Norgaard, Rolf. “Writing Information Literacy: Contributions to a Concept.” Reference Services
Review 43.2 (2003): 124–130.
Norgaard wrote companion articles exploring improved connections between the writing classroom and information literacy (IL). He focused on composition classrooms and libraries “shared impulse for reform” as he examined what rhetoric and composition could provide to information literacy from theory, while in his second, he explained how theory could be reflected in a pedagogy of practice for information literacy (220).
Norgaard expressed concern, writing “…it is nothing short of surprising how little that field [rhetoric/composition] has written about information literacy and library collaboration” (125). But he also stressed that it isn’t just a one-sided problem, as information literacy has paid “little attention to the theoretical foundations and pedagogical frameworks that inform rhetoric and composition”(125). Norgaard placed the blame on both fields — due in part to libraries often representing nothing more than “images of the quick field trip, the scavenger hunt, the generic stand-alone tutorial, or the dreary research paper…” to writing teachers and students (124).
He proposed an “information literacy informed by work in rhetoric and composition” focusing on three “key areas”: how to move the conversation forward within a situated literacy, a process-oriented literacy, and a relevant literacy. Norgaard stressed that if this conversation isn’t extended by exploring theoretical connections between IL and writing, that possibilities exist to very easily “trivialize” the concept of information literacy. He pointed out a number of obstacles that could interfere – from confusion with past “literacy debates” to viewing IL just through a “deficit model”–a “have or have not” set of skills–rather than providing a more contextual and nuanced approach to IL.
Misconceptions haunt IL by linking it merely to “skills” to master. From a pedagogical lens, Norgaard wrote that IL has fallen squarely within the current-traditional rhetoric, with its major assignment being the research paper. While the writing environment has changed, with theorists such as Burke, Perelman, Booth and Berlin leading the way to new rhetorics, IL is also easily “high jacked by and misunderstood in terms of this traditional paradigm.” There is a need to focus on new approaches that look at writing “not as a formalistic tool…but as a vehicle for inquiry…a process of making and mediating meaning.” Information literacy could also benefit by drawing from revisionist studies in rhetoric and composition that examine “cultural, historical, social, and political systems” that inform literacy, recognizing an “ecological” approach–with context as what binds the forms of literacy together (127).
Finally, returning to the traditional canon is where Norgaard saw the greatest opportunities for connections between IL and the writing classroom. According to Norgaard, IL suffered in the current-traditional’s truncated canon by losing memory and delivery. IL “became the stuff of citation format and bibliographic correctness” (128). “[I]nvigorating” the canon to its full range, would bring back the importance and place for both the library and IL programs.
Norgaard proposed an important collaboration between IL/librarians and composition classroom/instructors. There is very little mention of rhetoric or pedagogy within librarianship. By drawing from rhetoric and composition history, we will be better able to articulate IL’s role in academia. (507 words)