Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Subtle Challenges for Our Profession

Blog Posting 4

Recently, I was scanning recent postings on The Shifted Librarian’s blog, and one in particular caught my eye. She referred to Karin Dalziel’s Chart of 4 Types of Information Literacy on a blog I’d not heard of, Musings of an LIS Student. For a class assignment, Ms. Dalziel tries to differentiate between four types of literacy:

Information Literacy
Media Literacy
Digital Literacy

She carefully delineates the pros and cons of each form in a table, and comes across as clearly preferring Digital Literacy. While Ms. Dalziel has clearly given this a lot of thought, only Information Literacy has evaluation as part of its primary activity. A brief memory of a previous class springs to mind as an example of the importance of this activity:

In the late 1980’s, as part of my coursework in Early Childhood Education at the U of MN (Minneapolis), I was required to take “Intro to Human Relations,” even though I already had a B.A. in Psychology. One section of the class covered critical viewing of popular media, and the subtle messages it conveys. I remember a slide (not PowerPoint, just a regular photographic film slide) the lecturer showed of a perfume ad. A woman, dressed in an expensive evening gown and wearing makeup, is seated with her body facing to the right of the frame, but her head and shoulders are turned so she is looking behind her to her right. A shadow (apparently male) looms over her shoulder, and the look on the woman’s face is not one of pleasure, but of fear. This ad, we were told, came from a popular beauty/fashion magazine for women!

Since I grew up in a family of four brothers, I had no understanding of the subtle violence in popular media, and was shocked and appalled upon learning of it. (I was already keenly aware of the popular media’s use of women as sex-objects, and men as success-objects.) Now, with the blatant use of profanity and misogynist language popularized by rappers and other “stars,” are we too desensitized to recognize the insidious forms of violence in the media?

As librarians, how can we encourage our patrons to critically evaluate the abundant resources we are oh, so proud, to offer? Some say we are not supposed to judge or rate materials. Free and equal access to information is an ideal we strive to reach in our profession, and I will uphold that standard when I finish library school. Yet some of those same digital and print items have content that tacitly sanctions violence against women, and libraries are staffed overwhelmingly by women. So what do we do? Where does our professional role end, and advocacy begin?

"He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer." -- from Night by Elie Wiesel

1 comment:

Mary Alice Ball said...

Interesting questions, Todd. Have you taken Collection Development yet? One of the great challenges of our profession is finding the balance between selection and censorship as we attempt to provide our patrons with information.