Promoting information literacy in the academic library

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Promoting Information Literacy in the Academic Library

Presented by Silvia Vong

Information literacy is an ongoing issue in academic libraries. As online content grows rapidly and with some journals providing open access, it becomes increasingly difficult for students to differentiate between non-credible and credible sources. It is vital that librarians provide help and education in information literacy, but are students listening?1

What is Information Literacy?

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

(American Libraries Association, 1989, para. 3)

My presentation today will discuss the issues with information literacy and strategies or concepts in promoting library information literacy programs and services to students.

Im sure youre all asking, why study information literacy? 2

Why is it Important in Academic Libraries?Information literacy also is increasingly important in the contemporary environment of rapid technological change and proliferating information resources. Because of the escalating complexity of this environment, individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices--in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives.

(American Libraries Association, 2000, para. 1)

The American Libraries Association explains that information literacy is important in todays academic community as online content is rapidly expanding. 3

Issues in


Academic Community

So what are the issues facing students in the academic community?4

General issues Efficient information retrieval methods (Holliday & Li, 2004, p. 356)

Students evaluation of online content (Holliday & Li, 2004, p. 356)

Students are not able to effectively and efficiently search for materials as Holliday and Li (2004) write that many students have little basic knowledge of how information is produced, organized, and disseminated. They often expect that searching any electronic information resource should be like Google, you type in some terms and obtain some results (p. 356).

In addition, students ability to evaluate online content has been a concern as Holliday and Li (2004) write that instruction librarians are faced with the need to teach students how to use a vast array of electronic databases and products, while also teaching web evaluation. Furthermore, many librarians would like to focus on the higher-order skills required to develop good research questions, critically think about the information found, and revise search strategies as information needs change (p. 356). 5

Solutions: The THREE AsSolutions

Some strategies, or the three As is effective in communicating and educating students. All three of these aspects are interrelated, in that, each one is affected by the other. Thus, it is very important that librarians commit to each concept in order to successfully communicate and educate students in the academic community on effective research strategies. 6

ApproachabilityDissolving stereotypes and encouraging positive interaction and experiences through engaging activities and promotional tours

Williams College Library in Williamstown, Massachusetts provided first year students with:- librarian trading cards in their campus mailboxes- a college mystery during a library tour that was solved using various library materials such as the archives and electronic databases (Cassidy, 2006)

In order to achieve the teach a person to fish, feed them for a lifetime philosophy, it is important that librarians provide an approachable image. We want to dissolve any negative stereotypes or assumptions. Obviously, approachability is achieved through positive experiences, whether it is at the reference desk or virtual reference chat room.

However, what enforces an approachable image, is effective and creative and promotional activities. In one case, Williams College Library in Williamstown, Massachusetts created librarian trading cards that gave information about a librarians subject specialties as well as fun tidbits of information such as their vulnerabilities (ex. chocolate), sidekick (ex. Oxford English Dictionary), superpowers (also known as their role in the library) and contact information (ex. email and phone). These trading cards are also provided online. In addition to that, a mystery tour for first years, provided an interactive experience that included an introduction to the librarys resources. 7

Williams College Library. (2008). Librarian Trading Cards 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2009 from

This is a sample of a librarian trading card at Williams College. These creative strategies allow students to view librarians and ultimately the library as approachable starting points in their research. As a result, they are more likely to access reference services and feel more comfortable asking for advice in research strategies or information retrieval methods. 8

AppealUsing web 2.0 technologies and mobile communications to reach the demographic

The Web generation:- finds library databases are difficult - are not interested in Boolean logic or librarians advice- is unwilling to use manual or help sheets(Goodwin, 2007, p. 103)

University of Nebraska in Omaha, Dr. CC and Mabel L. Criss Library (txt ur lib program)

Web 2.0 technologies and mobile channels of communication can help appeal to todays students in the academic community. Goodwin (2007) describes the Web generation as finding the library databases difficult, not interested in Boolean logic and unwilling to use help sheets (p. 103). He adds that they prefer collaboration, teamwork, social networking and navigating the web through trial and error (Goodwin, 2007, p. 103). As a result, it is important that librarians understand the communication needs and demographics of the students in order to appeal to them. In one example, the Criss library at the University of Nebraska in Omaha started a text your librarian program, that allowed students to text quick questions to librarians. By providing an alternative method of communication that is preferred or liked by students, it opens channels of communication and students will more likely seek help from libraries in their research. Through reference work, librarians can help educate students on research methods, information retrieval strategies and evaluating online resources. 9

The University of Nebraska at Omaha, Dr. CC and Mabel L. Criss Library. (2009). Ask A Librarian. Retrieved September 6, 2009 from

Here is a screen shot of Criss Librarys reference services, including texting as a channel of communication. 10

AdvocateUsing social networking sites such as YouTube and Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs to advocate library services and role

Brown University Librarys Youtube channel

With a variety of open access social networking sites, libraries can reach their audience through various outlets, such as podcasts, blogs and Youtube. Librarians can promote and educate students on information literacy related issues such as evaluating resources.

It is important to note that these forms of presentation should be used with actual in person sessions and printed resources guide in the library. A 10 minute video on Youtube can only provide so much help, but it can be a starting point and it helps to promote library services. Goodwin (2006, p. 109) writes, although limited to a 10 minute format of variable technical quality, it contains a plethora of miscellaneous content which contains small gems for teaching and the potential to create our own videos for promotional programmes and tutorials.

Brown University has their own YouTube account. In addition, Brown University library provides a quick video on evaluating resources. 11

Brown University Library YouTube Channel:

This is a screen shot of Brown University Librarys YouTube account.12

Through these methods of promotion, the library can communicate and educate students in the academic environment on information literacy. 13

ReferencesAmerican Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report.(Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.)

American Library Association. Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education. (Chicago: American Library Association, 2000.)

Cassidy, P. (2006, September 20). Libraries Ask Students to Put Their Thinking Caps On to Find Out "How Did He Lose His Head? Williams College Press Releases. Retrieved September 6, 2009 from

Godwin, P. (2007). Information literacy meets Web 2.0: How the new tools affect our own training and teaching. New Review of Information Networking. 13(2), 101-112.

Holliday, W. and Li, Q. (2004). Understanding the millennials: updating our knowledge about students. Reference Services Review. 32(4); p. 356-366.