Critical Pedagogies and Critical Information Literacy in STEM librarianship: A Literature Review




Information literacy, Critical literacy, Scientific literacy, Education, Science & technology libraries


In contrast to the traditional library instruction aim of finding and evaluating information, critical library pedagogies aim to teach students to analyze and challenge the power structures that determine what kind of information is deemed valuable. STEM librarians have been slower to take up these approaches than our colleagues with other disciplinary focuses, yet I argue that critical teaching is one of the most important ways that we can support social justice goals in our work. In this paper, I review the existing literature on critical pedagogies in STEM librarianship and suggest ways for us to develop our practice in this area.


Download data is not yet available.


Accardi, M. T. (2010). Teaching against the grain: Critical assessment in the library classroom. In M. T. Accardi, E. Drabinski, & A. Kumbier (Eds.), Critical library instruction: Theories and methods (pp. 251–264). Library Juice Press.

Accardi, M. T., Drabinski, E., & Kumbier, A. (Eds.). (2010). Critical library instruction: Theories and methods. Library Juice Press.

ACRL framework for information literacy sandbox. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2023, from

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education.

Anderberg, L. (2015). Stem undergraduates and archival instruction: A case study at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. The American Archivist, 78(2), 548–566.

AORTA. (2014). Aorta meeting facilitation resource sheet [Fact sheet]. Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance.

Beatty, J. (2014). Locating information literacy within institutional oppression. In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

Beilin, I. (2016). Student success and the neoliberal academic library. Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship, 1, 10–23.

Bohémier, K. A. (2019). Information has value: Teaching with the ACRL framework in a STEM setting. Science & Technology Libraries, 38(1), 72–82.

Booth, C. (2011). Reflective teaching, effective learning: Instructional literacy for library educators. American Library Association.

Borchardt, R., Bruce, S., Click, A., & Roh, C. (2022). Are we walking the talk? A snapshot of how academic LIS journals are (or aren’t) enacting disciplinary values. In the Library with the Lead Pipe.

Bourg, C. (2014, January 16). The neoliberal library: Resistance is not futile. Feral Librarian.

Brown, D. N., & Bresnahan, M. (2022). Train the teacher: Practical guidance for effective, critical teaching approaches for science and data librarians. Journal of EScience Librarianship, 11(2), e617.

Cardoso, N. B. (2010). A contribuição do bibliotecário para a educação ambiental. Perspectivas Em Ciencia Da Informacao, 15(2), 140–162.

Cook, D., & Farmer, L. S. J. (2011). Using qualitative methods in action research: How librarians can get to the why of data. Association of College and Research Libraries.

Current major STS journals. (n.d.). University of British Columbia Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies. Retrieved August 1, 2023, from

Daston, L., & Galison, P. (1992). The image of objectivity. Representations, 40, 81–128.

DiNardo, C. O., Foster, B., Brungard, A. B., Cannon-Rech, N., Dommermuth, E., Hamelers, R., Kuglitsch, R., Orozco, R., & Renirie, R. (2022). Companion document to the framework for information literacy for higher education — Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Association of College & Research Libraries.

Dommermuth, E., & Roberts, L. W. (2022). Listening to first generation college students in engineering: Implications for libraries and information literacy. Communications in Information Literacy, 16(2), 90–118.

Drabinski, E., & Sitar, M. (2016). What standards do and what they don’t. In N. Pagowsky & K. McElroy (Eds.), Critical library pedagogy handbook (volume 1) (pp. 41–51). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Ellsworth, E. (1989). Why doesn’t this feel empowering? Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy. Harvard Educational Review, 59(3), 297–324.

Elmborg, J. (2006). Critical information literacy: Implications for instructional practice. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(2), 192–199.

Felt, U., Miller, C. A., Smith-Doerr, L., & Fouche, R. (Eds.). (2017). The handbook of science and technology studies (4th ed.). The MIT Press.

Fosmire, M. (2017). Making informed decisions: The role of information literacy in ethical and effective engineering design. Theory Into Practice, 56(4), 308–317.

Freire, P. (2015). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary edition.). Bloomsbury.

