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No Silos - In Defense of Media & Information Literacy: A Mini-Manifesto?

Although many (including UNESCO, Sonia Livingstone, Marcus Leaning, and Renee Hobbs) have called for collaboration between media literacy (often located in media and communications, as well as education, programs) and information literacy (library and information science), the two areas remain remarkably siloed.

Marcus Leaning noted, “ . . . the experience of being a user of information resources and a consumer of media is so similar that the two cannot be separated” and characterized the common siloed approach as “pedagogically wasteful”.

It is no surprise that we agree with this characterization.


There are commonalities in widely accepted definitions of media literacy and information literacy. For example, in the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education”, information literacy is defined as a “. . . set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning”.

Similarly, Sonia Livingstone stated, “ . . . as media and information technologies converge and pose new problems and challenges for citizens in their everyday understanding of those technologies, two particular traditions are converging. One, broadly, we could call media literacy, the other comes from information literacy, and people here may be more or less familiar with those different traditions. But of course, as technologies converge, skills converge as well, and so we need a convergent notion of literacy”.

UNESCO noted, “Media literacy (ML) and information literacy (IL) are part of one another. They have differences and similarities, but they overlap in many areas. Together, they include all the skills, knowledge and abilities that we think of when we think of library literacy, news literacy, digital literacy, computer literacy, Internet literacy, freedom of expression and freedom of information literacy, television literacy, advertising literacy, cinema literacy, and games literacy”.


This is not to sweep important pedagogical and philosophical differences aside, and there are plenty depending on what field you are working in (media studies versus education is an obvious one) or approach you adopt (skills based versus cultural studies influenced traditions).

But those interested in a critical media perspective (including work by Jeff Share, Doug Kellner, and Julie Frechette) could form important interdisciplinary alliances with many working in the critical information literacy field including Emily Drabinski and Eamon Tewell. Trying to figure out what kinds of projects you can do in the classroom that reflect this perspective? Maybe include some materials from The Global Critical Media Literacy Project’s educator’s resource guide.

For another approach, try resources available from the National Association for Media Literacy Educators (NAMLE), the Center for Media Literacy, ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox or UNESCO’s curriculum (available in several languages).


The ALA (American Library Association) annual conference, the NAMLE (National Association for Media Literacy Education) conference and the recently formed North American Sub-Chapter of the Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL) are scheduled to meet in Chicago at the end of June 2017. Is there an opportunity for all interested parties to connect?

It’s time to start the conversation. And time to take the alliance seriously.


Media literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and news literacy have all received unprecedented mainstream media attention since the US presidential election - check out Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, Executive Director of NAMLE, on CNN. But these terms are also in danger of becoming buzzwords and some catch all solution to the problem of “fake news”.

We should work together to capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity and collaborate: librarians teaching media literacy/news literacy, educators supporting and emphasizing the need for information literacy at all levels.

Earlier this year at the Winter Symposium: Digital Literacy & Higher Education, many noted often feeling isolated or marginalized. Participants commented with consistent exasperation on the difficulties of getting colleagues and administrators to understand the importance of media and information literacy.

We should feel empowered to teach media or (though we prefer ‘and’) information literacy at our institutions. It’s time to reach out and form alliances between educators. Why not collaborate to end the isolation and make the movement more powerful?

Looking forward to your feedback and suggestions.

Natasha & Spencer

p.s. thanks to Dave Ambrose for the pic and info on the first silo in the US (in Illinois, no less).

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