Student-led innovation: Part 2

Mel [[sitting with her head in her hands]]: I feel so stupid about the way I treated the Hill people. Did I really build a mud hut? / Tamara [[standing with her arm around Mel]]: They said it was

Unshelved, September 13, 2003

Last month, I wrote about introducing social justice into the LIS curriculum, and offered specific ideas for incorporating social justice in a required “Organization of Information” class. Today I’ll offer ideas for incorporating social justice in an “Information Sources and Services” class.

This class is probably the easiest of the core courses to address social justice in (at CUA, we also have a “Libraries and Information in Society” core class that is also ripe for addressing social justice).

Let’s talk about the digital divide and the information sources that the library needs to provide to help bridge the digital divide. Even more, let’s talk about the information services that the library needs to provide to help bridge the digital divide. Heck, let’s just talk about the digital divide.

Let’s talk about culture and race and the preconceived ideas that we have as primarily white, middle class women, and how that effects the way we interact with patrons. Let’s talk about why we’re primarily white, middle class women, and how that effects our discussions in class and the future of the profession of librarianship.

Let’s talk about how to work with interpreters so that we can provide effective services to all of our patrons.

But this post is about student-led innovation, so if your professor doesn’t leave openings in class discussion to talk about these subjects, what can you do instead? When I took this course, our assignments included conducting a search on an assigned topic and analyzing the search strategy used, analyzing a reference interview, analyzing a “multicultural reference resource,” and designing a LibGuide. Each of these could easily have social justice elements included.

Search strategy analysis: I had a topic assigned for this assignment, but if I had chosen, I could have been conscious about social justice when I completed it. I could have opted to conduct my search using only resources available to those whose access is limited to the public library’s offerings, rather than the university’s. I could have focused on open access journals. I could have been aware of which vendors have notoriously exploitative practices. I didn’t. But I could have.

Reference interview analysis: for this assignment, we chose our own question. I chose a question about web accessibility for people with visual processing disorders. Remember to choose a topic that relates to social justice, and you’ve incorporated social justice in your education. (And hopefully pointed out to your professor the value of incorporating social justice in the course!)

Instead of giving suggestions about how to focus on social justice when analyzing a multicultural reference resource, let me suggest what not to do. Don’t select The Ultimate Guide to Being Scottish. It might technically meet the requirements of the assignment, but is this really how you want to demonstrate cultural awareness? (No, no one in my class analyzed this book as their resource.)

And the LibGuide! My group did ours on Access to Justice. There was so much more we could have done. We could have made sure that we considered language level, translations, resources in non-English languages, accessible design, and so forth.

Was social justice a part of your information resources course? Do you have additional suggestions to add? Please share in the comments!

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