I don’t read because I have too much to read

This article from MedPageToday demonstrates the difficulty that healthcare professionals face in keeping up with medical research during the information explosion. In a time when increasing numbers of people understand the critical nature of evidence-based practice, health care providers themselves are monitoring the evidence less and less. The author discovered that out of 200 health care professionals polled at a conference, zero respondents routinely read an issue of a journal important in their field.

When overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information available, a sense of paralysis can often develop. Providers don’t read anything, because there is simply too much to read.

Librarians can help with this deluge of information. We have the information literacy skillsets to help identify, prioritize, evaluate, and manage  information so that a health care provider can stay on top of important trends while not drowning in the sea of articles.

A presentation I provided to a local nurses association several years ago may offer a way to frame this for health care providers facing information overload. Combining information literacy with Connectivism learning theory (Seimans, 2004) and a Networked Student Learning Model (Drexler, 2010), I proposed a way forward for nurses to monitor, access and prioritize information.

In this model that I coined The Connected Nurse,  the nurse utilizes networks from four domains: information management, contacts, synchronous communication, and RSS. The nurse learns how to harness technology to manage information effectively. The nurse identifies experts who may have information she needs. The nurse communicates with contacts synchronously to address urgent information needs. Finally, the nurse prioritizes and monitors RSS and social media information to identify medical trends, using information management tools to manage and prevent information overload.

Diagram of the Connected Nurse model with four domains

The Connected Nurse model recognizes that information comes from more than just journal articles; we are surrounded by information from many formats. It is important to identify those sources, prioritize the materials, rigorously evaluate claims, and manage the content harvested from journals, people, synchronous and asynchronous communication and social media.

The librarian has a critical role to play in helping health care professionals become Connected in ways that do not overwhelm, but instead empower. Only empowered, connected health care professionals can truly practice evidence-based medicine, confident in their ability to identify, prioritize, access, evaluate, and implement evidence to improve patient care.

References

Drexler, W. (2010). The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), 369–385. Retrieved from http://ajet.org.au/index.php/AJET

Seimens, G. (2004). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

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Supporting School Librarians – not just a luxury

I’m back! At least I hope so!

I came across this recent article explaining how librarians in many types of libraries can and should support school libraries and even more importantly school librarians. Unfortunately many school libraries are disappearing or at the very least losing their librarians. In my own state of Pennsylvania, this is most egregious in the city of Philadelphia, where eight librarians are somehow expected to serve 220 schools and 134,000 students – impossible, I say!

Perhaps school boards and parents think that because ‘everything is online’, there is no need for librarians. They do no realize that librarians teach students how to effectively search for, locate, access, and evaluate information that they find in all formats – print and online. In a day and age where fake news is rampant, this evaluation skillset is even more critical. For school districts that keep libraries “open” with a few non-certified volunteers, rather than librarians- yes it is good that students still have access to some print books, but they also need access to a professional librarian and those information literacy instruction sessions!

Academic librarians witness the impact of the loss of school librarians every day, where we need to engage in remedial information literacy before we can even begin to address college-level information literacy research skills. From the Without Foundations article:

“Academic librarians find themselves unable to cover the higher-level concepts without covering the basic concepts from K-12. Many college courses have prerequisites, however there are no prerequisites for library instruction or research. For example: a popular assignment in college is for students to find sources, many times scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles. Librarians can focus their information literacy session on how to distinguish a scholarly peer-reviewed journal article from a trade publication. However, without learning what a periodical is- something that should have been learned at K-12 level, the concept of what a scholarly peer-reviewed journal article is becomes impossible.”

Academic librarians, what are some practical ways that we can advocate for school librarians? In my case, whenever I am approached by a high school wanting an information literacy session, I always include the school librarian in those discussions. The teacher needs to know the value that their school librarian brings to the table. I am fortunate in that the local schools I work with seem to already know that!

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Information Literacy in Politics

I’ve been thinking alot these days about people’s use, or non-use, of information literacy skills in the real world. Information literacy is simply the idea of being able to realize you need information, and then the ability to search for, find, access, evaluate and ethically use that information. As we struggle to stay afloat in a sea of online information, these skills become even more crucial.

I came across a letter to the editor which praises the need for general education. While it is written for the high school setting, it could easily be adapted for college and for general education, including information literacy education. The writer argues that these intangible skills that students don’t understand why they need them, and think are boring, are actually critical to living and working as an adult in the future. It’s the age old struggle of getting students to realize and appreciate what they don’t yet understand is important!

I was shocked when my own federal Representative displayed poor information literacy skills in a radio interview. He stated “….when I hear that the president has hosted more fundraisers than any other president in history. Look, I don’t know what the facts are….”. Now I realize cynically that he probably does NOT want to know the facts because then he may not be able to say this statement. However, what a poor job of representing information literacy skills and appreciating the importance of factual information, to his constituency. He realizes he has a need for information and yet does nothing about that need. In addition to using his own research skills, he has the entire Library of Congress and Congressional Research Service reference librarians at his disposal. One simple message to them and he could “know the facts”!

And for the record, he was wrong in his statement. President Clinton hosted 61% more fundraisers than Obama at this point in his presidency, so his statement was not even close to being factual. How sad that politicians won’t take the time to learn the facts and to state them correctly. And sadder still when politicians and lay people alike cannot or will not use information literacy skills when discussing controversial and political issues.

