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Exploring Information Literacy through a DEI Lens

Authority is Constructed & Contextual - Who's a "Scholarly Source" anyways?

Our understandings of what exists, the terms we use to describe what exists, and those on whom we rely for these descriptions is based on previous knowledge of Authority.  How do structural biases built into knowledge organization systems and processes like peer-review can reinforce conventional wisdom and preclude the introduction of new or previously silenced voices of wisdom and perspective.

  • What makes someone an authority on a topic?
  • What are have been some indicators of authority? 
  • What constitutes authority and who grants it?
  • How does personal experience and identity influence expertise? 
  • How do traditional markers of authority devalue marginalized and vulnerable groups?
  • What biases exist in the academic publishing system?


Information Has Value - Who owns the information and who can look at it.

This frame questions access and ownership of information, tugging at the dichotomy between private gain and public good. What are the types of value from profit to learning, persuasion, and power. All information is valuable to someone, somewhere, for some purpose. What is essential is discerning the motives for information creation in a particular format to meet an information need. This frame explicitly questions social justice implications of information systems, access, and creation, particularly in regards to privilege, profit, and power.

  • How can powerful interests use the value of information to marginalize certain interests?
  • What is the impact of open access publications on the value of information? 
  • Why is it important to cite sources in learning?

Research as Inquiry - Whose questions get asked and researched?

This frame articulates the value of question-asking for exploration, discovery, and evaluating gathered information to generate further questions.

Are the participants in the study representative if they’re recruited using a social media app? What size sample is needed to constitute valid results? If “humanoid robots” are nearly all depicted as white in Google Images, does that mean only white people create robots? What percentage of robot engineers are people of color? Intuitively generated questions are part of the iterative nature of the research process, organically delving into DEI issues.

Critical thinking and question-asking are the essence of Research as Inquiry.

  • Where do research questions come from? Who decides what is worth investigating? 
  • How are representative samples determined and who created the standards?
  • What are the implications of decisions that impact large, diverse groups of people being made based on research conducted on small homogeneous groups?

Scholarship as Conversation - Who is privileged to participate in those conversations?

This frame acknowledges novice learners, though experts may participate in the interactive process of scholarship. However “established power and authority structures may influence their ability to participate and can privilege certain voices and information.”

Structures of scholarship such as “peer review” may limit the entry of alternative perspectives and reinforce widely accepted theories, even if they are inaccurate. Political, social, and economic barriers to participation in scholarly conversation are embedded within the culture of American higher education and the structures of intellectual production.

  • Must you have a terminal degree to be a “scholar”?
  • Are full-time faculty and adjuncts heard equally by their disciplines?
  • How do peer-reviewed journals select writers of editorials on their journal content?
  • How might emerging scholars or interested public influence the direction of research within a discipline?
  • How might paradigms be challenged, particularly by those adversely impacted by established ways of thinking?

Information Creation as a Process - Does access to that process and its value for different cultural contexts change the audience?

This frame speaks to the complexity of information formats and delivery and the ever-evolving creation processes underlying them. A decade ago, no one would imagine international relations would be conducted over Twitter, a platform designed for abbreviated comments. 

While technology has provided avenues for broad participation, it has also deepened the inequities present in society. Information, like technology (including AI), is created by people and will therefore embody their biases and misconceptions. Management literature is saturated with data-driven decisions, elevating data to a form of information royalty, yet the decisions surrounding design, collection, aggregation, interpretation, and presentation of data are reflections of human attitudes and ways of thinking with all the compromises those entail.

  • Who does/doesn’t have access to information creation processes and why?
  • Can data be interpreted in different ways, with different conclusions depending on the interpreter’s context and beliefs?
  • Am I “creating” information when I post on social media? What impact do my contributions have?
  • How do individuals becomes social media "influencers"? What is their obligation to accuracy and the promotion of equity and inclusion to their followers?
  • How might headlines contribute to misunderstandings or racism? “Black Americans dying of COVID-19 at 3X the rate of whites” conveys the idea that race constitutes biological susceptibility to COVID-19 instead of circumstances resultant from systemic racism.

Searching as Strategic Exploration - How to know what to look for.

Experts (searchers) realize that information searching is a contextualized, complex experience that affects and is affected by, the cognitive, affective and social dimensions of the searcher.”(ACRL, Framework) This frame neglects to state that the search experience isn’t just about the searcher. The challenges of searching might be exacerbated by knowledge organization systems that reflect dominant culture mindsets inaccessible by marginalized populations, and blatant “algorithmic oppression” within the design and execution of search technologies.15 “Strategic exploration” would need to include fluency in the academic language of the historically white, male, wealthy, “ivory tower,” and a highly refined capacity to question the very technologies being used in the search process.

  • What do successful searchers need to know about how knowledge is organized?
  • How might search algorithms reinforce biased attitudes?
  • How are search results prioritized in search engines?
  • Why does the federated search not search everything? Does Google search everything?
  • How does commercialism manifest in library databases?


23 Framework Things. Instruction Roundtable, Minnesota Library Association, 2017, Access 29 Apr 2022

Ellen Clark Bertrand Library. Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education (ACRL). Bucknell University, 17 Aug. 2017, Accessed 29 Apr. 2022.

"Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education", American Library Association, February 9, 2015. (Accessed April 29, 2022).

Heffernan, Karin. "Loaded questions: The Framework for Information Literacy through a DEI lens." College & Research Libraries News [Online], 81.8 (2020): 382. Web. 29 Apr. 2022

Spuzner, Ruth and Eric Bradley. “Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education.” PALNI, Dec. 2021, Accessed 29 Apr. 2022.