Thursday, July 30, 2009

Multicultural Sources for Libraries

Multicultural Sources For Libraries
For the modern library, it is absolutely essential to recognize the multicultural needs that come with providing services to the community. English might be a second or third language for a patron; families might be hoping to discover sources at their library that represent their cultural heritage. Collections and programming need to be inclusive for users. For a library to be a relevant, valuable resource, it must strive to be accessible to the greatest portion of the community, and to reflect the varied faces of those patrons.

To that end, libraries have a fantastic resource in the form of the World Wide Web. The Web allows for many different kinds of libraries to share sources, programming ideas, tips on building a multicultural-friendly collection, and tell stories about what has worked and what has not.
The American Library Association has a great starter page for multicultural resources, linked here. There are layers and layers of information to dig through on the site, from links to multicultural conferences to extensive bibliographies. However, be forewarned that some of the links are dead, or lead to lists of other links that are dead, or worse: one of the links for Southeast Asia was a porn site. So like anything with the Net, use caution when link hopping.
The Librarians Internet Index has an extensive page on multicultural resources. The link is here. From this page, a librarian can come across useful web bibliographies, like the one at Poynter Online, which has links to many active sites in the Multicultural Education and Research fields.

For children’s and young adult librarians, there is a great one-stop shop for multicultural resources available at the Dream In Color program. This is part of the Scholastic website, and it has fantastic teaching aids and lesson plans for learning about other cultures, all of which could be adapted for library programming.

Dr. Donna Gilton, professor at the Graduate School for Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island, has compiled a wonderfully comprehensive bibliography for the library in need of multicultural information; her Multiculturalism in Libraries Bibliography does not just list links and books, but discusses the philosophy behind building library diversity, and organizes loads of information in a logical, accessible way.

Part of the multicultural and diversity issue for libraries involves serving patrons with special needs. There are many resources available; some worth looking at are the free online books Youth with Special Needs and Adults with Special Needs. These were developed for the Wisconsin Public Library System but are applicable to any library district.
All of these provided sources are really just the tip of the iceberg. The idea is to give any librarian beginning to build multicultural programming a few road maps for successfully reaching out to the variety of users they will encounter.

Need more?
Gorski, Paul. Multicultural Supersite.
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Library Services to Multicultural Populations Section.
Multicultural Pavilion: Resources and Dialogues for Equity in Education.
MultiCultural Review.
National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME).
Queens Borough Public Library. Web-Based - Multicultural Resources.
Southern Poverty Law Center. Teaching Tolerance.
U. of Maryland. Diversity Database.
University of Northern Iowa Diversity webpage.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Multiculturalism in Library Programming

A library should reach out to its community. To do this an effort must be made by the staff to know the community in which they serve. All people groups in the community should be known so that library staff can know how to serve them. Programs can be created to bring in diverse peoples; people that maybe do not typically patronize the library often. It is not uncommon that the library populations do not match the community population (referenced to in lecture #19, Lorenzen). In an effort to promote diversity libraries should incorporate programs geared towards different people groups. This does not only include cultural diversity but also political, educational, physical, mental along with others.

In general library programming includes programs for children, teens, adults and seniors. Story time for toddlers, teen activities and reading contests for young people, computer and resume classes for adults, and book club and Medicare seminars for seniors. These are the most common programs no matter what community the library is located. These programs can be further geared towards the population of the surrounding community by determining what the needs are. For example, in Community A there are more stay-at-home parents than working parents. Therefore, toddler story hour can be scheduled during the day. Community B has more working parents than stay-at-home parents, therefore, it would be best to hold toddler story hour in the late afternoon/early evening or on the weekends.

As our society is constantly growing in this digital age libraries should follow suit to better serve their patrons. Some communities may demand new technology sooner rather than later. According to an article from The Denver Post found on The Detroit News’ website one new service is the “digital” branch (Nilsson, 2009). This service provides resources online such as audio books, movies and music. A patron would just need a library card. Another service catering to the technology-lovers is access to business databases which help those looking to start their own business or who are researching business-related topics (Nilsson, 2009).

At some point though a librarian must concede that catering to every people group individually is near to impossible. Therefore providing programs that serve the general population seem to be very popular, such as computer classes, resume making courses and tax advisement. Then several times a year programs geared towards a particular population may be available.

Librarians need global perspective so that we can provide programs that cater to a diverse population of the community. It is helpful to see through the eyes of others to best meet their needs. When designing a children’s area one should get on their knees to get a real perspective of the environment.


Lorenzen, M. (2009). Multiculturalism and diversity PowerPoint.

Nilsson, M. (July, 2009). Libraries transform in digital age.

The Denver Post. Retrieved July 15, 2009 from

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Diversity and the Workplace

Diversity is an important topic in libraries, not only because we serve broad and varied groups of patrons, but also because we as librarians are a part of a diverse demographic. In this blog entry, diversity will be discussed as it is applicable to the workplace, specifically as it relates to the library science profession. As we learned in Joseph Miller’s blog entry relating a general overview of multiculturalism and diversity: “The concept of diversity encompasses multiculturalism and expands our discussion beyond cultures and to a variety of subjects from age to sexuality.” (Miller, July 27, 2009) ALAs website provides a wealth of information on the topic of diversity, including statistics and information regarding workplace discrimination. By visiting the ALAs Office of Diversity website (, you will be able to find any number of resources recruitment and retention, leadership, training programs, and a variety of other useful topics.

