Monday, January 24, 2011

User education

Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.
– Samuel Johnson.

In the beginning there was CHAOS. And the students moved aimlessly upon the face of the library. And the reference librarians said, “Let there be instruction.” (Constance A. Mellon, ed. Bibliographic Instruction the Second Generation. Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1987 3).

By the end of this module you should be able to:

  • Define and recognize the activities associated with:
    o library orientation
    o library instruction
    o bibliographic instruction
    o information literacy

Required reading
American Association of School Librarians and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. “The Nine Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning.” Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998. 4 Feb. 2009.

“Big6™ Skills Overview.” The Big6™. 2 Apr. 2002. 4 Feb. 2009.

We usually associate formal education in how to use the library and its resources with academic and school libraries. Public library users traditionally have been expected to discover, on their own, how to access information, or to turn to the library staff for individual assistance when needed. As libraries have become more complex, the need for instruction in how to use the resources they offer have grown. While evidence of instruction in library use dates back to the 1870’s, it was not until the 1960’s that instruction gained increasing importance. In 1971, the term “bibliographic instruction” originated with the creation of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Ad Hoc Committee on Bibliographic Instruction. This was followed in 1973 with the establishment of the Library Orientation Exchange (LOEX), a clearinghouse for materials used in library instruction. In the mid seventies, the American Library Association’s Library Instruction Round Table (LIRT) came into being. Its mission is “to advocate library instruction as a means for developing competent library and information access skills, along with their use, as a part of lifelong learning.” Unlike ACRL, it represents all types of libraries, academic, public, school, and special. In the last few years a new term has emerged, “information literacy,” and it seems destined to supplant bibliographic instruction as the catchphrase for library instruction.

Library orientation
Whatever it is termed, education of library users occurs at many levels and in many formats. One of the most basic library instruction services is library orientation. Library orientation can be defined as “an information service to a group designed to introduce potential library users to the facilities, organization, and services of a particular library” (ALA Glossary 132).

Objectives of library orientation include:

  • introduction to the library’s physical facilities.
  • introduction to departments/services and appropriate library staff.
  • introduction of specific services such as interlibrary loan, or e-mail reference.
  • introduction to library policies such as hours of operation, or overdue policies.
  • introduction to how the collection is organized in order to make finding materials easier.
  • motivating users to come back and use the resources.
  • communicating an atmosphere of helpfulness and friendliness.

Library orientation is most often associated with in person group tours of the library. Video and online virtual tours along with signage, maps of the library’s layout, and other printed guides and handouts are also considered to fall under library orientation.

Library instruction
Distinct from library orientation is library instruction. Library instruction: refers to instruction in the use of libraries, with an emphasis on instruction-specific procedures, collections and policies. The term emphasizes the library as defined by its physical parameters (Bopp and Smith, 179).

Typical library instruction objectives are:

  • learning to use Canadian MAS FullTEXT Elite on the EBSCOhost system
  • learning to use the library online catalogue to find items on a particular subject.
  • learning to find, view and copy resources in microfilm and microfiche format.
  • learning to use a specific reference tool such as the Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes.

The lecture has been a popular means of providing library instruction, along with workbooks, handouts and most recently web based tutorials.

Bibliographic instruction
During the 1970’s, the term bibliographic use came into common use. The 1983 ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science, provides the following definition of bibliographic instruction:

bibliographic instruction An information service to a group, which is designed to teach library users how to locate information efficiently. The essential goals of this process are an understanding of the library’s system of organization and the ability to use selected reference materials. In addition, instruction may cover the structure of the literature and the general and specific research methodology appropriate for a discipline.

Library instruction in this context moves from just learning how to use a specific title or tool to the more general goal of learning how to develop and use a search strategy. Also, with a knowledge of principles of information organization and retrieval, users should be able to function in a variety of information settings not just in one specific library.

