Communications in Information Literacy

With scholarly communications at the front of many academic librarians’ minds, it seemed worth noting the new journal – Communications in Information Literacy. According to the journal’s website (http://www.comminfolit.org/):

Communications in Information Literacy (CIL) is an independent, professional, refereed electronic journal dedicated to advancing knowledge, theory, and research in the area of information literacy. CIL is committed to the principles of information literacy as set forth by the Association of College and Research Libraries. CIL is also committed to the principles of open access for academic research.

Submissions are being accepted and, in full-disclosure, I must mention that I am part of the editorial team for this publication. Seems an excellent opportunity to share one’s writing and also further the open access movement.

Lisa Hinchliffe

AAC&Me

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

Mandatory Information Literacy

I received an email today from someone in another country asking if we had made information literacy mandatory for first-year students at my institution. Of course, I can only presume that she meant mandatory information literacy *instruction* – I cannot imagine any institution ever mandating achievement of information literacy for first-year students. This has prompted quite a bit of thought for me today. The short answer is that we do not have such a requirement and – for a variety of reasons – that is not likely to happen for some time, perhaps ever, given the very decentralized nature of the undergraduate curriculum (there are 5-7 ways to fulfill the first-year composition requirement, depending how one counts the options) among other factors.

What I am thinking about though is whether that is the goal that I should be trying to achieve. My answer right now is no. I think I would spend a great deal of energy and time and not have much to show for it. Instead, I have focused on looking for the “windows” in the curriculum — either courses, faculty or instructors, or iniatives that present opportunities for integration and weaving information literacy instruction into the fabric of a subject area, curriculum, program, etc. My belief is that if information literacy is integrated in this way it is relatively permanently integrated – whether there is a mandate or not – because it means faculty have made a commitment to the importance of this topic and that is more powerful than an imposed mandate. I prefer this admittedly drawn-out process of integration rather than “bolt on” information literacy instruction. It means however that my goals for the program are expressed in years, not weeks or months.

So, what do others think? Is this institutionally-specific or are there more common principles of program development?