College Quarterly
Winter 2008 - Volume 11 Number 1
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Information Literacy: The Leadership Role of the Academic Librarian

By William McAskill

Introduction

In response to the rapid advances in information technology greater pressure has been placed on academic libraries and teaching faculty to incorporate information literacy skills into the curriculum. Although these skills have been taught for decades the principles and concepts of information literacy have taken on new urgency as they are increasingly seen as essential “new economy” skills (O’Sullivan, 2002, p.7).

Before a discussion can be initiated however as to why this has happened and how it should be addressed, it is necessary to look at what we mean by information literacy. There is much debate as to a definition. To illustrate, Grassian and Kaplowitz (2001, p.5-6) identify six commonly used definitions ranging from it being a combination of technology and critical thinking skills to a definition describing information literacy as a construct unique to the individual learner. For the purposes of this paper, the definition developed by the American Library Association (2000) will serve as the standard: information literacy is the set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." Further, information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education.

But what has led to this demand for information literacy skills? As society has steadily moved towards a more knowledge-based economy it has become apparent that many workers lack the ability to not only locate relevant information but also to critically evaluate its value and authority (Rockman, 2004). To respond to this need current thought suggests that colleges and universities that make information literacy a core competency produce graduates who are more competitive and better prepared for the realities of the workplace. Academic librarians have been at the forefront of this issue and have been highly successful in persuading governments and college and university administrations about the merits of producing information literate graduates. As an example of this growing trend, the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities has identified information literacy as one of its essential employability skills (2005). By the time of graduation students must be able to demonstrate the critical thinking and problem solving skills necessary to anticipate and solve problems. They must also be able to locate, select, organize, and document information using appropriate technology and information systems and analyze, evaluate, and apply relevant information from a variety of sources.

But identification of the issue and mandating that it be addressed is only the beginning. Where difficulties arise are at the implementation and the sustainability and expansion stages. In order to produce a generation of information literate students there are obstacles that colleges and universities must first overcome. The first stumbling block often results from a lack of clarity on who is responsible for promoting information literacy on campuses (Mathies, 2004). Once leadership is established, there must then be a great deal of collaboration between the major players- primarily teaching faculty and academic librarians- if information literacy skills are to be fully integrated into all aspects of the curriculum. There must also be clarity about what is meant by information literacy and what is not. Further, students need to be exposed to the concepts and principles behind it throughout their academic careers and as early as possible- waiting until college or university is often inadequate.

No discussion about information literacy would be complete without addressing the rise in popularity of the Internet; the ubiquitous information tool that while seemingly easy to use in actuality requires a high degree of critical thinking and evaluative skills. Students looking for the quickest possible results shun traditional sources such as print books, journals, and magazines in favour of the Internet which is perceived to be faster and easier; despite the OCLC White Paper on the Information Habits of College Students (2002) that indicates frustration with the Internet and with reports that half of all such searches are unsuccessful. The obvious problems with much of the information available through public search engines are that little if any quality controls exist and the vast amounts retrieved are often overwhelming. To counter the pull of the Internet and to provide users of academic libraries with a higher quality of information libraries have invested large amounts of money to purchase subscriptions to electronic resources primarily electronic versions of periodicals and research databases that are heavily marketed as a superior option to what is readily available online. Despite the efforts of libraries to steer students and faculty toward these more specialized resources, the target audiences are frequently reluctant to use them. A study by O’Sullivan and Scott (2000) asking students to indicate their preferred means for accessing information found that the majority chose the Internet to conduct research, citing ease of use, speed of use, and the convenience of finding infinite sources immediately as the top reasons of choice. Clearly, just giving the message that the Internet is often an inferior search tool is not a significant deterrent.

