thing 21: Social Justice



The articles linked in this “thing” both explore opportunities within the Framework to integrate social justice into information literacy instruction and offer critiques about how successfully these intersections have been articulated and emphasized. After reading one or more of the articles above, we invite you to continue the conversation by posting your own thread or responding to another person’s thoughts in the comments field. Here are a few questions to start your thinking on this topic, but feel free to start a conversation around any social justice topic that resonates with you.

  1. The authors of “Seeking Social Justice in the ACRL Framework” argue that the Framework lacks “explicit articulation of the ways in which social justice issues intersect with information literacy education” (Battista et al., 114). What do you think? In what ways does the Framework offer opportunities to infuse social justice into information literacy instruction? In what ways does it fall short?
  2. In early drafts of the Framework, the taskforce considered including a frame tentatively titled, “Information is a Human Right” but later decided that “social justice components were better served as pieces of other frames” (Battista et al., 114). What do you think? Should “Information is a Human Right” have been included in the final draft of the Framework? Are there other “social justice” frames that should be added?
  3. How can the Framework be used to build critical consciousness & encourage civic engagement in students? How might you use the Framework as it exists or modify it to empower learners?
  4. In what ways does the Framework encourage resistance to information inequities? In what ways does it teach conformity and/or enforce hegemonic knowledge? How does one help students understand and make the best use of existing systems of knowledge while at the same time prompt them to question the validity and structure of those systems?


  1. The Framework attempts to address inequities with the Information Has Value Frame and Scholarship as Conversation Frame highlighting the fact that the system does not treat all producers of information as equals. Arguably, that Frame also inadvertently reinforces the notion that information that is paid for is of better quality than that which is offered for free. In looking over the Framework, I do think the specifics are vague enough that they can be applied to searches for many different types of information and don’t have to automatically translate to existing “authoritative” structures.

    Even with Research As Inquiry, there are many knowledge practices which highly suggest focusing on library-related topics such as keywords, controlled vocabulary, the implication of database usage…etc. but one could also argue that matching search strategies and search tools could go beyond software and into the street.

    I wouldn’t oppose more specific language related to social justice but I wouldn’t have opposed more specific language in other areas of the Framework as well. I think it’s up to the profession and users to continue to push the boundaries. Just as the Standards weren’t the definitive document for all time, the Framework won’t have to be either.


  2. The Framework certainly allows us to bring social justice issues into our instruction. Battista et al (2015) note the Framework’s language around social inclusion (p. 115). Even in a one-shot session we can point out whose voices are unheard in the results we find. Sometimes the students themselves bring up these issues. In fact we model inclusion by listening to our students.

    This last point brings up one critique of the Framework. Beatty (2014) reminds us that the Framework does not define “expert.” While that comment is true, an expert is not something we become once and for all: Even the learned keep developing their knowledge. Perhaps the Framework should define “expertise” rather than “expert.” Still, we can be up front about our learning–formal and informal. We can acknowledge student and faculty expertise in their own realms.

    Battista et al (2015) state that “awareness should lead to action (p. 115).” While I agree with their noble intentions, I don’t think the Framework needs stronger wording on that front. Overly prescriptive wording can privilege certain actions over others, for ex. more vocal “storm the barricades” action over quieter “behind the scenes” action. Would doing so be another form of marginalization (i.e. “My social justice work is better than yours.”)?

    The Framework is not perfect. Indeed it should be subject to critique. All the same it gives us the flexibility to address social justice in ways that make sense in our settings. It gives our students room to explore what issues speak to them and what actions suit their own talents.



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