“Slow Your Roll”: Making Time for Reflection and Diverse Epistemic Practices in Library Instruction

As librarians consider ways to engage students in research, particularly those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), it’s increasingly apparent that the transactional nature of the one-shot instructional model is inadequate for fostering thoughtful and critical discussions about information literacy and the scholarly publishing cycle. The one-shot also amplifies librarians’ attendant anxieties related to quantitative data collection and capitalistic work expectations. Additionally, socially constructed ideas around time, along with narrow epistemic perspectives that center Western thought, stanch librarians’ abilities to critically teach students about the research process. Incorporating autoethnography to exemplify the concepts discussed in the paper, the authors argue for a slow, relational approach that deprioritizes widget-like technical training in favor of student and librarian reflection, redresses epistemic injustices in scholarly research, and, most importantly, celebrates multiple epistemologies and expertise.


Prior to the pandemic, our teaching and learning department was already contemplating ways to make instruction less transactional and tutorial-focused to embrace a critical information literacy pedagogy that encourages thoughtful reflection about how information sources are created and disseminated. In her May 2021 College & Research Libraries (C&RL) guest editorial, Nicole Pagowsky noted that “the fabric of transaction is practicality, which prioritizes efficiency and is framed as common sense” (p. 303).” This practicality, manifested in the ways we represent ourselves to library users as “pragmatic, solution-oriented professionals,” (Hudson, 2017, p. 207) is grounded in a white, Eurocentric monoculture that pervades higher education values and norms. Whiteness has always been the dominant worldview in the United States and is a “socially informed ontological and epistemological orientation” (Gusa, 2010, p. 468). With domination comes the “ability to set the terms by which other groups and classes must operate’’ (p. 469). In this way, whiteness is expressed through the institution’s urgent insistence on collecting quantitative data that is then used to assess student success and justify the library’s value (Nicholson et al., 2019). D’Ignazio and Klein ask us to be critical of power structures in data collection by explicitly naming whose interests are prioritized in the dataset and whose are marginalized or completely left out (2020). Similarly aligned with this thinking, Nicholson et al. point out that only focusing on “what is quantifiable and measurable in the present moment in order to construct a known future” (2019, p. 66) elides historical legacies of marginalization and structural inequities.

Instruction librarians measure and collect data on information literacy outcomes during the one-shot session, which has been the “dominating [emphasis added] force of how we engage in library instruction” (Pagowsky, 2021, p. 300). The one-shot emphasizes a positivist, Westernized research framework that assesses students’ competency “based on predetermined ideas of what a person should know, which is then measured indirectly through various forms of “objective” tests. Such an approach does not address whether that person is capable of putting that knowledge into practice” (Barnhardt & Kawagley, 2005, p. 11). When it is completely unrelated to or disconnected from the curriculum content, the one-shot becomes an ahistoric and immutable tool that “has no memory of where information literacy has been and no vision of where it is going. It is ephemeral within cycles of ineffectiveness” (Pagowsky, 2021, p. 300). Often, assignments leave little room for students to be critical of existing research, which results in information literacy teaching praxis rarely focusing on the long-standing problematic nature of scholarly publishing. The global north has revealed deep-seated racial bias by elevating English-language content and limiting access while also conflating “low-quality publishing” with scholarship that is open access and/or originates in the global south (Roh & Gabler, 2020, p. 142).

The publishing dilemma is part of what the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) defines as scholarly communication, or “the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use” (Association of College and Research Libraries, n.d.). Given the short amount of face-to-face time we have with students during the one-shot, instruction librarians very briefly (if at all) touch on scholarly communication, let alone its troubling, systemic inequities. The research process becomes staid due to our constant emphasis on objectivity and minimal inclusion of the researchers’ own positionalities within the scholarship. Ideally, engagement and investment in research stems from the students’ intellectual curiosity, piqued by their own connection to the topic. Yet, students struggle to acknowledge their own pre-existing interests or expertise because they’re preoccupied with locating and citing external scholarly sources, often part of an arbitrary assignment requirement. Frequently, students don’t understand why scholarly, peer-reviewed journals are esteemed in academia, nor do they realize that these sources of information are often steeped in white research traditions that have excluded other epistemologies, notably those from non-white cultures (Tuck & Yang, 2012). Epistemology is the study of knowledge while epistemicide is the systematic suppression, devaluation, and killing of knowledge systems that fall outside of Western traditions (Patin et al., 2021). An incredible reckoning faces library and information studies (LIS) workers, but instead we continue to wreak epistemic violence through our tacit approval and reverence of the peer-review process (2021).