The rise in popularity of the Internet has also led to librarians and libraries being called to defend their value and place within their institutions. The argument being that if everything is available for free online why should monies continue to be spent on books, and expensive professional staff? Until recently the value and necessity of having a strong academic library has been an accepted truth. It is a direct result of this unexpected need to justify their worth that has led academic librarians to take the lead in promoting the necessity of having information literacy skills and to proactively promote their own abilities as information experts who are able to help students and faculty navigate their way through an ever increasing and confusing array of information.

Even with the awareness of and emphasis on its importance however many students never receive the information literacy skills training to teach them how to evaluate this electronic information, from the Internet or subscription databases, nor are they taught that traditional sources (e.g., print books, journals, and magazines) still have a very important role to play in their education. This paper will argue that to reach the goals of creating a generation of truly information literate students, academic librarians need to assume the leadership role. With their multidisciplinary understanding of technology and information management, in addition to their deep understanding of the issues and commitment to the cause, librarians are at a distinct advantage. A discussion of best practices, followed by three case studies of institutions where libraries have developed very different and innovative approaches to reach faculty and students, and an evaluation of the literature on information literacy will demonstrate why libraries are uniquely situated to ensuring that the critical thinking and evaluative skills of students are developed and become an integral part of their learning environment.

Best Practices

Despite all that has been written about information literacy there is a great deal of confusion about what it actually is. Many people are unable to differentiate information literacy from computer literacy or information technology (Curzon, 2004, p. 37). To confuse the issue more, there is little agreement on what information literacy training should look like. This has the potential to “hinder librarians who are attempting to promote the concept to an interdisciplinary audience” (Mathies, 2004, p. 135). To counter this problem and to adopt a proactive leadership role, academic library associations have worked to formally standardize the guidelines and principles behind it. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the British Society of College, National and University Libraries (BSCNUL) have each developed best practice guidelines and standards that have since been widely adopted. The ACRL Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices (2002) “emphasize the importance of integrating information literacy instruction (ILI) throughout a student's entire academic career and advise using multiple methods of assessment for evaluating information literacy programs” (Kasowitz-Scheer & Pasqualoni, 2002). Divided into a series of 10 categories the ACRL guidelines (2002) outline the necessary components for excellent information literacy planning, articulation with the curriculum, collaborative ILI pedagogy, and outreach to academic departments and administration. Alternately, The Seven Pillars of Information Literacy adopted by the BSCNUL (1999) covers similar territory but more formally codifies what it means for a person to be truly information literate:

  1. The ability to recognize a need for information
  2. The ability to distinguish ways in which the information ‘gap’ may be addressed
  3. The ability to construct strategies for locating information
  4. The ability to locate and access information
  5. The ability to compare and evaluate information obtained from different sources
  6. The ability to organize, apply and communicate information to others in ways appropriate to the situation
  7. The ability to synthesize and build upon existing information, contributing to the creation of new knowledge

When reviewing the literature numerous additional characteristics that successful programs share become apparent. As synthesized by Kasowitz-Scheer and Pasqualoni (2002), these include: activities that are student-centered and relevant to the area of study; a supportive administration; the establishment of strong librarian/faculty partnerships; programs that are scalable for large numbers of students; skills that are introduced early and regularly practiced.

The three case studies that follow clearly demonstrate that the incorporation of many of the best practices developed by ACRL and BSCNUL have been a significant contributor to their individual successes.

University of Guelph

The University of Guelph is a medium sized university located in Southwestern Ontario with a full time undergraduate and graduate population of approximately 20,000 students (Facts and Figures, 2006). Founded in 1964, the university is best known for its schools of agriculture and veterinary medicine. The McLaughlin Library meets the research and information needs of approximately 12,000 users each day (Libraries, 2007). As with all academic libraries information literacy is a key component of service delivery and is reflected in their mission statement:

“To support the research, teaching and learning of the University of Guelph through the provision of high-quality information resources and client-centred services, and by the promotion of life-long learning, information literacy and intellectual freedom” (Libraries, 2007).

