Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I don't have a clue (and neither do you)

During a meeting at the 2016 ALA Annual conference, the ACRL Board decided to rescind the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. To its credit, ACRL has been working on developing infrastructure to help people move forward in the post-Standards world. And from what I can tell, it's going to be a long road in getting from where people in the information literacy world are now to where they need to/want to be.

I've heard a lot of chatter from the information literacy librarians I follow in various online spaces about this move by the ACRL Board. One theme I find kind of...worrysome is the number of people who feel blindsided by this decision. It seems like the consensus has been that at some point ACRL would have to move on this, but a subsection of people in the information literacy community seemed not realize it was happening at this particular moment, at this particular conference, until it was done.

I want to be clear--this is not to suggest that ACRL or its Board did anything wrong. I honestly don't know enough about these issues to know if people's feelings of being caught off guard are reasonable or not. It's possible that the rescinding of the Standards was advertised to people well in advance of the meeting where it was done. It's possible that people in the information literacy community had adequate time to give feedback on this move. And it's likely that ACRL and its Board could've done all the right things and people would still be upset.

While I'm probably not as well-informed on these issues as perhaps I ought to be, I feel like this move by the ACRL Board and the fallout that has followed is a good sneak preview of what the metadata creation community might face when moving into a post-MARC world. About how people are feeling left out during the development phase and how people's feelings will be hurt when the governing bodies of the metadata creation community decide, officially, to transition from one standard to another.

As practitioners, we put a lot of trust in the governing bodies that we believe have our best interests in mind. It's really hard when we find ourselves on the outside of a decision that we believe we should've been on the inside for--especially when we find ourselves on the side of the argument that didn't win. And there's a compelling case to be made about whether or not we should continue to put our trust in those governing bodies--but that's not the case I want to make. What I do want to say is that I hope that ACRL and its Board take seriously the feelings of those among its membership who feel...betrayed by the way in which this decision played out.

In the absence of a true U.S. National Library, ALA and its divisions make decisions about various parts of the information ecosystem. And as a body with that much perceived power, trust between the association and its members is really important. Whether or not you choose to be a dues-paying member of the association, it speaks for you if you work in the field of librarianship. So when a segment of the membership of a division have real trust issues with how a particular issue played out, that division needs to address the breach of trust and work to repair it quickly and thoughtfully.

I hope that ACRL and its Board take seriously the hurt feelings of the segment of their membership. I hope that the information literacy community finds a way to move forward and work through its feelings. And I hope that the metadata creation community is using this situation as a teachable moment for the storm that I imagine is brewing just off the horizon.

Stay positive,

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