Call for Action: Information Literacy

Jefferson Community & Technical College’s

Call for Action: Information Literacy

An introduction

The most succinct definition of information literacy is "the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information to become independent life-long learners" - Commission on Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Criteria for Accreditation, Section 5.1.2 [Library and Other Information Resources] Services. 10th ed. Dec. 1996. However, information literacy is also referred as information and communication technologies, competency to information literacy, information literacy competence, information competence, and information fluency. Information competence is the ability to find, evaluate, use, and communicate information in all of its various formats (http://www.calstate.edu/LS/Archive/info_comp_report.shtml#What%20Is).

Information fluency, defined by the The Associated Colleges of the South (http://www.colleges.org/~if/if_definition.html), incorporates critical thinking skills and appropriate technologies to collect information necessary to consider a problem or issue, employ critical thinking skills in the evaluation and analysis of information sources, and formulate logical conclusions. No matter what name it is called, information literacy plays an active role in higher education.

Why is Information Literacy important for students?

Educators strive to help students wade through the myriad of “data smog” which block paths toward creativity and personal empowerment and further confuse an understanding of the research process. We want to introduce students to those skills which will allow them to succeed in their future career goals. This is not just for college students but all of us, as professionals, in the workplace and in our personal lives. “Being information literate ultimately improves our quality of life as we make informed decisions when buying a house, choosing a school, hiring staff, making an investment, voting for our representatives, and so much more. Information Literacy is, in fact, the basis of a sound democracy.” American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, Washington, D.C.

Why is Information Literacy important for faculty?

Barbara Quarton summed up this question noting, “Information Literacy transcends course content and can be developed through course work in all disciplines. Teaching strategies represent opportunities for students to explore reputable information sources in their field of study and to practice evaluating what they find. Exploring information resources efficiently and critically evaluating results are information literacy skills. These skills are transferable to other disciplines and to everyday life. Students’ future learning--both in and out of the classroom--is positively impacted.” Research Skills and the New Undergraduate, Journal of Instructional Psychology, Jun2003.

A history of trends in library instruction

Technology has impacted libraries and library users. Patrons used ask questions at a central reference desk. Today, Jefferson Community & Technical College patrons email, call, text message and stand the reference desk. In the past, library patrons used a fairly limited set of resources- books and journals in paper format. They needed to be where the resources physically resided. Now, Jefferson Community & Technical College patrons opt for many choices of format (i.e. print, electronic, multimedia), many options for access and delivery (i.e. 24/7/365, off-site, webcasts, videoconferencing, RSS feeders) and often have no need to be on site to use library materials. Content for many resources is beyond the control of the library and/or academic community. The World Wide Web so often the first choice of reference for many students, but the quality of information available is questionable and not always suitable for academic purposes. Students must be taught to evaluate what they find so they can identify appropriate information sources.

Current students may or may not have been introduced to traditional library instruction. If they were taught "library skills", the teaching was usually a oneshot class focused upon making students aware of and knowledgeable about every library resources: the library catalog as the gateway to the book collection, the periodical indexes as the gateway to the periodical collection, and the reference collection. This type of instruction leaves the student confused, overwhelmed and less likely to retain core concepts explained in a 50 minute lecture.

However, recent trends in higher education raise questions about the adequacy of the traditional approach to library instruction. First, advances in information technology have created new dimensions to library collections as well as alternative sources of information outside the library: online catalogs, full-text databases, open source journals, e-books, wikis, blogs, free and commercial Web sites. Also, many educators have modified their instructional programs to include more independent study, active learning, internships, and undergraduate research, leading to greater reliance upon library and information-gathering skills. Lastly, regional accreditation agencies have placed increasing importance upon student competencies and assessment of learning outcomes.

Libraries Are Changing With the Times

These trends in information technology, higher education, and the growth and maturing of library instruction have led to the transformation from a narrow focus on "bibliographic instruction" to a broader concept of "information literacy." While traditional library instruction concentrated upon library resources and library tools, information literacy goes beyond physical confines to deal with information in any format located anywhere. Based on the platform of helping people learn how to learn, information literacy is concept-based which supports learning outcomes of academic programs. Information literacy accreditation mandates: what they mean for faculty and librarians. Gary B. Thompson. Library Trends, Fall 2002 v51 i2 p218(25).