The experience experiences of three librarians at Guelph provides an example of how academic libraries can integrate information literacy throughout all aspects of undergraduate education with positive results for all involved. The opportunity for the library arose when the University developed a new Bachelor of Arts and Science (BAS) program; essentially a four-year honours program that sees students minor in two areas- one arts and one science. As part of their degree students take a stream of core courses that focus on the interdisciplinary nature of the program (Harrison & Rourke, 2006, p.601). It is in these core courses where the Guelph librarians proposed they become involved. With the “Seven Pillars of Information Literacy” serving as their model the Guelph librarians work with students in the program throughout their four years of studies. Students are presented with the concepts of information literacy at increasingly complex levels through lessons, assignments, and perspectives with the end goal of becoming expert researchers and critical thinkers (Harrison & Rourke, 2006, p.602).

Formal information literacy instruction was initially proposed by the department to consist of one instruction session to first year students. The library however successfully argued however, that a series of sessions would be of greater value. As a result students now receive two 1 ½ hours of instruction sessions each year of the degree; students are initially introduced to general online and print encyclopedias, then to journal articles and websites before moving on to the creation of an advanced annotated bibliography in their final term. Additionally, the library creates and grades an assignment worth 10-15% of their final grade this is seen as a way to enhance the credibility of the assignment (Harrison & Rourke, 2006, p.602).

There are some specifics that have contributed to the success of the Guelph project. The strong support from the BAS program chair, who had experienced positive experiences with library instruction classes, certainly aided the Guelph librarians in establishing this initiative. Also, Guelph has built in a unique aspect with the establishment of formal mentoring relationships between librarians and first term year students that continue through to graduation. Librarians are available for one-on-one consultations and to provide guidance; students must meet with their librarian two times each term but this often occurs more frequently. These meetings allow librarians the opportunity to address student concerns and heighten awareness of programs and services that might go unnoticed (Harrison & Rourke, 2006, p.603).

The response of the faculty after one term was highly favourable and generated great interest among other faculty outside the program. This led to an improved perception of librarians as integral partners in learning and curriculum development and resulted in librarians more regularly asked to go into classes and to teach outside this program. A further result was the creation of the University of Guelph Library Integrated Plan which focuses on the need for better collaboration between faculty and the library. Library instruction with an emphasis on information literacy should be integrated into the curriculum “whenever possible to aid in teaching, research and production of information literate graduates”. The plan further identifies the need to create “learning outcome measures and articulate them within curricular skill designation” (Harrison & Rourke, 2006, p.604). Librarians have now been invited to offer information literacy instruction for all 4000 of the Bachelor of Arts program (Harrison & Rourke, 2006, p.604).

The success of this program has presented some challenges. Foremost among these is that the increased workload and over-demand for the time of librarians has meant only specific departments who are perceived will get the most benefit from this training are targeted; with the current staffing complement, the program will only sustain its current level of instruction and has little room to grow . Future directions for the program include librarians working more closely with Teaching Support Services to develop more effective teaching assessment and assignment creation abilities and the development of a peer-to-peer mentoring program that would pair senior students with undergraduates (Harrison & Rourke, 2006, p.605).

Purdue University Libraries

With a population of 31,000 undergraduate and 8000 graduate students, Purdue University and its six satellite campuses is one of the largest university systems in the United States (Facts, 2007). Located in Indiana, Purdue was founded in 1869 as an agricultural and mechanical college Purdue is now particularly known for its schools of engineering and management, and as a major research institution (Facts, 2007). The Purdue University Libraries system is vast, consisting of 13 specialized library research centres. Information Literacy is central to its role as a major research institute as is reflected in their vision statement which commits the library to a “comprehensive information literacy curriculum designed to prepare students to succeed in their academic programs, their careers, and their lifelong enrichment” through increased collaboration between the libraries and faculty (Libraries, 2006). The mission of the library builds upon this by proclaiming their commitment to “sound pedagogical approaches to create innovative and effective learning experiences which foster the core competencies of critical thinking, communication skills, information literacy, information technology, and methods of inquiry” (Libraries, 2006).

