ILBP Exemplary Programs Interview with Gina Schlesselman-Tarango

Submitted by ACRL’s Information Literacy Best Practices (ILBP) Interview Subcommittee. Spring 2018.

ILBP recognized California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) Libraries as an example of best practices in the Pedagogy category, particularly their program’s focus in critical information literacy. In this interview, Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Instructional Services & Initiatives Librarian, and Barbara Quarton, Coordinator of Instruction, share reflections, insights and advice to support instruction librarians in evolving their practice.

ILBP: Describe the process of shifting your program’s pedagogical approach to a critical information literacy orientation?

The shift was gradual and is ongoing. It started in 2012 when a few of our librarians expressed frustration with teaching primarily skills-based instruction. Educating students on how to find information was not enough – we wanted to help students understand information in all its complexity. We read the literature about critical information literacy (CIL), discussed it at length, and agreed to build our program around it. We developed learning outcomes that emphasize the social nature of information and acknowledge access, privilege, and process. We’re proactive about finding opportunities to share this perspective with faculty and integrate it into our instruction sessions and workshops.

 ILBP: How does the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy support your program’s approach to teaching and learning?

We largely work from five learning outcomesthat we developed before the Frameworkwas officially published. Because the Frameworkdoes a good job of touching on some of the same ideas and skills our outcomes address, it helps us refine our outcomes and think about knowledge practices and dispositions that fall under each. We frequently share the Frameworkwith the faculty with whom we collaborate. Finally, we quite like its definition of information literacy, so we often refer to that when engaged in institutional-level work, like developing rubrics for courses that have critical literacies as a general education outcome.

ILBP: How do you envision your IL program evolving over the next 5-10 years?

 We’d like to continue and increase our collaboration with faculty, especially since we’ve done the hard work of ensuring that critical literacies (which includes CIL) are included in our General Education (GE) program’s revised learning outcomes. An instruction librarian serves on the board of our new Faculty Center for Excellence – that presents an exciting opportunity to support those teaching in the GE program and helps us support faculty in their own research.
We also would like to shake up our physical teaching space in the library – currently, we have a traditional lab, and we’re looking forward to moving towards a more flexible and student-centered space.

ILBP: How do you navigate traditional teacher-student roles and identities and make space for marginalized voices? For example, being a white educator teaching about oppression to marginalized populations?

We attempt to make our teaching as student-centered as possible. That takes many different forms, from choosing search examples and readings that highlight marginalized voices and experiences; incorporating student-led exercises so that, as white educators, we take up less space; and piloting a Library Ambassador program in which student library employees, rather than librarians, visit first-year classes. CSUSB is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and learning about our students and their communities goes a long way, which in turn tells us a lot about ourselves: an awareness that hopefully leads to improved teaching. Of course, this is an ongoing process.

ILBP: What suggestions would you give to librarians who are interested in applying a critical information literacy lens to their instruction?

See what others have done. There’s a robust community of librarians and scholars practicing and studying CIL who can teach us a lot. Also don’t shy away from talking about social justice pedagogy with faculty – we’ve found that many of our colleagues respond more enthusiastically to, and can better understand the relevance of, information literacy with a critical bent.