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Intentional Informationists

Among the 2013 top twenty articles recommended by ALA Library Instruction Round Table, <http://www.ala.org/lirt/sites/ala.org.lirt/files/content/archive/2014jun.pdf> Hoffmann and Wallace’s “Intentional Informationists” is of particular interest. [See citation below] The case study depicts IL practice at California State University-Channel Islands, a young institution of ten years history (as of the time the article was written). Their goal is to shift “the emphasis from literate to informed, from passive receptors of information to intentional users and consumers of information.” The authors define an “intentional informationist” as a person with “the contextual, reflective and informational skills to identify information opportunities, tackle complex information problems and pitfalls, and provide solutions or considerations that do not just meet her individual needs.” (Full text can be retrieved in ScienceDirect)

Hoffmann, Debra, and Amy Wallace. “Intentional informationists: Re-envisioning information literacy and re-designing instructional programs around faculty librarians’ strengths as campus connectors, information professionals, and course designers.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39.6 (2013): 546-551.


What the leaders think about IL

Released today, Ithaka S+R US Library Survey 2013 reports that library directors (chief librarians in CUNY’s term) were nearly unanimous in saying that teaching research skills and information literacy to undergraduates was a very important part of their mission.

One of the issues is practical: staffing, as we all face it and deal with it. Some libraries with more human resources cope better. We at York have to re-schedule or even cancel some IL sessions due to the shortage of staff. An encouraging trend revealed by the survey indicates ” Forty-two percent of respondents at baccalaureate colleges said they planned to expand staffing in instruction, instructional design, and information-literacy services over the next five years, as did 44 percent at doctoral universities and 53 percent at master’s-level institutions.” (quote from The Chronicle report on the survey).

Jennifer Howard of The Chronicle of Higher Education summarizes the survey results in Chronicle’s Wired Campus page:

What Matters to Academic-Library Directors? Information Literacy: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/what-matters-to-academic-library-directors-information-literacy/51005?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en


Transliteracy for Next Generation Students: Academic and Everyday

Transliteracy for Next Generation Students: Academic and Everyday

My colleagues Anamika Megwalu and Christina Miller are accepted to present one of the four breakout sessions at the Information Literacy Summit, sponsored by DePaul University Library and Moraine Valley Community College Library, on April 25, 2014 at Moraine Valley Community College (near Chicago). Here is the description of their presentation.

Title of Workshop: Next Generation Literacy: Connecting the Everyday to the Academic

Description: New technologies and ideologies, and the deconstruction of traditional boundaries in learning, have led to the confluence of ‘everyday’ and academic learning and the need for a re-conceptualization of what it means to be information literate. The presenters design their information literacy sessions, for college and high school students, with an eye toward helping students acquire transliteracy – that is, the ability to derive value and create transferable knowledge through the use of a multitude of digital platforms and information sources.

Attendees of this interactive workshop will participate in two exercises designed to foster transliteracy and change learning dispositions. Prof. Megwalu will present an activity based on Analogical Reasoning that encourages college students to begin their research work with familiar web sources such as Wikipedia, blogs, and social networking and file sharing sites, before they use academic databases. Prof. Miller will demonstrate a standards (AASL/CCSS)-based exercise used in a high school science research class; students learn about scientific research by reading about studies in the popular media before they use the library’s databases. Such activities encourage next generation students to exploit everyday information sources for their academic work.


Thinking and re-thinking

James M. Lang, an associate professor of English and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, questions the use of the popular term “lifelong learning” in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Advice section.

The author believes all human beings with working brains are lifelong learners, and takes on [the over-use of] “lifelong learning”, which, in his words, “accomplishes little and means less”.

Posting this does not mean I am totally for the author’s opinion, after all, motivating and educating lifelong learner is our ultimate goal. We ought to be open-minded. Reading different viewpoints helps us think and rethink and act upon our own mission.

One of the comments, presumably coming from a librarian, views our current practice in library instruction is “anti-lifelong-learning” due to its passive, course-driven nature, e.g. teaching the database that the faculty insists on. S/He went on to suggest that we should teach some true information literacy contents such as how to search Google and Google Scholar. (I would add open access databases for the same reason.) For this, I am totally for.

Here is the article link:

Enough with the ‘Lifelong Learning’ Already

by James M. Lang


Another good (free) source for teaching and research

It is wonderful for libraries to have UNESCO digital publications free-of-charge. It is particularly useful for those who are interested in issues in an international scope, whether in teaching or researching.

UNESCO Publications to Be Free Under Open License



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]

Learning from Recent British Information Literacy Models – A Report

Let’s see what others in the world are doing.

A report, released in January 2013, to ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education Task Force describes the following four British information literacy models currently in use in the United Kingdom:

– ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy)

– SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries)

– National Information Literacy Framework Scotland (The Scottish framework)

Information Literacy Framework for Wales (The Welsh framework)

The author, Justine L. Martin of Minnesota State University at Mankato, uses “ground theory” qualitative method to analyze documents and interview data. Also provided is “Mapping British Models to ACRL Information Literacy Standards” (Appendix 2), which I found informative.

According to the author, creating guidelines is one step in revising information literacy standards because IL is an evolving concept and, “as such, professionals will continue to adapt frameworks to meet the needs of today’s information users.”

Full report (51 pages) can be viewed at http://mavdisk.mnsu.edu/martij2/acrl.pdf

A recent PIL report on workplace readiness

Information literacy is an important component in a set of critical thinking skills. Or, do we all agree that information literacy is a ‘prerequisite’ in critical thinking skills?

Back in April 2012, LILAC and Gale co-sponsored an event at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The theme was ‘Workplace Readiness: Gaps in critical thinking skills of early career professionals’. (Check Amrita Dhawan’s posting on this blog on March 27 and on April 17, 2012 for a description of the event.)

A newly released research report coincides LILAC’s April event “Workplace Readiness”.

Founded in 2008 at University of Washington, Project Information Literacy (PIL) carries its mission that is to conduct ‘ongoing, large-scale research about early adults and their research habits.’< http://projectinfolit.org/about/> The organization investigates issues on college student, especially freshmen, to see how they adjust from high school environment to the college information landscape.  Now, PIL moves a step further with its current report: How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace. The report is written by Dr. Alison J. Head, Director of PIL and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Harvard Library Innovation Lab.

The PIL report is based on interviews with 23 employers and 33 recent graduates in the U.S. Among findings, I found the lack of social skills to be prominent and profound. Our current IL practice is usually focused on college course work in the form of classroom learning while students’ life after graduation is less of a concern.  Students acquire knowledge and get information from their professors. When they joined the workforce, however, they are on their own. No teachers, no mentors, no professor to teach them how to find/filter/sort/synthesize/utilize information when their boss wants; traditional Google search won’t do the trick; and there is a deadline. The people they can turn to now are colleagues but the new grads don’t know how and when to ask. Apparently, a set of social skills is necessary, to say the least. We are aware that campus mentality is different from real world in the form of workplace; hence we shall teach students surviving skills for their future. How do we teach this set of skills and integrate the content into the current IL curriculum is an open question. After all, the mission of information literacy programs is to create lifelong learners. Another notable finding is that new college graduates are not ready for corporate’s deadline pressure because they are so used to casual schedule in college. It gives us something to think about.

1) Watch the preview/summary of the report: <http://youtu.be/5gOtjexhyvE>

2) The full report is available at <http://projectinfolit.org/pdfs/PIL_fall2012_workplaceStudy_FullReport.pdf>

3) Read Barbara Fister’s comments on the report (posted on Inside Higher Ed)  <http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/project-information-literacy-inventing-workplace>