Critically Interrogating Oregon History in the Archives: Spanish Heritage Learners in the PCUN Records
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Critical librarianship has emerged over the past decade or so as one of the main thrusts of the library profession’s longstanding commitment to social justice. Growing from the application of insights from critical theory to libraries as an institution, the critical librarianship movement explores how hierarchies of power, particularly those around race, gender, sexuality, and class, shape our work, and how we can challenge our profession’s complicity in those hierarchies. Critical librarianship’s insights have been applied perhaps most thoroughly in the areas of cataloging and classification and, especially, information literacy instruction (Garcia, 2015). Critical information literacy instruction has spread rapidly through the library profession, and its influence is noticeable in the Association of College and Research Libraries’ “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education” (2016), with its emphasis on critical examination of the construction of texts and their role within systems of power. Drawing on the critical pedagogy tradition of the Brazilian organizer and adult literacy educator Paolo Freire and the U.S.-based critical educational theorist Henry Giroux, critical information literacy instruction focuses on teaching as a dialectical process wherein the instructor is a facilitator in dialogue with their students, working with them in a process of critical interrogation of texts where all participants learn from one another’s experience (Gage, 2004). Instructor and student work together to unpack the ways that their texts, be they a primary source, a published scholarly study, or a searchable database, are shaped by and embedded in systems of power. This process facilitates critical thinking, but also, when done effectively, leads to an understanding of how institutions and structures of power function. From there, we can begin to challenge those structures of power through engagement in collective democratic struggle, confronting labor exploitation, disenfranchisement, denial of social services, and other injustices by participating in social movements that advocate for the students’ communities. Here at the University of Oregon (UO) I have applied insights from critical information literacy pedagogy, as well as the literature of History pedagogy and archival instruction, to work we perform with the Spanish Heritage Language Program (SHL) in the UO Department of Romance Languages. he SHL program at the UO builds in critical perspectives on the racism, gender relations, and class exploitation that U.S. Latinx communities have faced, and the ways that culture and language reinforce those systems of exploitation and power.
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