Gender and Age:
ALA recently conducted a survey of their members in which gender and age were both recorded. The results indicated that baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) comprised 50.2% of the ALA member population. It also indicated that the library profession is predominately female (80.8% female and 19.2% male) However, these figures are certainly not completely accurate, as they only count those who have memberships in ALA. This also does not take in to account the numerous support staff that most likely would not retain a membership in ALA (although support staff is encouraged by ALA to have a membership). In one article found on ALAs website it noted the following about libraries and gender and age demographics: “It is difficult to compare our profession even when looking at national figures for management and professional employment. The most notable parallel in overall workforce data is the aging of the baby-boomers and their continued presence in the workforce” (http:/
This data certainly does not seem surprising considering the view many non-Information Science professionals have on the library profession as a whole. Unfortunately, the view that most librarians are old lady spinsters is still very prevalent. However, I believe we are at a crossroads in the profession, and this picture of the “typical librarian” may soon be fading.

When one thinks of diversity in the workplace, most people think of ethnicity and race. In one ALA member survey from 2006, the ethnic demographics were broken down as follows: 89% white, 4.5% Black/African American, 3% Hispanic/Latino, 2.7% Asian Pacific Islander, and 1.4% Native American. A survey of the same conducted by ALA in 2007 resulted in very similar results. It seems evident that the library profession is somewhat homogenous, particularly in race and gender. However, ALA is encouraging diversity in the profession by instituting the Spectrum Scholarship Program which provides scholarships for those from underrepresented groups as well as addressing “the specific issue of under-representation of critically needed ethnic librarians within the profession while serving as a model for ways to bring attention to larger diversity issues in the future.” ( The Spectrum Scholarship Program has made an effort to promote this program in many ways, one of them including selling t-shirts at the ALA conference in Chicago this year.

Another area of diversity that is often overlooked is that of disabilities. Disabilities are often thought of as physical or mental disabilities; however, this can also include learning disabilities like dyslexia. Other types of disabilities might include: Developmental disabilities, Visual or hearing impairments, Motor disabilities, and chemical sensitivities. It is important to recognize that these types of disabilities do not pose an inability to work; far from it. Perhaps those employees may have some specific needs, but this certainly does not mean the employee cannot complete the tasks required of them for the position. Their perspectives also provide a unique view on the Information Science profession they are in and can benefit the job in a way other employees cannot.

Why is it important for us, as Information Science professionals, to embrace multiculturalism and diversity in the workplace? As Professor Lorenzen pointed out in his PowerPoint presentation: “The true nature of our profession needs to be more multicultural, because at our core, librarians need to have a global perspective. American publishers do not know everything. Americans do not know everything. We need to reach out to the greater library community to understand what is being innovated all over the world.” (Lorenzen, Lecture 19, slide 6)
In general, if we are a more diverse workforce then we are providing a more well-rounded collection to our patrons, in addition to providing them with a more informed and diverse group of employees. Diversity and multiculturalism in the workplace is important (and essential, in my opinion) to provide better resources to the consumer. While it is important to all places of employment, it is especially important in the Information Science profession. Although I have only covered a small fraction of issues and topics in multiculturalism and diversity in the workplace, I encourage you to take an opportunity to view some of the sites I have listed, as well as discuss it here in the blog.

ALA Demographic Studies. Retrieved July 6, 2009, from
Davis, D. M. Get Out the Hair Dye...We are Really Getting Old! Retrieved July 7, 2009, from
Employment discrimination. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from
Lorenzen, M. (2009). Multiculturalism and diversity PowerPoint
Office for Diversity. Retrieved July 6, 2009, from
Owens, I. (2000). A Managerial/Leadership Approach to Maintaining Diversity in Libraries: Accountability, Professionalism, Job Performance, Policies, and Standards Retrieved July 7, 2009, from
Spectrum Scholarship Program: The Future is Overdue. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from

Monday, July 27, 2009

Multiculturalism and Diversity Primer

Before we discuss how the concepts of multiculturalism and diversity affect libraries, it is important for us to have a common understanding of these terms.

Multiculturalism is defined as:

The doctrine that several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country. (The Free Dictionary, 2009)

Diversity is defined as:

1. a. The fact or quality of being diverse; difference.
b. A point or respect in which things differ.
2. Variety or multiformity.
(The Free Dictionary, 2009)

Although these definitions are a useful first step in understanding multiculturalism and diversity, they lack context. In order to construct the framework needed to appreciate these terms, we must next look at what they mean to educators. Why educators? Because the field of education has been a pioneering field in regards to exploring the definition of multiculturalism and what it means for the theory and practices of educators. There are a number of different definitions of “multicultural education,” however NAME (The National Association for Multicultural Education) gives educators a working definition, which should be helpful for librarians as well.

Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity… It affirms our need to prepare student[s] for their responsibilities in an interdependent world. It recognizes the role schools can play in developing the attitudes and values necessary for a democratic society. It values cultural differences and affirms the pluralism that students, their communities, and teachers reflect. It challenges all forms of discrimination in schools and society through the promotion of democratic principles of social justice. (NAME, 2003)

Multiculturalism in this context is not only interested in peaceful and equitable coexistence between cultures, but also with promoting social justice and the human dignity of each individual member of a culture. It is in this context that the discussion of multiculturalism in libraries will take place. However, instead of concentrating on educators, we will be focusing on librarians instead. As such, I’d invite you to read the above definition once again, but this time substitute “patrons” for “students,” “libraries” for “schools,” and “librarians” for “teachers.” By doing this we will have a working definition with which to explore multiculturalism in libraries.

What about Diversity?
The concept of diversity encompasses multiculturalism and expands our discussion beyond cultures to a variety of subjects from age to sexuality. After all, humans are not only diverse in culture, but also in gender, age, mental and physical health, religion, philosophy, economic background, etc. In light of this, we must not only understand and value our various cultures, but also the other qualities that make us different from each other. Just as multiculturalism asks us to examine how we might act justly and equitably with other cultures, so too diversity asks us to do the same in regards to all people, no matter how different they might be from us mentally, physically, or emotionally.