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Not Just Another Assignment: Prepping for PaLA Annual Conference – poster session

The annual conference of the PA Library Association is coming up fast. It is always a great time of learning from and connecting with other librarians from around Pennsylvania, many of whom have become good friends.

This year I will be presenting a poster about a very successful pilot project with my great Nursing Department faculty. Over the past few years we realized that while the information literacy instruction was adequate, we were still frustrated with lower levels of information literacy in students than we would like to see. This led to sitting around the table and redesigning the information literacy curriculum.

Originally I met with nursing students in a 200 level course and again at a 400 level course. We realized that even though I met with students for an instruction session and a subsequent hands-on session, we were simply throwing too much new information and skills at them in the 200 level course, and they were not retaining nor using advanced research skills in later assignments. We redesigned the curricula to be just a basic session in the 200 level course and added an advanced research skills session in a 300 level course that ran concurrent with a large research paper.

Further discussions led to development of an information literacy assignment in the form of two worksheets that students had to complete as they began a literature search on their topic for the paper. The paper was turned in through the learning management system. I graded the two worksheets on a three point scale and provided the grades and individualized feedback to students and faculty.

The objectives of this added instruction session and assignment were to increase student information literacy skills, access and cite articles from the library collection, reflect on how these skills could improve current and future research projects, and increase student consultation with the librarian. I believe we were successful in three of the four objectives, which is pretty good for a pilot project! Students realized better research strategies as indicated on the worksheets. Consultations increased for this research paper from just a few emails to 36 individualized consultation sessions. Due to time constraints, we did not include a reflection assessment.

Feedback from students indicated that they were pleased with learning new skills to help them more efficiently and effectively access articles. While I taught these skills before, many students never utilized them because they were not required to do so. Feedback from faculty indicated that the literature reviews were much more focused and articles were much more relevant to the topics.

I look forward to sharing this at the poster session (Monday lunch poster session). Stop by to see me if you are there!

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Digital Literacy, Information Literacy and Connectivism

This article contains a nice summary and comparison of digital literacy and information literacy. The author makes the point that digital literacy and information literacy share many common characteristics; it is difficult to differentiate between the two at times. As I work this year on the Digital Humanities Committee on my campus, and as I teach information literacy classes, it is important to broaden my approach to encompass digital literacy in addition to information literacy skills.

Reading through the article, it is also clear that digital literacy shares many features with Connectivism learning theory. I expanded on the shared commonalities between information literacy and Connectivism in a published article. Many of the same points would apply to digital literacy instruction as well.

One concern that I have is that because information literacy is so identified with librarians, that digital literacy may be seen as outside the purview of librarians when in fact it is a natural pairing. The author makes a good point in her final sentence:

Bottom line, it’s too difficult to tease out the differences between digital and information literacy, or any of the other ‘literacies of information.’ Even more importantly, we shouldn’t be thinking of these literacies in isolation when we teach them. That’s why I’m glad to see information literacy being redefined within the context of multiple literacies. Though, I do think it would behoove the LIS discipline to explore and integrate the new literacies studies into the research on information literacy.

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How Information Literacy Could Have Saved this Korean War Memorial

I sometimes feel as if I need to defend the importance of information literacy; many people do not seem to understand how important it is in one’s professional and personal daily life.

I think that this news story about the serious errors made in a Korean War Memorial mural clearly illustrate how important it is to understand one’s need for information, and then be able to get the best information efficiently and effectively. In this mural, the creators made a series of blunders and the memorial meant to honor Korean War veterans became an embarrassment. It is too bad that the creators didn’t first realize their own ignorance of military history, and then do quality research, or ask a librarian for assistance. This could have been so easily avoided.

For example, the mural does not accurately depict military uniforms worn in the Korean War. Instead the soldiers are wearing modern uniforms and using modern equipment. The creators should have searched a library catalog and consulted the book “The American soldier : U.S. armies in uniform, 1755 to the present“. According to Worldcat, over 250 libraries own this book!

I hope this serves as a clear warning to everyone that information literacy is not just something you have to sit through in a college class or use to write research papers. Rather, it is a set of skills that you should be able to use for nearly everything in life!

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Monkey see… monkey take selfie and start copyright war!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading posts about the copyright war brewing between a photographer and Wikimedia about who owns copyright to monkey selfies.

In 2011 a photographer, David Slater, set up a camera while visiting Indonesia. Monkeys were curious about the buttons and took selfies. The monkey self portraits were then posted on Wikimedia and the photographer asked the site to remove them, citing copyright law. Wikimedia refused. They state that because copyright belongs to the individual who takes the picture, and because an animal clearly cannot own copyright, the images therefore are in the public domain. Slater countered that because he set up the camera and acted as the creative force behind the photographs, that he still owns the copyright.

This is a very interesting question for the courts. I hope that it does go that far so that courts can interpret copyright law in this very unusual situation. What do YOU think?

If nothing else, what a marvelous story to start discussions about intricacies of copyright law with the students! This just might make it into an information literacy class or two! It certainly has a lot of people’s attention… if just for the ‘awwwww’ factor when looking at a cute monkey selfie! I could look at them all day!

File:Macaca nigra self-portrait (rotated and cropped).jpg

Posted from Wikimedia Commons. I will remove the image (and/or just provide a link) if courts decide that this image is indeed protected by copyright law!

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