Transliteracy…or Metaliteracy?

One of the goals here at Libraries and Translitercy is to situate transliteracy within an increasingly diverse array of competing “literacies”. While information literacy has persisted for decades as a core concept in librarianship, we now also have to grapple with digital literacy, visual literacy, cyberliteracy, new media literacy, and a host of other responses to defining literacy in the digital age. Keeping track of these literacies is rather confusing, so the recent article1 by Mackey and Jacobson in College and Research Libraries is sorely needed.

In a nutshell, Mackey and Jacobson argue that information literacy needs to be recast as a unifying concept providing the framework for different literacy types. ‘Metaliteracy’ is offered as this unifying concept. As they write,

“metaliteracy provides a conceptual framework for information literacy that diminishes theoretical differences, builds practical connections, and reinforces central lifelong learning goals among different literacy types.  Rather than envision these methods as unrelated or disconnected, we see information literacy as the essential framework that informs and unifies additional literacy types.  Through this approach we recognize the standard information literacy characteristics (determine, access, evaluate, incorporate, use, understand) as integral to related literacy formats.” (p. 76)

The authors even briefly mention transliteracy, correctly describing it as a unifying approach to literacies that has been developed outside of the library world (p.69).  In fact, the authors’ description of metaliteracy is so strikingly similar to those given to transliteracy that I feel I have to ask…do ‘metaliteracy’ and ‘transliteracy’ refer to the same concept? If so, which term should we use?  If they are different, how are they different?

I, for one, have no problem with using either term so long as the same practical concerns are addressed, but I’m curious to see what others think. Are transliteracy and metaliteracy (as described by Mackey and Jacobson) the same thing?

1Mackey, Thomas and Trudi Jacobson. “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” College and Research Libraries 72, no. 1 (2011): 62-78.

10 Responses to “Transliteracy…or Metaliteracy?”

  1. Transliteracy…or Metaliteracy? | "Teacher-librarian tango" | Scoop.it Says:

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  6. Roberto Carvalho Says:

    Nor transliteracy nor metaliteracy. For me Information Literacy is a fundamental literacy, base for others literacies. Sorry for my poor english.

  7. Alison Steinberg Says:

    Just a clarification. The article about metaliteracy was written by Mackey and Jacobson, not Thomas and Jacobson. Thomas is Mackey’s first name. Your second paragraph confused me for sec with that one.

    • Lane Wilkinson Says:

      Sorry about that…mea culpa. I’ve fixed the name and updated the hyperlink. Thanks for the heads up!

  8. Jake Says:

    trans- & meta- mean different things, yet when both are attached to “literacy” they are interchangable? I’m off to read this article…

    • Lane Wilkinson Says:

      Personally, I don’t think that transliteracy and metaliteracy are the same at all. However, many people are eager to call things “transliteracy” when they may really be metaliteracy…and vice versa. Hopefully the article will help sort out the distinction between literacies.


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