Now that we have a borrowed, but working definition of multiculturalism and diversity for libraries, we can begin to ask ourselves what this means for librarians. The ALA’s OLOS (Office of Literacy and Outreach Services) is a great place to examine the ramifications of these concepts for library theory and practice. OLOS’s mission statement says, it “serves the Association by identifying and promoting library services that support equitable access to the knowledge and information stored in our libraries… focuses attention on services that are inclusive of traditionally underserved populations.” (ALA, 1998) From this statement, it is clear that equitable access to information and inclusive services are the pillars of what multiculturalism and diversity mean to the ALA.

From an international perspective, the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) provides guidelines for promoting “standards of fairness and equity in library service to ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities.” (IFLA, 1998, revised 2002) There are eight major topics presented in the IFLA’s Multicultural Guidelines for Library Services, including criteria for: the responsibility of provision (of library collections and services), library materials, cross-cultural materials and services, information and reference services, technical services, extension services (activities involving literacy, community, homebound, etc.), staffing, and special groups. (IFLA, 1998, revised 2002) These guidelines are primarily focused on the necessity for librarians to be able to communicate and understand other individuals and cultures, to provide collections and services that fit their needs and preferred language, and to make their services equitable and accessible to all people.

The concepts of multiculturalism and diversity cover a wide range of topics, but hopefully this primer will give you the context you need to appreciate not only what these terms mean in general, but also the implications they have in regard to the collections, services, and guiding principles of the librarian profession as a whole.

Definition of Multicultural Education. Retrieved July 14, 2009 from,
The Free Dictionary. Retrieved July 14, 2009 from,
The Free Dictionary. Retrieved July 14, 2009 from,
Multicultural Guidelines for Library Services. Retrieved July 14, 2009 from,
OLOS Mission. Retrieved July 14, 2009 from,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Technology of Information Literacy

Over the years, technology has played an important role in the way information has been collected and disseminated. Since the advent of the internet, several new formats and applications have become available to information literacy instructors, and it is their job to find which resources will be the most beneficial for their users. As new technologies have been developed, the need to educate students and library users about the proper ways to access information has become essential. As T.P. Mackey and T.E. Jacobson acknowledge in their book Using Technology to Teach Information Literacy (2008), “while our students may use these technologies every day, they may not automatically examine the deeper academic issues related to these devices, such as copyright, intellectual property, online ethics, and peer review” (p.xvi). As information continues to be available through new mediums and in new formats, it is necessary for libraries to provide information literacy training based on the latest electronic resources, and to utilize the most current tools in their instruction methods. What follows is a brief overview of some of the most innovative technologies used in the field of information literacy, focusing particularly on digital learning materials and the evolving world of social software.

Course Management Resources

One of the most common technologies that has made its mark in the academic world, is the course management system (CMS). These web-based systems are a significant addition to traditional courses because they have the ability to “engage students in the learning process, to deepen the overall course experience, to assess student learning, and to provide a virtual space for librarians to expand their influence” (Mackey, 2008, p.83). Some well-known examples of CMSs are Blackboard and ANGEL. These systems allow professors to post valuable information literacy resources, as well as to manage class blogs, wikis, digital learning materials, or podcasts. While CMSs apply mainly to the academic realm and provide little support for public library information literacy campaigns, they are a vital resource for academic information literacy instruction.

The World of Digital Learning Materials (DLMs)

A digital learning material is described as “any interactive web-based digital resource that can be utilized for educational purposes” (Bell, 2008, p.223). These applications can be found in a variety of formats, such as HTML, Flash, MP3 or JPEG, and are offered in a multitude of formats, including tutorials, simulations, or games (Bell, 2008, p.223). In the last few years, college libraries have been trying to find ways to move into the digital world, through DLMs, in an attempt to connect with their tech-savvy students and create learning tools that will fit into their lives and hopefully, as a result, be well-used. Some particularly popular information literacy DLMs suggested by the “Instructional Technologies” chapter of the Information Literacy Instruction Handbook (2008) are the Texas Information Literacy Tutorial ( and the Plagiarism and Academic Integrity Simulation ( (p.224). TILT is an impressively comprehensive tutorial that was created by the University of Texas to introduce incoming students to the basics of academic-level research (Introduction, The program offers an introduction to the basics of information literacy, followed by three interactive modules, tailored to the individual’s personal interests. These modules walk the user through the core concepts necessary to successfully conduct online research. An educational and thoroughly worthwhile tutorial, TILT is unfortunately being taken off-line August 14, 2009 because it is no longer being used by the University of Texas and is experiencing difficulties with funding (

The Plagiarism and Academic Integrity Simulation is an audio-visual lesson in academic honesty. The simulation introduces three characters (two students and an older brother) and walks the viewer through different ethical scenarios the characters could face while conducting research. Throughout the exercise, a talking parrot asks the viewer to comment on what the characters should do and which options the viewer would choose. Short and to the point, this application offers a fairly rudimentary outline of appropriate and inappropriate academic behavior for incoming college students.

Another example is the Reflective Online Skills (ROSS) Environment developed and employed at the Queensland University of Technology in 2007 (Partridge, Edwards, Baker, McAllister, 2008). In their article regarding the ROSS Environment experiment, the application's creators state that the program "pushes the boundary of online information literacy programs by guiding learners to know, reflect, and practice information literacy concepts through the use of case studies or problem based learning" (Abstract). This information literacy tool focuses specifically on teaching online searching skills to incoming undergraduate students, who will need to be able to find, analyze, and utilize electronic information to be successful in their college careers. It works by walking students through a series of eight sections in which they have to use online searching skills to answer a question or solve a problem (Partridge, 2008, Introduction the ROSS Environment section). Each segment is interactive, so the user is challenged to engage with the online learning process and critically reflect on how online searching can be used to meet their information needs. The environment also offers a “Reflective Workspace” where students can apply the skills they have learned through the ROSS application (Partridge, 2008, Introduction the ROSS Environment section). Online workshops like the ROSS Environment could be a significant information literacy tool for other colleges as well as the public library system, because it allows users to learn online searching skills independently and at their own pace.

