IL In An Information Literate World

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The reading which I decided to focus on for this post is Susanna  M. Cowan’s  2014 article Information Literacy: The Battle We Won That We Lost? in which Cowan discusses the future of information literacy (IL) and also its history as a programmatic concept created, coveted, and disseminated in libraries, by librarians. The article is formulated around the question posited in its title, have librarians lost the battle for IL?

Cowan’s article is inspired by the work of Sharon A. Weiner who calls for the institutionalization of information literacy, with a strategy of integration into the organizational structure of the educational institution. After comprehensively outlining the history of IL dating back to Paul Zurkowskis formative work in the 1970s, Cowan precedes to explore the outdated nature of these original theories, and the current issues surrounding the libraries possessiveness of IL. Zurkowski emphasised the programmatic nature of IL along with the necessity of the library at its core. While this theory was perfectly salient in the era in which it was first present, over 40 years on we are still clinging to this original definition.  Cowen goes on to outline the impact of technology on IL with the wider dissemination of information quickly leaving this original idea of IL behind until the establishment of the ACRL Competency Standards in 2000.

The velocity at which technology has continued to develop since the millennium has played no small part in the current ‘battle’ of IL. With access to almost unlimited information at a young age, research has become a daily activity, no longer confined to the library where beneath the watchful eye of the library it could be ensured that correct research methods were used. With the development of bibliographic instruction, and the pervasive nature of technology, the instruction of IL seems almost to be an interruption in the continuous research of our daily lives. Is there in fact a need for IL to be taught at university level or is it already too late to instil good research methods?

It has become increasingly apparent through personal experience and conversation with colleagues that the need for IL instruction must take place at a far earlier stage of a student’s academic career. At the age of 18 or 19 a student has already been involved in research for at least 4 years with Googling a topic, item, food, or event, more natural than opening a book to some. If IL is to remain current it is necessary for its instruction to be carried out at a second level institution, not third, where the foundations can be built upon. However the elephant in the room is the unwillingness of the library to give up this grand icon of purpose that is IL tuition, if the library hands over the reins, will it be able to continue to prove its viability in a practical and visible way? Is the departure of IL from the domain of the library a precursor to that of the teaching librarian?

Cowen quotes the TED prize winner Zugata Mitra  who challenged librarians and educators to “let it happen”, in response to which Cowen posits the notion of standing back and, to me however, this conjures an image of the traditional librarian, cowering and quaking, no longer able to validate its purpose in this new information literate world.

Cowan, S. M. (2014). Information literacy: The battle we won that we lost?.portal: Libraries and the Academy, 14(1), 23-32.
Image Credit: Brenau University

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Julie O’Connor – LinkedIn

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Spotlight on Cregan Library, St. Patrick’s College

st_pats_library_collageSt. Patrick’s College opened in 1875 to meet the teacher training needs of a denominational primary school system but over the years it has grown to include post-graduate and doctoral programmes and established humanities programmes which have led to a holistic approach to education.

The library has existed in some form or another as far back as 1884! The last version of the library was built in the 1980s and was in need of a revamp for some years before we moved into a new four-story library building earlier this year. Lots of planning and work went into the move – for example we integrated the collections of our ‘Resource Centre’ into the library and RFID tagged over 160,000 items in preparation for self-issue kiosks.

In February of 2015 the new, improved library opened and currently provides seating to just under 400 people.

Highlights

Flexible library space

I work in the information service and moving into the bright, colourful new building has been a great boost for staff morale, as students and College staff have given lots of positive feedback about what a nice place the library is to study and meet in. It provides a variety of seating to facilitate various types of learners; from a bookable group study room, egg-shaped lounge-chairs in the lobby, and individual study booths, to (of course) bean-bags for relaxing in! There are quiet areas and louder areas so that people can have a chat and coffee on the ground floor, but must engage in silent study on the top floor.

Archive room

We have several special collections which are now housed in a purpose-built, temperature-controlled archive room. These special collections have been built up over the long history of the library, and reflect a rich tradition in education and Irish children’s literature, as well as Irish history. They include (but are not limited to!): a schools text book collection, Junior special collections (Padraic Colum, Patricia Lynch) and P.W.Joyce and Henry Morris collections.

Accessing the Library

The library is open to staff and students of the College during term-time from 9am- 10pm Mon-Thurs & 5pm on Fri. We open from 10am- 1pm on Saturdays. During the Summer months we open office hours Mon-Fri.

The ground floor of the library is open to the public, and tours for interested groups/individuals can be arranged on request (email info.library@spd.dcu.ie). This year on Culture Night (Friday 18th September) the entire Library will be open to the public and feature special events and exhibitions.  For more info keep an eye on the Culture Night website and our own website/social media accounts, below.

Location: Drumcondra Road, Dublin 9.
Website: http://leabharlann.spd.dcu.ie/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/creganlibrary
Twitter: @LibraryStPats

About the Author

Genevieve Larkin @Genevievelagen

Library assistant (Síol information and research support/distance service co-ordinator)

Genevieve started working in St. Patrick’s College Library in 2008 while studying in DCU and later completed an M.LIS from RGU. Prior to joining the College she worked for Dun Laoghaire Rathdown co/co in public libraries. Genevieve is currently the secretary of the LAI Career Development Group and her professional interests include the use of emerging technologies in libraries and archives, continuing professional development for librarians, information and digital literacies, and library advocacy.