Monday, May 9, 2011

Information Literacy Display

Last week I completed an information-literacy display for the Library.  On the one hand I wondered why I had never done this before, and on the other hand I questioned what I should include in such a display.

Admittedly, I constantly feel like my displays could be a lot more attractive.  Nonetheless, while I was taking down my last display and inserting this new one a student I know commented that she always looks at the displays and finds them interesting.  This was nice.  As evidence of this statement, she said that she never knew that some academic journals cost so much, not having known that some physics journals cost as much as a brand new car. 

With this encouraging feedback I installed the new display, hoping that it was as informative and visually attractive as the previous one.  Occasionally, I do see students looking at these, but I like to think students are looking at them more when I am not around.

Back to my conundrum, what should I put into a display about information literacy?  Well, for starters it made sense to include some definitions.  Esther Grassian and Joan Kaplowitz's Information Literacy Instruction 2nd Ed. proved to provide quite a collection of these definitions from various places.

Definition #1:
An information literate individual is anyone who has learned to use a wide range of information sources  in order to solve problemsat work and in his or her daily life. 
--Paul G. Zurkowski
 The Information Service Environment: Relationships and Priorities.  Washington, D.C.: National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, 1974.
See also Esther Grassian and Joan R. Kaplowski's Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice.   2nd Ed.  New York: Neal-Schulman, 2009. (3)

 Definition #2:

Information literacy is 'an integrated set of skills and the knowledge of tools and resources.  [...] Information literacy is developed through persistence, and attention to detail, and a critical evaluative view of the material found.'  It is also 'depicted as a problem-solving activity.'
--Paul G. Zurkowski
 The Information Service Environment: Relationships and Priorities.  Washington, D.C.: National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, 1974.
See also Esther Grassian and Joan R. Kaplowski's Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice.   2nd Ed.  New York: Neal-Schulman, 2009. (4)

Definition #3:

The information literate individual [is] someone who has the ability to recognize an information need, and can locate, evaluate, and use information effectively.  The emphasis is on preparing people for lifelong learning: 'Ultimately information literate people are those who have learned how to learn.'
--American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy
"Final Report."  (January 10, 1989).  (1)
See also Esther Grassian and Joan R. Kaplowski's Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice.   2nd Ed.  New York: Neal-Schulman, 2009. (4) 
 Definition #4: 
The information literate student [is] one who accesses, information efficiently and effectively, critically evaluates the information, and uses it accurately and creatively.  There is an emphasis on independent learning and also an element of social responsibility.  The information literate individual is someone who contributes positively to the learning community and to society.  Underlying this definition is the belief that an information literate populace is the cornerstone of democracy.
--American Association of School Librarians' Association for Educational Communications and Technology.
Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning.  Chicago: ALA, 1998.
See also Esther Grassian and Joan R. Kaplowski's Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice.   2nd Ed.  New York: Neal-Schulman, 2009. (4)
From her it made sense to set up some scenarios to demonstrate information literacy behavior; the first scenario looks at an example from personal life, while the second one portrays a scenario from academic life.

Scenario #1: Buying a Car

Recognize an Information Need in Personal Life
  • Scenario: you have realized that you spend a lot of time walking, asking people for rides around town or back home, and that it is cold to walk in the winter.  You want a car.
  •  Information needs surface when you start asking questions:
    • What kind of car do I want? Large? Small? Good gas mileage?
    • How much money can I spend?
    • Should I get a loan?  What kind of loan can I afford?
    • Should I buy a used car?
    • How can I find a good car and not a lemon?
    • Who can I go to for advice?
    • How do I know when I have enough information? 
Photo by David Sickmiller. Chevy Belair
 Locate Information Effectively
  • Among your social network, who knows about cars?  Can they assist you throughout the process?
    • Car salesmen?
    • Mechanics?
    • Car aficionado?
  •  Which internet sites would you use to find out about makes, models, and year of different cars?
Sample page.

