I’ve been reading and listening to the discussions about Transliteracy, and last week went to a one-day conference on the topic. And I’ve come to a conclusion. “Transliteracy” is what people who’ve been doing Bibliographic Instruction and calling it Information Literacy have started calling Information Literacy now that they’re finally on board with Information Literacy’s goals.
Generalization? Admittedly. But try as I might, I can’t see how aiming for transferable skills is any different from what we’ve been doing for years.
Here’s how I see it. Years ago, library instruction was called “Bibliographic Instruction.” Typically, when people think of Bibliographic Instruction, they think of librarians teaching students “here is how you use an index, and here are the 4 best indexes for your topic, and here is the library catalog and here are the important parts of the library catalog.” Typically, people think of it as being very much about teaching the few, finite ways to find sources.
Then about 20 years ago a bunch of us said “enough of this, let’s do Information Literacy, which is about teaching students how to recognize that they need information, find it, evaluate it, and use it well. And we want them to grapple with the politics of information production and publication, and we want them to be able to apply these skills to all kinds of tasks. We want them learn to be life-long learners!” Now, some people were more on board with this than others, so some people or institutions have really continued to do something much closer to Bibliographic Instruction while adopting the name Information Literacy. Meanwhile, other people have almost entirely dispensed with teaching specific databases and catalogs in favor of teaching concepts and processes. And, of course, there’s everything in between.
Then last year or the year before, some people coined the term Transliteracy, which focuses on transferable skills and (they say) does this rather than teaching tools. I contend, however, that Information Literacy was never primarily about teaching the tools and always about transferable skills. Telling me that I should stop doing that stuffy old Information Literacy, with its emphasis on where exactly to click in which databases, tells me that you never really understood Information Literacy in the first place. It’s not called Database Literacy for a reason, you know.