Information Literacy is an Academic Issue
Students who are information-literate can evaluate information critically, discern the relevant from the superfluous and incorporate selected information into their knowledge base. These concepts are developed and articulated in the ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education and have been widely accepted by the international academic community. The application of these standards has been most successful in institutions that view information literacy as an academic matter rather than an issue confined solely to the library.
Integration into the Curriculum is Key
Information literacy needs to be embedded into the academic curriculum of a university in order to develop to its full potential. This does not mean that general stand-alone or online workshops in information seeking tips and techniques are not of use; rather, it means that these workshops should serve as starting points for more in-depth information literacy practices. Of best value to the student are those experiences that allow him or her to connect conceptual ideas of how to approach the searching process with real tasks that require the application of those ideas to a specific academic need. This level of information literacy practice is most often found in the coursework required of students as they learn to participate in the community of scholars represented by a university.
Embedded information literacy opportunities may take many forms. Liaison librarians can come to classes as guest lecturers to talk about both the search process itself and specific resources that will be of use to students for particular assignments. The guest lecture format may consist of either a single class visit or a series of shorter visits by a librarian over a number of different classes. Other forms of embedded information literacy opportunities include the use of small group formats or active learning techniques in hands-on sessions through a seminar or in a lab. Still other forms exist online through web pages or tutorials created in class management courseware or on the Web. Extensions of these forms of information literacy instruction can include the use of follow-up quizzes online or the use of Research Guides to extend opportunities for learning beyond the physical classroom. In whatever format instruction is offered, liaison librarians are willing to work with faculty in the construction of assignments that best exploit the potential of meaningful information literacy experiences for students.
Meaningful collaboration between faculty and liaison librarians is an essential ingredient in this endeavor to promote effective information literacy experiences for students. Integrated information literacy programs create many positive outcomes for students. Successful initiatives lead to benefits such as better-developed research assignments and better use of the Library's collection. In-class activities designed to develop specific information-related skills can also increase the ability of students to complete assignments effectively and prepare them for accessing and evaluating information in a variety of contexts.
In essence, a successfully integrated information literacy program achieves the following:
- It focuses on a conceptual understanding of the research process
- It leads students to use academic resources of high caliber
- It focuses on class-specific research skills
- It enables students to produce better researched papers
- It develops more efficient information seeking and retrieval habits
- It encourages students to evaluate information systematically
- It provides a mechanism to address plagiarism
- It contributes to student success and student retention
- It provides the basis for lifelong learning
There are numerous examples of initiatives where faculty members, or whole departments, have worked to integrate information literacy into the departmental curriculum. The shape of these initiatives differs from institution to institution and from discipline to discipline. The common factor, however, is that a collaborative approach, based on established information literacy competencies, is at the heart of each undertaking.