My midwinter conference was held in New Orleans, where the Association of American Colleges and Universities held its annual meeting. It was an interesting gathering, where I enjoyed sessions on assessing experiential education, integrative learning, and several on undergraduate research. Many of us got to know the city a bit better through a presentation on using primary sources in teaching with a faculty member from a Pennsylvania college who works regularly with librarians and archivists at the Historic New Orleans Collection. Apart from that session, I only met one other librarian (who is now a provost) but was struck by how much faculty and administrators embraced information literacy as one of several key intellectual and practical skills, identified in the AAC&U’s Greater Expectations report and revisited in a just-released publication, College Learning for the New Global Century. At one of the research-related sessions, a round table discussion of how St. Lawrence University makes research the center of its first year seminar, faculty praised librarians’ pedagogical knowhow and expertise, not knowing there was a librarian in the audience!
Also discussed at the conference, and worth a read, is a survey of business leaders and new graduates about what areas they feel need more emphasis in college. Seventy percent of the employers surveyed said colleges and universities should place more emphasis on learning how to locate, organize, and evaluate information. (The recent graduates were less convinced; only 48% felt it should receive more attention – but still, that’s nearly half!)
All of which leaves me more convinced than ever that information literacy as a concept isn’t a hard sell. Clearly, these skills are in high demand. Acknowledging the faculty’s co-ownership of the issues and providing them with opportunities to talk about what they’re trying to accomplish and a chance to share tools and ideas for accomplishing it can go a long way to making it happen.
posted by Barbara Fister
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