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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Adapting to Reality

I was excited to read about Getty Image’s change to their copyright and use policy. It appears that they have read the tea leaves and rather than fight use of their images online, they are embracing it in a way that they believe will still bring them profit and a measure of control over use of their images.

Getty Images will now allow individuals to legally and freely use selected images on websites, blogs and social media as long as the user embeds the image with the code provided by the Getty website. In exchange for using the embedded viewer, the terms of service state that “Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.”

While some non-profit purists may rail against commercialization in this fashion, I think that there needs to some reasonable middle ground. I hope that Getty Images has found it. They provide access to a plethora of high-quality images that individuals can easily search for and use. On the other hand, the potential monetization of the embedded viewer allows them to continue to function as a profitable business, and therefore to continue to provide images now and in the future. Below is an example of an embedded Getty image.

Embed from Getty Images

I think libraries and publishers can learn from this type of give-and-take. Publishers, at  least trade book publishers, continue to resist working with public libraries, claiming erroneously that libraries will give everyone access to every ebook at all times without any restrictions. I have written about this problem in a past post.

On the other hand, I think that libraries have to take stock of the new online landscape and be willing to work with publishing systems that may include commercialization aspects if that is the key for publishers to continue to make a profit.

For example, Overdrive, a popular ebook platform used by many public libraries, funnels users through Amazon when borrowing books. The lending of the ebook is free to the patron, just as the lending of print books is. After the lending period is over and the book is no longer available to the patron, the patron is provided with a link where they can purchase the book directly from Amazon. Of course, the patron could simply check the book out again for free if they want it, realizing that they may be put on a waiting list if it is a popular book. However, they are also given the option to purchase it if they want instant and permanent access. This arrangement creates incentives for trade publishers to work with libraries as it opens the doors to other potential buyers; individuals who already know they like the book and want their own copy. Some voices in the library world claim that this type of commercialization should never occur in libraries but I disagree. It might not be needed in the print world, but I think it may be a reasonable accommodation in a world of ebooks and low profit margins. One concern that I do have about this model, and which I feel must be addressed by publishers and book vendors is one of confidentiality. Print books checked out from libraries carry certain privacy guarantees; this provides a measure of safety for members of the public to explore and read whatever they wish. Similar protections must exist for patrons using library ebook collections if they are to flourish in library settings.

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Responding to Middle States Commission on Higher Education PROPOSED accreditation standards

I am writing to express my concern over the removal of information literacy as a standard for assessment in the Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s proposed accreditation standards. In my professional opinion, an institution that meets these proposed standards and yet does not have a robust information literacy instruction and assessment program does not demonstrate academic rigor or quality; failure to consider information literacy will negatively impact student learning opportunities.

The current MSCHE accreditation standards include a detailed section about information literacy including definition, objectives, collaboration recommendations, and assessment requirements. I am at a loss as to why the new standards remove information literacy completely, rather than simplify and shorten the language in the more concise document.

The current standards state that technological competency, which is retained in the proposed standards, is considered to be “closely tied” to information literacy, and yet technological competency is retained while information literacy is removed. To be quite frank, the ability to turn on or use a piece of hardware or software is simply not as important as information literacy, which is defined in the current MSCHE standards as the ability to “determine the nature and extent of needed information; access information effectively and efficiently; evaluate critically the sources and content of information; incorporate selected information in the learner’s knowledge base and value system; use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; understand the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and information technology; and observe laws, regulations, and institutional policies related to the access and use of information.” (MSCHE, 2006, page 56).

It is critical to retain the objective of information literacy in the proposed accreditation standards because information literacy is a critical life-long skill needed for learning. Indeed, innovative learning simply cannot take place without information literacy. Students entering schools of higher education often lack information literacy skills precisely because educators mistakenly believe that digital natives have these skills when in fact they do not. A recent report from Project Information Literacy (Head, 2013) found that almost 75% of incoming first year students experienced difficulty with creating effective research strategies. These students stated that their information literacy skills were simply inadequate to perform college-level research. It is therefore essential that professional librarians and teaching faculty collaborate to provide this instruction. It is equally critical that this important work be recognized, assessed, and required in any future MSCHE accreditation standards.

The importance of information literacy, paired with innovation, is becoming increasingly recognized in the workplace. An article in Forbes, authored by a CEO (Moran, 2010), highlighted the importance of librarians in a digital age. Mr. Moran discovered that while employees who grew up as digital natives may be technologically competent, as the MSCHE proposed standards require, they are woefully unable to create effective and efficient search strategies, effectively sort through the huge amount of information retrieved to select quality sources, or evaluate the sources that they utilize. He determined that this lack of information literacy in digitally native college graduates impaired their ability to perform required tasks and detrimentally affected his business.

It is absolutely imperative that MSCHE return information literacy to the proposed accreditation standards and include language that requires and assesses professional librarian and teaching faculty collaboration to improve student learning outcomes. Thank you for considering this feedback.


Head, AJ. (2013). How freshman conduct research once they enter college. Project Information Literacy Research Report. Retrieved from

Middle States Commission on Higher Education. (2006). Characteristics of excellence in higher education: requirement of affiliation and standards for accreditation. Retrieved from

Moran, M. (2010, March). Young learners need librarians, not just Google. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from




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Do you use QR Codes?

One app that I do not use that much on my smartphone is the QR Code Reader, QRReader.I remember the first time I saw a QR Code several years ago. Friends and I were walking downtown and we passed a realtor office. The home advertisements in the window had a strange box barcode. My more techie friend immediately knew what they were, scanned the code with his smartphone, and explained them to the rest of us.

I’m not sure why I don’t use the reader that often. Perhaps the effort to line up the barcode without really knowing what it will lead to. This article has some interesting perspective about why more people don’t use QR Codes. That said, I do find that I use them in conferences when I’m racing to capture information from a lecture slide or poster session. I found them to be very helpful at that time and place.

I am interested in how QR Codes can be useful in the library for various purposes. Currently our library has a QR Code if a student wants to reserve the group study room while they are entering the room. I don’t really know if it has been used much however. I’m also interested in exploring how QR Codes can connect disparate locations within the library collection. The article linked above discusses ways to link online and physical content with QR Codes. One use I want to investigate is connecting our Appropriate Technology Library, which is used for service-learning projects within our schools Collaboratory. The AT Library exists as books and Software and is therefore in two different places in the library. QR Codes could immediately lead students from one location to the other.

What about you? Do you use QR Codes? Does your library use them?

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