Examine What Makes a Literacy in the May/June 2016 Issue

KQ-Cover-MJ16A few years ago, at an ALA Annual Conference, I found myself experiencing a very peculiar day. Besides my standard sessions on information literacy, I attended sessions on civic literacy and news literacy, as well. There were conversations in hallways about digital literacy, but also about disciplinary literacy and financial literacy. For some time I’d been following discussions of transliteracy–“the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” (Thomas 2007); this was a different use of the term “literacy” altogether, not focused on forms of media as much as on areas of knowledge. It started to feel a bit dizzying, and I wondered why all these different skills were being called literacies. Are there any common characteristics that unite them in meaningful ways? Am I supposed to be responsible for all of this?

In the May/June issue of Knowledge Quest, we endeavor to shed light on why and how to teach specific literacies and to look at the larger question of how these seemingly disparate areas might jigsaw nicely into a meaningful and attainable school library program. Along the way, in our own library’s workroom, we’ve continued the central debate about why we frame these diverse topics as literacies. What distinguishes a literacy from an academic subject? To one of us, literacies feel something like the distinction between an academic focus on a topic and the ability to deal with issues that arise across all aspects of daily life (think: the curriculum of an international relations class vs. being able to take a position on a current event). The other frames it as essentially a kind of sensemaking–the ability to decode, parse, and organize information in a certain form or medium in order to frame thoughtful questions and begin to construct meaningful answers. Even when our ideas diverge, we are richer for the conversation. We hope you will be, too. Come explore with us…


Thomas, Sue, et al. “Transliteracy: Crossing Divides.” First Monday [Online], 12.12 (2007): n. pag. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

About the Guest Editors

TashaPhoto5Tasha Bergson-Michelson is the instructional and programming librarian at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, California. She was formerly Google’s Search Educator. She is the co-creator of the Research Relevance research instruction colloquium and is a member of the Data Literacy for High School Librarians grant team. She is a member of AASL. She was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2014. She wrote the May 2015 blog post “Selecting Quality Research Sources for the Classroom” for the CUE Blog <http://blog.cue.org/quality-research-for-the-classroom>. She tweets @researchwell.

Seroff author picJole Seroff is director of library and information services at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, California. A member of AASL, she has presented at AASL and ALA Annual Conferences and the Internet Librarian Conference. She is the co-creator of the Research Relevance research instruction colloquium and is a member of the Data Literacy for High School Librarians grant team. She wrote the article “Developing a Curriculum in Intellectual Freedom: What Our Students Need to Know” for the September/October 2015 issue of Knowledge Quest. She has received the Distinguished Service Award from Castilleja School. She blogs at library.castilleja.org.

Read their Guest Editor Column “What Makes a Literacy?”

Knowledge Quest, Volume 44, No. 5 – What Makes a Literacy?


Traditional Literacy and Critical Thinking
Priscille Dando

To Build a Better Question
Sara Kelley-Mudie and Jeanie Phillips

Why Data Literacy Matters
Kristin Fontichiaro and Jo Angela Oehrli

Student as Citizen: Teaching Critical Civic Literacy Skills in the Library
Sarah Jane Levin

Reading the Big Picture: A Visual Literacy Curriculum for Today
Karyn N. Silverman and Joy Piedmont

An Argument for Disciplinary Information Literacy
Lauri J. Vaughan, Sue Smith, and Meredith Cranston

Approaching Source Illiteracy, or How a Source Is Like a Frog
Nora G. Murphy

Making a Literacy Plan: Developing an Integrated Curriculum that Meets Your School’s Needs
Annie Schutte

Online Exclusive

Beyond the Bubble: Building Global Literacy in Our Students
Katie Day


Building Success beyond High School with Career- and College-Ready Literacies
Carolyn Foote

Design Thinking and the School Library
Mary Catherine Coleman


Picture Books and Schoolhouse Rock!: Mixed Media for All Ages
Paul Czajak


President’s Column
Evolution and Change
Leslie Preddy

Guest Editor Column
What Makes a Literacy?
Tasha Bergson-Michelson and Jole Seroff

Author: Tasha Bergson-MIchelson

Categories: KQ Content

2 replies

  1. Hi – the link to the Katie Day article no longer works. Has that article been deleted?

  2. Hi Polly,

    I relinked the file for the Katie Day article. It should be live now. Thank you!

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