Among the numerous ways that the library system at Purdue teaches information literacy one recent pilot project stands out. In the mid-1990’s Purdue Libraries developed a credit course that focused on the importance of library research. The first program worked in conjunction with the Electrical Engineering Technology Program and was a one-credit required course called GS 175 Information Strategies. As demand from other departments grew the program was opened to all undergraduates. As the program developed and became a standard part of undergraduate education a pilot project was proposed by the libraries to offer an 8 week course focusing on the principles of information fluency. Information fluency was a concept developed in the 1990’s to address the challenges faced by librarians, faculty and students in developing the information literacy and critical thinking skills in the face of advances in technology particularly the internet (Sharkey, 2006, p.72). To generate interest and increase the chance of success the libraries partnered with the Digital Learning Collaboratory program and facility; a logical partner because of its encouragement of the use of multimedia technology for class presentations and projects. The class was created and run by a librarian and opened to all undergraduates resulting in a diverse mixture of students. The classes were a mixture of lectures, group works and hands on activities geared towards building the students skills in finding and evaluating information sources. The overall structure of the class consisted of three distinct modules: types of information, topic exploration, finding and evaluating. To begin, the course focused on the identification of various types of information; students were asked to do a series of reading that introduced them to effective search strategies and engage in practical assignments to evaluate research tools that would lead them to potential sources such as article databases and websites (Sharkey, 2006, p. 78). Upon selecting a topic students then had to complete a concept map identifying categories and subcategories in order to focus their research. This groundwork led to the second part of the course which introduced students to specific electronic research tools available such as commercial search engines and subscription databases. Students worked in groups to evaluate and demonstrate the capabilities and features of these research tools to their fellow students. This process encouraged students to critically think about and to question the validity, accuracy and reliability of the information they found and to discern the resources' value and relevance (Sharkey, 2006, p. 79). The course culminated with students applying the skills they learned by preparing a three minute multimedia presentation about a current topic.

The consensus among students was that this class was mostly successful. As with any pilot project numerous unexpected difficulties arose and certain assumptions about student capabilities needed to be re-examined particularly in the awareness of electronic resources and in the knowledge of writing an analysis of a source. Overall though the success of the program lies in its integration of the technology with which students are familiar and expect to use with the learning objectives of information literacy and critical thinking.

Kent State University:

Kent State University (KSU) is the third largest university system in Ohio with approximately 34,000 undergraduate and graduate students (Fact Book, 2007). Founded in 1910 the university is renowned as a major research institute particularly in the fields of optic and chemical physics. Fourteen libraries serve the research needs of the universities eight campuses.

Information literacy had long been recognized by the university library as an essential skill and librarians regularly introduced students to the core concepts during instruction classes. Although these sessions were valuable many first year students found the entire process of accessing the resources of an academic library overwhelming and confusing. As a result student retention was low leading to many difficulties when students needed to use the library to conduct their research. Beginning in 2003, librarians at KSU started seeking collaborative partnerships with high school educators and students to develop outreach initiatives to better prepare students for university level research.

As a first measure, in 2004 KSU Libraries received a grant from the US Department of Education for the Institute for Library and Information Literacy Education (ILILE) to provide leadership in fostering collaboration between high schools and libraries, in advancing library and information literacy in the PK-12 school curriculum and to ease the transition between high school and college. Three KSU partners comprise ILILE: the College of Education, the School of Library & Information Science, and Library and Media Services (Burhanna & Jensen, 2006, p.510). Also in 2004, KSU Libraries created the position of First Year Experience librarian in an attempt to improve the research success of first-year students and to demonstrate the library’s commitment to leading this effort (Burhanna & Jensen, 2006, p.511).

