Lehman College is in the Bronx, a borough of New York City that – as I learn from quick Internet search – isn't necessarily a place you'd want to walk around by yourself. When I ask about this, I am told that I should simply look like I know where I'm going and not act like a tourist. Once I finally get there, everything is fine. There are a lot of young people, a high school and the college, which even has a small castle on campus.
Leonard Lief Library, meets me in the library. I am allowed to participate in two training classes. Two lecturers have brought their classes to the library so that the students can get support for their final papers. The central theme of the lesson is that the students are part of an academic community, that they want to become experts and contribute to professional dialogue. ("What is the objective of this course? For you to become experts."/ "Are you basic students? No, you are advanced students so you use the advanced search.").
It's important to Robert Farrell that information literacy not just be taught as a skill on its own (generic approach), but that students also acquire it in the context of their academic work (situated approach). He considers both approaches important and is in favor of seeing the learning of information literacy as a process. He wants to regularly show students opportunities to expand their skills in the course of this process.
The fact that information literacy has a broader scope here is seen in the courses the students take:
1. Orientation: This explains what the Deep Web is, that not everything can be freely found on the Internet, and why the library is useful.
2. Critical Thinking: How can you recognize expertise? How do you assess sources? How do you critically scrutinize texts and statements?
3. Inquiry: How do you analyze texts and develop your own argumentation?
Towards the end of bachelor degree programs there is another course that uses an assignment to explain how to search and evaluate sources in a respective subject area.
The goal is for students to get in touch with information literacy 15 (!) times during their studies. This could be through library training courses, introductions by lecturers using online material provided by the library, or contact with instruction librarians at the reference desk.
Also here Robert Farrell tells me, there are difficulties in integrating information literacy into the curriculum; courses for advanced students are only offered when instructors and lecturers are open to them and bring their students to the library. Libraries at other CUNY colleges have, however, already added some minor courses in their curriculum. They last an entire semester and cover content such as the information landscape, information ethics, producing information, privacy and copyright, plagiarism, etc.
What I kept asking myself was how librarians in the United States stay up to date. How do they manage to keep an eye on technical developments? I never received an answer to my direct question as it seemed to be a matter of course. But I do have an idea that could explain it: For the most part, librarians are faculty at the university and are under an obligation to do research. If they have to research and publish, then it's obvious that they would follow the latest developments in their field.
Saturday, 15. September 2012
Information literacy as a process: Leonard Lief Library at Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY)
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