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Keeping up with the Trends

The invention of the concept of Information Literacy leads to an evolution in library instruction. The changes are gradual (as what “evolution” is) but inevitable. Compare with pre-IL era, we can see the impact of IL on library instruction from many angles. The following two are examples.

The way of teaching

We teach. Academic librarians play duo roles, educator and provider. Although it is an on-going debatable issue, CUNY librarians carry faculty status.1 We teach library courses (credit-bearing or non-credit, required or elective), one-shot-workshops, or library orientations in the library’s classroom or lab. What’s new today? Embedded Librarianship and Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOC, Web 2.0 technology enabled method for distance learning), just to name two.2 IL extends our teaching activities from library-centric to outside classrooms and on the Web. While EL and MOOC are not in common practice yet on all CUNY campuses,3 it is important for us to keep up with the trending issues in academic librarianship.

The content to teach

We are used to offering bibliographic instruction, teaching library research skills, or conducting theme-based workshops. What’s new today? Computer applications 4 and bibliographic tools, just to name two. For example, when teaching a class on how to navigate in electronic book databases, we encounter various e-reader platforms and interfaces (say, an ebrary reader is different from an EBSCOhost eBook reader, or an add-on program vs. an xhtml page). Before standardization is in place, which I doubt, we will have to teach the class each way for each database.5 Looking at the trends in publishing business, we can expect electronic books to become an increasingly important component in our lesson plan in addition to electronic journals. As to bibliographic tools, it is interesting to see a fundamental shift, for better or worse, in teaching citation styles from manual contents to how to use bibliographic tools, e.g. RefWorks.6 In other words, we teach students how to utilize modern “tools” made by computer to automatically formulate citation styles. It surely saves a lot of time. What students of today skip is the direct process of the task on their own. Instead, they learn how to tell the computer to find answers for them, and we teach that. This reminds me of so-called “Google effects”, a phenomenon in information seeking behavior in the Information Age. “The Internet”, a research report concludes, “has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.”7 

We don’t necessarily do all the new things, nor do we have to agree to every new thing. However, one thing we should do is to keep up with the trends, because knowing and understanding contemporary academic librarianship issues helps us work better.



1 For those who are interested, you may attend LACUNY Dialogues:  The History and Future of Library Faculty Status on Friday, May 10th, 10:00 am-12:00 pm at Graduate Center.

2 For those who are interested in EL, you may join ACRL (NY)/QBCC Webcast: Embedded Librarians on Tuesday April 30th, 2-3:30 pm. As to MOOC, LCC will have a lecture A Conversation about MOOCs on Friday, May 3rd, 2-4 pm.

3 York implemented EL for one academic year, but discontinued due to the shortage of librarians.

4 It is not really a “new” matter, I admit, but with much more involvement today.

5 At the time of this writing, Simon & Schuster announced that it would join HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House, Hachette, and Palgrave to sell ebooks to libraries. [See news release at <http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/Simon–Schuster-Joins-Big–in-Moving-Ebooks-Into-Libraries-89200.asp>]

6 FYI, another piece of news today is “Thomson Reuters Offers New EndNote Basic —Aimed at Mendeley Users” <http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/Digest/Thomson-Reuters-Offers-New-EndNote-BasicAimed-at-Mendeley-Users-89198.asp>.

7 Betsy Sparrow, et al. “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips.” Science 333 (5 August 2011): 776-778.

[Written on Friday, 4/26/2013]

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