Social Software and Information Literacy

In the last decade a number of social software applications have been introduced that can be harnessed by librarians to teach information literacy to library users. As is discussed in the book "Social Software in Libraries" (2008), technologies such as wikis, blogs, podcasts, and vodcasts offer several advantages to librarians as they try to teach their users how to find, analyze, and use information resources. Because these formats are available in real-time, are portable, and transcend the distances that separate creators and users, they make the distribution of information literacy materials easier and more accessible to patrons with busy schedules. Each of these social software inventions have unique advantages and are already being used across the country in innovative ways.


Though they have been in use since the early 1990s, the term “weblog” (now shortened to simply “blog”) was developed by Jorn Barger in 1997 (Farkas, 2008, p.14). While blogs were originally used by individuals to link their friends to a variety of other sites, and they are still popularly thought of as a type of e-journal, blogs are generally described as “unedited Web sites of varying complexity wherein individuals or groups can freely publish information” (Coulter, Draper, 2006, p.101). Sensing an inexpensive, easy, and contemporary way to connect with users in a 2.0 world, many libraries and colleges have looked to use blogs as a way to teach information literacy to their users, with mixed success. The librarians at Stephen F. Austin State University, for instance, tried to incorporate the use of blogs in their information literacy instruction to students as a way to encourage “reflective, collaborative learning” (Coulter, 2006, p.103-104). While this experiment could not be considered a success – with 46.2% of students surveyed saying it was “not helpful” and 61.5% reporting they had never used the blog – the researchers primarily blame the lackluster response on a lack of marketing, and still contend that blogs can be effective tools for teaching information literacy (Coulter, 2006, p.105-106). This group also distributed a survey through library listservs to gauge the use of blogs throughout the country (p.105). There were 254 respondents from university, school, public and special libraries, and of those who replied 67.9% felt that their blogs saw regular traffic, while 71.8% thought that blogs are an effective way to communicate with users (p.107). One significant observation that was consistently addressed in this experiment and the subsequent surveys was that in order for blogs to succeed as information literacy tools they must be well-marketed to the intended audience. A blog has little chance of being helpful if it is not highly visible and easily accessible.

In their chapter “Instructional Technologies,” (2008) authors Bell, Shank, and Szczyrbak also acknowledge the challenges to producing a successful blog. They suggest that while some librarians may be tempted to use the medium to simply post information literacy techniques or links to relevant resources, these uses are “passive” in their approach, and as a result it would be hard to judge if patrons were actually finding these posts and utilizing them (p.215). As a way to avoid this problem in an academic setting, the authors suggest that information literacy instructors not only run a class blog, but also encourage students to maintain their own blogs about class assignments and their individual research experiences (p.215-216). In a public library setting, information literacy blogs could address this challenge by providing links to the blog on main web pages or next to the links that offer help from on-call reference librarians.
For a partial list of academic, public, school, and other library related blogs, you can visit Blogwithoutalibrary’s wiki at:


“Wiki” is the term used for a website that “is a perpetual work in progress where anyone can add content, edit content, and create relationships between content through hyperlinks” (Farkas, 2008, p.68). One significant advantage of using a wiki for instructions purposes – over a blog or a tradition website – is that wikis promote interaction and participation on the part of their users. In the section of “Instructional Technologies” (2008) that is devoted to wikis, the authors explain that wikis can be more beneficial than blogs because they are “based on the concept of bringing together a community of learners to develop a single resource that benefits all members through the sharing of information” (p.217). Library users may get more use out of a wiki because they can interact with it and access information compiled by a variety of users, who are speaking from a variety of information literacy experiences. Wikis could be used to promote and teach information literacy by using linked pages to provide online resources to users or by having each segment of the wiki represent a different facet of information literacy (Bell, 2008, p.217). In an academic setting, a professor could create a class wiki in which each of the participants could share helpful information literacy resources, suggestions, and observations (Bell, 2008, p.218). The development of wikis as information literacy instructional tools is just beginning, but the potential offered by this application are substantial.

Podcasts and Vodcasts

Podcasts and vodcasts (video podcasts) are an intriguing and revolutionary addition to the world of information literacy tools because they offer users resources in an entirely different medium, letting them learn with audio-visual materials rather than the standard text-based paper or electronic formats. The key concept with these new tools? Convenience. By utilizing these mediums, libraries are giving their users information that can be downloaded to an Ipod and taken on the go, then accessed while exercising, cooking dinner, or riding the bus. This high level of accessibility and ease of use could make all the difference for individuals with a busy lifestyle, who would find it troublesome or impossible to attend a tradition class or keep up with a blog or wiki.

