The Importance of Being Information Literate

In celebration of the National Information Literacy Awareness Month librarians, educators, and politicians are talking about the importance of information literacy and evaluating what we are doing to help today’s students become lifelong learners.

In October 2012 Ohio became the 19th state to issue an Information Literacy Awareness Proclamation, a document that recognizes that “the ability to find, analyze and understand information on various formats is an essential skill to finding employment and successful careers in all sectors” and “seeks to reminds all citizens about the role of all libraries and librarians … in teaching information literacy.”

At the University of Cincinnati information literacy has long been recognized as a fundamental component of the four Baccalaureate Competencies (critical thinking, effective communication, knowledge integration, and social responsibility). Many courses include discussions, activities, and assignments aimed at developing the students’ ability to determine the nature of required information, to access it effectively and efficiently, to evaluate it critically, and to incorporate it into one’s knowledge system.

In our earlier post this month we invited faculty and students to comment on what the Libraries are doing to help with developing these crucial skills and what else we can do. Here are a couple of responses:

Many of my students are unaware of the need to use academic sources in their research — or they are intimidated by the sheer size of our library database. Through face-to-face seminars with Langsam’s knowledgeable staff, students feel more confident and can make more confident research claims. (Susan Meier, Writing & Rhetoric Instructor)

I’m a graduate teaching assistant in my fourth year of instruction here at UC. One of the biggest surprises I remember encountering my first year of teaching was realizing that the amount of time my first-year students spend online did not necessarily correlate to Google-results savvy. I soon came to realize that the “digital native” is a myth—or, even if it isn’t, that the digital native’s domain of intuitive knowledge does not necessarily extend to critical evaluations of online search results and potential sources.

I expected them to be unfamiliar with the library database, but it was a real shock to realize that their evaluative skills for navigating the non-proprietary Web would need coaching. I also quickly realized that teaching first-year students how to “read” Google results (and the webpages to which they link) is crucial for their success. Whether we like it or not, Google is usually the first place our students turn when faced with a class assignment, and therefore will play an important role in their future college research.

The librarians at Langsam have played a crucial role in developing my students’ understanding of online resource evaluation—and, through osmosis, also informing mine!  Particularly, they have contributed to my students’ success by encouraging students to find the kinds of sources that make sense for their particular assignment (whether on the wider web, or within the library’s own holdings), use advanced search tools, and helping students to understand authority and credibility in both scholarly and non-scholarly contexts. (Christina LaVecchia, Department of English and Comparative Literature)

Here are some resources and services the Libraries provide to help students  improve their research skills and understanding of sources of information:

  • Library instruction: faculty and TAs are encouraged to contact their subject librarians to schedule an instruction session.
  • Reference assistance and consultations: faculty and students can contact their subject librarian or ask a reference question at a library service desk, by phone, email, chat or text.  Reference assistance options.
  • Our online tutorials and campus guides point you to resources and provide needed information anytime.
  • Our Teaching Information Literacy Skills guide for faculty seeks to assist faculty with integration of information literacy skills by providing sample learning outcomes, suggestions for assignments and activities, links to relevant tutorials, etc.

Please let us know what else we can do by commenting on this post.