Initial outreach targeted high school library media specialists in an effort to begin a dialogue. Information was posted on mailing lists, KSU staff attended organizational meetings, and KSU hosted meetings with secondary school librarians to discuss transition planning. The partnerships that were developed led to the identification of three main goals for high school/college transition:

  1. A library outreach program to high schools local to KSU
  2. A website with video modules to reach high schools, regardless of geographic location
  3. A freely available online information literacy assessment tool developed for use by school library media specialists. (Burhanna & Jensen, 2006, p.511)

Partnerships between KSU and high schools were made easier because there was already much common ground. The information literacy guidelines established by the Association of College and Research Libraries and American Association of School Librarians are closely aligned. Further, the Ohio standards of education mandate that high school information literacy be integrated into academic content such as Science, Language Arts and Social Studies (Burhanna & Jensen, 2006, p. 512).

KSU librarians formalized their library’s outreach in a program called Informed Transitions aimed at easing the transition from high school to college was developed with the following specific learning objectives:

  1. Build on, reinforce and introduce important information literacy skills
  2. Lower student anxiety related to large libraries and college-level resources
  3. Help students succeed in the near-term on their high school assignments
  4. Create a collaborative framework between academic and school librarians
  5. Promote higher education in general specifically at KSU (Burhanna & Jensen, 2006, p.513)

The program consists of library instruction classes requested by high school media services librarians. KSU Librarians then work with the school to design instructional objectives and lesson plans; visits are often built around assignments that could benefit from the use of college level resources- this also helps to increase student interest. Students are introduced to library services and resources and are given borrowing privileges. In Its first 2 years 700 high school students were reached. Although there has been no formal assessment anecdotally response has been encouraging with students reporting greater comfort with the research process. KSU librarians have also observed that high school students appear to be more genuinely engaged in the instruction classes (Burhanna and Jensen, 2006, p.514).

The KSU librarians also recognized that not all students, especially those in rural areas, have access to a campus library. School library budgets are the target of frequent cutbacks leading to some schools not having a library media specialist; the lack of funds also leads to a disparity in the resources available. To address this KSU created a series of online instructional videos that discuss research strategies and provide an overview of academic library services- not focused specifically on KSU but applicable to any academic library. A series of five videos was created that cover topics such as database searching, and research success told from a student perspective (Burhanna & Jensen, 2006, p.515).

Recommendations:

The programs developed at Guelph, Purdue and Kent State demonstrate three markedly different and innovative approaches to information literacy. Despite their differences many similarities stand out. All have a measure of faculty and administrative support; skills training is related directly to the program of study; skills are regularly re-introduced and built upon over subsequent instruction classes or tutorials with librarians. Some additional broader themes also emerge that help to draw conclusions about what makes for a successful information literacy program: the establishment of clear leadership roles; the development of strong partnerships between librarians and faculty; the need to reach students early in their academic careers and often.

What also becomes clear is that the actual implementation of these programs has largely been driven by librarians. While administrators understand that optically it is important to promote information literacy and have made it a priority there is less understanding about how to do it or even who should do it. Without a clear delineation of responsibility for service delivery it will simply not happen. This is an appropriate role for librarians who tout themselves as information experts. Librarians are multi-disciplinary in nature; they are responsible for developing collections, and responding to queries from faculty and student in all subjects. As noted by Williams and Zald (1997), librarians are uniquely situated to create and foster new ways of teaching and learning information technology. Moreover their deep understanding of technology and information management systems gives librarians an advantage when it comes to not only connecting learners with the technology that will give them access to information but also providing them with the skills to utilize it effectively.

