I’ve been thinking (sporadically, as it might be) about library instruction lately. I think this is coming up from the context of moving my lib100 class from a traditional one, to one that incorporates more internet research, to one that follows a completely nontraditional format. With each redesign, I’ve felt the class is more like a college class. And by that I mean one that focuses more on the theoretical underpinning of the subject, one that has personal implications, and one that will serve the student when they graduate. However, with each redesign it’s been less and less a traditional course.
The model has moved from a format based one, with a day on each format (you know, a day on reference resources, a day on finding books in the catalog, two days on article searching, etc), to a class where we have probably spent just two days specifically on finding resources and the rest of the time on information issues. (Though, in defense of this, finding sources comes up as part of the discussion of information issues.)
And I think that’s a good thing.
Professors recommend this class so that their students learn how to find good resources and can cite them appropriately. We want to make sure to continue meeting this expectation. However, research and information goes far beyond what we provide the students, and this class covers that. We talk about how markets influence what’s published, how the internet changes the information timeline, and other emerging information issues. We talk about websites and why people post phony ones and how people manipulate google search results. All of this is relevant–and hopefully helps the students understand if the information they’re looking at is good or not.
So, I wrestle with it. We’re teaching an important information mindset, but we’re not as focused on using library resources. I wish we could do justice to both information and library research, but there’s just not enough time. Are we helping our students, or doing a disservice? I like to think we’re helping them: when they graduate they won’t necessarily have access to the wonderful resources we provide, so they need to be able to use the wider world of information resources. They will have access to Google, and I’m guessing that will be their primary research tool. So, I think, as long as they can find information that is useful here as well as judge what they find elsewhere appropriately, they are learning the research skills they need. I think the librarian in me is the only part that even thinks there’s a real issue here.
What do you think? Information literacy as how to do library research, information literacy as how to navigate the larger information environment, or information literacy as both?
If both, how do you find the time?
Update: I’m closing the survey as of 5pm on 10/1/2008. The results were:
13% Information literacy as doing library research
27% Information literacy as navigating the larger information environment
60% Information literacy as a combination of both