Publicity & Promotional Materials
VIVA Across the
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia
Sponsored by the VIVA Outreach Committee
July 27, 2001
Dr. Susan C. Curzon,
Dean of the University Library
California State University, Northridge
"Information Literacy Now! Collaboration, Best Practices, and Strategy"
During Susan Curzon's talk before a large VIVA audience, she discussed different models of Information Literacy instruction and her experiences at California State University.
Why is Information Literacy important? Students learn skills that support critical thinking and learning in general. Students will learn to judge and critically think about the material they are reading. Moreover, Information Literacy involves skills that help them keep learning throughout their lives (which is one of the reasons why Information Literacy is different from the one-shot library instruction class). It helps them manage their lives effectively and become intelligent consumers, even after college. (E.g., everyone needs to know how to shop for a new car). We are all overloaded now with information and constantly need to ask ourselves, "What do we REALLY need?" Information Literacy skills help us save time and help us do a better and faster job in obtaining and absorbing the information we have to have.
California State University's program of Information Competence (a term the librarians used) was launched in 1995 and now involves 250,000 students at 23 campuses. The librarians used a three-pronged approach in setting it up:
Promulgate. The librarians first had to definite what Information Competence was (this was in the days before the ACRL standards), and they hosted workshops for faculty, who initially questioned their motives. Did librarians want to get involved in the classroom? Did they want to tell the faculty what to teach? Was this the same as Computer Literacy? The librarians had to confront these and other "territorial" issues. Another factor that worked against the librarians was the whole teaching environment in California at this time. The faculty were at odds with campus administrators over salaries and due to this animosity did not respond favorably to the librarians' ideas.
Assessment. The librarians had to assess the students' skills. Librarians now have the ACRL standards, but back then there was no standard assessment instrument. The librarians did not have time for a large testing program, so they hired a group to interview 3,000 students to assess their responses and breadth of knowledge when asked questions. Students in the library were followed and their research techniques observed. Screen captures were made of their computers. They held focus groups among students. (Dr. Curzon noted that students who consistently read books and magazines had the highest assessment levels.)
Encourage Information Competence. The librarians at California State were fortunate as they had the money to give out to faculty. They gave money to departments who made Information Competence a part of their classes. Now all campuses of California State have Information Competence programs.
Types of Information Literacy programs:
Introduction Model. Information Literacy is included in introductory courses, such as English 101. These popular programs are widely used and the plus side of them is that they reach a lot of people. On the other hand, faculty think that this is all students need and they neglect skills in other classes, especially upper level ones.
General Education Model. Information Literacy is incorporated in these general education classes and spread across the curriculum. Unfortunately, there is usually not one person in charge of the program and there are various and sundry interpretations of what Information Literacy is.
Introduction to Major. The advantages to introducing Information Literacy in a disciple is that there is a strong commitment to it in the department and it feels more centralized.
A Course in Information Literacy. Although some librarians like having an entire semester to hone students' skills in Information Literacy, others feel that it can be taught better if tied with an academic department. Also, students become overburdened.
An Information Literacy Test. An "exit requirement" before graduation. The problems with a simple test is that there is no teacher and therefore the whole concept does not "come alive" for the students. Students need a librarian and a professor.
Focus on the Faculty. Librarians host workshops to help faculty introduce Information Literacy into their classes. Some faculty, however, will refuse to participate in such a program.
Get High Schools Involved. Introducing Information Literacy in high schools will increase its awareness among incoming students. But such programs cost a great deal of money and each locality--as well as each state--has many high schools. Also, school districts have their own priorities.
Entrance Requirement. Students take Information Literacy tests prior to their admission to college. Such a test, though, would be difficult to require. What kind of a test would it be? What do you do if/when the students fail? Deny them admission?
On Demand Model. This is a popular approach. The professor telephones or emails the librarian for help incorporating Information Literacy in the classroom. On the positive side, both the professor and the librarian are motivated and much is accomplished. On the negative side, the students meet with the librarian for only an hour or two. Also, they probably receive little or no other instruction the rest of their college careers as many professors refuse to participate in Information Literacy programs.
Dr. Curzon said that there is no ONE good model, though she likes the introduction, the introduction to the major, and the on demand models. She also believes that students should be assessed in their major programs.
Note: Dr. Curzon concluded her presentation by showing a short, thought provoking video, e-literate? commisioned by the Pacific Bell/UCLA Initiative for 21st Century Literacies. The video, which runs for approximately 12 minutes, may be ordered online, at no cost by completing the form at the following URL:
E-literate? <formerly available at http://www.library.vcu.edu/help/gstart/infolit/eliterate.html, 4/8/2008, TM> is also now available on the web in RealMedia streaming video format thanks to Jimmy Ghaphery from VCU who has received permission to load it on the VCU library web server.