Gammons, R. (2016). Incorporating critically conscious assessment into a large scale information literacy program. In N. Pagowsky & K. McElroy (Eds.), Critical library pedagogy handbook (volume 2) (pp. 235–240). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Gan, E., & Tsing, A. (2018). How things hold: A diagram of coordination in a Satoyama forest. Social Analysis, 62(4), 102–145.

Gardner, C. C., & Halpern, R. (2016). At odds with assessment: Being a critical educator in the academy. In N. Pagowsky & K. McElroy (Eds.), Critical library pedagogy handbook (volume 1) (pp. 41–51). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Giordano, S. (2017). Feminists increasing public understandings of science: A feminist approach to developing critical science literacy skills. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 38(1), 100–123.

Giroux, H. (2010, October 17). Lessons from Paulo Freire. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Grimm, T. B., & Vostral, S. (2019). Archive as laboratory: Engaging STEM students & STEM collections. Engineering Studies, 11(2), 135–152.

Halvorson, S. J., & Wescoat, J. L. (2002). Problem-based inquiry on world water problems in large undergraduate classes. Journal of Geography, 101(3), 91–102.

Haraway, D. J. (1989). Primate visions: Gender, race, and nature in the world of modern science. Routledge.

Hodson, D. (2003). Time for action: Science education for an alternative future. International Journal of Science Education, 25(6), 645–670.

hooks, bell. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. Routledge.

Jennings, M. E., & Lynn, M. (2005). The house that race built: Critical pedagogy, African-American education, and the re-conceptualization of a critical race pedagogy. Educational Foundations, 19.

Johnson, M. W. (2017). Personal health data, surveillance & biopolitics: Toward a personal health data information literacy. Progressive Librarian, 46, 150–158.

Keer, G. (2016). Barriers to critical pedagogy in information literacy teaching. In N. Pagowsky & K. McElroy (Eds.), Critical library pedagogy handbook (volume 1) (pp. 65–74). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Kuglitsch, R., & Bordeaux, J. R. (2017). Construction and contextualization of authority in STEM fields: An exploratory paper. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, 87.

Kuglitsch, R. Z. (2018). An interlocking and interdependent ecology. Reference Services Review, 46(2), 294–302.

Latour, B. (1986). Laboratory life: The construction of scientific facts. Princeton University Press.

Laveaga, G. S. (2005). Uncommon trajectories: Steroid hormones, Mexican peasants, and the search for a wild yam. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 36(4), 743–760.

Leslie, C., & Anderberg, L. (2015). Innovating with history: How an archival intervention diminishes Snow’s “dangerous” divides. Double Helix: A Journal of Critical Thinking and Writing, 3(1), 1–32.

Lewontin, R. C. (1991). Biology as ideology: The doctrine of DNA. Anansi.

Liboiron, M. (2021). Pollution is colonialism. Duke University Press.

Library instruction. (n.d.). Litwin Books & Library Juice Press. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from

Lynch, K., & Hunter, S. (2020). Conflicting authority: Using the Trump administration’s responses to the EPA climate assessment report to teach information literacy. Reference Services Review, 48(1), 201–216.

McCartin, L. (2018). Toward a critical-inclusive assessment practice for library instruction. Library Juice Press.

Mercer, K., & Weaver, K. D. (2023). Critical evaluation of information as a new threshold concept for navigating STEM information. Science & Technology Libraries, 42(1), 68–84.

Nicholson, K. P. (2016). “Taking back” information literacy: Time and the one-shot in the neoliberal university. In N. Pagowsky & K. McElroy (Eds.), Critical library pedagogy handbook (volume 1) (pp. 25–39). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Onwuegbuzie, A. J., Frels, R. K., & Hwang, E. (2016). Mapping Saldana’s coding methods onto the literature review process. Journal of Educational Issues, 2(1), 130–150.

Pagowsky, N. (2022). Critique as care: Disrupting narratives of the one-shot instruction model. College & Research Libraries, 83(5), 713-.

Pagowsky, N., & McElroy, K. (2016a). Critical library pedagogy handbook. Volume 1, Essays and workbook activities. Association of College and Research Libraries

Pagowsky, N., & McElroy, K. (2016b). Critical library pedagogy handbook. Volume 2, Lesson plans. Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.