Librarians peddle the fiction that peer-reviewed sources are credible, noting reasons such as they’re always written by experts in the field, filled with objective data, and are rarely biased due to the double-blind peer-review process—criteria that we have deeply failed to unpack and critique with emerging undergraduate scholars. When disciplinary faculty ask undergraduates to “find and independently negotiate research” (Carlozzi, 2018, p. 660) without encouraging serious critique of that scholarship, it is hardly surprising that students profoundly struggle with identifying appropriate sources. By framing the discovery and evaluation of scholarly articles as “library skills,” professors reduce this critical aspect of the research process to a technical task without context (Ackerman & Arbour, 2016). Professors often forget that they’ve long relied on what Leckie calls the “expert model,” which entails a “long process of acculturation, an in-depth knowledge of the discipline, awareness of important scholars working in particular areas, participation in a system of informal scholarly communication, and a view of research as a nonsequential, nonlinear process with a large degree of ambiguity and serendipity” (1996, p. 202). Undergraduates often do not possess the built-up years of disciplinary knowledge or scholarly networks from the outset to navigate resources confidently, and they also share with us that they simply don’t have time to do the requisite background research needed for a foundational understanding of their topic. Because “they do not think in terms of an information-seeking strategy, but rather in terms of a coping strategy” (p. 202) students admit to crafting papers with preformed arguments and then adding citations afterward to support their assertions. Rather than being guided by (or even initiated into) existing research, students attempt to meet their professors’ requirements without necessarily inserting themselves into the scholarly conversation.

The one-shot instruction session complicates librarians’ abilities to engage in meaningful discussions about the nature of research and its complete immersion in Western pedagogy because we are so absorbed in granular, technical details of database searching. Constrained by limited face-to-face time with students in the classroom, as well as increasing teaching loads for first-year information literacy courses, instruction librarians frequently lack the space to self-critique their work, as well as help students be reflective about what they’re learning. The one-shot also amplifies the attendant anxiety of “centering… quantifiable success” (Pagowsky, 2021, p. 303) and the capitalistic expectation of doing more work with less time (Nicholson, 2019) in information literacy instruction programs. In addition to contending with accountability measures meant to regulate (and potentially undermine) librarians’ work, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) workers find their expertise regarding their approach to teaching challenged more often than their white counterparts (Nataraj et al., 2020). Working in rigid environments that prioritize quantitative metrics over qualitative ones forecloses librarians’ attempts to converse with students about justice in information processes. Suppressing justice-oriented dialogue in the classroom is especially damaging to BIPOC librarians since this work not only validates our BIPOC students, but is also a redressal of the marginalization we ourselves have felt within librarianship; in the classroom, with our students, we harness a collective power.

In this paper, we discuss how socially constructed ideas around time (Nicholson, 2016; Drabinski, 2017; Shahjahan, 2015, 2019; and Soklaridis et al., 2021) impact students’ ability to self-reflect in the research process. We suggest that moving away from the one-shot session into more sustained, reflective spaces allows librarians to repudiate deficit-thinking frameworks and empower students to articulate inclusive student-scholar identities that account for their cultural wealth, which includes linguistic skills and familial and community networks (Yosso, 2005). Using autoethnography, we reflect on our experiences as two cisgender female BIPOC instruction librarians striving to consistently have a social justice orientation in our work by incorporating culturally responsive and validating pedagogies (Quiñonez & Olivas, 2020). Entrenchment in Western knowledge systems and structures emphasizes separation and competition, but transgressive and relational pedagogies (hooks, 1994; Rendón, 2012) helps us establish affirming familia counterspaces (Quiñonez & Olivas, 2020) where BIPOC students and librarians thrive. Taking inspiration from Leung and López-McKnight’s call to dream revolutionary futures (2020), we argue for re-envisioning the information literacy classroom as a site of radical possibility in which we celebrate the co-existence of multiple epistemologies and expertise.

