Information literacy is a requirement for independent learning and independent thought or as the American Library Association puts it: "Information literacy is a survival skill in the Information Age." I think "teaching library" and information literacy are vital issues for the future of libraries, and we are far from having exhausted all their possibilities.
In my work at the ZBW - the German National Library of Economics I regard it as a particular challenge to create awareness for the sophisticated handling of information, to equip students with a more critical view, which allows them to look for alternatives.
Another crucial point for me is the format of classes and services. Digital natives who grow up with the Internet, cell phones and computer games learn differently. They want to be creative while learning, show initiative, and share with their peers. They want short learning units at the point of need.
In the U.S., information literacy has been part of the curriculum in information and library science for a long time. University libraries have been well established there as education providers since the 1960s and the city of New York, with its rich array of libraries and research institutions in the field of information and library science promises to be an exciting destination for professional exchange.
The Librarian in Residence Program of the Goethe Institute New York and BI International allows me to visit New York academic and public libraries as well as the School of Information and Library Science of Pratt Institute to discuss recent developments regarding the challenges mentioned above.
A varied program takes me first to five academic libraries all of which offer a comprehensive mix of online material and courses. The prominence of information literacy-related subject matter on their websites is impressive. Exciting new formats such as the "Personal Librarian Program" and concepts such as "Student Empowerment - Critical Inquiry as a Method of Learning" have left me eager to meet the librarians behind these services personally and to learn more. I'm especially curious about the services and course models on offer to teach information literacy comprehensively at the time of need. I also hope to experience new didactic approaches for digital natives through my own participation in courses.
In the academic libraries and at the Pratt Institute, I also intend to focus on the subject of assessment. I want to discover tools to evaluate the success of classes. How can I measure the benefit of information literacy for a course of studies? And how can I communicate this benefit in a manner that motivates students to attend classes and be active in their own learning?
Visits to three public libraries in New York complete my program. They offer events at more than 200 locations. Here I would particularly like to learn about opportunities to bring information literacy into the public realm; I would like to experience marketing strategies and concepts for learning spaces.
In my opinion, the best way to develop new ideas, to alter one’s rigid course and to creatively develop new concepts is by way of exchanging views in conversation and looking at an entirely different system with a different history and culture. I would like to apply the experiences I will have in New York to the development of new course materials and teaching formats, and to a widening of the online services in information literacy on offer at the ZBW.