Readings Week 3: Information Literacy in Academic Libraries

The reading I chose to do for this week centered on information literacy in the academic library, the work academic librarians are doing to promote that literacy for their students, and the methods they are currently employing to accomplish that. The first piece I dove into was Zauha and Ragains description of the problems students are encountering with new technologies in the classroom. As they describe it, students are now using both ereaders and freely accessible versions of literature found online to do their reading for their courses. However, they encounter multiple obstacles with these, DRM (digital rights management software) being a big one. Others included online versions may not be the correct version, page numbers being left off and thus make citation difficult, etc.

The authors did well in thoroughly outlining key points for instruction librarians to consider in teaching the campus community about electronic devices and thus promoting digital literacy, such as “identify[ing] what is happening with etextbooks and e-readers broadly on campus, including any pilot projects in classes that are using electronic textbooks and how students are accessing them” (Zauha & Ragains 2011). However, the overall tone of their article was that librarians are grudgingly accepting ereaders and ebooks as here to stay, rather than enthusing over the new opportunities that they could present for libraries: “Even if we wanted to advise against the use of ereaders on campus, we would be shouting into the wind. As costs for devices go down, as their ease of use increases, and as the availability and interchangeability of electronic texts increase, we will see more of these in the classroom and the library, as well as more acceptance of e-textbooks in general because students’ use and understanding of technology is constantly increasing…”(Zauha & Ragains 2011).

A trend I’ve noticed on my own campus, and that I found reflected in my search for these articles, is the credit-bearing class taught by librarians. Daugman, McCall, and McMahan wrote about the implementation of several of these types of courses at Wake Forest. The first course began in 2003 and was a one-credit course meant to replace the previous librarian-led bibliographic instruction sessions held in other classes. The first class was so successful that they ended up creating several more classes taught by the librarians of Wake Forest. These classes taught students how to find and use the resources at their own academic library, how to find and use relevant databases, research processes, how to locate scholarly web resources in the humanities, and also taught about scholarly associations and developing your own research.

I wish that there were such a class when I was an undergraduate! I was required to take a 1.5 credit Comm. Studies class that was similar in scope, but was taught by a graduate student. While she did a good job teaching, I think I would have benefited even more from the instruction of a librarian who is professionally trained in finding and using all different types of resources, and is likely more proficient in research processes.

I read a similar article about librarians at Hofstra University who have also been teaching credit-bearing classes for the last decade. However, Hofstra implemented their librarian-taught information literacy courses due not so much to demand, but to the fact that librarians were seeing fewer and fewer students at the reference desk and sought a way to keep the library relevant. Thus, info literacy courses. Hofstra librarians saw this as the opportunity to insert information literacy into the curriculum, which they had long been advocating for. In Burke’s article, she described the process and evaluation of the course, beginning with the question of audience. They determined that first-semester freshmen would be too inexperienced for the course, as they are just getting introduced to the rigors of academia and have yet to be assigned research-heavy assignments.

Part of the evaluation process was surveying 50 universities on how they are implementing “LIB 101” courses, which is the bulk of Burke’s piece. One finding from this survey I found particularly interesting is the increasing trend of designing these courses for specific majors; Burke writes that she hopes to one day see an information literacy course tailored to every major. I think this is an exciting concept, and exciting for my future career prospects: I’ve become interested in subject selection and department liaison, and the possibility of a “LIB 101” course in every department means potentially more job opportunities. Plus, teaching it based on your own background and academic interests plainly sounds like fun!

Works Cited

Burke, M. (2011). ACADEMIC LIBRARIES AND THE CREDIT-BEARING CLASS: A practical approach. Communications in Information Literacy,5(2), 156-173. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/docview/1020613409?accountid=14667

Daugman, E., McCall, L., & McMahan, K. (2011). Designing and implementing an information literacy course in the humanities. Communications in Information Literacy, 5(2), 127-143. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/docview/1020613386?accountid=14667

Zauha, J., & Ragains, P. (2011). IS THERE A TEXT IN THIS CLASS? E-readers, e-books, and information literacy. Communications in Information Literacy, 5(2), 68-73. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/docview/1020613372?accountid=14667

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5 thoughts on “Readings Week 3: Information Literacy in Academic Libraries

  1. In regards to your comment about librarians being reluctant to concentration on digital resources, I found a similar tone in the articles I read, which were primarily about public libraries. I’m not sure if this is because we are at SI where change is a good thing and digital teaching and learning resources are rarely avoided, but I was surprised to find such a generalized depiction of librarians being reluctant to changes being made.

  2. The class described in the second article sounds like a great way to help integrate information literacy into students’ curricula. I don’t think there are even one-credit classes at my undergraduate institution, and if there are, they weren’t publicized as important. In one of my articles, they suggested creating a one-credit information literacy class that corresponded with the required freshman English class. This would allow them to see the real value in learning these skills, rather than just using example searches. I agree that is the way libraries should handle this subject.

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen the negative attitude about e-readers as well in other blogs that I follow. Initially, i agreed with those librarians. I have been a book purist. However, in graduate school, I’m beginning to see the value of having electronic content, even if the quality of e-books and journals has not always been the best. Plus, even if it’s not in our personal taste, we should be wholeheartedly trying to make the e-reading experience better, simply BECAUSE it is the way students are turning. We are in a service career. It is our job to make the best use of patron’s money and time. For that reason alone, we should stop dragging our feet and try to improve e-book and e-journal quality.

  3. Another interesting wrinkle in the ongoing shift to digital reading material is the errors that can occur during conversion or scanning. Paul Conway is doing some IMLS-funded research about this.

  4. I found this statement in regards to the findings of your third article really interesting:

    “They determined that first-semester freshmen would be too inexperienced for the course, as they are just getting introduced to the rigors of academia and have yet to be assigned research-heavy assignments.”

    Whenever I hear about information literacy courses or sessions I almost always hear about it as an introduction for incoming students, often taking place during orientation or shortly there after when they have only just arrived on campus. While I think that it is good to orient new students to the library and the services it offers I know that when a student arrives on campus for the first time they are often overwhelmed and exhausted with all of the information being thrown at them. I think that the concept that this article seems to propose is really fascinating.

    Really it almost seems like it should be obvious, wait to supply students with information until they actually need it. This way they will be more likely to take in and retain information because they will see how it directly applies to them and their work, a connection they might not be ready to make in their first days, weeks, or months on campus. This makes me wonder if libraries and schools are jumping the gun and rushing to force information on students that they are not yet prepared to deal with. Instead of doing in depth information literacy education perhaps schools could start out new students just by giving them a tour familiarizing them with the library and introducing them to a few librarians, so that students will feel comfortable in the building and hopefully comfortable talking to the library staff. Then later in their second or third year require them to take a 1.5 credit course that deals in more detail with the kind of information literacy skills they will need as they begin to take upper level classes.

  5. When you first mentioned the idea of subject-specific research courses, I was a little skeptical. I worried that they wouldn’t teach skills that transfer into research for other fields. (After all, how many of us majored in library science for our bachelor degree?) But I think I’m coming around, because if a librarian is teaching the course, they will probably teach those often softer transferable skills. And hopefully students will immediately see the relevance of the course to their own pursuit.

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