“Who has the time?” Neoliberalism, chrononormativity, and the positivist paradigm

While introspection and reflection are emphasized in disciplinary curriculum, in our experience they are not fully considered or acknowledged instruction methods that professors expect librarians to use in one-shot information literacy orientation sessions. Rather, information literacy is narrowly perceived in such a way where librarians are seen as “more responsible than faculty for helping students construct strategies and equally or less responsible than faculty on all other performance indicators’’ (Kelly, 2019, p. 229). When professors do not have clearly defined parameters for a one-shot information session beyond a 10-minute talk that includes a cursory database demonstration, it feels fraught for the librarian to raise a more considered teaching approach (Meulemans & Carr, 2013). Or, when librarians’ methods are described as “magical,” reflection and critical research scaffolding processes (such as moving from basic to advanced knowledge consumption and comprehension) are rendered invisible in the IL classroom.

Reflective pedagogy takes time that isn’t often afforded to librarians during the one-shot, given what Shahjahan refers to as the neoliberalization—policies and practices associated with free-market capitalism—of education where “academic work has become more intensified through technologies and through corporate techniques of managerialism, accountability, and surveillance” (2015, pp. 488–89). Nicholson notes that information literacy is one manifestation of academic capitalism where “librarians…stake a claim for themselves in the higher education curriculum—and more broadly, in the information or knowledge economy” (2016, p. 27). Nicholson (2016) and Drabinski (2017) use the Greek temporal concepts of chronos and kairos to explain how reflective practices in library work are impacted by neoliberal logics of production and efficiency. Kairos is a specific moment in time “married to action and context” (Drabinski, 2017, p. 77) where librarians navigate two types of kairotic narratives: compliance and critical pedagogy; the former is embedded in neoliberal bureaucracy including data tracking and measurement of outcomes, while the latter (which we discuss in greater detail later in the paper) entails engagement with “critical theories and practices that contest traditional notions of power and authority and are increasingly becoming the mainstream of information literacy work” (p. 78). Kairos is the value ascribed to time, based upon various social, political, or economic contexts (Drabinski, 2017), while chronos is how we manage our work within the literal constraints of time (Nicholson, 2016).

Our understanding of chronos is derived from a “Judaeo-Christian notion of time as linear, constant and irreversible” (Shahjahan, 2015, p. 490). When we started quantifying the measurement of time in minutes, hours, seasons, and other units of measure, we became more conscious of productivity and efficiency (2015). Eventually, Western colonial logic weaponized time as a means to classify “indigenous and other subaltern individuals and groups in terms of the degree to which they are out of sync, behind in development, anachronistic, and resistant to progress” (p. 490). Our awareness of time in higher education is heightened by greater regulation and less tolerance of diverse (and slower) approaches that might derail efficiency (Nataraj et al., 2020).

In the kairos of compliance (Drabinski, 2017), librarians have adopted a corporatized, and at times, impersonal approach to teaching—chronos—due to the university’s shift from lifelong learning and exploration into a preparatory space for students to eventually enter and contribute to the global knowledge economy (Nicholson, 2016). Consequently, the one-shot session manifests when professors struggle to negotiate a balance between “[accelerated] tempo of teaching, learning, and research” (p. 30) and room to self-reflect and develop critical pedagogy. Soklaridis et al. refer to this temporal tension in academia as chrononormativity, where faculty must follow particular expectations to meet standards of tenure or academic promotion (2021). Scholars are evaluated based upon quantity of publications and citations, operating under the principle that working faster results in tangible rewards, whereas a slow approach calls into question a person’s qualifications and ability to be successful in academia (Soklaridis et al., 2021). The concomitant pressures placed on faculty results in pedagogy that follows the “highly scheduled and regulated rhythm of bureaucrats, managed professionals, and student-clients” (Nicholson, 2016, p. 29). This rhythm disrupts librarians’ abilities to critically connect curriculum content to information literacy concept; we are also treated like interchangeable widgets (“if you’re not available, can another librarian fill in?”) rather than valued for our subject expertise and relational approaches to teaching.