Evaluate Information Effectively
  • Who is posting the ad?
  • Does the ad give me enough information and match my interests and needs?
  • Does their asking price match Kelley's Blue Book stated for that make, model, and year?
  • If it is under the blue-book price, does that mean it is damaged?
  • Is there a picture? What does the picture tell me about the car?
  • Is there a phone number or email address given to allow me to contact them in order to see the car?
  • Do I understand how to search on their site? What can I do to search the site better? Are there helpful links that permit me to narrow the search?
  • What kinds of questions should I ask when I go see the car that is for sale?
  • Will they let me test drive the car?
  • Will a mechanic be able to look over the vehicle when I test drive it?
 Use Information Effectively
  • Can I use the information in Kelley's Blue Book to my advantage during the negotiation of the car?
  • Will I act quickly and contact the current car owner to set up a time to see the car?  (Some cars get sold rather quickly once they are placed on Craig's List or in the newspaper.)
  • Will I avoid offers that require money transfers, Western Union wires of money, or pleas to buy the car soon from individuals who claim to be going through a divorce or have a member in the military?  (They want you to buy quickly.  These are often fraudulent schemes.)
  • How will I remember the key bits of information gathered during my research?  How will I know which information is the most important?
  • How will I use the information my mechanic shared with me?   
See Kate Miller-Wilson's article titled "Negotiating Tips for Buying a Used Car."  These tips found a place in the display on the periphery as incidental information for anyone who might be curious about this.
As I review these points it occurs to me that I might be confusing points, particularly in the sections about evaluating and using information.  If you see a bullet point that you think belongs in a different category, please say so in the comments section here.

Scenario #2

Recognize an Information Need in Academic Life
  • Understand your assignment, problem, or question thoroughly
  • Examine general information sources (e.g., encyclopedias) to increase your familiarity with the topic
  • Identify key concepts and terms you will use to search for the information you need. ("Information Literacy."  John Spellman Library.)
  • Create a plan or a road map
  • Ask for clarification from your instructor
I define a research project as any task that requires, or would benefit from, factual information or opinions you do not already have.  --Mary George.  The Elements of Library Research (15).
Locate Information Effectively
  • Recognize the various types of information you can use (e.g., popular and scholarly articles, primary and secondary sources, government documents, statistics, standards and codes)
  • Identify possible search tools (e.g., library catalog and databases, search engines)
  • Understand the difference between primary and secondary sources
  • Recognize the purpose and audience of potential resources (e.g., popular vs. scholarly, current vs. historical)
  • Find information in a variety of formats (e.g., book, periodical, multimedia, internet, etc.)
  • Develop and try different search strategies to extract relevant information from the best sources for your needs.
  • Understand that the use of keywords, truncation, Boolean operators, and controlled vocabulary affect your search results.
  • Have your search tools and strategies supplied you with the information you need?  
  • Have your search terms yielded relevant results? 
  • Have you used appropriate search tools for your information needs?
    (“Information Literacy: Access & Retrieve Sources.”  John Spellman Library)
Need books?  Search the library catalog.
Need articles?  Search the databases.
 Evaluate Information Effectively
  • Apply criteria for evaluating information and its sources.
  • Analyze the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods in each source.
  • Examine and compare information from various sources in order to evaluate reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias.
  • Recognize the context (cultural, political, business, etc.) in which information is created and understand the impact of context on interpreting the information.
  • Organize and use information from multiple sources to reach an informed conclusion that answers your question, solves your problem, and/or meets the requirements of the assignment.
  • Assess the quantity, quality, and relevance of your search results to identify gaps and determine if follow-up searches are required. (“Information Literacy: Examine and Apply Content.”  John Spellman Library )

Newsweek is an example of a popular news magazine.
Journal of Sport History is an example of a scholarly journal.
The New York Times has been a respected news source for many years. For some odd reason they have published many articles about the Yankees over the years.  This manifests a local (yet justified) bias.
 Use Information Effectively
  • Integrate what you have discovered and learned into your existing body of knowledge.
  •  Effectively communicate your conclusions to others via oral, written, or media technologies.
  • Keep track of all pertinent citation information.
  • Attribute information to its sources so that others may access them and evaluate your work.
  • Follow specific citation style guidelines (e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA) to cite your sources.
  • Assess whether you have accurately documented your sources.
  • Consider whether anything is missing or unclear in your research or logic.  ("Information Literacy: Present Findings." John Spellman Library.)

"Diagram of the Library Research Process" also finds a place in this display to show that information literacy is a process.  Library research takes time, and the earlier that students begin their research, typically the better their research project will be. 

 It seems that when students understand the process they can better advance from one stage to another without getting discouraged.  Knowing the stages of research can help them identify what they may be forgetting in the process and may also bring home realizations of weaknesses or challenges they can work to improve.

This is the internationally recognized logo for information literacy.  It found a nice spot in the display as well.
Since I have been developing a for-credit, information-literacy course, I also added a flier advertising the details regarding this course.
See this flier link for a larger image.

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