Information Literacy Summit

April 30, 2011

I recently attended my first “professional conference” in the library field – the 5th annual Oregon Information Literacy Summit.

I attended mainly out of a desire to network – and because the event was inexpensive to register for and easy to get to by bus. Information literacy itself is a topic that I am fairly familiar with, thanks to Integrating Seminar (words that my high school compatriots will understand, if the rest of the Internet does not). So I’m not going to discuss what IL means — if you don’t know and want to, here is a link to a one-page PDF outline, printouts of which were passed around during the conference itself.

The purpose of the summit, as I soon found, was to develop and share strategies for teaching info literacy skills to students at community and four-year colleges. I was not previously aware of this, but the state of Oregon has apparently mandated that IL goals be integrated into academic outcomes as a condition of accreditation for community college transfer degrees (and for baccelaureates?)

The pilot program – or one of them – is at Oregon State, which since 2001 has focused on IL during freshman comp, aka “Writing 121,” which is a required class. However, it’s more of a segment of the class rather than being fully integrated, which may be because the OSU library staff team-teaches it with the comp teachers, rather than standing back and “training the trainers.” The ongoing hurdle, of course, is integrating IL across disciplines and throughout a student’s higher ed career, rather than considering it a subset of composition classes.

The above made up the first portion of the morning, and we split up into breakout groups on various topics. The summit home page (linked to at the beginning of this post) describes each one – mine was on the “one-shot,” or strategies for teaching IL within an academic discipline other than comp, and in a single class or workshop rather than over the course of a whole term. Our group leaders got the discussion rolling with some interview clips of faculty discussing the challenges and goals of this approach.

Our conclusions were:
— Get the faculty on board as advocates; ask them to define research proficiency within their discipline and map IL skills onto the language of that discipline (which means agreeing on defined outcomes for the class),
— Also, find out what student’s needs are! This may require some strategy so they don’t think the info will get back to their professors, but you may need that in order to get honest answers…
— Ideally, the college would have (or pursue) an embedded librarian program or similar form of outreach. Then, you don’t have to cram all of IL theory into one class and you can use the time to sell students on the value of library services and address their IL needs during the reference interview process.
— Create a “menu of services” that allows faculty to choose from among different seminars, focusing on different aspects of IL, to suit their needs as instructors
— Make sure faculty are in the room and co-teaching when you do the “one-shot,” don’t let it turn into substitute teacher day.

I won’t summarize the findings of all the other groups — which I thought were going to be posted on the conference website; but I don’t see them — except to note that one idea which came up in every group was the need to craft assignments that force students to excercise IL skils…regardless of the discipline. Speaking personally, a conscious and reflexive approach to IL was a major part of my education (i.e. learning “why,” not just “how”) so it was a bit surprising to hear that it isn’t all that common an approach for college professors … Some don’t know enough about IL to articulate it within their field of study, others (especially in the sciences) take an understanding of it for granted.

All in all, a very interesting time…and further confirmation that I made a good decision by enrolling in library school.

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