Now Published: Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s new book

Virtue Information Literacy: Flourishing in an Age of Information Anarchy,” a new book by Wayne Bivens-Tatum, Librarian for Philosophy, Religion, and Anthropology is now available from Litwin Books & Library Juice Press.

Wayne Bivins-Tatum

The book uses virtue ethics and virtue epistemology to develop a “new, ethical conception of information literacy.” Bivens-Tatum describes the areas of the world with “relatively free flowing information” as existing in information anarchy, in which dominant information authorities for the public are lacking. Through this informational onslaught, people are free to choose their beliefs and organize their lives around them, irrespective of the benefits or perils those beliefs may introduce.

Bivens-Tatum’s focus on scholarly library research in “Virtue Information Literacy” is a natural extension of his work at PUL. “Part of my work involves teaching novice researchers how to find scholarly conversations using library research methods,” he said.

He added, “More broadly, the book contributes to a conversation within the profession of librarianship about information literacy, which sometimes boils information literacy down to a small set of skills that can be taught in a single class period. I argue that becoming information literate or scholarly requires significant transformations of our intellectual and ethical character. That also has emerged from my work with students over the years.”

Bivens-Tatum didn’t lose sight of current conversations about “fake news” and “post-truth” — the book serves in part as a response to these and other alarmist phrases. “Although the argument of the book emerged from my work as a librarian, it also has political implications that expand well beyond libraries,” Bivens-Tatum explained. “In a way, the book discusses how to deal with ‘fake news’ without talking much about ‘fake news.’”

Through this characterization of the information environment, Bivens-Tatum questions how people should sort through the informational abundance. “How do we learn to find and critically evaluate the best information for our purposes?” Establishing common information literacy skills are a baseline, but Bivens-Tatum also supports the cultivation of intellectual virtues — open-mindedness, intellectual humility, epistemic modesty, intellectual courtesy, intellectual courage, intellectual caution, intellectual thoroughness, epistemic justice, and information vigilance —as an ethical approach to information literacy.

Though the book’s framing lends itself to interest among academic librarians, Bivens-Tatum believes anyone involved in education could benefit from this method of cultivating intellectual virtues.

“Thriving intellectually in a world bombarding us with information and mis- or dis-information requires us to develop critical, resistant, scholarly selves,” said Bivens-Tatum. “In theory, it’s not difficult. All you need to do is steadily discipline your mind over many months or years until you completely change the way you see the world.”

For more information about the book, visit the Litwin Books website.

Published August 22, 2022

Written by Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications