Literacy Autobiographies

It never occurred to me until yesterday that there might be something called a “literacy autobiography.” I was sitting in class, reflecting on the most-commented online discussion topic for the class that day, and thinking that several of us Library & Information Science students feel the need to process whether/how/why we are or are not “heavy readers”–something only 10% of the population identifies as.

We had been reading an article regarding what we can learn about the heavy reader as an information user, and this particular discussion thread seem to attract much attention. One concern was whether we could be good library and information professionals if we did not consider ourselves heavy readers. Most agreed that we’d still be of value to the community we’d be serving.

Something I’m still curious about, however, is why we needed such affirmation. I, myself, felt the need to call my airing the fact that I don’t read many books a “confession.” It seems like a dirty secret to love libraries but feel bothered by reading books.

Judging by how many people responded to this topic, I’m wondering whether it’d be useful to ask my colleagues to write their own literacy autobiography. When did they first encounter reading, or reading about reading? I recalled in a snap the book that got me started: Wally the Wordworm. From the time I first read that, I was destined to be an alliterator. How did books and words influence the paths of my colleagues?

It would be an interesting research question, especially for surveying library and information science students. I just wonder if anyone could and would make the time for it.

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4 comments on “Literacy Autobiographies
  1. I’m glad you posted this, because I feel the same way! Whenever I am reading less than a book a week, I feel like I’m somehow ‘falling behind’ in my leisure reading and am therefore a bad librarian and bibliophile. That being said, there are so many different types of readers (as you mentioned) that all types of readers can be librarians. I would love to see something with folks’ literacy autobiographies–it definitely makes me want to sit down and think about mapping my past a bit! I really hope people would take the time to do it, but there might be a couple ways to involve the blogosphere in your efforts:
    1. Take a look at Micah Vandegrift’s blog ( He has ‘guest posts’ where he asks student/alumni bloggers to say ‘What I Learned in Library School.’ It’s a cool approach, and one that has produced some really cool responses.
    2. Maybe get other bloggers to share links to their blog posts on the topic with you: look at Library Roots and Routes for links to posts on how people came to LIS, and for a great list of blogs that posted Speak Loudly posts in response to the book challenge that was published a little while back. You could also have them post and then use a hashtag when they announce it on Twitter so that you could see who’s posting.
    Sorry, I’m rambling a lot–good luck!

    • admin says:

      It’s weird, right? I was thinking too about how eReaders could segment the population between Book People and the grab-bag information consumers (the latter of which I identify as). I doubt I’m going to dedicate my long-term research goals to surveying information professionals to categorize them into different groups of readers, but I’m sure the eReader market would love to know more about such demographics. Who would buy Kindles because they can load book after book on them, and who would prefer something like the iPad for its limitless forms of information vehicles?

      Something to think about!

  2. Chilly says:

    A common assignment for freshmen-comp classes was the literacy narrative. I can’t even remember what mine was about, but in the process of writing, I remembered that my older sister taught me reading basics during the summer before 1st grade. I was so moved by the memory that I wrote her a thank you letter.

    It’s a form of writing that really gets people thinking about their processes of writing as well as the ways that they process and internalize information. When helping people at App State’s writing center (, the literacy narrative was one of my favorite things to consult on. If you’ll pardon the cheese, it’s all about the journey, not the destination.

    • admin says:

      Cheese is most welcome. The memories are what makes this exercise totally awesome. I think we get so caught up in literature (as opposed to literacy) and feel inadequate if we can’t live up to the reading habits of Book People. At least I’m speaking on my *own* behalf.

      I remember obsessively reading business and road signs while riding in a car. I must have been so excited by being able to identify words indicating things outside of my bubble. It was a completely mundane thing that was absolutely thrilling to me. And it had nothing to do with books or authors, but I still was forming stories about my world. I think now if I had to choose between stories and books, I would choose stories. Hands down.

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