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Best Practices in Information Literacy Invitational Conference   June 11-13, 2002 Atlanta, Georgia

Notes by Fran Zedney

I feel very fortunate to have participated in the Best Practices Conference. I am indebted to Carol Hansen and Joan Hubbard for inviting me to be part of the conference and to Kathy Payne for supporting my participation. It was a wonderful experience for me to become much more familiar with the many issues involved in the topic of information literacy. Teams of up to five members each from ten institutions were invited to participate. Invited institutions were

  • Austin (Texas) Community College

  • California State University--Fullerton

  • Elmhurst (Illinois) College

  • James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA)

  • Minneapolis Community & Technical College

  • Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)

  • University at Albany--State University of New York

  • Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa),

  • Zayed University (United Arab Emirates)

  • Weber State University.

During the many discussions we had on the topic of information literacy, it became apparent that regardless of the type of institution, the challenges of teaching library and research skills to students have striking similarities across the board. Common problems included faculty buy-in, problems with faculty "illiteracy," and debate over the terminology (information fluency rather that info literacy, for example).

Our goal was to review and revise the draft of the ten "Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices." NOT an easy assignment when you have nearly 50 people trying to reach consensus on what constitutes best practices!

Some interesting ideas and comments were made during the sessions. Following are some that I found especially thought-provoking.

Cerise Oberman

  • in response to the question "Must information literacy programs be driven by librarians?" :    Is it important who does it? Faculty have to realize their students are not skilled information seekers and the ways we may have learned in the past by trial and error doesn't work any more.

  • Librarians will probably be the driving force in developing info lit programs

  • Information literacy must be totally integrated in the curricula, similar to Write Across the Curriculum Program. This means information literacy experts (librarians) must be involved with faculty.

  • in response to the question "Can information literacy programs be outsourced?" : Outsourcing may not be practical since programs must be tied to mission, etc. Integration with curricula limits outsourcing.

Dave Eisler

  • Appeal to faculty with powerful ideas. Faculty develop courses with a set of information goals in mind. Information literacy can expand on that and make it more open-ended.

  • Don't think of information literacy as electronic literacy. Think of what do I need to know, what format do I need, how best delivered?

  • Are we promoting our programs and what we are doing? He thinks we need to publicize!

Other comments

  • When working with faculty, don't start with aspects of the library. Approach them with how we can help their students learn new sources, etc. Involve other campus groups, such as Student Affairs, etc. when implementing your program.

  • Information literacy HAS to be institution-supported, not just librarians working with certain faculty.  Also has to be ongoing so it doesn't wither if an individual leaves.

  • ACRL wants to develop standards for subject specific disciplines.

  • Michael Bell, Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Elmhurst College, stated that Best Practices has to be useful. Faculty don't care about students who are information literate--they want students who  can effectively research in their discipline

  • Teaching is not learning. We had some discussion of how librarians can become more effective teachers. Some suggestions included having teaching education staff present a session on effective teaching strategies, incorporate teaching techniques, read books on college teaching,  and videotaping a session and discussing how to improve. Keep students the focus of teaching and assessment.

  • "Seize the moment" when you remodel or build a new library. It's a really good time to reach out and do PR.

  • Michael Bell suggests looking at the following web pages: Re-envisioning the PhD and Preparing Future Faculty.

  • Someone suggested that we read College Teaching. It is full text in Education Full Text and Academic Search Elite.

  • Someone suggested a program called qarbon to create tutorials at a reasonable price. Library at North Dakota State University used it. You can see their online tutorial for info literacy here.

Ideas for reaching out to faculty (subject specific instruction)

  • "Are you happy with the quality of your students' papers? We can help students write better citation, evaluate web sites, find research articles, etc."

  • "Let us help you update your syllabus."

  • If departments have a listserv, be sure library liaison is on the list

  • Encourage faculty to come to the library with their students for orientation--to model behavior

  • Include faculty in the class session. Example: "Dr. Jones, why do you want your students to use scholarly journals?"

  • Do a competency list for EACH class and handout to students and faculty

  • If faculty member hesitates to bring class to library because of lack of class time, suggest that he have students come to the library on their own as part of class requirements. Library staff could offer several sessions as needed.

Additional Information

Each of the ten institutions did a brief presentation about their information literacy program. Some of them included handouts which I have in my office. If you would like to read them, just let me know.

Submitted by Fran Zedney
July 9, 2002


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