PIL Provocation Series: BLC Fireside Chat with Alison Head

Thursday, May 20, 2021 - 1:00pm

Event recording

Resources shared during the talk


About the BLC Virtual Chat

As trust in the written word continues to fray, are educators doing enough to prepare students for the new world of reading? In particular, what are practical ways to incorporate critical thinking and reading into library instruction? Who’s job is it to help students become deep and analytical readers? What opportunities for collaboration are there  at your institution for librarians, writing centers, and disciplinary faculty to facilitate conversation across campus towards improving students’ reading skills? 

This conversation with Alison Head will explore what fresh ideas can be surfaced to inspire librarians and educators to improve teaching and learning about critical reading while suggesting new avenues for inquiry and experimentation. During a virtual conversation with BLC library workers, the reading essay’s author, Alison Head, will reflect on these issues, drawing on 12 large-scale PIL research studies she has designed and directed since 2009, and her experience developing and teaching new media courses as the Roy Disney Visiting Professor at Saint Mary’s College in California for 10 years. Alison is also  Editor for the PIL Provocation Series, and was a Research Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman-Klein Center, 2011-2015, a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2011-2020, and, since 2016, has been a Senior Researcher at the metaLAB (at) Harvard. 

This event is co-sponsored by the BLC and Project Information Literacy, a nonprofit research institute. The 50-minute virtual discussion, which is limited to 35-40 participants and available on a first-come, first-served basis.




About Alison’s Essay

For many decades, professors have held onto the notion that college develops students into critical and analytical readers, who can arrive at a deeper understanding of texts through inference and making connections of their own. In “Reading in the Age of Distrust,” Alison argues many educators and librarians may be overlooking how the task of reading has dramatically changed in a world plagued by an endless stream of misinformation while students are increasingly prone to distrusting of news and information. 

The PIL Provocation essay argues that college students must be taught how to be skillful, discerning readers, who can engage actively with texts and better understand the source of information and how it is being disseminated at warp speed across a vast universe of connected networks. For today’s students, these critical reading skills are urgently needed in a chaotic world where information is a free-for-all and even the smartest people can get fooled. 


About PIL’s Provocation Series

During 2021, Project Information Literacy, a research institute in the U.S. that studies students’ information practices, is offering virtual chats with PIL Provocation Series authors about their recent essays. Reaching beyond any one discipline or, indeed, any singular notion of what “literacy” means today, each essay  in the PIL Series offers new insights, drawing from scholarship and the flow of current events, to provoke thought and conversation among practitioners and across boundaries. This Series seeks to facilitate discussion and share ideas about improving teaching and learning while exploring new avenues for inquiry, experimentation, and further research.


Laura Hibbler

Associate University Librarian for Research and Instruction, Brandeis University

Alison Head

Executive Director, Project Information Literacy

Editor, PIL Provocation Series 


Image © Kevin Carden