In support of the concept of bibliographic instruction (BI), the ACRL produced in 1987, a Model Statement of Objectives for Academic Bibliographic Instruction. General objectives from the Model Statement are:

  1. The user understands how information is defined by experts, and recognizes how that knowledge can help determine the direction of his/her search for specific information.
  2. The user understands the importance of the organizational content, bibliographic structure, function, and use of information sources.
  3. The user can identify useful information from information sources or information systems.
  4. The user understands the way collections of information sources are physically organized and accessed.

Information literacy
The term information literacy has gained favour in many places over that of bibliographic instruction. The American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy in its Final Report defined information literacy as follows:

To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. Producing such a citizenry will require that schools and colleges appreciate and integrate the concept of information literacy into their learning programs and that they play a leadership role in equipping individuals and institutions to take advantage of the opportunities inherent within the information society. Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand.

In its Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, ACRL states:

  1. The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.
  2. The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.
  3. The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
  4. The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
  5. The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and use information ethically and legally.

In 1998 the American Associations of School Librarians along with the Association for Educational Communications and Technology published Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. Information literacy, in this document, is seen as “the keystone of learning” (1) and nine standards for student learning are presented under the categories “Information Literacy,” “Independent Learning,” and “Social Responsibility”.

The American Association of School Libraries, in its Information Literacy: A Position Paper on Information Problem Solving presents seven curriculum areas for information literacy:

  1. Defining the need for information.
  2. Defining the search strategy.
  3. Locating the resources.
  4. Asserting and comprehending the information.
  5. Interpreting the information.
  6. Communicating the information.
  7. Evaluating the product and process.

Appropriate information literacy activities include instruction in:

  • how to formulate a question and construct a search strategy
  • how to evaluate the authoritativeness and reliability of information
  • how to locate resources in a variety of media e.g. print, audiovisual, and electronic both within and without a library.

Prior to these documents Michael Eisenberg and Robert E. Berkowitz, school library media specialists, developed The Big6™ Skills Information Problem-Solving Approach. The Big6™ provides a detailed curriculum and has been widely used especially in school library instruction programs.

A variety of instructional methods for information literacy programs is available each with its pros and cons. One on one, or point of use, individualized reference help is effective and popular with users but can tie up a staff member for an extended period of time with one patron. The addition of more electronic services such as online databases, may result in more requests for help in using them, but a drop in traditional reference statistics because more time is being spent with individual problems.

Group modes of instruction include lectures, demonstrations, workshops and credit or non-credit courses. While these reach a larger number of people at one time, they require much more time in initial planning and preparation.

Printed materials such as handouts and guides, once prepared, save repetition of commonly requested information and are helpful as a complement to group sessions. If available online, they are also easily accessible to remote users. They do, however, take time to produce and to be effective must be updated as needed.

Web based tutorials are becoming an increasingly popular means of library instruction. Users can proceed at their own pace and a time and place convenient to them. Again, time must be invested in their initial development, setup, and revision. Additionally, users must be motivated to work on their own.

Whether under the term bibliographic instruction or information literacy, the thrust of today’s approach to user education is to teach problem solving and lifelong learning skills in finding and using information.

Works cited
ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science. Chicago: American Library Association, 1983.

American Association of School Librarians. Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.

American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report. 1989. 2 Mar. 2001.

“Big6™ Skills Overview.” The Big6™. 2 Apr. 2002.

Bopp, Richard E. and Linda C. Smith. Reference and Information Services: An Introduction. 3rd ed. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 2001.

Information Literacy: A Position Paper on Information Problem Solving. 27 Nov. 2000. American Association of School Libraries. 4 Feb. 2010.

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. 27 Jul. 2000. Association of College and Research Libraries. 14 Jan. 2001.

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education: Standards, Performance Indicators, and Outcomes. 28 Nov. 2000. Association of College and Research Libraries. 14 Jan. 2001.

Model Statement of Objectives for Academic Bibliographic Instruction.7 Jun. 2000. Association of College and Research Libraries. 14 Jan. 2001.

1 comment:

kimellaumeh said...

Good and really helpful. Kudos.