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Journal Article

Information Literacy: A Contradictory Coupling

Christine Pawley
The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy
Vol. 73, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 422-452
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4309685
Page Count: 31
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Information Literacy: A Contradictory Coupling
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Abstract

Information literacy has established itself as an important subfield of librarianship. Yet although librarians justify information literacy as increasing democratic participation by all citizens, their efforts to improve "quality control" of information also threaten to restrict choice in systematic ways. This contradiction results in part from the genealogy of the terms "information" and "literacy," terms that share a relationship traceable to an Enlightenment ideology, namely, that reading could transform society by informing its people. But reading's power to transform was also a contested issue for groups seeking political and cultural ascendancy, and reading genres that initially challenged conventional thought evolved into those that buttressed it. In the process, some groups came to be defined as information "consumers" and simultaneously excluded from the role of information "producers." Strategies that can raise awareness of the assumptions underlying this legacy include critical analysis of language use and envisioning information use as a process that involves all users in both consumption and production. Adopting these can help librarians recognize that the tensions inherent in the discourse and practice of information literacy are not only unavoidable, but essential, if the basic condition of democracy--citizen participation--is to be fulfilled.

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