Librarians who choose to make a difference address issues such as net neutrality, the Patriot Act, freedom of information and workplace discrimination. We identify information trends in their nascent stages. I get that we’re called a dying profession. Because we’re information workers and because the nature of information constantly changes, the job of working with information will constantly change. If you don’t understand the core of the profession, if you think we just catalog books and read all day, then you’ll think the profession is dying.
When I started this blog, I developed the tagline “Promoting literacy in teens of color one book at a time” and I addressed financial, computer, information and reading literacy. These, and other literacies are so important for success, the ability to navigate the world on our own terms.
I’ve been working on an article for the past few weeks that touches upon both metaliteracy and critical literacy. Yesterday, working on a completely different project, I found myself again digging into critical literacy and it really began to feel like I found where I belonged. This is a literacy that branches from critical pedagogy and the works of Paulo Friere. I’ve talked about this recently, about reading text to understand the power dynamics that are present: why did the author make the choices she did in writing these piece and who does it empower? Critical literacy should kick in no matter what we’re watching or looking at. Information is indeed power and that power is conveyed through direct and indirect messages. How librarians teach web searching, evaluating articles, presenting information or any information related skill should consider critical literacy if we want our teens to maintain our democratic way of life. All teens need to be empowered by uncovering all the messages being conveyed to them and they need to realize the responsibility that comes with that empowerment.
As an example, I want to share experiences I’ve had in doctor’s offices. Typically, when we go to the doctor’s office, she asks a list of routine questions, runs a few tests related to our particular ache or pain and tells us how the ache or pain will be treated. Even in a doctor’s office we need to use our critical literacy skills! Let’s disrupt the concept that the doctor is the sole source of information on health! A few years ago, I had a doctor who actually printed out and shared current research with me. We then discussed possible treatments. She spoiled me for all other doctors! I, who at one time would never question authority, will now ask ‘why’ or ‘how’ or ‘what other treatments?’. Did you ever watch House or Grey’s Anatomy? Though their medical practices are farfetched, they do related that doctors don’t always have the correct answer. I’m beginning to like the look I get that says ‘how dare you question me’. Yes, me, this little, old, black woman will question you.
I think about doctors because earlier this week, I visited a new eye doctor who kept given me me a hard time because my eyesight is so bad. I had to remind him about the practice of putting drops of silver nitrate in baby’s eyes in the 1950s and his entire demeanor changed. He talked about how horrid this practice was and I’m certain he had to have realized why my eyesight is so bad. From that point on, he told me more about my eyes than anyone had ever told me before.
Information is power! I love being a librarian!