CHEPA is the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at USC. Every few months, I check out the new issue of its newsletter, The Navigator. The Spring 2006 issue had an interesting piece on the digital divide that suggests a new opportunity for collaboration between academic libraries and student affairs.
A report on a forthcoming study of low-income, urban high school students that suggests that the ongoing digital divide can have a significant impact on student access to financial aid, i.e.: “students increasingly have access to financial aid information on school computers . . . [but] lack the practical knowledge needed to complete the application process . . . . Because of little to no training of college counseling staff and/or students at the high school site, many students engage in financial aid processes online without a clear understanding of how to be a proactive advocate for one’s own financial aid needs.”
Now, imagine: instruction librarian + financial aid office + diversity recruitment officer + Office of Civic Engagement = workshop provided at urban high schools (or at convention of high school guidance counselors) aimed at making high school counseling staff and first-generation college students more information literate about the financial aid process.
There’s also a little piece on new research on Video Games and Student Learning – another hot topic on the conference circuit this year!
Tomorrow’s Professor has posted a piece asking its faculty readers a very interesting question: Are You a 21st-Century, Library-Ready Instructor?.
Reading this piece took me back to my days in library school, during which I balanced my LIS studies (and work in the Indiana University Libraries) with my ongoing responsibilities as an instructor for the IU School of Education. I don’t know if I ever had a learning experience in any of my LIS classes as powerful as the one I had on the day that I watched my undergraduate teacher education students in the Education Library trying to conduct research for the paper I had assigned them. I had been giving that assignment for 4 years, and I thought I had honed it to crystal clarity. Watching my students struggle to define their research topics and to locate resources in the library, I realized that my “crystal clear” assignment was virtually opaque to the average undergraduate. Very humbling. I was not yet, evidence suggested, a “library-ready instructor” (I’m much better now, of course)!
Reading the discussion of faculty perceptions of information commons projects and other library renovations aimed at enhancing the library experience for contemporary undergraduates also reminded me strongly of debates we’ve had on our own campus, where, just as in this article, commitments to renovate and improve user space have dovetailed with a review of our serial allocations (the piece does not make the critical distinction between one-time money and serial commitments, but why nit-pick?). The authors suggestions about how to pitch the information commons as an opportunity for instructional innovation – one in which classroom faculty members and librarians can collaborate closely – were also very familiar, as they are very much like those we have used here at Kansas over the past 2 years to promote use of the Collaborative Learning Environment designed by a committee with representatives from the Libraries, IT, Instructional Development & Support, and the Center for Teaching Excellence (anyone who is interested in what that looks like, and who has access to ECAR publications, can find a short discussion of the CLE in the EDUCAUSE library).
“Is the library information commons a frill, or can it be an essential tool for teaching the 21st century learner?” The answer is, of course, that it can be an essential tool if classroom faculty and librarians work together to make sure that it is used that way, and this piece gives the reader a nice way of looking at things.
It’s always encouraging when non-librarians, writing in non-library journals, give a plug for information literacy. So I’ll continue to pass them on when I spot them. I found this one in a column by James L. Oblinger, Chancellor of North Carolina State University, that appears in the latest issue of EDUCAUSE Review. Titled “Ensuring Students’ Success” this column discusses those skills college students need to succed both in and beyond the higher education institution. He writes:
Their information universe is more often the Internet than the library. What they must learn from us is how to identify problems, define needed resources, evaluate sources of information, analyze what they find, and respect intellectual property. Developing this information literacy is good preparation for studentsâ€™ future as effective, discriminating, lifelong learners.
It’s reassuring to read a high-level academic administrator who is enthusastic – or at leasts understands – about information literacy. Let’s hope the message spreads.
It’s become pretty commonplace to discuss the pace of change in libraries and in the academic library profession – how quick it’s coming, how significant it is for us to manage effectively, etc. – so it’s nice (I suppose) to see that it’s not just us.
This morning’s IHE has an article on a new book on the faculty profession that “argues that we are experiencing ‘a revolution’ in academic life that will be equal in its lasting significance to such events as the importation of the research university model to the United States in the late 19th century or the â€œmassificationâ€ of higher education after World War II.” Among the changes to the profession that the authors note are the recruitment and retention patterns, which, if memory serves, are among our “Top Issues,” as well.
For those who want the whole story, you can find The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers at your favorite vendor.
Talk of change has been popping up all over for 10 (20?) years in libraryland, but what this book should help us all to see is that talking about “change” is not simply a management fad, nor is it simply about innovations in technology. The library and the university are among the oldest and most stable social institutions the world has ever seen, and, for both, “the pace of change has accelerated dramatically.”
The question for all of us is how well we deal with it.
Several days ago ACRLog posted a story about charges of harassment filed against a reference librarian named Scott Savage over controversial books he suggested for the institution’s common book reading experience for freshman. On Friday, April 21 The Columbus Dispatch reported that OSU investigator T. Glenn Hill found that the charges of harassment had no merit. Savage was quoted saying “I was making a point. I want us to be aware of our biases.” Now exonerated, Savage is filing a complaint against his accusers.
The several other reports I read on this incident seemed to be in favor of Savage. Although many considered his choice of books reprehensible, they thought the filing of harassment charges against him were even worse. Perhaps his motives and methods were questionable, but others defended Savage’s right to express his opinion and choices – and that in higher education we should be free do to so without fear of becoming a target.