Information literacy is a set of abilities enabling individuals to recognize when information is needed, and to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information. It is a necessary skill common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their learning. (American Library Association, Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, Final Report, 1989.)
Furthermore, it is an absolutely essential skill to cut through what David Shenk has called data smog: the suffocating and blinding cloud created by too much information, coming at us too fast, from too many different directions.
II. Commitment to Teaching
The Goucher College library is committed to teaching information literacy as one of its core functions, and as an essential part of its responsibility to the college community. We constantly work to develop the instructional skills of the staff members we have designated as teaching librarians.
The goals of our information literacy program are:
· To develop individuals skilled at finding relevant information and using it appropriately.
· To develop independent critical thinkers.
· To develop individuals able to question the nature and sources of authority.
· To develop life-long learners and researchers.
Our research instruction is contextual. We always try to provide instruction in the context of a practical research problem on which the patron is working.
Our research instruction is interactive. This means two things: (1) While online tutorials form an important part of our program, especially for distance learners or when time limits the opportunities for interaction, wherever possible we favor two-way interaction between the teaching librarian and the patron. (2) Our instruction is hands-on. Rather than simply providing principles and theory, it involves the learner actively interacting with the research tools.
Our research instruction emphasizes positive affect. Through our demeanor, our teaching style, and our examples we strive to convey that research can be an exciting process of discovery, rather than a tedious grind.
Our research instruction is collaborative. We work very closely with college faculty in building instruction opportunities relevant to their classes. We are constantly looking for ways to achieve more and closer collaboration and to involve more of the campus community.
The library implements its information literacy program in several ways:
Instruction through the first-year writing program: We offer research instruction through any first-year writing course in which the instructor chooses to partner with us. (Historically, this has been almost all of them.) For most students, this is their first contact with the research instruction program.
Subject-specific instruction through other lower division courses: We offer research instruction targeted to specific disciplines through other lower division courses in those disciplines.
More advanced instruction in more advanced courses: Upper division courses provide an opportunity to teach students more advanced research techniques, building on the skills they have already mastered.
Short topic instruction: In these sessions, a librarian drops in on a class, usually for just a few minutes, to provide focused instruction on one narrow topic, such as locating the full text of an article from a citation, or effectively using interlibrary loan.
Guided research sessions: We meet with classes at all levels for guided research sessions. In these classes, the students work on their individual projects, and the librarian is available to help them as needed. Though these meeting do not involve formal research instruction, opportunities for teaching often arise naturally.
Research help desk: The library research help desk is staffed seven days a week for a large proportion of the hours the library is open, including all of the busiest hours. A student with a research problem can simply approach the desk – no appointment is necessary – and speak with an experienced librarian. We are committed to a teaching approach to reference service. That is, we do not simply find information for the student. We help them through the research process, teaching as we go.
Research consultations: Students and faculty have the opportunity to make an appointment for a one-on-one research consultation with a librarian. This allows them to have the librarian’s undivided attention for an extended period of time, and is appropriate for more in-depth research problems. Again, the focus is on teaching research skills, not just answering the research question.
Special Collections: The library’s Special Collection & Archives department frequently partners with professors to expose classes to the research opportunities available through their many unique collections. This provides opportunity for instruction in the specialized research skills needed with primary source materials.
Senior Honors thesis program: Each student who chooses to do a senior honors thesis is offered the option of working with a consultant librarian who will work with them, and help them learn the most appropriate research skills to support their work on the thesis.
Distance education: Distance learning students present a special challenge for research instruction. We employ a part-time librarian specifically to help these students. This librarian provides face-to-face research instruction during any period when the students are in residence, but also provides research instruction and help at all other times through internet, email, and phone contact. All methods of assistance from face-to-face to online tutorials may be used to serve this population
Formative assessment is built into all research instruction involving contact with the student. This essentially includes every type of instruction explained above except for online tutorials. Summative assessment can be built into assignments involving library research, classroom examinations, student evaluations, and instructors’ perceptions of the effect of research instruction on the quality of students’ work.
Goucher College Library, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, MD 21204 • 410-337-6360 • © 2013-2017 •
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