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What librarians can do to support political participation, youth activism and resistance
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What librarians can do to support political participation, youth activism and resistance


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Presentation for the Youth Activism and Resistance Conference held at the University of Leciester on 13th June 2014.

Presentation for the Youth Activism and Resistance Conference held at the University of Leciester on 13th June 2014.

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  • 1. Introduction 0 Context: young people and information 0 Young people’s political attitudes 0 Critical information literacy 0 Brief overview of methodology and methods 0 Tentative findings 0 Librarians’ role in supporting political agency 2
  • 2. Young people and information 0 Often assumed that young people don’t know how to find the ‘right’ information – just “googling” things 0 Suggestion that young people lack intellectual curiosity and don’t seek out information – reliance on “spoon feeding” 0 Suggestion that many lack critical thinking skills 3
  • 3. 4 Can the application of phenomenography and critical pedagogical theory to information literacy help us understand how we can support young people to develop political agency?
  • 4. What does this mean in relation to youth activism? People need to be able to find and use information in order to understand how the political system works, and participate in formal and informal political activities. Librarians and libraries can and should support this. 5
  • 5. Libraries contribute to democratic ideals: 0 Information provision 0 Equity of access 0 Education 0 Independent learners 0 Intellectual freedom 0 Public spaces 0 Privacy 6 What have libraries got to do with politics and activism?
  • 6. Librarians teach information literacy skills: “Information literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.” Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals These abilities are useful both within and beyond the context of formal education. 7
  • 7. Critical Pedagogy 0 An educational movement which gives students the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and sense of responsibility necessary to engage in a culture of questioning. 0 People “should…be educated [in the fullest possible way] in order to be able to participate”. Giroux 2011, p.144 8
  • 8. 9 “Critical pedagogy currently offers the best, perhaps the only, chance for young people to develop the knowledge, skills, and sense of responsibility needed for them to participate in and exercise the leadership necessary for them to govern the prevailing social order.” Giroux 2012, pp.116-7
  • 9. Critical Information Literacy 10 Critical information literacy aims to “reverse trends of exclusion from political participation and enable people to participate in the decisions and events that affect their lives.” Whitworth 2009, p.118
  • 10. Where do young people get information* from? 11 About politics, current events and things that help them form opinions about the world. 0 Friends 0 Family 0 Teachers 0 Media: newspapers, tv news, tv programmes, radio, magazines 0 Internet: news websites, google, twitter, facebook, tumblr
  • 11. How do they perceive these sources? 0 Trust newspapers, radio and television more 0 Trust people (family and friends) less 0 Not very concerned or aware of potential bias 0 Aware of audience demographics 0 Emotional reaction/relationships with information 12
  • 12. “I have an opinion on the news where I find news really depressing and bad. I don’t really like to watch it because I find it puts me in a bad mood! Whereas magazines cheer me up.” (P16) 13 “I guess it’s probably because I’m bored that I look at newspapers rather than because it’s got to be useful.” (P24)
  • 13. How do they use these sources? 0 Passive exposure 0 Forms of media are whatever parents choose 0 Choose familiar sources on google 0 Find an answer quickly 0 Sometimes check with an authority figure 14
  • 14. What are their key concerns? 0 Immigration 0 Unemployment 0 Benefits Reflect the social issues most sensationalised by mainstream media? 15
  • 15. How do they feel about politics? 0 Not perceived as something relevant to their lives 0 Often think they ‘have’ to follow their parents’ beliefs 0 Not sure what it is or how it works 0 Not sure what the differences are between parties 17
  • 16. How do they feel about the world around them? 0 Interested 0 Passionate 0 Opinionated 0 Worried 0 Curious But they don’t think of the things they care about as ‘political’ 18
  • 17. What do they know about politics? 0 Varying levels of knowledge about local and national politics and civic rights 0 Lack of knowledge about where to find facts about politics 0 Don’t feel formal education teaches them enough 0 Want school to teach them about facts and processes 0 Enjoy discussing current events in class but don’t often talk about things with their friends 0 Not aware of ‘alternative’ ways of getting involved 19
  • 18. “I argued with one of my friends about Margaret Thatcher and then afterwards I realised it was stupid, cos we both don’t really know!” (P2) 20 “When Maggie Thatcher passed away I was always talking to her [grandma] about what she did and things like that, past events that have happened in politics.” (P7)
  • 19. What should librarians be doing? 0 Asking young people how they understand things, as well as what they want and need. 0 Finding out where young people get information from. 0 Pointing young people to reputable and ‘alternative’ sources of information. 0 Teaching young people to search for and evaluate information sources. 0 Fostering a sense of curiosity and a questioning nature. 21
  • 20. Providing Spaces 0 Libraries as trusted ‘third space’ 0 Safe and inclusive spaces 0 Users not customers 0 Less authority/hierarchy than other ‘educational’ locations and roles 0 Internet access 0 Study space 0 Discussion space 22
  • 21. Teaching Theory A way of helping young people understand “the political dimensions of information, as well as the often oppressive ‘discourses’ and ‘economies’ that inform both the academic and non-academic information they consume”. (Critten 2014) Introducing young people to the concept of “ideology” and how it manifests in information they encounter. 23
  • 22. Teaching Skills/Awareness 0 Research skills – searching, referencing 0 Discussion skills 0 Inclusivity/safe space awareness 24
  • 23. Conclusions 0 Young people are not a homogeneous group; research into the different ways they understand politics and information can be useful to help us understand how to help them. 0 Work seeking to help young people become informed and engaged needs to consider non-formal methods of participation, even if that’s just discussing concerns, as valid. 0 Libraries are ideal providers of critical information literacy instruction, and must engage with the political issues surrounding pedagogy to effectively apply critical theories 25
  • 24. References 0 CILIP Information Literacy Group (no date) Information Literacy. [Online] Available from: <> 0 Critten, J. (2014) Disrupting the Discourse: Ideology and Cultural Studies in the Information Literacy Classroom. [Unpublished presentation handout from 2014 LACUNY Institute]. 0 Giroux, H.A. (2012) Education and the Crisis of Public Values. New York, Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 0 Whitworth, A. (2009) Teaching in the relational frame: the Media and Information Literacy course at Manchester. Journal of Information Literacy, 3 (2), pp.25–38. Available from: < 2009-2>. 0 Image CC 26