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I recently forwarded a call for articles for an issue of Behavioral and Social Sciences Librarian which is focusing on "Critical Information Literacy in the Social Sciences" I’ve had several questions about the concept of critical information literacy come up since then, and thought I’d address some of them here.
The essence of critical information literacy, according to Jim Elmborg (a much-cited author on this subject) is that “librarians must focus less on information transfer and more on developing critical consciousness in students.”1 For this to happen, information literacy instruction needs to be contextual – set within a larger disciplinary need.
Put in a slightly different way, the term “critical” is used in the same way as "critical thinking" and generally refers to higher level information literacy skills within a discipline. For example, in writing, critical information literacy would involve students examining pieces of information as artifacts - looking at the author, audience, writing style, genre, etc. to determine something about the purpose of the information. Non-critical would consist of very basic skills, like simply locating a resource without a broader context or purpose.
I’ve posted a link to Elmborg’s foundational article below. It’s good reading. If you have any questions, please let me know!
1)Elmborg, J., 2006. Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(2), pp.192–199.
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