This leads to a second concern that if not addressed becomes a key roadblock to the development of information literacy skills, “the invisible divide between faculty and librarians” (Mathies, 2004, p.136). Much of the library literature discusses the desired outcomes of information literacy instruction, namely the need to make students critical thinkers, information experts and lifelong learners. These are laudable goals but without meaningful collaboration between faculty and librarians they will not be met. Because librarians are the ones championing the cause it is essential that they clearly communicate their goals and learning outcomes in a way that will bring faculty on board. As is evidenced by the three case studies there is no one template for how to provide this training nor should there be. This is positive as it allows for creativity and greater responsiveness to individual institutional needs. At the same time it compounds the confusion as to what information literacy instruction is. First and foremost information literacy is a practical skills set for dealing with information from a variety of sources and thinking critically about the world around you. To many, this is a somewhat nebulous concept. Faculty members are intuitively information literate and as a result often take it for granted. The message that needs to be driven home is that despite their technical proficiency students are not innately information literate and need to be taught how to be so. Unless faculties understand what information literacy is, why it is important and how they can incorporate these skills into their teaching and class assignments, progress will be slow, inconsistently implemented or non-existent.

So how can faculty/library partnerships be forged? First, the profile of librarians needs to be raised among faculty. In all three case studies interest in information literacy programs from faculty only increased when word spread about their quality from other faculty. In an all too common scenario, the libraries were just not on the radar. A persistent problem is libraries when thought of, if thought of at all, are mostly seen as places to sign out books. Curzon (2004) notes that many faculty feel “that they have established a partnership with librarians… when they have requested a one hour BI (bibliographic instruction) session for their students and provided libraries with class reading lists” (p.13). It is this misperception that prevents real change from taking hold. Information literacy if it is to be successful must be understood as being more than merely understanding how to access library resources. If colleges and universities are truly committed to creating lifelong learners and critical thinkers, students must be taught to evaluate all the information they receive on a daily basis, much of which does not come from their academic library. A study by Doskatsch (2003) that investigated the perceptions of faculty towards librarians, perhaps not surprisingly found that the education credentials and teaching skills of librarians are often dismissed. Many faculty members are unaware of what it is that librarians actually do and fail to understand the differences between them and support staff. For academic librarians to change this perception requires a persistent long term effort: faculty must see repeated demonstrations of quality library instruction; receive word of mouth recommendations from their peers; notice that their students retrieve better qualities of information after receiving information literacy instruction.

It is of course essential that students have exposure to formal bibliographic instruction provided by librarians; as a start academic librarians should aim to reach 100% of all first term students. But this is only an initial step. Faculty need to continue working with librarians throughout the school term and students need repeated sessions with librarians to learn advanced searching techniques and information management skills. One hour of library instruction in a students’ first term could not possibly cover the full range of resources available. This is especially true when it is taken into account how overwhelming the wealth of library resources are to new students. The initial visit is always just an introduction; an opportunity for librarians to mitigate student apprehension about using the library. Subsequent visits to the library, throughout a course of study, will make students more comfortable about using the library and will help to ensure that information literacy skills are gained. The realities of the classroom however dictate that it will always be difficult to schedule formal library classes beyond the basic introduction. Faculty need classroom time to cover their course material adequately; asking them to give more of it up for library instruction is not always realistic. To counter this, librarians need to work with faculty outside the classroom to provide the tools they need for incorporating information literacy skills into their teaching and assignments.

A powerful tool to get the attention of faculty is for librarians to practically demonstrate the ways in which information literacy supports critical thinking skills with its emphasis on evaluating information choices for relevance and quality. Curzon (2004) identifies nine general models for teaching information literacy that range from a basic introduction to library services for first year students; a learning outcomes model with faculty developed goals incorporated into the curriculum; a separate information literacy course; outreach to high school students, to on-demand requests for library classes. Mathies (2004) advocates for librarians to aggressively promote library services that target specific resources of interest to faculty. Demonstrating the value of print and electronic resources, and providing faculty tailored research assistance will have a great impact on faculty and convince them of the usefulness of working with the librarians. Dewey (2004) furthers this argument by recommending that librarians embed themselves in as many aspects of campus life as possible, becoming a highly visible part of their institution, and an integral part of the faculties with which they liaise.