The article “Innovation in a podshell: Bringing information literacy into the world of podcasting,” (2007) explores how podcasting was successfully utilized by the Curtin University Library. In this piece, it is emphasized that podcasts, after being downloaded, “can then be played and replayed, anywhere, anytime and as often as required. It is this liberation from the computer desk and tracking of personal programs that adds so much value to the podcast” (Berk, Olsen, Atkinson, Comerford, 2007, Introduction, para. 3). The authors also suggest that podcasts would be especially helpful for audio learners as well as the university’s ESL students, because of their ability to be replayed and viewed at a personal pace. This article suggests that podcasts are an important learning tool partially because Ipods and similar devices have become so popular in our society. The authors acknowledge that “essentially we recognized that podcasting could be incorporated into the lives of our students because this is a new trend and trends play an important role in the successful dissemination of knowledge” (Berk, 2007, Potential for podcasting at Curtin section, para. 8). Taking advantage of this new trend, the library created a series of 5-minute podcasts, intended to supplement their existing information literacy programs (Aims and methodology of library podcasting, para. 4-5). They simultaneously promoted the project by advertising it on the library blogs and holding contests, offering prizes to students who suggested good future podcast topics (Promotion section). The authors report that the podcasts were well-received in the first year they were offered, and that similar programs have been instituted at Arizona State University and at several Australian universities, and are being considered at Brown, Duke, and Stanford Universities (Conclusion section, Introduction section, para. 8-9). This medium holds an infinite number of possibilities as libraries, both academic and public, begin to utilize it in their information literacy programs.


In today’s technology-driven world it is imperative that libraries maintain their position as leaders in information literacy instruction. To remain relevant and ensure that their efforts reach as many users as possible, it is necessary for libraries to utilize the technologies that have been embraced by the public and are being used in popular culture. As Meredith Farkas (2008) adeptly points out: “As institutions rooted in our communities… we belong where our users can be found – and they are increasingly being found online, interacting in completely new ways” (xix). In order for libraries to successfully reach their audiences – for entertainment or for education – it is necessary that they brave the world of new technologies and take advantage of the digital tools that will connect them with patrons.

Reference List

Bell, S.J., Shank, J.D., & Szczyrbak, G. (2008). Instructional
technologies. In C.N. Cox & E.B. Lindsay (Eds.), Information literacy instructionhandbook (208-229). Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Berk, J., Olsen, S., Atkinson, J., & Comerford, J. (2007).
Innovation in a podshell: Bringing information literacy into the world of podcasting. The Electronic Library, 25(4), 409.

Casey, M.E., & Savastinuk, L.C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to
participatory library service. New Jersey: Information Today, Inc.

Coulter, P., & Draper, L. (2006). Blogging it into them. Journal of
Library Administration, 45(1). 101-115.

Etches-Johnson, A. (2009).

Farkas, M.G. (2008). Social software in libraries. New Jersey:
Information Today, Inc.

Mackey, T.P., & Jacobson, T.E. (Eds.). (2008). Using technology to
teach information literacy. New York: Neal-Schumann Publishers, Inc.

Partridge, H., Edwards, S., Baker, A., & McAllister, L. (2008). The
Reflective Online Searching Skills (ROSS) Environment: Embedding information literacy into student learning through an online environment. IFLA Journal, 34(1), 55-71.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity at Rutgers University. N.D.
Retrieved July 22, 2009 from

Secker, J., Boden, D., & Price, G. (Eds.). (2007). The information
literacy cookbook: Ingredients, recipes and tips for success. Oxford: Chandos Publishing.

Texas Information Literacy Tutorial. (2004). Retrieved July 22,
2009 from

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Assessing Information Literacy

In any educational scenario, the key measurement is not what was taught, but what was learned. Information literacy is no exception. As schools and libraries make an effort to teach information literacy, they are also ramping up their efforts to assess this type of knowledge.

Assessing information literacy ranges from the informal to the formal, and it varies based on the institution doing the assessment. This post will cover some of the efforts made by school and academic libraries to measure their information literacy programs.

Why Assess Information Literacy?

When institutions make plans to measure the information literacy of their students, one of the first questions they must ask themselves is why exactly are we assessing this information. Reasons can and do vary. Some want to track what students are learning; they want to use the assessment tool to determine what concepts students understand and what areas need more instruction and practice. Another reason to assess is because librarians want to improve their instruction. “Without assessment, program weaknesses cannot be easily identified or corrected.” (Oakleaf & Kaske, 2009, p.277) Additionally, librarians need to be accountable to the larger institution, such as the university or the school district. (Furno & Flanagan, 2008) Scores on information literacy tests can even affect accreditation. (Oakleaf & Kaske, 2009) The reason for the assessment will help determine what measurement tools are used.

What Needs to Be Assessed

Creating an assessment program begins by determining what skills need to be measured. The skill sets measured will vary, of course, depending on the education level of the students; high school students will be asked to be proficient at different things than college students. Some of the skills assessments try to measure include the following:

  • Ability to use Boolean search strategies

  • Understanding of controlled vocabulary

  • Ability to find appropriate print and electronic articles

  • Creation of key search terms

  • Critical evaluation of web sites

What Assessment Tools to Use

One of the most complicated areas for library instructors is determining what tools to use for assessment. The options are seemingly endless. Libraries can create their own tools, or they can implement one of the tests already available. Furthermore, libraries need to decide what type of test to create.

There are a multitude of ways to evaluate student learning. While there is not space here to detail the benefits and disadvantages of each type, it is important to delineate the options available for librarians.

Fixed Answer Assessments

One format most of us are familiar with is the fixed answer, often known as multiple choice, test. (Oakleaf, 2008) Here, students select from a set of predefined answers. Libraries can create these on their own, even tailor them to the specific instruction session, and for the most part they are relatively simple to create and score. For example, James Madison University requires all freshman to meet standards on the Information–Seeking Skills Test (ISST) that they developed themselves.

