INFORMATION LITERACY:
AN ACTION PLAN

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NOTES:

1 St. Olaf College Task Force on Innovation in the Liberal Arts. The Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts: A Proposal. 4 June, 1999, 1. 

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2 For a definition of information literacy, see the attached appendix, "Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (http://www.ala.org/acrl/ilintro.html)," compiled by a task force of the Association of College and Research Librarians (ACRL). This document both defines information literacy and delineates the difference between information literacy, information technology fluency, and computer literacy. Given that information literacy has been open to a wide variety of interpretations and assumptions, in some liberal arts colleges terms such as developmental research skills are preferred, with faculty believing that these more accurately describe the progressive acquisition of research skills embedded within a disciplinary context. Credit for this particular wording is due to the librarians at Gustavus-Adolphus College, who have successfully procured a $79,000 grant (to be matched by Gustavus) from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Its goal is to support “A Model Librarian/Faculty Collaboration to Enhance Developmental Research Skills across the Curriculum in a Hybrid Print/Electronic Environment.”

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3 The Mission of the St. Olaf College Libraries

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4 At this time, the St. Olaf Libraries publicly defined literacy. “Literacy encompasses the basic knowledge and skills used in communicating and understanding information. Among these skills are the abilities to read and write, to listen, to speak, to analyze, and to find the information needed to carry out tasks responsibly and intelligently. With this in mind, St. Olaf requires the following graduation requirements supplemented by the directed use of library and other information sources. In some departments this will include the use of sequential, course-integrated bibliographic instruction.” Memo to the Curriculum Review Committee from the St. Olaf Libraries, November 10, 1989. It is worth noting that this definition closely resembles what is, today, described as information literacy. 

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5 Currently BI is offered in the majority of the General Education Seminars (1st yr. students), a number of first year religion courses, and in approximately 120 other courses representing all the faculties of the college at all levels. Some departments collaborate closely with the libraries - for example, psychology, political science, social work, biology, and music - often with multiple BI sessions for a single course, while others continue to be more independent. Over 180 course-integrated bibliographic instruction sessions are offered each year. 

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6 This survey was sent to a 22-college subgroup of the Oberlin Group. Of the 10 colleges that responded to the survey, including Amherst, Bates, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Oberlin, Smith, Vassar, Wesleyan (CT), and Williams, none of them has such a requirement.  The reason there was no requirement varied from college to college: some had no required courses to which such a component could be attached, others already had strong established course/department related instruction, some had established instruction in First Year seminars, and some such as Williams are in the midst of making this requirement “a keystone part of a long range planning document submitted to the college a few weeks ago.” 

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7 The Mission of the St. Olaf College Libraries notes that,"The future will bring change to our libraries and to our profession. In particular, the variety of information available to us and the media and sources through which we access that information will change, as will College expectations of our role in providing that access....As the paradigms of the academic library change, the St. Olaf Libraries will synthesize important change, always adapting with the sensitivity to the unique needs of the St. Olaf College community."

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8 St. Olaf College Task Force on Innovation in the Liberal Arts, p. 1.

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9 Patricia Breivik has played a significant role in promulgating information literacy skills. See Breivik, Patricia Senn & E.Gordon Gee. (1989). Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library. New York: American Council on Education. 

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10 These questions resonate with those raised by Jim Pence in his Report on Academic Affairs, October 1999, p. 7.

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11 Quote by Chuck Huff in Elizabeth Hutchins’ & Kris MacPherson’s discussion with the Psychology Department concerning information literacy, September 20, 1999.

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12 The Academic Computing Center is now part of Instruction and Information Technologies (IIT).

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13 St. Olaf College Task Force on Innovation in the Liberal Arts, 1.

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14 Ibid, 7. 

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15 A description and assessment of this course and the Information Literacy Laboratory has been documented in "Information Literacy and Psychological Science: A Case Study of Collaboration," a paper delivered at the University of Iowa, November 1999, and submitted for publication, by Elizabeth Hutchins and Bonnie Sherman.

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16 Web sites could include: 

  • Information literacy documents.
  • Suggestions for alternatives to term papers for which St. Olaf is well-known, thanks to the Research Strategies column coordinated by Kris MacPherson, 
  • Ways to evaluate Web resources.
  • Links to style manuals, search engine help pages, and plagiarism issues.
  • Links to model assignments incorporating information literacy concepts and skills. 
  • "Best practices" sites around the country.

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