Philosophy of Information Literacy

As I was updating some files recently, I stumbled upon a statement I had to write for one of the jobs I applied for last year.  In addition to submitting the standard cover letter, resume and references, I was asked to submit a “philosophy of information literacy” statement.  As I reread my statement today I was surprised to realize that were I writing it today it would be different.  

This is the statement I submitted:

We, as librarians, need to know and understand the Competency Standards set forth by the Association of College & Research Libraries in January of 2000. This document sets forth the standards by which students can be called information literate. It is our job to make sure that students are exhibiting the performance outcomes and exhibiting characteristics of information literacy.

In order to do the job, we need to be aware of the new information seeking behavior of students. Joan Lippincott notes that current students are part of the Net Generation . She writes, “The most common [disconnect between students and the academic library] is students dependence on Google or similar search engines for discovery of information resurces rather than consultation of library Web pages, catalogs, and databases as the main source of access.” This reliance on web-based inforamtion provides a specific challenge to us, and illustares the necessity for Information Literacy classes.
We need to impress upon students that the usefulness of sources offered by the library is far greater than those found by a quick Google search. In order to be able to do this we need to be familiar with what resources are offered by the library, and with the resources that are shared amongst libraries. In the state of Ohio, the OHIOLink system connects most universities statewide, and allows for inforamtion sharing on a grand scale. Once we are familiar with available resources, such as OHIOLink, we are better prepared to teach students how to use them. At the same time it is important to be familiar with online resources in order to be able to provide guidance in the use of such sources. We need to be able to recommend authoritative web information for students to use.

Lastly, the librarian needs to be aware that the way students are using the library is changing along with the ways they seek inforamtion. Students come to the library not only to check out books, but to find a place to hook up their laptop or to use computers with multimedia capabilities in the computer lab. By understanding how students use the library, the librarian is better able to develop an Information Literacy plan that will ensure that students are able to meet the performance outcomes set forth by the ACRL competency standards.

If I were writing it today, I would focus a little bit less on the challenges of working with the “Net Generation” and focus more on the opportunities.  Rather than quote the Lippincott article, I would quote a more recent article by John Seely Brown that discusses the concept of social learning and applies it to the new generation of students.  I might also bring up some of the creative ways librarians are connecting with students to teach information literacy.  One of the most innovative of these involves applying fantasy football to the ACRL Information Literacy Standards. 

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