October 2nd, 2012 by John Pell
“A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”[i]
With October being National Information Literacy Awareness Month[ii] and the presidential election being just around the corner, it seems like an appropriate time to comment a little on the relationship of information literacy to voting. You may have caught Sarah’s post last month about voting[iii] -so, as the second Hunter librarian to make a post about voting in as many months, I would like to try to explain a little about what may motivate librarians- professionally- to urge students to participate in our elections.
The idea that an informed public is critical to democracy- expressed by James Madison in the quote given at the beginning of this blog post- informs some contemporary efforts to define information literacy, efforts such as The ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education[iv], which make a point of describing information literacy as something that contributes to the development of “informed citizens” and “members of communities.” While these standards do not explicitly mention voting, it is not much of a stretch to think of voting as a natural activity for- or even as a kind of test of what it means to be- “informed citizens” and “members of communities.”
The conception of information literacy as a part of lifelong learning practices that develop informed citizens and members of communities is an example of an educational ideal that aims not just at developing marketable skills, but also at developing more complete and responsible individuals who contribute to and participate in the social and political process of their communities. It is in this spirit of promoting the development of informed citizens and members of communities that I present a VOTE! guide to resources for understanding the electoral process, fact-checking political candidates, getting registered, and finding a polling place.
The earliest deadlines to register to vote are coming up this Saturday, October 6th; if you have not yet registered yourself to vote, I hope you will take a few minutes to check out the guide and then take the next steps toward civic participation.
[i] “Keeping America Informed: The U.S. Government Printing Office 1861–2011: 150 Years of Service to the Nation” (US Government Printing Office, n.d.), http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-KEEPINGAMERICAINFORMED/pdf/GPO-KEEPINGAMERICAINFORMED.pdf.
[ii] National Forum on Information Literacy, “National Information Literacy Awareness Month Is October!”, n.d., http://infolit.org/about-the-nfil/national-information-literacy-awareness-month-is-october/.
[iii] Sarah Ward, “Election 2012,” Hunter College Libraries, September 17, 2012, http://library.hunter.cuny.edu/blog/news/election-2012/.
[iv] “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education”, n.d., http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/informationliteracycompetency.