The kairos of compliance further manifests in professors’ perceptions of information literacy pedagogy through a positivist paradigmatic lens that emphasizes objective realities “without the values of the researchers or participants influencing its development. Knowledge, when appropriately developed, is truth—that, it is certain, congruent with reality, and accurate.” (Park et al., 2020, p. 691). By limiting the types of resources students must work with, professors elevate positivist research by applying natural sciences methodologies to social contexts and disregarding the application and value of qualitative knowledge (Deitering, 2017). We frequently encounter assignments where students must locate a scholarly, peer-reviewed empirical research article on a topic of their choice with the caveat that the information must come from a specific list of disciplinary journals. Students experience frustration as they attempt to identify the task priority: is it finding relevant scholarship on their topic or ensuring that the information is sourced from what Wilson (1991) referred to as a cognitive authority? According to Wilson, a cognitive authority has specialized expertise but this authoritativeness “is a matter of social perception and recognition. It is not what you ‘really’ know but what others think you know that gives you authority; you get cognitive authority by getting others to think you know things” (Wilson, 1991, p. 260). Our attempts to steer users toward vital sources that are not published in journals from the professor’s list feel fruitless because students wish to follow the assignment exactly as it is written. Librarians are baffled by such a task—is the assignment’s purpose to encourage students’ critical engagement with the scholarly conversation or to underscore what is deemed credible and authoritative in the academy? These are not mutually exclusive goals, but students treat them as such, unable or unwilling to critically question their professors’ expectations. Cognitive authority saves the researcher time from having to do in-depth checking of expertise because knowledge is assessed and accepted at face value based upon “respected” criteria such as the journal’s high impact factor, English-language, and rigorous peer-review process. Here, cognitive authority represents epistemic dominance, underscoring that information cannot be construed as neutral or objective, given that its creation and dissemination is intertwined with processes that privilege Western knowledge (Morales & Williams, 2021).

Something’s Missing: How the One-Shot Perpetuates Epistemic Injustice

In discussing cognitive authority and positivism, we consider what Fricker terms hermeneutical injustice, a type of epistemic injustice where unequal power and lack of hermeneutical—theory of interpretation—resources severely impinge upon the ability of nondominant groups to understand or explain their specific experiences (2007). Epistemic value is determined by those who hold elevated stature based upon white privilege while those who navigate various intersections of oppression, including BIPOC women, are viewed as “less credible…[and] unworthy of consideration, [which creates] strong divides between those who are considered ‘experts’ and those who are considered ‘ignorant’ (Albornoz et al., 2020, p. 67). The one-shot instruction session is a venue where librarians perpetuate hermeneutical injustice (Patin et al., 2021), especially when we fail to surface questions of white supremacy in scholarly information processes.

We (the authors) grapple with meeting professors’ expectations of what constitutes the “proper” way to do research while also contending with our own complicity in perpetuating epistemic injustice, particularly the hermeneutical type, through the one-shot session. We see epistemic justice as a threshold concept that we had to initially negotiate in our teaching. Originated by Meyer and Land (2003), the theory of threshold concepts states there are singular and fundamental “habits of mind, dispositions, and practices that are unique to [particular disciplines]” (Atherton & Meulemans, 2020, p. 151). Atherton and Meulemans use the threshold concepts framework (TCF) as a pedagogical tool in transformational learning (TL) to show how particular characteristics in TCF like liminality—occupation of a nonlinear, in-between space where learners realize they “have not grasped a concept, are aware they do not grasp the concept, and do not yet know what to do in order to progress in their learning” (2020, p. 153)—leads to a complete reformulation of frame of meaning that cannot be unlearned. Once we understood the highly biased and problematic structure of academic publishing, we had to do a couple of things: 1) separate our LIS positionality from our BIPOC positionality as we became aware that we lacked the hermeneutics (or means to interpret) to name what was missing from the scholarly conversation—voices like ours; and 2) refuse to be silent about epistemicide and implore our students (especially those who are BIPOC) to be critical of the sources they had previously accepted without question.

Patin et al. note that curricular injustice occurs when there are no physical resources, including scholarship that falls outside of dominant knowledge frameworks, as well as scholars who have an intimate understanding and application of non-Western knowledge, to overcome epistemicide (2021). If the status quo curriculum relies on ahistorical notions of Western superiority, students assume that the curriculum is based upon a “‘natural’ progression of knowledge building over time” (p. 1310), instead of an intentional quelling of other ways of knowing. Guided by a kairos of compliance, the one-shot instruction session impedes epistemic growth, but if reconfigured through a kairos of critical pedagogy, it can be a site for liberatory, transformational learning.