In addition to creating their own assessments, libraries can also use some of the standardized options available. Two possibilities include the following:

  • Created in 2002 at Kent State University, Project SAILS (Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills)is intended to assess college students. (Seymour, 2007) The web-based exam is primarily used to measure groups of students; in fact, data is not available on a per-student basis. Even so, it can give colleges and universities an idea of how their students are performing compared to students at other schools. (Project SAILS)

  • TRAILS (Tools for Real-time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills), also developed by Kent State, is similar to Project SAILS except it is tailored for high school students. Here, librarians and teachers can see how each student performed. The tests are administered online. (TRAILS)

Performance Assessments

Performance assessments attempt to mimic real-world experiences in an evaluation, letting students display their skills in an information-seeking environment. These types of evaluations can take on a number of formats. For example, librarians or instructors can simply assign students a task, watch them complete it, and evaluate their success. (Oakleaf, 2009) Another option is to review the actual bibliographies of student assignments and critique their value. University of Connecticut tested a research portfolio assessment, giving students a research topic and having them keep detailed notes of their search strategies and results. (Sharma, 2007)


Rubrics are a set of criteria used for judging a project or assignment. Different categories are outlined, with student expectations listed for each; students are then scored based on how well they meet each objective. (Oakleaf, 2009) For information literacy, an example assignment would be for students to create a bibliography of resources on a certain topic. Categories to be measured may include quality of sources, use of search terms, proper citations and the like.

What Is In Store for Information Literacy Assessment

In 2004, Educational Testing Services (ETS) began a pilot program for its latest test called iSkills, a test designed to measure information literacy. (Katz, 2007) The 75-minute test used a performance-based model, presenting test-takers with different scenarios, then asking students to solve the information need using software that mimics what students see in the real world. There are currently two different testing levels; core is aimed at graduating high school seniors and first- or second-year college students, while advanced is intended for upper-level college students. (Educational Testing Service)

The test is not intended to determine college placement. Instead, it is “an assessment tool that will assist schools in determining whether their students have information and communication technology skills and their level of competency.” (Kenney, 2006)

Knowing that ETS, the same organization that develops other high-stakes assessments such as the SAT and the GRE, is participating in the information literacy arena indicates that information literacy assessment is gaining ground. As our society continues to be saturated with news and research, libraries will continue to make plans for information literacy assessment.


Ann Jason Kenney. (2006, March). The final hurdle? School Library Journal, 52(3), 62-64,9. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1010873521).

Educational Testing Service. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from

Furno, C., & Flanagan, D. (2008). Information literacy: Getting the most from your 60 minutes. Reference Services Review, 36(3), 264-271. doi:10.1108/00907320810895350.

Information-seeking skills test.Retrieved July 17, 2009, from

Katz, I. R. (2007). Testing information literacy in digital environments: ETS's iSkills assessment. Information Technology and Libraries, 26(3), 3-12.

Oakleaf, M. (2008). Danger and opportunities: A conceptual map of information literacy assessment approaches. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 8(3), 233-253.

Oakleaf, M., & Kaska, N. (2009). Guiding questions for assessing information literacy in higher education. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 9(2), 273-286.

Project SAILS. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from

Seymour, C. (2007). Information technology assessment: A foundation for school and academic library collaboration. Knowledge Quest, 35(5), 32-35.

Sharma, S. (2007). From chaos to clarity: Using the research portfolio to teach and assess information literacy skills. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(1), 35-127.

TRAILS. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from

Information Literacy and the Public Library

Introduction to Information Literacy in the Public Library

There are books and books written about Information Literacy and the 21st century. School libraries and academic libraries seemed to have received the most attention in the last years. I imagine that may be due to the many academics, concerned about student education and who reside in these territories. As of now the public libraries have gotten much less formal attention from Information Literacy experts. Interestingly enough, public libraries serve as the general arena where information and literacy reach the most audiences.

As I pondered the most valuable way to approach our group assignment on Information Literacy, I came to the conclusion that it must make sense to me and, hopefully, bring forth some new insights to our class. So, I have decided to write from the point of view of a fairly well informed and most curious patron/ student since I am yet to become a full- fledged librarian. After reading many journal articles and speaking with local librarians, it became apparent that the public libraries, more often than not, may be considered the Cinderellas of Information Literacy. Like Cinderella, public libraries may be somewhat overlooked; however, Cindy, with her big heart, intelligence, spirit, and work ethic did end up marrying the prince. In the next paragraphs, I think it becomes apparent that the public library can emerge as an IL "shining star," too.

The American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy Final Report states: "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, analyze, and use effectively the needed information. Libraries remain today as the potentially and most far reaching resources for life- long learners" (1989).

Another resolution supporting Information Literacy in public libraries is UNESCO's Decade of literacy (2003- 2012) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The aim was to not only to encourage information and literacy, but to "extend the use of literacy to those who do not have access to it" (1999). Much of UNESCO's emphasis was placed on supporting adult and family literacy in the acquisition of information. Who is better positioned to accomplish this mission than the public library?

Public libraries are in a unique position to deliver the never ending new technology to their communities. Information literacy, it has to be remembered, is a context- dependent concept in which the particular client and the particular community needs define that public library's role. The common element of all public libraries is the following of a constructionist model which differentiates information literacy from bibliographic instruction so that patrons "learn how to learn." Whether teaching an Internet course, showing the use of a database, setting up an email account, or uploading pictures, to cite a few examples, public libraries are all ready teaching their clients how to navigate this "Internet jungle." Librarians need to continue honing their information skills to insure their clients continue becoming life- long learners.

