at mpow have been talking about ways to put more “science” into library science, mostly in the context of using more robust research methods to study user behavior and assess library services. With that in mind, Lane Wilkinson’s recent post on using Bayesian inference to understand how users contextualize the credibility of an information source strikes me as a particularly useful thought experiment (if not an actual research agenda… which you should totally do, Lane!). There is one insight in particular that caught my attention:

“Values like credibility, reliability, or trustworthiness are not binary; they exist on a continuum between 0 and 100%. We need to stop asking ‘is this source reliable?’ and start asking ‘how reliable is this source given what it is reporting?'”

If there is one thing I could help our students to understand right now, this would be it. Perhaps simply framing the question of credibility in this way is enough to inspire them to be more critical of what they read via their everyday information consumption. One can hope.

Truth with a capital “t”

So long as we rely on code and algorithms to locate information, there will always be the hurdle of implicit bias. The same can be said of relying on humans.

“As long as Google has a commercial interest in appearing omniscient, it probably won’t work to improve knowledge panel transparency. That burden will fall instead to people like Taraborelli and nonprofits like the Wikimedia Foundation, which is working on an open-license, machine-readable knowledge base that will both source all of its statements and accommodate conflicting sources.”

The burden also falls to librarians and educators to teach the skills necessary for being a critical reader-researcher.

A formal ACRL document

The ACRL Board wants to make it clear that the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education is “a formal ACRL document” and that a decision on what to do with the previous standards will be discussed at the 2016 Annual ALA Conference.

I am admittedly a fan of the new framework: not so much of its content but its form. However, I’m still not sure what we mean when we say that it will be “a living document.” Will the threshold concepts be expanded as libraries research and publish new information about their use? Will we add additional concepts to the original list? I understand the need for standards, especially in our current assessment-driven higher ed environment, but I don’t believe we should let another decade go by before we revisit how we as a profession define info lit.

Still, I am happy to know that many, many people far more experienced and intelligent than me are working on and thinking about these issues.

Standards, anyone?

Is anyone else anxiously awaiting the draft report of the new information literacy standards from ACRL? I’ve probably checked the website 20 times in the past month. Seriously.

The latest issue of Communications in Information Literacy devoted an entire issue to changing standards. Notably, the articles discuss two concepts essential to understanding the new standards (we are told): metaliteracy and threshold concepts.

It’s been over a decade since the standards were first published. A decade from now in all likelihood we will be in the same place, but between now and then is a good time to reenergize the discussion.