In a kairos of critical pedagogy (Drabinski, 2017), librarians confront existing structures of power as well as carve out spaces that illuminate and uplift epistemologies and ontologies—ways of being—in academia that have been historically relegated to the margins. One critical step toward liberatory praxis is pedagogical dissent (Rendón, 2012), where we actively resist ingrained systems by “[working] through the political structures of the institution” (p. 114). Because of our vulnerability in the mostly white spaces of academia, BIPOC librarians lack the political capital to immediately (and completely) dispense with the hallowed one-shot format. Still, we work with what we have by applying the key principle of emergent strategy, “small is good, small is all” (brown, 2017, p. 41), to slowly shift the paradigm through microchanges.

Ruminating on the One-Shot: Autoethnographic Reflections

Here, we turn to autoethnography, which challenges majoritarian narratives by providing space to reflect and, at times, heal the wrongs that have been done to marginalized communities. Autoethnography “focuses on self-interrogation and self-reflection” (Quiñonez et al., p. 253), and as two BIPOC librarians, this process can make us feel incredibly vulnerable, particularly as we discuss ways to bring cultural wealth of Communities of Color (Yosso, 2005) into the classroom. These assets include linguistic capital, or the ability to share information in more than one language as well as “communicate via visual art, music, or poetry” (Yosso, 2005, p. 78). April is bilingual as well as a visual artist and brings these vital aspects of her cultural identity into the classroom. We also draw on our immigrant (Lalitha) and first-generation (April) heritages to illuminate how our own “sense of…history, memory, and cultural intuition” (p. 79) help us connect with and validate our BIPOC students.


Inspired by the work of Quiñonez and Olivas, I learned about using validation in the classroom to affirm student voices and experiences and “nurtu[re] a familia atmosphere built on trust and familiarity” (2020, p. 5). Their research helped me continue to build off of their application of Rendón’s validation theory framework (1994) to first-year library instruction. The General Education Lifelong Learning (GEL) course at CSUSM teaches first-year students how to be engaged in the classroom and in campus life. Lessons include being open about the hidden curriculum; that is, the oftentimes unspoken expectations of college students, such as knowing disciplinary vocabulary and how to write in the style of a certain discipline. Students learn about evaluating information and how to read and analyze scholarly articles. GEL has certain sections that are geared toward specific programs, two of which include Pathways to Academic Success and Opportunities (PASO), which is taught by instructors who are trained to work with Latinx students and College Assistance Migrant Program Students (CAMP),§ which is geared to students who come from migrant and seasonal farm worker backgrounds.

One summer, I was assigned to work with two GEL PASO and CAMP sections where the instructors decided to combine their classes. When we all met to discuss the lesson plans, one of them asked me, “What’s your story?” I talked to them a bit about my background; that I was a child of Mexican immigrant parents from Tijuana (a city on the other side of the San Diego border), a first-generation college student, and the first in my extended family to earn a master’s degree, for which I moved to New York City. I talked to them about what it was like growing up crossing the border back and forth and how much impostor syndrome I had during graduate school. I even shared a story of how I was homesick during that time and cried in a train after hearing a subway performer play Mexican folk music on an acoustic guitar. The professors asked if I’d be comfortable sharing my stories with students throughout the sessions since it connected to some of the lived experiences of the students and I agreed that it could add a meaningful layer. Prior to this, I had taught only one GEL PASO section where I briefly mentioned being a first-generation college student who struggled to navigate higher education and how the GEL learning outcomes would have benefited me. My colleague, Torie, shared that she never had a class like GEL to show her the ropes of college, so her vulnerability was surprising to me, because that’s not something I had ever seen incorporated in library instruction before. The summer I taught for the combined CAMP/PASO GEL sections, I shared my story to kick things off and noticed throughout the session that both instructors engaged me by asking me questions, either in connection to my college experience or a tip I could share about a particular part of the lesson plan I was covering. I realized afterward that they were validating me, by making space for my own story while also showing students how to engage with a librarian by asking me to elaborate on different parts of the research process. But the process was also relational because the professors foster connection by drawing me also into their course, emphasizing the importance of our cultural assets in the academy.

The other piece of this is that PASO/CAMP GEL instructors validate students before I meet with them. This stood out to me the first time I taught one of their sections because the students were actively participating in the session when asked questions and engaged with the activities. I also noticed that each time I taught one of these sections I learned from students and the professors. It’s a cycle of sorts—I’m there to teach, but I’m also there to learn; it becomes a community of learners and a community of validation.