The Jefferson Community & Technical College Downtown LRC/Library has seen consistent if not an increasing demand for library instruction. Dating back to spring 1996, librarians taught 87 instructional classes that semester, while six years later, librarians taught 98 instructional classes (fall, 2002). Forty-two percent of all English 101 sections were taught by librarians in the fall, 1999. The following semester (Spring 2000), the number of English 101 sections taught by librarians grew to 74%. Jefferson Community & Technical College Downtown library currently staffs five full time and one part time ALA-accreditedlibrarians. Given the fall 2005 Downtown enrollment at 6879, alternatives to the current instructional needs is desired considering the current library staffing model.

How Our Peers Support Information Literacy Goals

Jefferson Community & Technical College librarians teach a wide range of instructional programs ranging from basic information resources to information management skills and studies. Jefferson Community & Technical College library instruction has modeled the mandate of its regional accrediting agency, the Southern Association of College and Schools (SACS). SAC’s emphasizes more of the "teaching library" approach to the information literacy mandate: "The institution ensures that users have access to regular and timely instruction in the use of the library and other learning/information resources" (SACS, 2001, standard 26). In this instance, the responsibility seems to be with the instructional librarians to work with the teaching faculty to arrange for "regular and timely instruction" about information gathering and use of library resources.

On the other hand, four regional accreditation commissions mention information literacy explicitly in their standards. In the section on library and information resources, New England Association of Schools and Colleges affirms: "The institution provides appropriate orientation and training for use of these resources, as well as instruction in basic information literacy" (NEASC, 2001, standard 7.4, emphasis added). This wording is instructive in drawing a distinction between orientation and training on library resources and information literacy instruction. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges [WASC] identifies information literacy as one of the "core learning abilities and competencies" along with written and oral communication, quantitative skills, and critical thinking (WASC, 2001, standard 2.2, emphasis added). WASC also mentions in standard 2.3 that institutions clearly must articulate expectations about student learning in regards to use of library and information resources, with evidence from syllabi and the curriculum.

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools [NCA] places information literacy and the associated skills within its 2001 Addendum to the Handbook of Accreditation. Its explicit mention of" training in information literacy including research techniques" is in the section devoted to services supporting distance education (NCA, 2001, standard 4c, emphasis added). North Central also states that new students must be informed during orientation about how library services may support learning and about the requisite skills for accessing library resources (NCA, 2001, standard 4b).

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has been one of the most vociferous proponents of information literacy as an intrinsic part of the standards of accreditation. The 2001 draft accreditation standards for Middle States, Characteristics of Excellence, states: "Information literacy--the understanding and set of skills necessary to carry out the functions of effective information access, evaluation, and application--is an essential component of any general education program" (p. 32, emphasis added). Section XI, which deals with disciplinary education, has three paragraphs dealing with information literacy, including this detailed statement of learning objectives: "Institutions of higher education need to provide students and instructors with the knowledge, skills, and tools to obtain information in many formats and media in order to identify, retrieve, and apply relevant and valid knowledge and information resources to their study, teaching, or research" (p. 28). Information literacy accreditation mandates: what they mean for faculty and librarians. Gary B. Thompson. Library Trends, Fall 2002 v51 i2 p218(25)
Jefferson Community & Technical College instructional classes are held both on-site and off-site outreach. The library conducts bibliographic instruction focusing on 3 platforms.  Basic resource instruction- teach students email and active directory setup,PeopleSoft, and Kentucky Virtual University (KYVU).  Tools-based instruction and course related instruction- teach students where and how to access the library catalog, electronic databases and citation resources.  Citation style- this instruction is broken down into 2 types:

  • How to prepare a Works Cited/Reference List
  • How to format a research paper using MLA & APA citation style.

