What should learners hold us as school librarians accountable for? Clearly one area would be categorized as information literacy. I’ve been pondering what this means and have begun to think of it as developing a relationship with information that includes understanding how to locate, evaluate, apply, create, and share information. But beyond these skills and actions, our Standards for the 21st Century Learner also point toward important dispositions or habits of mind including recognizing a need for information, possessing the curiosity, persistence and judgment to seek out, evaluate, and select information, and the creativity and persistence (again) to apply information in new ways to new problems and new solutions. We want learners who will not only consume, but produce new knowledge and information. Learners need to reflect and assess their own products and process in order to continuously improve. We want learners who will push their own boundaries and the boundaries of their communities.
Community adds another layer of complexity to our relationships with information and knowledge. Because we believe that learning is social and information is a social good, we want learners to seek and draw on the expertise of others at every step in the information seeking and knowledge creation process. How do we as school librarians promote this social aspect of information literacy when it comes to dispositions? How do we teach students to seek and provide support for each other when it comes to persistence, curiosity, reflection, and self-assessment? One way is to actively seek and provide feedback and evaluation to each other. We can model support, encouragement, and sharing the work as collaborative partners.
But it also occurs to me that these social aspects of our relationship with information are not always easy. Conflict and challenge may be necessary to push ourselves and our communities into new directions and toward new knowledge. Students need honest critique and are likely to experience disagreement, friction, disappointments and failure. Our relationship with information is complicated and not always gentle, particularly as we seek to become producers not just consumers. We can help our students as well as ourselves and the professionals we work with to learn to let go and push through a sense of loss toward new learning and knowledge. It’s complicated but it’s a living and growing endeavor.