Given this experience, I incorporated my background as a visual artist to devise a creative teaching medium for PASO/CAMP GEL sections: a research scrapbook zine that students used to document their time with me. I wanted to incorporate this in Spring 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic took place and working from home meant we shifted our teaching to an asynchronous, virtual mode. For the following two semesters, I taught these sections virtually, but the lively participation I experienced before started to wane and I felt like something was missing in this modality. I had trouble finding ways to incorporate my zine idea in a virtual setting. Though GEL PASO returned to in-person instruction in Fall 2021, the instruction librarians collectively agreed to provide only virtual instruction for first-year courses that semester. Still, I shared my zine idea with the professor and we coordinated a handoff of materials before the first session I had with the students. The zine included the activity worksheets we used when we taught in person, but I wanted to find ways to cultivate validating and relational conversations with students through a means that facilitated authorship of their own stories in a creative, reflective way. Based on research from Quiñonez and Olivas (2020), the first inner page included these self-reflection prompts:

Take a moment to think about where you are in your student-scholar transformation. You might be able to answer all or part of these questions, or you might want to return to them as we talk more about these experiences. Write or draw out your answers below:
What existing skills, interests, lived experience, identities do you have?
How might these influence the way you see yourself as a student-scholar and how you perceive or approach the research process?

Before providing time to answer these questions, I shared my own connection to them with a slide to visualize each part. For the first question, I mentioned I’m an artist, that I took up guitar again recently, and how I grew up crossing the San Ysidro-Tijuana border back and forth. I connected these activities to the research process because I value making visual/creative approaches to research, getting frustrated by guitar notes reminds me of when I feel stuck in researching, and often identify barriers in research just like the border wall is a physical barrier. When I asked students to share, they mirrored my responses; one shared a similar story about playing guitar and how they need something to hook them in a song they’re learning in order to keep going and how that is similar to doing research, and another how they are also an artist and that impacts their approach to research in a similar way. Cultivating validation by making space for these insights allows students to identify and reflect on their own skills and unique cultural assets so that they can then connect how it all factors into their educational experience.


Collaborative practices are vital to critiquing epistemic practices that stanch our ability to come up with sustainable solutions to issues that affect us in the real world. In Fall 2020, I joined a campuswide working group at CSUSM currently working on regional climate justice issues, comprising faculty and staff across a wide range of disciplines. The group is broken up into subcommittees focusing on different aspects of addressing climate justice. As the subject liaison to both the American Indian Studies and Environmental Studies departments, I volunteered for the Climate Justice and Indigenous Knowledge (CJIK) subcommittee, which explores how indigenous knowledge is central to any and all resolutions about climate issues; the work of CJIK includes developing a student-produced podcast and participation in a broader campus climate justice teach-in Spring 2022. During the teach-in, which included valuable input from our student community, I drew on scholarship by Eve Tuck, K. Wayne Yang, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith—prominent Indigenous Studies scholars—to emphasize how the library facilitates conversations through a decolonizing lens, which is vital to rectifying the damage done by Western knowledge systems to Indigenous communities.

Tuck and Yang note that decolonization isn’t a casual project; rather, it explicitly concerns how settler colonialism has “[disrupted]… Indigenous relationships to land [and] represents profound epistemic, ontological, cosmological violence” (2012, p. 5). Linda Tuhiwai Smith powerfully writes that “…‘Research,’ is probably one of the dirtiest words in the Indigenous world’s vocabulary…It appalls us that the West can desire, extract, and claim ownership of our ways of knowing, our imagery, the things we create and produce, and then simultaneously reject the [creators of these ideas]” (2021, p. 1). The first step toward curricular justice is not a question of simply “making room” for the Indigenous epistemologies in the one-shot classroom, but building the actual room around them. Inspired by Nimisha Bhat’s library instruction that de-centers whiteness, I asked students in an anthropology course on healing modalities to share in a crowdsourcing activity (2022), what types of knowledge they consider valid in scholarly research and I received rote responses (e.g. scholarly articles, books, etc.). However, when I stressed the importance of centering indigenous perspectives (Bhat, 2022), particularly since scholarship on allopathic medicine dominates database content, I really sensed a distinct shift, a palpable relaxation among students. Some of the BIPOC students confided that they were researching curanderos—traditional healers in Latin America—and felt personally connected to their topic but weren’t sure if they could write from an experiential lens. Here, I validated students, assuring them that their own pre-existing knowledge on their topic could not be discounted, and actually presented an opportunity for them to enter (and redirect) the scholarly conversation. Additionally, the professor with whom I often collaborate on this particular course asks students to interview practitioners of their chosen healing modalities and weighs this part of the assignment more than locating traditional scholarship.

