On the Space/Time of Information Literacy, Higher Education, and the Global Knowledge Economy


  • Karen Nicholson University of Western Ontario/University of Guelph




Local sites and practices of information work become embroiled in the larger imperatives and logics of the global knowledge economy through social, technological, and spatial networks. Drawing on human geography’s central claim that space and time are dialectically produced through social practices, in this essay I use human/critical geography as a framework to situate the processes and practices—the space and time—of information literacy within the broader social, political, and economic environments of the global knowledge economy.

 As skills training for the knowledge economy, information literacy lies at the intersection of the spatial and temporal spheres of higher education as the locus of human capital production. Information literacy emerges as a priority for academic librarians in the 1980s in the context of neoliberal reforms to higher education: a necessary skill in the burgeoning “information economy,” it legitimates the role of librarians as teachers. As a strategic priority, information literacy serves to demonstrate the library’s value within the university’s globalizing agenda.

While there has been a renewed interest in space/time within the humanities and social sciences since the 1980s, LIS has not taken up this “spatial turn” with the same enthusiasm—or the same degree of criticality—as other social science disciplines. This article attempts to address that gap and offers new insights into the ways that the spatial and temporal registers of the global knowledge economy and the neoliberal university produce and regulate the practice of information literacy in the academic library.

Pre-print first published online 12/09/2018