Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Information Literacy for Life Teleconference

Two Friday's ago, I attended Information Literacy for Life Teleconference done by the College of DuPage, at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The speakers were Alex Hodges (Assistant Director of Library Instruction at American University in Washington D.C.), Roshin Matthem (finishing her MLS at the University of Maryland’s ischool and teaching older adults information literacy skills at Carrollton branch), Niketha Mckenzie (school librarian at Thurgood Marshall Academy) and Mary Evangelist (director of User services and Outreach at Gettysburg).

Alex spoke about the collaboration between high school librarians and university library instructors. He felt that managing the “information overload” stress students have when they come to a university such as American University was an important gap to bridge. After the librarians build a partnership, Hodges explained that the librarians involved in the collaboration need to understand and agree on the standards (ACRL, The Big 6 and AASL). Hodges also discussed the challenges in building this partnership such as finite resources and time, equity issues and university rules. His advice to librarians with these challenges was to show managers the value of this kind of relationship to both parties and plan the partnership well.

Ms. Mckenzie discussed how she planned a peer mentoring program to build library and information literacy skills at her school. She noticed that her students had no idea how to use a library when she began this program with a grant. She stated that after talking with a university librarian she had a better understand of what her goals and objectives needed to be. The goals of her program were: to make students aware of library resources and to teach them how to access information and how to use the information. In order to reach these goals, she had professional development workshops every Friday for a selected group of students, and then these students were paid to work in the library and help instruct other students. She was excited to see that the students she was teaching were developing leadership skills from working in their school library and these students were also influencing teachers because student projects were becoming more advanced as students developed better library skills. She noticed her focus shifted from teaching skills to teaching students responsibility especially since her students were being paid. Students need to be on time for workshops, keep their grades up etc. Also, Mckenzie noted that students learn literacy when it relates to their environment. She commented that her students needed to be able to identity with information; she noticed that by having books by African Americans writers she gave her students something they could connect to. Her advice to other librarians was that to market the library by using students. She said that students need to have responsible and ownership of the library and their own learning for success.

Roshin Matthem discussed “The Value of Building Confidence.” She received her lessons from the NIHS and teaches older adults how to find health information. Her biggest challenges with her program are her student’s lack of computer skills and knowledge of computer jargon. She found her goals of teaching these adults how to find information was more difficult, since she needed to teach some basic computer skills at the same time. She also noticed there were a lot of physical challenges such as hard chairs and that her students needed breaks etc. She loved how enthusiastic and motivated her students became in this program however, she stated that she became energized by how they came prepared to learn. These adults not only come to learn, but they also come to socialize and she saw this as a positive outcome as well. Her advice to librarians was that librarians will be successful if they noticed their patrons want the resources and are excited to learn. She also said to keep the “lofty goals” in mind, but to be prepared to teach some basics along the way. She compared learning computer skills and jargon to learning another language and said that is what a librarian needs to understand in order to understand and think like his or her audience!

What I learned from viewing this conference was that there are so many librarian jobs out there I am still learning about. You can be an academic university librarian and work with school librarians that may be a job to keep in mind. I will also file away their advice on how to make programs such as the ones they discussed become successful. I was disappointed that they did not cover a lot of the librarian jobs. I am almost certain that our audience at the CLP was public librarians. I wish they had mentioned how a public librarian could help students with their skills for college and or partner with a university as well. I suppose this was only one conference though and they wanted to highlight some of the successes these librarians had with their individual programs. I really love to hear librarians speak, because their enthusiasm towards the last program or project they did just makes me want to go out and try it! I never thought about targeting the older audience of a public library. One reason being, I know my own grandparents are hardly interested in learning all this new technology, however when librarians present how technology can benefit an older adults particular information needs, they may want to learn then. I did have a Great Grandfather, god bless him, learn how to use the internet through Web TV, at 95 he could check his e-mail, his local church had a list serve and would send him information, his grandchildren and great grandchildren would send him e-mails, especially pictures of what was going on in their lives. He did have some frustration with Web TV, but if you have ever seen a 95 year old man learn how to use the internet, you never want to hear anyone say they can’t learn information literacy skills!


Alex said...

Thanks for blogging on our contribution to the Dupage Teleconference series, Laurren. We really enjoyed ourselves on the set, and I'm glad our enthusiasm came through. There were loads of good folks behind the scenes who made it work.

I, too, wish we had had more time to talk about the different intersections of libraries/librarians' work to address information literacy. If you get a chance, go to our suggested readings ( and you'll see some other success stories and wise assessments. For the public-academic collaboration bridge, I suggest reading the Boatman, et al, article, if you haven't already. Thanks again for your kind feedback!

Laurren said...

Hi Alex!
Thanks for the suggested readings.