My experiences with the CJIK and anthropology healing modality course have taught me that, when it comes to conversations around pedagogical practice related to Indigenous epistemic justice, BIPOC librarians, especially, have to break away from “how it’s always been done” because such educational traditions were designed to make us question our own cultural beliefs and be complicit in our own oppression. While this realization initially saddened me (all that time lost!), it has also been liberating to dismantle retrograde views and herald a new way of doing things in the classroom. But most importantly we have to trust Indigenous scholars and tribal communities to be the stewards, authorities, and disseminators of their knowledge systems.

Shifting Away from the One-Shot Mindset

So, rather than doing away entirely with one-shot instruction, we take a structural and holistic approach toward understanding how a one-shot mindset, which emphasizes rational and objective processes, has diminished our ability to be imaginative and inclusive in the IL classroom. We have also begun gravitating toward epistemic inclusivity through Sentipensante Pedagogy, which emphasizes the tension between what is observed and what is intuited. Derived from a term in the work of Eduardo Galeano, sentipensante is “a combination of two Spanish words: sentir, which means to sense or feel, and pensar, to think” (Rendón, 2012, p. 136) and where rationality and intuition coexist. Sentipensante counters epistemic injustice through transdisciplinary pedagogical approaches based upon simultaneously valuing scientific exploration while also “eliciting social awareness within the student and teacher, and some form of social change in and out of the classroom” (p. 136). Sensing/thinking practice cultivates what Rendón calls personas educadas, individuals who navigate objective, rational types of information (2012) while also drawing from their own funds of knowledge (FoK). Originally coined by anthropologists Velez Ibañez and Greenberg (1992), funds of knowledge is a term used to describe the culturally specific household skills to help marginalized communities navigate the dominant culture. In the context of pedagogical practices, FoK is the experiential knowledge students bring into the classroom to enhance their learning, as well as challenge deficit thinking educational frameworks. In valuing funds of knowledge, we engage in what hooks calls transgressive pedagogy or calling on students to cross established boundaries of learning and make “education the practice of freedom” (1994, p. 12). But to encourage students’ participation in epistemic inclusivity, we establish a familia counterspace by showing emotion and vulnerability in the classroom through self-disclosure about our own educational journeys (Quiñonez & Olivas, 2020; Rendón, 2012). Through teaching and our own scholarship, we address (and redress) the epistemic harm caused by deficit frameworks, including the assumption that “minority students…are at fault for poor academic performance because… [they] enter school without the normative cultural knowledge and skills” (Yosso, 2005, p. 75). Such perceptions foster a ripe environment to disregard and diminish pre-existing cultural capital of Communities of Color in order to privilege White knowledge (Yosso, 2005).

To repair the damage wrought by formative educational experiences, we rely on relational-cultural theory (RCT)—a therapeutic framework that examines the complexities of human relationships—to show how revealing our own vulnerabilities and being authentic in the classroom can engender trust (Quiñonez et al., 2021). How do we make time for this kind of engagement? It is in this moment or kairos that we make a definitive choice, which initially feels risky for untenured BIPOC librarians who are constantly having to conform to and justify their roles within a largely white profession (Nataraj et al., 2020). Ford observes that the library profession seems to prioritize empirical and quantitative research for our own scholarship because, “on the whole, it takes less time [emphasis added]” (p. 236). “For academic librarians whose main duties are to serve patrons, whose education and training is an applied profession, not a doctoral degree in a research field, it makes sense that straightforward research methods dominate our literature” (p. 236). But our commitment to BIPOC students inspires us to “teach to transgress” (hooks, 1994) when we bring our own valuable knowledge into the one-shot session, which includes sharing scholarly contributions of BIPOC scholars and normalizing speaking Spanish or code switching in the classroom (Quiñonez & Olivas, 2020).

