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Research Group:

"Building social justice through library and information science." L. N. Smith. Arts and Humanities Consortium Justice and the Arts Symposium, 28th April 2012. April 2012. Download PDF Visit website (BibTeX)

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to discuss the role of Library and Information Science (LIS) in building social justice, through facilitating increased citizen participation in politics. It considers potential barriers to the ability of LIS to apply recommendations from educational and political theorists in practice.
Design/methodology/approach: The paper identifies a problem with levels of political participation in the United Kingdom and explores both the reasons for disengagement and ways to improve levels of participation. Giroux's theory of critical pedagogy is explored to seek explanations and solutions for the decline in political participation identified. Concepts of information and critical literacies are explored in relation to political information and whether citizens possess the skills required to find information, assess its accuracy and reliability as well as the ways in which texts may seek to influence the reader, and critically and meaningfully apply the knowledge they gain from the information they have encountered. Emphasis is placed on the importance of public libraries as free and accessible public spaces where citizens can access information that is relevant to their needs, support in their information seeking endeavours and engage in discussion about issues of social justice.
Findings: Current systems of management and policy are counter-productive to aims of developing services to actively tackle social injustice through increasing citizens' literacy skills. Neoliberal management practice, with its emphasis on the market and consumerist agendas, has damaged the progressive element of library services, and current changes to the education system are unlikely to herald the introduction of a critical literacy agenda.
Recommendations: Information literacy as a LIS topic must focus more deeply on critical perspectives of information to ensure that it is about more than the development of skills to simply locate information, but enables individuals to fully understand information within various contexts.