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Evaluating Information Literacy Instruction

May 3, 2018

Recently, I was offered the privilege of an in-person interview with Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, for the position of Research and Instructional Librarian. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow for me to make the five-and-a-half hour drive across Pennsylvania, and I had to decline the opportunity. Part of my interview would have included a presentation on how I would completely renovate the current information literacy instructional process at the college. With my limited background in academic libraries, this really was a challenge. With some research, however, I secured some guidance on how I would have went through with the information literacy critique and renovation had I done the presentation.

An academic library is not an island and does not operate solely without the connections and support between other departments and campus units. Factors such as the library’s budget, the educational needs of the academic community, and the resources currently available to instruct must be taken into consideration. For this reason, an academic library should have in place a written mission statement for its instructional program. This statement of purpose should consider the educational mission of the institute and the needs which are becoming increasingly more intricate as diversity and inclusion surge within higher education. (I can testify for that having been the secretary for the Center of International Education at my local community college for two years. I regularly interacted with students from all over the globe and often had to overcome language barriers, sometimes with the help of a translation app on my smart phone!) Not to be forgotten are those non-traditional students who take courses online. How does the library’s mission statement reflect those students’ needs? Will the library’s instructional literacy’s impact extend beyond its institute and even that of the college’s, influencing a student’s self-development, career paths, and lifelong learning?

The second step of evaluation is to identify the content of instruction. Content will vary among academic institutions, but it is critical that the objectives of the learning outcomes are closely aligned with the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. These standards assist academic librarians with general campus discussion in identifying information literacy, and coupled with the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction, provide guidance in establishing measurable outcomes for any given information literacy program.

Identifying the modes of instruction is the next step. Here is where I see the use of surveys as a very beneficial tool in gauging just how and where students receive their information literacy instruction, and the impact, if any, it makes on their education and coursework. Additionally, surveys designed for faculty, staff, and department administration can ascertain their needs as well. The feedback from these surveys can be a driving force in directing information literacy instruction to better benefit all involved. Perhaps students might not understand the importance of a reference interview when conducting research for a project and do not know where to begin. Could embedded librarians make a huge difference in online courses? How do we reach out to distance learning students to create an atmosphere of inclusion so that they feel they belong to the academic family? Students will be conducting research at all facets of their education, whether it be as an undergraduate, an intern, or working on their capstones, so it is crucial that librarians are implementing effective instructional programs to reflect the total campus learning environment every step of the way. Even reaching out to incoming freshmen at orientation is desirable; making our presence known from the very beginning that we are here to help sets the wheels in motion that our library should be a dedicated and cherished cornerstone in our students’ campus experience. Virtual tours of the library facilities and meet-the-staff videos can reel in distance learning students to increase the likelihood that they will use the library remotely.

Evaluation of the instruction programs should be an on-going process. Regular meetings with faculty, staff, and department administration can determine if the specified outcomes are being implemented and if any needed changes in direction is necessary. There needs to be ongoing support for continuing education, training, and development. New librarians, such as myself, coming on board with no prior information literacy instructional experience, can develop and nurture these skills through structured training sessions. Continual training for those librarians who are already conducting information literary instruction will ensure that their qualifications are constantly being challenged and sharpened. Sensitivity and responsiveness to changing technologies and the overall chemistry of the campus environment is essential. What worked even three years ago may not work now. Make sure your library has the essential tools needed to conduct effective instruction, budget withstanding.

I wonder if I would have been offered the position at Bethany College, and if so, how I would have gone about redesigning and evaluating their current information literacy instructional programs. I certainly would have been up for the challenge. How does your library evaluate your information literacy instruction? What is your greatest obstacle when doing so? Do you feel as though you have that open communication with other campus departments and faculty? For academic librarians, information literacy instruction is a very crucial facet of this profession, one that requires reaching out to the students to instill lifelong appreciation for acquiring what is accurate and conducive to learning and the ability to retain and utilize reliable resources for a more productive lifestyle.

Negan 701

Thanks to http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/guidelinesinstruction for the help!

 

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