Another epistemic shift entails inclusion of interpretive research paradigms where the “emphasis is on sensemaking, description, and detail…[and] human action constitutes subjective interpretations of meanings” (Given, 2008). Interpretive paradigms challenge positivism by legitimizing subjectivity and making room for multiple epistemologies in research, which is an exciting possibility in the IL classroom since it relates to the formation of student-scholar identities. Lalitha has also started gently informing professors and students that she will no longer spend inordinate amounts of time in the one-shot demonstrating effective search techniques within algorithmically biased databases; instead, she pivoted to uncover student expertise and curiosity to help users become more invested in their research topics. We now encourage students to spend more time going down internet rabbit holes like investigating “unacceptable” sources such as Wikipedia, or even perusing Instagram and Twitter hashtags to develop salient research questions and search keywords. These “small” changes in our lesson plans create a greater impact, in terms of how librarians ultimately retain agency in the classroom while also empowering BIPOC students to privilege their cultural assets. When we bring up bias, we are not just talking about how research is conducted to illuminate only one particular “side” of an issue (though that’s obviously critical as well), we are also surfacing the overall problematic structure of scholarly publishing that has historically omitted the work of women and BIPOC, which is a deeper dive than most students and their professors expect in an information literacy orientation. We observe that there’s often a note of pleasant surprise from some of the professors when we raise issues of epistemic and scholarly publishing bias with undergraduates.

Conclusion: A Radical Praxis of Reflection

We see the limitations and disservice that happen when the primary or sole request in one-shot sessions is to demonstrate database searching (or, some other discrete skill) since this is seen as the more practical or useful skill. Indeed, that is a part of the research process, but centering practicality obscures the uncomfortable, liminal spaces that students occupy when moving from basic to in-depth comprehension of their topics. Too, the process of reflection gets short shrift, which is unfortunate since it is an especially important concept introduced to students in general education courses, often taken during their first year. While continuing to be confined by one-shot sessions, we aspire to make them meaningful, and yet library instruction still feels Sisyphean, particularly when students and professors cannot progress beyond a narrow view of information literacy grounded in technicality rather than criticality. More radical, transformational action is needed to completely break free of the kairos of compliance and move us towards a liberatory kairos of critical pedagogy. To that end, we “slow our roll,” advocating for more thoughtful, considered processes that strengthen librarians’ positionality as instructors and co-learners, rather than trainers.

Giving students the space and guidance to reflect and create self-referential learning objects such as zines counters quantitative data assessment practices, simultaneously providing them with validating artifacts to which they can return over and over as they refine their information literacy skills. Qualitative data from zines also offer both librarians and students a profound understanding of how BIPOC students construct their scholar identities and act as counternarratives to epistemic white supremacy. Zines, along with de-centering whiteness in IL instruction, are part of what Hall and Tandon refer to as knowledge democracy, which is a constellation of strategies intended to move us beyond reflection into collective action (2017). One of these actions includes collaborating with professors on curriculum mapping by auditing syllabi (Patin et al., 2021) to create scaffolded information literacy curriculum that inspires the necessary thinking vital to dismantling extant ideas around scholarly creation in favor of rebuilding educational structures anew (Leung & McKnight, 2020). bell hooks wrote that transgressive pedagogy invokes experience “as a way of knowing that coexists in a nonhierarchal way with other ways of knowing, [so as to lessen] the possibility that it can be used to silence” (1994, p. 84). ¡Seguimos adelante! Let’s raise our voices and get on with it.


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* Lalitha Nataraj (lnataraj@csusm.edu) is Social Sciences Librarian and April Ibarra Siqueiros (aibarrasique@csusm.edu) is User Experience Librarian, both at California State University at San Marcos. The authors note: Our paper would not be what it is without the intentional ethic of care that Nicole Pagowsky and her dedicated team of peer reviewers applied during the developmental review process. Creating scholarship, especially as personal as ours, is a vulnerable and, at times, fraught undertaking, but we want to emphasize how deeply cared for we felt every step of the way, and we acknowledge the substantive ways that we grew as writers. © 2022 Lalitha Nataraj and April Ibarra Siqueiros, Attribution-NonCommercial (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) CC BY-NC.

adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy (2017), inspired by the work of Octavia Butler, is a radical self-help philosophy that provides a blueprint for the future. We understand that the world is composed of ever-shifting patterns; but, by understanding and learning from these, we have the power to influence change.


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