On a daily basis, librarians administer one-on-one reference assistance for virtual patrons (Ask-A-Librarian) as well as refine reference needs by designing online tutorials, study guides, and subject linkways. Librarians meet with faculty on a regular basis to discuss collection development concerns and teach faculty workshops covering topics such as idea mapping with Inspiration, style sheet design using Dreamweaver, PowerPoint presentation, and Angel Content Library. Librarians have been instrumental designing and teaching two 3-credit hour “first-year freshmen” course GE101 and an undergraduate level information studies course GE130.

Adapting to Changes

In an effort to foster students to learn independently and think creatively, the Jefferson Community & Technical College Downtown Library/LRC has focused efforts during 2005-2006 to enhance its electronic presence to its current and future patrons. Librarians developed a weblog (http://Jefferson Community & Technical Collegedtlib.blogspot.com) to communicate library services, research strategies and current library events. Styled for instructional as well as informative purposes, this weblog assists patrons unable to physically come to the library or reluctant for face-to-face meeting. The library has also revised four library web pages with the Research Help link by adding or subdividing peer-reviewed hyperlinks for greater ease-of-use. By incorporating these new webpages into instruction, we offer students a more focused web selection of problem-solving tools. By year end, the library will unveil a new virtual library map on its homepage. The library map/tour will offer interactive links against a visual multimedia platform helpful for our disabled and off-site Jefferson Community & Technical College patrons to visually see both on-site and electronic resources. Moreover, the library will add a Faculty Page to support the needs of faculty including resources for copyright, scholarly communication, open source journals among others. As library instruction needs have evolved, the time has come to focus our programming to serve unmet needs of our library patrons.

Unmet Needs

Our experience in teaching and helping students on a day-to-day basis provides insight into what students do not know or fail to learn. Jefferson Community & Technical College Downtown Library/LRC conducted an information competency assessment survey of 117 students during January to February 2006. The random sampling included:

  • GE 101 45 students
  • ENC 091 14 students
  • PSY 223 17 students
  • ENG 101 41 students

The results of this survey demonstrated the majority of Jefferson Community & Technical College Downtown students have the technological means for assessing information, but exhibit the lack of skills important for finding, retrieving, synthesizing, and evaluating information. More than half the students surveyed do not understand the information architecture of the library catalog, controlled vocabulary and its importance with successful search strategies; the development of key concepts for a research thesis; or the ethical and legal ramifications of proper citation of sources. The library has periodically surveyed faculty to measure library instruction satisfaction. The most recent survey was conducted in December 2005 with the English Department faculty, the library’s strongest instruction users. Although the input was minimal at best, results shed light on the fact that more than one third of surveyed English faculty believe library instruction should examine both the physical and electronic resources of the Jefferson Community & Technical College Downtown Library. More than half of the instructors concurred that search strategies for both the Internet and subscription databases were an important instructional tool.

Based on the above surveys, conclusions may be drawn that Jefferson Community & Technical College library instruction transition from tools-based, mechanics of use and tied to course assignments (described by Esther Grassian, Building on Bibliographic Instruction: Our Strong BI Foundation Supports a Promising IL Future, American Libraries, October 2004) toward a concepts-based framework supporting self-empowered learning and critical thinking and evaluation skills. Information literacy advocates learning not only what print and digital resources exist in the library, but also how information is created, located and utilized in the wider world of knowledge.

Goals and Objectives at Jefferson Community & Technical College Library

Goal #1 Embed Library Research competencies into the English 101 and 102 education competencies. “Information literacy shifts responsibility from librarians teaching students how to locate materials for particular assignments, to faculty and librarians working together to embed the teaching and learning of information literacy skills systematically into syllabi and curricula. The new paradigm requires librarians and faculty to adapt a broader sense of the role of information literacy skills in higher education and in the preparation for the professional workforce.” Information literacy accreditation mandates: what they mean for faculty and librarians. Gary B. Thompson. Library Trends, Fall 2002 v51 i2 p218(25)

  • Strategy 1 - The Library presented the ENG/LIB committee a rubric of how library IL research competencies would fulfill ENG101 core research competencies in February 2006. ENG/LIB committee was unsuccessful bringing the topic to their last dept. meeting but is expected to present this rubric to their April department meeting.
  • Strategy 2 - If plan is not approved by English Department, the library will begin to develop three program modules (see Goal 3) to support information literacy initiatives for the entire Downtown campus.
  • Strategy 3 - If plan is approved, the library will develop an information literacy research competency rubric for ENG102, ENC090, and ENC091 educational competencies.

