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On Teaching Political Literacy

Re-envisioning the MLS: Perspectives on the Future of Library and Information Science Education

ISBN: 978-1-78754-881-7, eISBN: 978-1-78754-880-0

Publication date: 17 May 2018


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to identify and discuss the need to inculturate the skills necessary to maintain and expand funding resources for libraries through training at Master of Library Science (MLS) and Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs in political literacy. Political literacy is positioned here as a necessary skill for two key reasons: professionals with better interpersonal and organizational communications skills will be better equipped to lead libraries, and the significant external threats to library funding need to be addressed in a political dialog that requires fluency in political negotiation that is acquired through use.

Approach – Recent trends in civil society and party politics, including the rise of the Tea Party and other organized anti-tax groups, can and do impact the future fundability of libraries. In addition, a reinvigorated form of federalism is taking hold at all levels of government, and the implications of a diminished policy and funding role for state and federal aid is discussed in relation to libraries as tax-supported entities.

Findings – A recent practical example of an elective in political literacy at San Jose State University is discussed. Examples on how to add political literacy training to the curriculum that reference the way intellectual freedom and access have been taught for generations are held up as viable models, including ways to address the values-based conflicts that are inherent in the topics.

Value/Originality – This chapter will be useful to anyone evaluating or designing curriculum for MLS/MLIS and iSchool programs who is considering ways to improve management skills and professional preparation. The chapter concludes with a call to action for leaders in the academy to swiftly and comprehensively integrate both political and economic theory as well as the practical skills of activism and community organizing into the MLS/MLIS core curriculum.



Chrastka, J. (2018), "On Teaching Political Literacy", Percell, J., Sarin, L.C., Jaeger, P.T. and Bertot, J.C. (Ed.) Re-envisioning the MLS: Perspectives on the Future of Library and Information Science Education (Advances in Librarianship, Vol. 44A), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 109-118.



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