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Title:A case study of legitimate literacies: teens' "small world" and the school library
Author(s):Comstock, Sharon
Director of Research:Bruce, Bertram C.; Bishop, Ann Peterson
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bishop, Ann Peterson
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bruce, Bertram C.; Thakkar, Umesh; Harnisch, Delwyn L.
Department / Program:Library & Information Science
Discipline:Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Young adult
Everyday life information seeking (ELIS)
Information literacy
Information communication technology literacy (ICTL)
School library
John Dewey
Life in the Round
Small world
Elfreda Chatman
Critical theory
Discourse analysis
Qualitative research
Information behavior
Abstract:This dissertation is a dual-site ethnographic case study of the lived information literacy experiences of students in their junior year of high school relative to their school library and librarians. What began as an investigation of an apparent gap in understanding between the views of teens and school librarians regarding “information literacy” ended up being a discovery of young adult information cultures—or “small worlds,” as described by Elfreda Chatman (1999). Information literacy, as it is defined within the school environment, often neglects the information experience of teens outside of the school. Therefore, emphasis in schools is placed on everyday life information seeking (“ELIS”; Savolainen, 1995) of teens operating within the dominant discourse of information literacy as defined by the school librarians and within the epistemology of schooling, where there are explicit limits on legitimate uses, definitions, technologies, and even inquiries of and about “information.” The irony, however, is that while the core objectives of teaching information literacy include critical thinking and evaluation, the discourse of information literacy relates little to the empowered decision-making of teens in their everyday information behaviors at home, work, and in schoolwork tasks outside of the school library. This thesis delineates the small worlds of teens relative to their librarians, with an emphasis on the teen experience. However, the evidence suggests that both student and librarian are limited within the context of the school library by dominant information literacy discourses, and that both communities may benefit from including their own lived information behaviors within the schooling environment and its attendant tasks. Essentially, the study takes critical-theory (Foucault, 1980) and Pragmatic, inquiry-based (Dewey, 1938) approaches to information literacy as defined within formal learning environments and calls for a practical, ELIS-based approach in our school libraries. The alternative embraced by a continued defense of information literacy as currently defined is professional irrelevance. Using discourse analysis (Gee, 1999) as a methodological lens makes explicit the knowledge domains of high school students and school librarians. Findings include: (1) information behaviors of high school students and school librarians appear to be concordant in informal information seeking, mirroring one another’s knowledge domains and consistent with ELIS theories; (2) however, in formal information tasks such as those for a school assignment, school librarians’ understandings—or at least their practices—regarding what makes students information “literate” are restrictive, focusing on issues of legitimacy rather than effectiveness; (3) “small world” knowledge domains of high school students are neglected in school information tasks, and this has implications for student access, agency, and identity; and (4) there appears to be an opportunity to draw on the lived information behaviors of both communities to make the term “information literate” more inclusive, flexible, and adaptable; ultimately having pedagogical implications.
Issue Date:2012-09-18
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Sharon Comstock. This thesis has been made accessible on the condition that anyone who consults it understands that copyright rests with its author, and that no information derived from it may be published without the author’s prior consent.
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-09-18
Date Deposited:2012-08

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