Goal #2 Provide every first year student an introduction to information literacy. “One successful method for developing information literacy skills is through resource-based learning which involves having students assume more responsibility for locating the very materials from which to learn. This approach develops lifelong learning skills because students are learning from the same sources which they will come to use in their daily lives such as books, newspapers, televisions, databases, government documents, subject matter experts, and others. (ALA 1989) Moreover, resource-based learning provides an added advantage (i.e., it allows students to choose materials that match their academic levels and preferred learning styles thus individualizing the learning process for the individual student).” American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. 1989. Final Report. Washington, DC.

  • Strategy 1 - The library will develop a pre-test for students to measure information competency by fall 2006. Such a pre-test will not only generate data reflecting student information competency but also act as a learning tool showing students the multitude of information resources available yet perhaps never utilized. The library has ordered standardized and normed assessment instruments distributed by Educational Testing Service, the "Information Technical Proficiency Test," to measure Jefferson Community & Technical College student information and technological competency.
  • Strategy 2 - Based on the ETS pre-test, the library will develop an online tutorial for information literacy for ENG101, ENG102, GE101, and developmental English students as an exercise to complete prior to library instruction. This tutorial benefits both on-site and off-site students by dually improving student computer and information literacy skills. Implementation of an online tutorial will also focus librarians to concentrate on information literacy skill classes (Goal 3). Suggested online tutorials include Western Michigan’s SearchPath http://www.wmich.edu/library/searchpath/ University of Texas’ TILT http://tilt.lib.utsystem.edu/resources/faq.html Lexington’s BCTC’s . http://www.bluegrass.kctcs.edu/LCC/LIB/tutorial/index.html or another potential open source license product.
  • Strategy 3 - Propose an on-going pre-and post-test to assess student information literacy. An example of potential pretests would be CSU Monterey Bay’s Information Literacy PreAssessment http://www.topsy.org/InfoLitAssess.html (Open-ended questions which engages students to respond. Notable for its questions on plagiarism) TekXam.com (standardized national assessment exam designed to measure information literacy, problem-solving, and technology skills of liberal arts graduates. Developed by academics, piloted by colleges, universities and major corporations) TIA http://www.hhpublishing.com_assessments/TIA/ Course Technology’s SAM (Skill Assessment Manager) http://www.course.com/news/samnetready_020101.cfm TLT Group http://www.tltgroup.org/resources/Assessment.htm

Goal #3 Develop three program IL instruction modules. “Information literacy also demands the learning of new methods and concepts by both teaching faculty and librarians, as they develop a collaborative approach to the integration of information literacy into general education and disciplinary education.” Information literacy accreditation mandates: what they mean for faculty and librarians. Gary B. Thompson. Library Trends, Fall 2002 v51 i2 p218(25).

  • Strategy 1 - Develop three core program modules would broad-based to cover Jefferson Community & Technical College subject disciplines. In answer to the traditional one-shot instruction, courses would concentrate upon developing low-order critical thinking skills, high-order critical thinking skills and evaluation of resources with in-class exercises to help students retain concepts taught and achieve student learning outcome for accreditation purposes.
  • Strategy 2 - Develop PowerPoint presentation for faculty summarizing the anticipated lecture, timetable of lecture, in-class exercise, suggested homework assignment. Presentation would also summarize student learning outcomes and ALA Information Literacy objectives achieved per session.
  • Strategy 3 - Present these program modules to the Jefferson Community & Technical College Library Committee, Library Leadership Council, Eng/Lib Committee and respective departmental deans. The future goal would be to embed 1 credit information literacy component within existing major core courses.

Implementation and Timeline

Implementation of Goal #1 Embed Library Research competencies into the English 101 has already taken place. The Library awaits feedback from an anticipated meeting with the English Department by early May.