Pagowsky, N., & McElroy, K. (2016c). Introduction. In N. Pagowsky & K. McElroy (Eds.), Critical library pedagogy handbook (volume 1) (pp. xvii–xxi). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Palumbo, L. (2018). Instruction is contextual: An examination of McNair program curricula for STEM scholars and recommendations based on the framework for information literacy in higher education. Science & Technology Libraries, 37(2), 187–210.

Perry, H. B. (2018). Understanding financial conflict of interest: Implications for information literacy instruction. Communications in Information Literacy, 12(2), 215–225.

Pinedo, A., Vossoughi, N., & Lewis, N. A. (2021). Critical pedagogy and children’s beneficial development. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8(2), 183–191.

Priest, S. (2013). Critical science literacy: What citizens and journalists need to know to make sense of science. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 33(5–6), 138–145.

Rajagopalan, R. M., Nelson, A., & Fujimura, J. H. (2017). Race and science in the twenty-first century. In U. Felt, C. A. Miller, L. Smith-Doerr, & R. Fouche (Eds.), The handbook of science and technology studies (4th ed., pp. 349–378). The MIT Press.

Rampin, R., & Rampin, V. (2021). Taguette: Open-source qualitative data analysis. Journal of Open Source Software, 6(68), 3522.

Roberts, D. (2011). Fatal invention: How science, politics, and big business re-create race in the twenty-first century. New Press.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54–67.

Ryder, G., Russell, P., Burton, M., Quinn, P., & Daly, S. (2017). Embedding peer support as a core learning skill in higher education. Journal of Information Literacy, 11(1), 184–203.

Schmidt, K. D. (2017). Talking through it: Using student to student interviews and brainstorming activities for facilitating critical inquiry. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 22(2/3), 63–72.

Seale, M. (2013). The neoliberal library. In L. Gregory & S. Higgins (Eds.), Information literacy and social justice: Radical professional praxis (pp. 39–61). Library Juice Press.

Shanley, C., & Chance, L. (2016). Search and destroy: Punk tock tactics for library instruction. In N. Pagowsky & N. Pagowsky (Eds.), Critical library pedagogy handbook (volume 1) (pp. 151–159). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Shapin, S. (1984). Pump and circumstance: Robert Boyle’s literary technology. Social Studies of Science, 14(4), 481–520.

Sloman, S. A., & Fernbach, P. (2017). The knowledge illusion: Why we never think alone. Riverhead Books.

Swanson, T. A. (2004). A radical step: Implementing a critical information literacy model. portal : Libraries and the Academy, 4(2), 259–273.

TallBear, K. (2013). Genomic articulations of indigeneity. Social Studies of Science, 43(4), 509–533.

Tewell, E. (2015). A decade of critical information literacy: A review of the literature. Communications in Information Literacy, 9(1).

Torrise, M. L. (2010). Role of the library media specialist in greening the curriculum: A community-based approach to teaching 21st century skills outside of the school library through the practice of urban agriculture. Library Media Connection, 28(4), 18–20.

Tranfield, M. W. (2019). Geologic map instruction: A critical approach. Journal of Map & Geography Libraries, 15(2/3), 210–220.

Tripp, P. (2005). Teaching sustainable science. In P. Tripp & L. Muzzin (Eds.), Teaching as activism: Equity meets environmentalism (pp. 65–79). McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Undergraduate Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) programs of study. (n.d.). McGill University Faculty of Science. Retrieved July 13, 2023, from

Warren, S., & Duckett, K. (2010). “Why does google scholar sometimes ask for money?” Engaging science students in scholarly communication and the economics of information. Journal of Library Administration, 50(4), 349–372.

Weinstein, M. (2010). A science literacy of love and rage: Identifying science inscription in lives of resistance. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 10(3), 267–277.

Weiss, K. M., & Lambert, B. W. (2011). When the time seems ripe: Eugenics, the annals, and the subtle persistence of typological thinking. Annals of Human Genetics, 75(3), 334–343.

Zwicky, D., & Stonebraker, I. (2021). A critical librarianship approach for teaching patent searching: Who becomes an inventor in America? Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 26(1–2), 113–125.




How to Cite

del Junco, C. (2024). Critical Pedagogies and Critical Information Literacy in STEM librarianship: A Literature Review. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (105).
Share |