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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The Science Librarian is Wandering Around in the Humanities Building Again!

I was honored to have been asked to serve on the Digital Humanities Steering Committee at the college where I am a science librarian. It seems like a great avenue to connect with different faculty while combining my library and educational technology degrees and interests.

I have been so impressed to see the progress the digital humanities has made over the past three years at my college. There were humble beginnings framed by a blog post where the Dean of the School of the Humanities bemoaned digital illiteracy in the Humanities in general and silos of technological competency, to the present digital humanities projects that are being modeled and discussed across campus.

One of the goals of the Digital Humanities group will be identifying and coordinating all the great projects that are happening in the School and providing context for their dissemination. From Digital Harrisburg, to Cinemablography, to the Stouffer Farm project, students are showcasing growing mastery of their chosen field of study, and pairing it with exemplary digital skills to produce and share new knowledge.

I’m excited that the digital humanities projects continue to appreciate and utilize library resources in new ways. The Digital Harrisburg project delved deeply into the library database version of Ancestry. They also expanded beyond library walls to conduct research at the State Library and in local historical societies, thus learning the ropes of primary historical research. Librarians provide information literacy education to courses that then accessed online resources. We are moving towards discussions of expanding information literacy education to ‘information fluency’ education. A much broader term which encompasses producing new knowledge in addition to competency in finding, accessing and using information. I am excited at the new opportunities for collaboration this provides to teaching faculty and librarians.

I am thankful that with these projects we are reaching past our silos. As a science librarian, I have the opportunity to serve on a committee whose primary focus remains firmly rooted in the humanities. They don’t even look twice when I am found roaming the halls of Boyer; I am as welcome in Boyer Hall as in Jordan/Kline Hall! The steering committee is open and welcoming to multiple perspectives; they may even create their very own digital humanities interdisciplinary collaboratory one of these days as these projects develop and flourish!

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Some Progress on Middle State Standards

On March 27 I attended a town hall feedback session in Philadelphia about the draft Middle State Accreditation standards. I wrote about my concern about these draft standards in an earlier blog post. I was astounded that Middle States removed all mention of information literacy and libraries from the standards.

The facilitator for the town hall meeting gave an update on the standards before receiving additional feedback from the attendees. He stated that librarians were organized and were heard loud and clear. He stated that the removal of information literacy was an “oversight” and done because the board thought information literacy was well embedded into curriculum. Frankly I feel this explanation is a bit disingenuous. It took actual effort to remove a standard, so it was not an oversight but a deliberate action. The good news is that information literacy will be added back to the standard, although he could not say exactly how or where at this point.

Several librarians spoke eloquently about the need for information literacy to be in the Middle States Accreditation standards. Based on the facilitator comments, I have reason to believe that information literacy will appear in some form of the revised standards.

My biggest concern now is the presence of librarians and libraries in the new standards. My cynical self wonders if libraries were removed to accommodate for-profit online schools, most of which do not have adequate library services or information literacy instruction. In fact, a literature review about libraries in for-profit schools found that “the driving force behind attaining certain levels of library resources was the accreditation requirements…” (Davis, Adams & Hardesty, 2011).

I spoke about this concern in the town hall meeting. In particular, I mentioned the unintended consequences that could result if librarians and libraries, particularly in regards to collaboration with faculty for information literacy instruction, were not added back to the standards. The removal of librarian and library requirements from JCAHO Standards in 2007 has directly led to an epidemic of library downsizing and closings, even in the midst of the rise of evidence-based medicine. Many health care professionals no longer have access to information professionals who can help them find and access the best evidence to guide medical care decisions. Because librarians are not mentioned in the standards, however, they are the first to be cut in tight budget situations. I fear the same may happen to academic libraries, regardless of how important librarians are to student information literacy skill development. This would have devastating effects on student learning outcomes, as we are currently seeing in K-12 schools which are closing libraries or staffing them with nonprofessionals.

For this reason, I urge Middle States to not only include information literacy as a critical skill, but to require evidence of faculty collaboration with librarians in developing this core competency. Failure to do so will negatively affect student learning outcomes.

Davis, J. Y., Adams, M., & Hardesty, L. (2011). Academic libraries in for-profit schools of higher education. College & Research Libraries, 72(6), 568–582.

 

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