Summer 2006

  • Offer this draft to other Jefferson Community & Technical College librarians involved in library instruction for input and revision.
  • Meet with English department and discuss embedding information literacy objectives.

Fall 2006

  • Implementation of Goal #2 Provide every first year student an introduction to information literacy is being initiated. The library has purchased from ETS 100 assessment tests to be piloted fall 2006. Concurrent with pilot testing, the library will begin evaluating or designing an online tutorial in the fall. Implementation of Goal #3 Develop three program IL instruction modules would begin fall 2006.
  • Piloting Educational Testing Service’s "Information Technical Proficiency Test" to measure a random sampling of Jefferson Community & Technical College student information and technological competencies.
  • Develop an online tutorial for information literacy for students as an assignment prior to library instruction.
  • Develop three core program modules would broad-based to cover Jefferson Community & Technical College subject disciplines and include graded exercise. Seek input from library instruction committee.
  • Present these program modules to the Jefferson Community & Technical College Library Committee, Library Leadership Council, Eng/Lib Committee and respective departmental deans.

Spring 2007

  • Propose an on-going pre-and post-test to assess Jefferson Community & Technical College student information literacy.

April, 2006

  • Pilot online tutorial for information literacy for students as an exercise to complete prior to library instruction.
  • Present graded in-class exercises to faculty for approval.

Oversight

“The difference between the approach in traditional library instruction and information literacy is that the former assumes that library instruction is an addon or a plum to make the course better if the librarian is able to convince the professor to give up the class time, whereas the latter establishes as a principle that information literacy is an essential ingredient in the education process and must be embedded into the course structure along with the other vital components of the course. Information literacy asserts that library instruction is not a frill or a desirable extra component, but rather is an intrinsic part of education today.” Information literacy accreditation mandates: what they mean for faculty and librarians. Gary B. Thompson. Library Trends, Fall 2002 v51 i2 p218(25)

Although the library will have a direct impact administering information literacy, it will be no means an autonomous entity. The library has partnered with the English Department on numerous occasions and expects to foster this working relationship toward information literacy initiatives. Moreover the library expects to communicate with other departments to ingratiate information literacy In order to extend a partnership among Jefferson Community & Technical College undergraduate departments, there are a few misconceptions about information literacy which need to be stated.

Information literacy false assumptions include:

  • Teach students how to use libraries and databases
  • Help student write better research papers
  • Information literacy can only be achieved within definite subject disciplines.
  • Librarians cannot teach information literacy without the dependency of subject faculty
  • Computer comfort

Information literacy prepares students to be self-directed learners embracing new technologies while employing various new and old research methods: print, Internet, databases, etc. The skills of information literacy are cross-disciplinary. The goal of information literacy is not about helping students write better research papers, but be proficient in an information culture. Given the overabundance of resources, a higher-order of critical thinking skills are necessary to function efficiently in the Information Age. Information literacy must be viewed as a new subject discipline, analogous to other skills sets we teach (i.e. logic, public-speaking, writing, etc). Librarians are the best suited to teach information literacy given their role as purveyors of the “repositories of knowledge” and advocates within the ownership vs. access debate. (William Badke Associate Librarian, Trinity Western University, for Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Information Literacy http://www.acts.twu.ca/lbr/infolitmanitoba.ppt )

Methods of assessment

Assessment for Goal #2, Strategy 1 (Provide every first year student an introduction to information literacy) which take place beginning Fall 2006. The library has ordered standardized and normed assessment instruments distributed by Educational Testing Service, the "Information Technical Proficiency Test," to measure Jefferson Community & Technical College student information and technological competency through a random sampling of GE101, GE130, ENG 101, ENG102, ENC090 and potentially ENC091students. Details are still pending for post-testing.
Assessment for Goal #3 (Develop three program IL instruction modules) will include an in-class exercise. Ideally, exercises would be graded with the future goal of having exercises which are automatically graded. A graded in-class exercise not only determines student learning objectives were fulfilled, but also lecturer and course instructor will may gauge the level of competency maintained by their students during the course of the term, not at semester end.

M. O’Malley
April 2006