UMD reference librarians immersed in Information Age
Research librarians at the UMD library participate in the learning process in many ways including that of promoting information literacy. According to the American Library Association, "to be information literate, a person must be able to recogni...
Research librarians at the UMD library participate in the learning process in many ways including that of promoting information literacy. According to the American Library Association, "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."
While information literacy has long been the concern of librarians, the concept has taken on new forms and greater urgency with the advent of the "Information Age." In this age, people must be "life-long learners" in the interests of their jobs, families, roles as citizens and personal lives. Flexibility is a necessary attribute of human endeavor.
Changes in technology, especially the computer, but also in telecommunications, film and sound transmission, have created more information and made it more accessible. These same changes have also made employment and career paths less stable. Students who leave college need more than expertise in their major fields. They also must have information literacy skills to adapt to an ever-changing work world which may include several career shifts over their lifetimes.
At the UMD Library, promoting information literacy is approached in a multitude of ways. The most concentrated way involves formal instruction. Each semester librarians work with the College Writing program and offer instruction sessions for first-year students to introduce the many resources of the UMD library and teach them skills such as how to use databases like Expanded Academic Index to identify and locate a journal article on a specific topic. Creatively selecting search terms and strategies is emphasized. Evaluation of information is introduced, especially in relation to the World Wide Web where information junk and gems co-exist and need to be distinguished.
UMD librarians also teach sessions in connection with specific courses and/or in collaboration with faculty. These focus on information in specific disciplines such as business, psychology, biology, literature, education and history. But, at the same time students receive information finding and critical thinking skills that have wider application in study and work.
Library instruction sessions can also be general in nature, a tendency that is increasing with new teaching methods that involve problem solving or that are intended to inspire students to explore areas of interest on their own. Some fields require special abilities for integrating information from different subject areas. An example is environmental studies where students must find and integrate information from scientific, technological, political, economic and social resources.
UMD librarians also consult with students individually with regard to their information needs for research, projects or assignments. These interactions allow for more intensive work, especially in evaluating information as to its reliability, validity, currency and authority. Fall semester, the UMD Library will debut LIT (Library Interactive Tutorial). This online tutorial will provide basic information literacy instruction to an even larger number of students as well as to our local community. Reference librarians at the UMD library are active participants in the learning process to give students greater flexibility for their futures.
Kathryn Wagnild Fuller is coordinator of reference services at the UMD library. Reference Services has a staff of 10 librarians who provide reference services for UMD students, faculty, staff and local community.