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No Silos - Adventures with Librarians

In the last two months, Spencer and I were lucky enough to present at two conferences: the 16th Annual Information Literacy Summit presented by DePaul University Library at Moraine Valley Community College Library (Illinois), and the Canadian Association for Professional Academic Librarians (CAPAL) at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

The Summit is a well-established venue for attracting some high profile keynote speakers. Last year we were inspired by Emily Drabinski’s (coordinator of Library Instruction at LIU Brooklyn) powerful “critical pedagogy in a time of compliance” speech and were confident it would be difficult act to follow. However, Wendy Holliday (head of teaching, learning, and research services, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University) did not disappoint, and gave an equally inspiring presentation entitled “boundaries and sovereignties: placing students at the center of information literacy”. Check out her references below!

Reference page from Wendy Holliday's keynote

Do you facilitate the transformative space between teacher and student is a question (and a call to action) that has stayed with us since the keynote more than a month ago. Watch both of their presentations as well as other Summit keynote speakers on YouTube and check out the hashtag #ILSummit to see what else was discussed. We hope to return next year.

CAPAL was an amazing experience, because it is organized as part of a larger conference - the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences - which lasted over a week and featured more than 70 professional organizations (of which CAPAL was just one). More than 8,000 people attended this year’s Congress in Toronto - learn more about it here. Seeing Cornel West give a powerful presentation (even in the overflow room) was a highlight.

CAPAL is a relatively new organization (incorporated in 2013) and featured many librarians working in the ‘critical’ LIS wing. We use a lot of Eamon Tewell’s work in our research and teaching, and were excited to see him present. We also finally met another duo co-teaching across disciplines - @LornaERourke and Pascal Lupien teach media and information literacy from a political science perspective. They gave a fabulous presentation on their collaborative efforts and we hope to work with them in the future.

Shout out to the crew at Ryerson University Library & Archives (@ryersonlibrary) including Ann Ludbook (who is doing amazing open access work - check out @RyersonOER), and Fangmin Wang and Namir Ahmed who gave us a tour of their Digital Media Experience Lab. This photo doesn’t do it justice.

Last highlight from Toronto was visiting Marshall McLuhan’s old classroom - thanks for the tour Neil Anderson (@mediasee)!

Abstracts, papers and slides from past CAPAL conferences are available here. This site should be updated soon with work from the 2017 conference (including our powerpoint). Check out that hashtag too #CAPAL17

There was a common disconnect between keynotes and presentations at both of these conferences - the keynotes were typically far more ‘critical’ (a take we appreciate) than some of the presentations. In a few instances, presentations didn’t include any critical elements or were exactly the types of topics and themes directly critiqued by the keynote. What does this mean? We welcome your responses to this question.

It was also interesting for me to be one of a few non librarian faculty members at both of these conferences. I overheard a lot of “bloody faculty” type remarks and couldn’t really blame them. From my perspective, many faculty only view librarians as ‘information finders’ or other ‘skills-only’ types, rather than scholars with knowledge to share. Librarians dominated both conferences, so it was an interesting experience as a communications faculty to be in that environment twice.

Scholars (on both sides - media and information literacy) have to be prepared to ‘cross-over’ into each other’s worlds. Despite seemingly few doing this, we are more determined than ever to offer a model of a combined critical media and information literacy pedagogy. We hope to have further opportunities to discuss these ideas and concepts next week in Chicago during NAMLE (National Association for Media Literacy Education) and ALA (American Library Association) conferences. We'll share our observations with you then.

We welcome your feedback and thanks for reading.

Break the silo!

Natasha & Spencer

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