National Dialogue on the Curriculum of Readiness for the 21 st Century Librarian

ALA Annual Conference - Chicago, Illinois - Tuesday June 28, 2005


Plenary Session III: Don’t Just Talk About It, Be About It: New and Veteran Librarians on Connecting LIS Pedagogy and Readiness to Social Justice and Societal Change

Bharat Mehra:  The last speaker for our panel is Dr. Clara Chu, who's an associate professor at UCLA. She has a PowerPoint presentation I think, so I'll let her take over.

Clara Chu:  Good afternoon. It's a great pleasure to be here.

What I want to do is share with you a new core course that I just taught for the first time at UCLA, and it's called Ethics, Diversity and Change. Service learning course addressing social complexity and justice.

[quietly] If we go to the next one. OK.

Just to tell you some of where the thoughts for this course come from. Partially me, because the way that I see information and also libraries is I see that what libraries can do is we can use information to help us through issues that address information justice, social justice.

So I see information for struggle, empowerment, and existence. And I'm going to come back to that a little bit later.

A lot of what I do is inspired by the educator Paulo Freire. I try to eradicate the culture of silence creating when individuals are oppressed by information practices and systems that deny them access and representation.

I was in Rome recently, in March, and that's why I'm showing you the two pictures that I took there.

I find that there's a silence about the war that we're currently engaged in, and when I was in Rome I could see that there was still a banner up that was saying no to the war, and also pictures at the city hall that were showing the journalist that has since been released and is back in Italy.

But if we have a silence about what is going on in the world then we're not going to be able to use this information that is so potent to be able to address issues in our society.

So the course comes from, as I said, partially what I want our library and information education to do. To be able to teach students about critical multiculturalism.

And by critical multiculturalism I mean not just multiculturalism where we recognize the diverse cultures that exist in our society, the diverse cultures that we communicate and the richness of traditions that we bring and also the richness of races that we bring, but also to look at it in terms of power.

Which particular privileges have access to particular opportunities in society? So it was what was brought up earlier by our speaker, that we need to be able to see multiculturalism in terms of privilege and power. That some have it and some do not.

And also, it was mentioned by Maurice Wheeler that we do have diversity that is identified in our COA standards, but do we live up to it or not? In our missions of LIS institutions, research has found that all our missions embrace diversity but do we walk the walk? Is it in our coursework?

In terms of core learning and masters LIS programs, it's often mentioned in an Information and Society class, but does it go beyond that? Is it just a brief mention, are there a couple classes, is it just that brief mention?

In terms of multiculturalism in ILS education, research has found over the years that it's almost like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, over the years I've had students very concerned about diversity issues and what I've tried to do at UCLA is put together diversity in terms of social justice.

And many of our students came about three years ago as a group; well, not as a group. But they discovered they had the same interests. What they found is they did want to come to UCLA and learn about information for social justice. And what they found was, because of particular faculty teaching the courses they weren't seeing it in the coursework.

They had a background of organizing, and for the first time it weren't just the voices of individual students just coming to talk to me about these issues. But they decided that they were going to organize.

So what they ended up doing is getting the support from our chair and the community. They were able to raise over a thousand dollars. With that they were able to bring a trainer for anti-racism workshop instead of just cultural sensitivity.

They had a film for thought series. And they also forced the faculty to change. One was to create this new core course so everybody has to take it, and everybody has to discuss diversity and deal with it. Whichever way is their individual response.

And also the last thing is there is a diversity research paper award for the students.

So this course actually is focusing on service learning because one of the important aspects is not just to intellectualize diversity, not just to talk about it, but to be able to go to a community that might be different from yours and learn about it.

It's not like internship where you're just learning professional skills, but to be able to bring what you learn on campus and take it out to the community. So you'll be able to identify a project and in this case this is just 20 hours of service learning where you contribute to the community. You understand what the community is about and be able to have some mutual learning taking place.


This course tries to introduce students to the meaning of ethics. What it means to be ethical from multiple perspectives. The first part of this course is ethics. Meaning that what we're trying to do is respond to the complexity of society. How a society, having us think about we're respond based on more values, based on a professional code of ethics. With our society being complex culturally how is it that we might respond ethically to it.

It also acquaints students to the purpose of a professional code of ethics. It has students recognize an ethical dilemma, examine it critically, apply a code of ethics and use a decision making model. They do that through their final assignment.

It uses service learning to help the students understand the importance of community collaboration and outreach in order to address equity and information access. It provides students with the opportunity to address information needs of underserved groups and has students examine ethical issues and policy developed to address them.

In terms of service learning, I'm not going to go through the description where it's the opportunity to take what you learn in the classroom out to the community. I want to jump to the next slide, which is that the emphasis of this course is on critical service learning and that means that there's a lot of reflection going on because the last part of the course is change.

We want the students to be able to think about how they respond to different situations out in community and to talk about some of the ethical issues that come up in our field. Are they transformed? Are they changed? Can they create change in community? Can they create change in the profession?

With this fourth step in critical service learning, first I have the students examine their position. Meaning where do they come from? What experiences do they bring? Next we can't just respond in a practical way but to be able to think where we're coming from or where we view the world then I want you to be able to incorporate cultural and critical learning.

To do that I introduce them to critical theory that means that they're able to use theories that are available that show us where power exists. To examine where that power lies and to be able to see whether we have those privileges and how we might be able to try to change and ensure that there's more equity.

The next slide.

The third step is to actually go out there and do service learning. To act, to be able to contribute to community and then last to not just have those activities be ones that they grow from on their own but to be able share. To be able to come back to the classroom and exchange and see where they may or may not have learned.


There are three components. The service learning, they keep a journal of the ethical events that they experience. How they react to it and how they might go about making decisions to change or not a particular situation. They have that paper where they go through an ethical decision making process. There is a lot of class discussion also that takes place.


The particular course is emphasizing this process of dialogue. As I said, I'm inspired by the work of [indecipherable] and what he talks about are four critical points when he talks about dialogue. I'm applying this to information practices, education and scholarship.

One is respect, that when we go out and work with community whether it's in our libraries or other communities, it's about working with rather than acting on others. To use our critical thinking to be able to challenge our normal ways of looking at the world are so we can create change.

To also think about others in terms of learning from them so then communication and exchange and learning is a two way process. Not just from the instructors or those who have more experience teaching the ones who have less experience. Everybody has something to offer to the table.

The last part, conscientisation which is an awareness of our surroundings, an awareness of that which we bring to the table. To be able to transform the reality that we have and if there's a reality where there is oppression, to be able to change and make things positive.

I said I would bring up that phrase again, "Information for struggle, empowerment, existence." I hope that what the students are able to learn from this class is that they're able to see. Because what happens is that there are a lot of things that take place in a world where we don't recognize and we forget.

Two examples of this is that not many of us in this country may have stopped to think about that there was another eleven and that's not September 11th but March 11th and that was in Spain. Unless we actually see image we may forget about this. In terms of this year is 90 years of the Armenian genocide and to be able to recognize that as something also that happens. If we don't certain information available, wherever it is websites and elsewhere we might forget.

Thank you.