Keynote Speaker

Laura SaundersLaura Saunders is an Associate Professor at Simmons University School of Library and Information Science.  She teaches and conducts research in the areas of reference, instruction, information literacy, and intellectual freedom.  She has a strong interest in the connections between information literacy and social justice issues, as well as in the impact of mis- and disinformation.  In April of 2018 she ran the Know News symposium, which brought together 80 librarians, journalists and allied professionals to discuss collaborative responses to the challenges of misinformation.

Her articles have appeared in a variety of journals including College & Research Libraries, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, and Communications in Information Literacy. She has written or edited several books: Information Literacy as a Student Learning Outcome: The Perspective of Institutional Accreditation; Repositioning Reference: New Methods and New Services for a New Age co-authored with Lily Rozaklis and Eileen Abels; and the forthcoming Reference and Information Services: An Introduction, 6th edition, co-edited with Melissa Wong. Laura has a PhD and a Master of Library and Information Science, both from Simmons College, and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Boston University. She serves as a Trustee for the Somerville Public Library in Somerville, MA. She is the 2019 recipient of Simmons University’s Provost Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

Keynote Abstract

In the Name of Neutrality: What We Mean by Neutrality and What it Means for Us

Often, neutrality is conflated with decidedly not neutral ideals related to intellectual freedom and then set in opposition to issues of social responsibility, like challenging social inequities. Our debates on neutrality are complicated by a lack of clarity with the terminology and agreement on definitions. This talk will explore various conceptualizations of neutrality, especially as related to library instruction and information literacy, and consider how these definitions take on new meanings when applied to different aspects of our professional practice. With particular attention to how “neutrality” might be enacted in library instruction and impact physical, social, and intellectual access to information, this discussion will examine the questions that continue to incite debate in our professional community: Should we try to be neutral as professionals and in support of information literacy? Is it even possible? If neutrality is possible, is it a value of our profession? A goal to work toward, or a threat to be challenged?