Monday, July 10, 2006

Are Most Library Instruction Programs Antiquated?

I remember one of the most unpopular courses in the school library media track in grad school was a nonprint production class. Most of the students disliked it because they didn't understand why knowing how to create nonprint materials was relevant to librarianship. In hindsight, especially in today's environment, many of those students feel that knowing how nonprint materials were created helped make them better selectors and users of nonprint information resources.

As I was browsing through the LOEX 2005 Conference site and came across a presentation entitled Information Literacy Isn't Enough: Why Librarians Need to Teach More in the Digital Age by Rob Withers and Lisa Santucci of Miami (OH) University that seemed to echo this approach. Their basic premise is that libraries need to move their instructional programs beyond information literacy since "“If you have a hammer, everything becomes a nail."

The traditional approach taken in most library instruction programs includes providing step-by-step instructions on using the various systems. Withers and Santucci's approach focuses on gaining an understanding of how information is created and on the information environment in general. The customer gains a better understanding about information from the perspective of a consumer and a producer. They learn how information, and misinformation, can be created and how decisions by creators impact the ability to locate and use information.

I agree.

Since library and information systems in general are constantly changing it no longer makes sense to teach our customers how to use the systems. Instead, it makes a great deal of sense that we should be teaching our customers how to create information will help them be better selectors and users of information.

The greatest challenge will not be the customer's acceptance of such a program, but upgrading librarian attitudes towards new and unfamiliar technologies. For such an approach to succeed librarians also need to first learn how to create content themselves. Such a requirement may be as unpopular now as the nonprint course was in library school. Sphere: Related Content

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