[translations idioma=”ES” url=”https://archives.rgnn.org/2014/04/21/serie-educacion-el-papel-cambiante-de-la-biblioteca-academica/”]
Under the motto, “Education is the key,” ROOSTERGNN is publishing a Special Series dedicated exclusively to one of the most important topics defining our society of today: Education. View the complete series here.
U.S.A. Picture a university library. You might imagine a stately building filled with aging tomes and students quietly reading under those green banker’s lamps. In some revered libraries not much has changed, except for the management of information that you can’t see. For academic libraries, our job is not only managing print and electronic sources, but to teach students how to evaluate that information as well, in all its manifestations. It’s simple enough for a professor to forbid a student from using Wikipedia or “.com” websites, but doing that is not teaching the student to evaluate information and to become fluent across a variety of technologies. Many websites are now featuring reshuffled news articles like the New Yorker’s Borowitz Report or the famous Onion, so it’s more important than ever that students learn to navigate their way through various information sources.
We assume traditional students are technologically proficient, as they use smartphones and tablets more than face-to-face communication methods at times. But whether it’s learning how to properly address someone in an email, or determining whether a website is indeed giving reliable information, many students falter. A definition of information fluency is: “the ability to unconsciously and intuitively interpret information in all forms and formats in order to extract the essential knowledge, authenticate it, and perceive its meaning and significance.” The keywords here are “unconsciously” and “intuitively,” like being fluent in a language. Students still need to learn the language of research, and research is now inextricably linked to technology through the databases and data that we gather and use.
As educators, we need to stop assuming that traditional students are technology-savvy in all respects and don’t care about research. In addition, we need to shelve the assumption that faculty members know exactly what they’re doing. With the majority of college classes being taught by part-time faculty, adjuncts may go between several universities in one day. The library systems will be slightly different at each institution, and those educators may themselves need a refresher of the resources available.
Libraries today bridge the gap between print and electronic resources, with one foot in each territory. However, the role of the library now goes much further than just providing students with books and resources. We are also teaching students to write and think for themselves after memorizing information to pass standardized tests throughout their lives. Students want to be told what to do when it comes to assignments. Teaching the student to cater to what the teacher wants squashes their creativity, so by the time they enter college, it is our job as educators and librarians to reprogram that creativity and inquisitiveness.
Using everyday examples that students can relate to helps them learn. Many librarians use Google and Twitter to teach students how to search databases through familiar sites. Search skills and the ability to interpret information apply to both the free web and to licensed research databases. It is amazing how much information we have at our fingertips, but learning to search for it efficiently, adapt to new technologies, and garner information from those sources is something that takes practice.
Teaching information fluency is more vital than ever, despite living in an age where articles are frequently being written that predict the downfall of libraries. The internet alone simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to answering professional research questions in the field. If we want our workforce to become researchers and pioneers, they will need these skill sets. What we teach goes far beyond finding a book in the catalog—we help students become responsible and informed citizens.