Roles of 21st Century Public Librarian to Support Information Literacy

- with children

Children have always been traditionally considered of prime importance in public libraries. Weekly story hours for varying ages, Internet training programs, summer reading programs, and youth reading clubs have all helped parents learn how to better interact with their children. Partnerships with schools, where the public library can support school literacy training, have been established. In 2000, the National Institute of Health and Human Development and the ALA's Public Library Association created the Preschool Literary Initiative to underscore that reading is a taught skill to parents and caregivers and to access libraries' abilities to effect change. ALA's Association for Library Services to Children joined this initiative in 2001 to add accompanying reading materials and to form a task force. Librarians, in essence, became early childhood teachers of reading. Story times now included the literacy activities of clapping of syllables, looking for patterns in rhymes, and beginning alphabet sounds. Certainly, parents and caregivers have reported an increase in their knowledge of beginning literacy and their increased interactions with their children. A possible problem that I see is that librarians will need more literacy training in their MLIS programs to meet the goals of this Preschool Literacy Initiative. Early childhood education majors spent 4+ years learning how to teach reading. Children's librarians will require a lot more than one course in reading literacy. The ALA also supports Family Literacy- Helping Parents Help Their Children, a project which states: "Through family literacy programs, the home becomes an environment where young minds can grow to their fullest potential, and where parents can play active roles" (2000). Families in communities partnering with public libraries is one of the first steps in creating life- long learners.

-with Senior Citizens

Seniors often make up a large percentage of a public library's clientele, especially as the Baby Boomers head toward retirement. Many libraries are offering day information classes on Internet navigation, particularly tailored to seniors. Courses such as Microsoft Word 2007, Powerpoint, Excel, Facebook, Twitter, web- browsing, Photoshop, Outlook Express may be available. Seniors may, at first, be fearful of new 21 century technologies; however, with sensitive guidance from the librarian, they may outdo their children. The public is a wonderful spot to provide information on such subjects as Planning Retirement, Estate Planning, Empty Nest Syndrome, and Second Careers.The important point to remember is Seniors are never too old to become life- long learners.

- with Adults

Most importantly, adult classes must be tailored to the needs of a community using some type of a needs assessment followed by good marketing techniques. The reference librarian has to pay special attention to the reference interview to best assess how to help the client "learn to learn." Public library webpages can unique purposes. They can link the community to local happenings, data bases, online journals, search engines like Google or Bing, library surveys, and online self paced tutorials such as Microsoft Office 2007 Suite. Another important function is to provide direct information regarding specific community resources like HeadStart, Meals on Wheels, or the local farmers market. The public library becomes the heart of the community where information is always readily available.

In conclusion, if the public library is to create life- long learners, it will need to continue teaching its patrons to fish instead of merely feeding them fish. It will need to strike a realistic balance between the budgetary constraints and the most efficient way to service the community on the ever changing information highway.

Nyack, New York Public Library: Meeting the Challenge???

Look at the Nyack Library website. See what you think. Is this library meeting our 21st century challenges in the realm of Information Literacy? Your comments are very welcome.


Balas, J. (2006). Information literacy and technology: They work when they work together. Computers in Libraries, 26(5), 26-29. Retrieved on July 16, 2009 from MasterFILE Premier database.

Eyre, G. (2004). Towards a literate Australia: Role of public libraries in supporting reading. Aplis, 17(4), 186- 194. Retrieved on July 15, 2009 from Gale Group database.

Harding, J. (2008). Information literacy and the public library. Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services, 21( 4), 157- 168. Retrieved on July 16, 2009 from the Gale Group database.

Leninger, M. (2008). Information literacy and the public libraries. Online Computer Library Center, 1(19). Retrieved on July 14, 2009 from

Libraries and literacy. (2004). Monkeyshines on the Library. Retrieved on July 15, 2009 from MasterFILE Premier database.

Quigley, T. (2003). How public libraries can promote literacy with the world wide web. Feliciter, 1(7), 38-42. Retrieved on July 14, 2009 from

Renea, A. (2003). Public libraries and early literacy. American Libraries, 3(6), 48- 51. Retrieved on July 16, 2009 from MasterFILE Premier.

Skov, A. (2004). Information literacy and the role of public libraries. Scandanavian Public Library Quarterly, 37(3), 26- 29. Retrieved on July 16, 2009 from

posted by Gail Roshong

Monday, July 20, 2009

Four Decades of Defining Information Literacy
by Chad (G-man)

The 1970s
While aspects that we now consider to be a part of “information literacy” (also known as IL) were discussed in the 1960s a definition was not formulated until the 1970s (Tuominen, Savolainen, & Talja) when the librarianship profession was sensing there were important changes ahead to its relevance in the world. In 1974, Paul Zurkowski, president of the Information Industry Association, made an argument to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science that the profession was undergoing a significant change in how information was accessed and made available, so much so that a new skill was required. He defined “information literates” as “‘people trained in the application of information resources to their work’” (as cited in Bawden, 2001, p. 230). As Zurkowski was referring to “work” or the workplace IL began its life with a focus on information professionals conducting their daily activities. He continued: “‘They have learned techniques and skills for utilizing the wide range of information tools as well as primary sources in moulding information solutions to their problems’ [78]” (as cited in Bawden, p. 230).

Lee Burchinall gave the next significant definition of an “information literate” in 1976 before a library symposium. Like Zurkowski’s definition it emphasized how information was needed in the new information age to solve problems: “‘To be information literate requires a new set of skills. These include how to locate and use information needed for problem-solving and decision-making efficiently and effectively’” (as cited in Behrens, 1994, p. 310). This definition was influential since later there would be the argument that information literacy does not mean simply “locating” information in a library. So Burchinall’s definition moves away from a workplace-centric definition and anticipates later more complex definitions by adding the idea of “utilizing” information in addition to locating information.

Other definitions like these were offered throughout the decade. In 1979 librarian Robert Taylor seems to be the first one to use the actual term “information literacy” in discussing the future of librarianship and again stressed the importance of information to problem solving (Behrens, 1994). He addressed the acquisition of information and the variety of sources but he also moved us closer to a more complete definition of IL by getting us to think about different “strategies (when and how) of information acquisition’” (as cited in Behrens, p. 311).