The experiences of Guelph, Purdue and Kent State provide excellent models for other institutions wishing to formalize their information literacy instruction. Although it is not always possible for colleges to develop stand alone credit courses the enthusiastic response to the Purdue program strongly makes the case that there is student interest. While those who take the Purdue course will no doubt benefit its major drawback is that it will only ever reach a limited number of students. The same can be said about Guelph although the mentoring aspect could more easily be implemented. The librarian as mentor is an intriguing concept that raises the profile of the librarians and libraries in a highly positive way. In the case of Guelph it significantly increased the engagement of the students and students indicated they felt it heightened their success. Changing the image of the library in this way can only have positive results and increase the probability that the information literacy skills learned will lead to life long learning. What is most important about these examples though is that they led to the formation of strong partnerships between librarians and faculty requests for library instruction increased dramatically and librarians were frequently called upon to help integrate the concepts of information literacy wherever possible into the curriculum.

As successful as the initiatives at Guelph and Purdue are the experience of Kent State stands apart in that it argues strongly for the need to reach students before they even get to college or university. Outreach to high school students based on the recognition that first year students flounder when faced with their initial research projects is a significant shift to previous reactive responses of academic libraries to information literacy training. There is growing recognition of the importance of these initiatives with calls for greater collaboration that extends throughout the entirety of students progression through school progression (Schuetz, 2000). It is necessary that initiatives such as these continue. If students are exposed to these concepts early and have them regularly introduced they are more likely to become ingrained thus changing their approach to research, and their understanding of the world around them.

Conclusion

As discussed, although libraries implement their information literacy strategies in various ways, there are numerous basic practices that when implemented have proven successful. Central to the success are academic librarians who continue to bring information literacy issues to the forefront in the face of resistance and sometimes indifference. The persistence of librarians is increasing awareness of their value to their institutions and is making them leaders in the push to impart stronger information literacy skills to the next generation of students. Librarians are proving that they are the best “prepared by virtue of their training, professional inclination, and commitment, to initiate the processes, supply the expertise, and define the framework within which those goals could be accomplished. They also appeared to be the ones most committed to that goal” (Owusu-Ansah, 2004, p.4). As the expert information brokers of higher education librarians are the most familiar with the issues and are in the best position to effect positive change.

This said, to be truly effective, librarians must clearly communicate what they want to be achieved and why. They also must demonstrate relevance. Because librarians have adopted information literacy as their own it is their responsibility to ensure that their faculty teaching partners understand what it is and how it will benefit not only students but faculty as well. To date there has been a high level of success in convincing administrations of the value of information literacy. When it comes to the implementation however results have been mixed at best and more can certainly be done. Relevance is necessary in order actively engage students at all levels; library and information literacy must be tied in with course curriculums and assignments. Collaboration with faculty has a much greater chance of success if the relevance of information literacy is understood and related to their ability to effectively teach.

To conclude, students need to develop the frameworks that will allow them to become self-sufficient citizens who can locate, critically evaluate, and effectively use information--no matter what the format. The message that it is important to not be satisfied with the perceived easiest answer to a question must regularly be reinforced. As Mathies (2004) notes, information literacy is an issue that "all educational stakeholders" should care about. Faculty need to be encouraged to better utilize the information expertise available to them by librarians, and librarians have the responsibility to actively promote information literacy in the next generation.


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Sharkey, J. (2006). Towards information fluency: Applying a different model to an information literacy credit course. Reference Services Review, 34(1), 71-85. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from Proquest 5000.

University of Guelph. (2006). Facts and Figures. Retrieved November 6, 2007 from http://www.uoguelph.ca/info/facts/.

University of Guelph (2007).Libraries. Retrieved November 6, 2007 from http://www.lib.uoguelph.ca/about/.

Williams, H. and Zald, A. (1997) Redefining roles: librarians as partners in information literacy education. Information Research, 3(1).

Bill McAskill is Lead Reference Librarian George Brown College. He can be reached at bemcaskill@hotmail.com

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