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Information Literacy Instruction on the East Coast. Current Practices in Atlantic Canadian Academic Libraries Barry Cull, Information Services Librarian University of New Brunswick 33 rd Annual Workshop on Instruction in Library Use (WILU) June 16 th 2004 - Victoria, BC, Canada.

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information literacy instruction on the east coast

Information Literacy Instructionon the East Coast

Current Practices in

Atlantic Canadian Academic Libraries

Barry Cull, Information Services Librarian

University of New Brunswick

33rd Annual Workshop on Instruction

in Library Use (WILU)

June 16th 2004 - Victoria, BC, Canada

Study results
    • Study group & research method
    • General views and attitudes
    • Teaching practices
    • Relationships
    • Challenges and future predictions
  • Why do research?
    • Why should IL practitioners conduct research?
    • 3 basic requirements: time, money, advice
Study group & research method…
  • In-person in-depth interviews summer 2003
  • 18 librarians, 6 academic libraries, 3 provinces
  • Wide range of universities
  • Different sizes and types of libraries
  • Range of types of IL programs
  • Same list of 29 questions to all
  • Coordinators asked additional 15 questions
  • Common themes pulled out
Librarians’ general views and attitudes…
  • Passionate about teaching
  • Instruction/student focused

“We’re not [teaching] on the side. It’s part of our job.”

“Instruction is what our job is all about in an academic library.”

“Ultimately all library services are public services.”

“We’re here for the students.”

Librarians’ general views and attitudes (cont.)
  • Self-reflective instructors

“Teaching is an art…something you always work on.”

“Anything can be successful if you’re willing to stop and look at it….It’s just thinking about it.”

“I’m not perfect. I try to be, but I’m not there yet.”

“In some situations, I’m still scared out of my mind.”

Librarians’ teaching practices…
  • Instructional objectives
    • “Teach students general research strategies”
    • “Teach students how to find information in various sources”
    • “Teach students how to critically evaluate the quality and usefulness of information”

(Julien, 2000 & 1997)

    • Focus on teaching transferable skills
    • Helping students become independent users
Librarians’ teaching practices (cont.)
  • View of their educational role
    • Instruction most often follows Carol Kuhlthau’s “instructor” role, in which students in a specific course are taught information source(s) in response to a specific assignment. (Kuhlthau, 1996, 145-154)
    • Would like more of a “counselor” role, involving long-term interaction and guidance.
    • Individual instruction often most effective.
Librarians’ teaching practices (cont.)
  • Active learning often used

“It is important to try and get students involved….If they work together on something, and report back, you get them talking without singling themselves out.”

“You have to [remain flexible and responsive in class] and see what happens….This creates the opportunity for students to see that you really are there for them.”

Librarians’ teaching practices (cont.)
  • Student assessment
    • 1 library conducts widespread assessment
    • Others do selected classes
    • Several use only brief end-of-class student evaluation forms

“In rushing in to come up with these measures of success, we forget the role of [IL] in the overall intellectual activity at the university.”

Librarians’ teaching practices (cont.)
  • Pedagogical competence

“A pedagogically competent teacher communicates the objectives of the course to students, is aware of alternative instructional methods or strategies, and selects methods of instruction that, according to research evidence (including personal or self-reflective research), are effective in helping students to achieve the course objectives.”

- Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (Murray, 1996)

Librarians’ teaching practices (cont.)
  • Informal teaching training
    • Only 4 librarians received training during MLIS
    • Only 3 received other formal teaching training
    • Conferences and workshops
    • Colleagues, reading, trial and error
Librarians’ relationships…
  • Head University Librarians

Question support and motives:

“I question if the support is as passionate as mine.”

“[IL] is supported and promoted by administration, as long as it does not require additional resources.”

“[The director] sees the value of being involved in the curriculum centrally [but if this were] because of collections [s/he] would be equally happy.”

Librarians’ relationships (cont.)
  • Other teaching faculty

Positive working relationships with some, complaints of negative attitudes of others:

“Hot and cold.”

“A lot of support from a few.”

“Verbal support [but not] a lot of action.”

Librarians’ relationships (cont.)
  • University administration

Viewed as key stakeholders:

“To make [IL] pervasive through a department or faculty, you need to have administrative support.”

“At this point, our only connection is through the faculty. If [they become more supportive of IL] then hopefully we can sell it to higher administration.”

Main challenges: time and workload
  • Time within the curriculum for IL
  • IL prep/delivery workload

“I’ve given up on my previous answer of incorporating more web-based instruction.”

“We need more librarians.”

Future predictions
  • Increased need for IL skills in “Google” generation
  • More personal instruction will be required
  • Need to continue to promote ourselves

“We spend a lot of time with students and faculty, saying, ‘You’re good, but we’re great. You may be able to find something in half an hour, but we’ll show you how to find something in a few minutes and how to do it for the rest of your life.’”

Need for further research & action
  • Student assessment
  • Head librarians: what do they really think?
  • More communication with teaching faculty

and university administration

  • “We need more librarians.”
Why should IL practitioners

conduct research?

  • Adding to sparse Canadian literature
  • Benefits for individual:
    • Change of focus
    • Better understanding of research of other faculty
    • Aid perception of librarians as scholars and full academic partners
3 requirements: time, money & advice
  • Sabbaticals, annual study leaves, regular workload?

“A librarian shall have the right to devote up to 40% of normal workload to the pursuit of research, study, educational and other scholarly activities.”

- Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Model Clause on the Scholarly Activities of Academic Librarians

(CAUT Librarians Committee, 2003)

  • Internal grants, library and other associations, PDA?
  • Local research office, local faculty members, librarians

Canadian Association of University Teachers Librarians Committee. 2003. Model Clause on the Scholarly Activities of Academic Librarians. Available: [May 27, 2004].

Julien, Heidi. “Information Literacy Instruction in Canadian Academic Libraries: Longitudinal Trends and International Comparisons,” College and Research Libraries 61, no. 6 (November 2000): 510-523.

Julien, Heidi, and Gloria J. Leckie, “Bibliographic Instruction Trends in Canadian Academic Libraries,” Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 22, no. 2 (July 1997): 1-15.

Kuhlthau, Carol Collier. 1996. Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Murray, Harry et al. 1996. STLHE Ethical Principles in University Teaching. Available: [April 22, 2004].