The 1980s
This decade saw an explosion in information technology and it is remarkable that by as early as 1982 the Information Industry Association already saw a divide in society between those who know how to use information and those who do not. Information literacy had become a feature of society and was described as “‘a gap which...divides the information sophisticate who knows how and when to use the technology and does so easily and efficiently from the information naive who cannot use the technologies and hence has limited access to knowledge resources’” (as cited in Behrens, 1994, p. 311).

A significant change in definition came with the University of Colorado Auraria Library’s development of a policy for information literacy in the educational arena. It said that information literacy “‘is the ability to effectively access and evaluate information for a given need’” (as cited in Behrens, 1994, p. 312). But more than that, perhaps for the first time, it sought to detail the actual skills needed such as “research strategy, “evaluation,” and “attention to detail.” This is seen as the first connection between user education and information literacy and increased the focus in librarianship as the problem was more complex than locating information in a library (Behrens).

Behrens sees the increased attention given to IL, particularly by academic librarians, as “the library profession’s response to having its role essentially ignored or overlooked in the educational reform process” (1994, p. 313) begun by the A Nation at Risk and College reports. Patricia Breivik and E. Gordon Gee’s work Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library (1989) sought to place librarians and libraries at the forefront of educating citizens to become information literate. In particular they made the case that librarians, academic librarians in particular, were essential to undergraduate curriculums which were increasingly incorporating information literacy courses (Behrens).

We now come to the most influential definition of IL which is stated in the ALA’s Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report released in 1989: “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.” It stressed the ability was necessary to obtain a job and to be a citizen in a democracy (ALA). It declared that “the landscape upon which we used to stand has been transformed, and we are being forced to establish a new foundation called information literacy” (ALA, Conclusion section). Again like Zurkowski they recognize librarians are in a position to take the lead on an emerging societal problem.

The idea of educating a democratic citizenry to process increasingly demanding information loads influenced the creation of standards in 1998 by the American Association of School Librarians in their Information Literacy Standards: “access information efficiently and effectively,” “evaluate information critically and competently,” and “use information accurately and creatively” (AASL). Other educational organizations followed suite as in 2000 the Association of College and Research Libraries created their own definition in Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education: determine the need, assess the need, evaluate and use the information, and understand the larger context in which information functions (pp. 2-3). This definition of IL was endorsed by the American Association for Higher Education in 1999 and the Council of Independent Colleges in 2004 (ACRL).

The 1990s
By now there was enough interest that the focus was less on pointing that IL was important to society and more on figuring out how to incorporate it into society through education. Putting information literacy into the context of other types of literacy was given a push by the United Nations General Assembly’s efforts in 1990 to combat illiteracy (Behrens, 1994). Librarians were advocating “resource-based learning” and “lifelong learning” (Behrens). Public libraries were getting involved in the effort to teach IL (Behrens).

Other important definitions of this decade include Doyle’s: IL is the “‘ability to access, evaluate, and use information from a variety of resources, to recognise when information is needed, and to know how to learn’” (as cited in Langford, 1998). There was also the Big6 model developed by Eisenberg and Berkowitz in 1990 which essentially saw IL as involving defining the task, strategies for seeking information, locating and accessing, using, synthesizing, and then evaluating the information (Eisenberg, 2008, p. 42, Figure 2).

One prominent advocate of moving away from the tradition of “lists of skills and attributes” started by the ALA definition is Christine Bruce who studied how IL is “experienced by those who use information” (2007) in The Seven Faces of Information Literacy (1997). Bruce’s definition of IL involved (a) “using information technology for information retrieval and communication,” (b) “finding information located in information sources,” (c) “the ability to confront novel situations, and to deal with those situations on the basis of being equipped with a process for finding and using the necessary information,” (d) “us[ing] various media to bring information within their [the information user’s] sphere of influence, so that they can retrieve and manipulate it when necessary,” (e) “evaluation and analysis” to “build up a personal knowledge base in a new area of interest,” (f) “working with knowledge and personal perspectives adopted in such a way that novel insights are gained,” and (g) “placing information in a larger context, and seeing it in the light of broader experience, for example, historically, temporarily, socio-culturally” (Bruce, 2007).

The 2000s
Beginning at the turn of the century there was criticism that accepted definitions of information literacy failed to understand the social context of information. Early definitions such as the ALA’s were criticized for being too simplistic in how they view democracy and education by Pawley (2003), Elmborg (2006), and O’Connor (2009). The claim is essentially that the underpinning philosophies behind current definitions of IL, the political philosophy of liberal pluralism and the educational philosophy of functionalism, are too apolitical. What is needed is, first, a radical democracy approach which understands information literacy to be “more than a skill set” (O’Connor, p. 86) and more about constructing agency; and, second, a critical pedagogy approach which says “the self-realized needs of the person” are more important than “a skill set prescribed by educators” (O’Connor).

But there are still those who advocate a skill set approach to defining IL such as Webber and Johnston who define IL as “‘the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to obtain, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, together with critical awareness of the importance of wise and ethical use of information in society’” (as cited in Virkus, 2003, “The concept of information literacy...” section). It is probably the “behaviour” part that critics feel leads to a checklist type of assessment which they feel fragments a fluid process. However we can see that Webber and Johnston are careful to add (i.e., they say “together with”) the “seventh face” of Bruce’s definition which is “wisdom” (Bruce).

Currently most of the work in the IL field accepts the ALA or ALA-inspired definitions like the AACR’s in order to study the best way to teach IL and there is much discussion about how to assess all of these experiments and pilot programs. One writer in 2009 observes that “most writers focus on practical applications. They offer details of program implementation at individual institutions or, in some cases, draw connections between information literacy instruction and general education theory and pedagogy” (Saunders, p. 100). Yet there is still healthy debate on the adequacy of accepted definitions like ACRL’s and there is recognized need for preventing the IL field from becoming balkanized into dozens of camps following their own definition and assessments (Saunders).


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