Gail Bush

Dr. Gail Bush is the Director of the School Library Program and the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books at National-Louis University. She delivered the Keynote, “The End of Information Literacy” at the Information Literacy Summit at Moraine Valley College on Mar 31, 2009.

Bush spoke about the changing socio-economic and information landscape and how information literacy fits into the way we use and rely information today. She brought up the definition of information literacy from the National Forum on Information Literacy which is 20 years old and states “the information literate person is, “able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use it effectively.” Interestingly, this is the same definition from which ECC’s information literacy gen ed outcome stems.

Bush questions whether this definition is still serves us in the changing atmosphere of information literacy. What does it mean now that even in the midst of casual conversation someone can whip out a Blackberry to resolve a disputed fact? How does info literacy fit in with media literacy, financial literacy, digital literacy, and visual literacy? When does it rank in terms of importance?

In 1983, Patrick Wilson wrote that most knowledge we gain is second hand and the first question people ask when trying to figure something out is “Who knows what about what?” Credibility was important. Is that still true today? In today’s climate, it seems there is no one in charge and that we have exchanged information systems that are sloppy in the microscale but provide maximum efficiency. Bush frames the tension between old and new as the Cognitive Authority Age (signified by the dictionary) versus the Probabilistic Age (Wikipedia). In the Probabilistic Age, the question shifts from “Who knows what about what?” to “Whose information is what and to whom does it belong?” She notes when Jimmy Wales decided to call Wikipedia an encyclopedia, it really highlighted this tension. Had he decided to call it anything other what we associate with an authoritative source, this conflict might not have seemed so accute.

Bush concludes that we are moving to a bigger more scattered world – from a central marketplace to a niche market (long tail) – and accuracy is no longer the most important thing to many users. They don’t like consulting disassociative sources. Bush calls for librarians to build up the trust with users that they no longer experience from most of their information sources and to impress upon them the importance of accuracy.