Berkeley College at its NYC Midtown campus in Manhattan. It must be fantastic to study and work here. When you step out onto the street you can see the Chrysler Building (see photo). The energy of this city is intoxicating. You can sense it in the people who live and work here – also at Berkeley College and its library.
Berkeley College is a private college that was founded in 1931 and is run as a family business. The college has 8 locations and offers many online degree programs. The college's motto is to support lifelong learning, which is an excellent starting point for taking information literacy into the classroom.
As is apparently common in the United States, the Instruction Librarians here are part of the faculty and thus have a direct connection to other instructors and lecturers.
In February of last year, Leslin conducted a study to find out which lectures had been comprehensively integrated with information literacy training. She discovered that this was only the case for one single lecture. When the study was presented, the instructors and lecturers were dismayed, prompting them to clear the way for a profound change. Leslin and the Information Literacy Steering Group dealt with the entire curriculum, engaged in discussions with the teaching faculty regarding which courses should be integrated with training and which standards should be imparted in the training. They created a "curriculum map" to ensure that no student leaves the college without going through information literacy training. The program is now in place and being used. It is highly regarded among lecturers and instructors, who now come to the library team on their own to receive support for their teaching.
Imparting information literacy can accompany an entire semester in some cases. It begins with training from the librarians. Then there are discussions on Blackboard, reviews of student research journals and blog posts about their research progress as well as reviews of annotated bibliographies of students.
Assessment plays a major role in the program: All students take a pretest at the beginning of their studies with questions regarding their knowledge about writing academic papers and using the library. During the course of study, student progress is assessed using research journals and random reviews of their bibliographies. Members of the library team use a standard questionnaire to assess each other in the training courses they conduct.
Just how seriously the lecturers and instructors take information literacy is clear from the fact that on the second day of my visit five faculty members were on site or available via telephone conference to discuss the program with me. What an honor!
Their arguments for information literacy training:
- The business world complains about graduates with insufficient research skills.
- They see it as their task to prepare students for the working world and to impart not only knowledge, but also skills.
- They believe that information literacy is something that sticks with students after they graduate, whereas knowledge can be forgotten. They want to empower students to acquire new knowledge in a changing world.
Arguments that the teaching faculty cite to students before training to get them to pay attention:
- The ability to research and work in an academic manner is the only skill you have to demonstrate after you graduate. To get a good job, you should be especially good at this.
- Plagiarism in the workplace can cause a company to be sued and you to be fired.
- Database knowledge can be stated in job applications.
So far, so good. But Leslin Charles sees even more potential to develop the program. She is striving to let lecturers and instructors overtake the teaching in information literacy. Leslin sees the library in a coordinating position and having the task to support the faculty with the development of short e-tutorials, materials and lesson plans as well as being involved in assessments.
The visit to Berkeley College made me optimistic. Here information literacy isn't just seen as a "fad" for libraries, but instead is recognized as a key skill for research.