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AASL: Is it time for a one-word edit?

I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years. I talk about it at conferences.  And I use it myself.  but I’ve never formally written about it.

Here goes:

I’d like to launch a little campaign, or merely make a little suggestion, for a very little edit that means a big deal to me.

It’s that sentence that stated the mission and goals of the school library program back in both versions of Information Power: Information Power: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs (1988) and Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (1998)

The mission of the library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.

Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning

Developing Visions for Learning (2009) lists AASL’s revised mission statement for the school library media program:

The mission of the school library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.  The school library media specialist (SLMS) empowers students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information by . . . AASL. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs.  Chicago: ALA, 2009. 8

Each statement is further articulated in a series of bullet points.  In bullet three of the 1998 mission, the word creator appears:

To provide learning experiences that encourage students and others to become discriminating consumers and skilled creators of information through comprehensive instruction related to the full range of communications media and technology.

The word producing appears in bullet point two of the current (2009) statement.

The school library media specialist (SLMS) empowers students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information by . . .

It’s the word user that bothers me.  That word no longer describes the full scope of my work.  And it seems just a little too passive to describe my learners.
Wikipedia offers the following definitions for word:

See also lists the following synonyms for the word user: buyer, customer, end user, enjoyer, purchaser, shopper

For me, the word user carries additional connotations.  When we say user-friendly, we suggest that a program, or app, or interface is appropriate for a novice.  Many schools and businesses make a distinction between mere users and power users.

But most importantly, when I personally consider antonyms for the word user, the words creator and producer come to mind.

Building knowledge is not the end of the process.  Learners not only use information to build knowledge, think critically and make decisions, they use information to create and produce.

Communication is the end-product of so many research efforts in school and outside of school.  Communication and audience give work focus and  meaning. We talk about building academic digital footprints.

Learners of all ages now have opportunities to tell and share and publish their stories, locally or globally. They have an array of new tools with which to create.  An array of new tools with which to publish.  An array of platforms on which to share.

If we limit our mission to using, we sell ourselves short.  And we do not adequately describe the work so many of us currently engage in.

I’ve described my program as more kitchen than grocery store.  It’s a space buzzing with the noise of creation and production and presentation.  We circulate cameras and headsets and microphones and tripods, as well as books. Among the most visited areas of our library website, are the areas devoted to tools for production: copyright friendly media, digital storytelling, and digital publishing tools.

I suggest/propose that we move the word producer up to that opening sentence of the mission, the sentence people will read and remember.  (The word creator would be just as good.)

The mission of the school library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users and producers of ideas and information.

What do you think, gang?

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Tori Jensen says:

    Fabulous!!! As usual, Joyce, you have hit the nail on the head. Thank you.

  2. Agree! Better: users and producers, but ir could be users and creators.

    My english is rather poor for details such as these, but at least in portuguese “creators” makes a better sense, for it is more likely to remind us that ideas and information “production” always improves with imagination.

  3. I’m with you Joyce!!

    My wheels have been turning lately in terms of pushing for creating/integrating an information literacy curriculum and using this stance to push for open access. My students do not have the opportunities they need to create and share…they need to start building their digital portfolios NOW, so I’m thinking that this is the route I need to go as opposed to fighting for particular resources and tools to be unblocked.

  4. I agree, Joyce. Sometime ago I added it to my own library’s mission statement which is proudly displayed on our home page.

  5. I think it’s time to move from passive to active, static to dynamic, passengers to drivers!

  6. Linda Mcsweeney says:

    On my way home from takingf my daughter to college and feeling a bit sad, but this post cheered ne up its amazing how one word can do thar! I’m going to c if I can edit my website on my droid b4 my battery dies? Lol

  7. Ian Singer says:

    Such an important suggestion . . . and what of the dissemination of ideas and information? Ought that not be part of the mission? (Apologies for the nominalization!)

  8. Joan McCall says:

    Joyce, I agree! Expecting our students to only be “users” of information is so 2005. Once Web 2.0 tools like MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr became available, students became producers and creators of information available to everyone.

  9. Carol Price says:

    Thanks Joyce. You gave me just what I needed for a new strategic plan. I’m with you. Keep going!

    Carol Price
    Spartanburg, SC

  10. Hilda Weisbug says:

    I agree. You need to “use” info in order to produce it — but “use” seems so”blah.” I admit to being on the mini-comittee taht worked on revising the mission statement– our effort (which I can’t remember at this point) wasn’t accepted and it underwent further modification. However, a little tweaking would be a good thing — even if the Guidelines include the currrent version.

  11. I heartily agree as well. I had this mission statement for my previous MS and am using it at my new HS : “To empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users and creators of information.” I added “creators” a couple of years ago inspired by one of your previous posts.

  12. Hi Joyce,
    I am a new student of Teacher-Librarianship at the University of Alberta. I have been following your blog for about a year. I have throughly enjoyed reading each post and have been motivated to be a great librarian and to think deeply and as clearly as you do. This post is no exception. Personally I would go with the word “creator” as I just love the definition of the word as found on the online Oxford Oictionary:
    -bring (something) into existence
    I love the idea of students bringing ideas and their work “into existence”.
    Ortensia Norton

  13. This is an important , valuable recommendation, Joyce. Thank you for making the suggestion I also prefer users and creators, as creating feels freer to me than producing. I appreciate your careful reading of our guidelines, and always your work to make important, positive change.

    Erika Miller

  14. Yvonne Denomy says:

    Hi Joyce,

    We are just having this disucssion in my Grad class and I have decided to contribute my thinking.

    I agree that change is necessary. It is no longer enough to define a literate student as a ‘user’ of information. Shoppers of information?! Ugh. So, I love the term ‘producer’ as well; it contrasts with ‘reproducers’ of information and ideas, which is what we must oppose. I might add a third term: contributors, communicators or publishers. For me, this signifies a responsibility to the global learning community. Whereas I see ‘producer’ as a middle stage, I believe contributor, communicator, and publisher lends itself better to our final goal of sharing of ideas and information and leaving that digital footprint. You have already discussed both communication and publishing as end goals, so adding either of these terms would make sense to me!

    Yvonne Denomy

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