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When I went to college I continued to work in the library. Because the stacks were closed, I also continued to help students, helping them to find things on their own. I questioned the reserve system: why should anyone want to be limited to just what was on reserve? I argued with faculty that if students were to really learn, they needed to go beyond the reserve system. A few were convinced. I guess I was interested in information literacy even then.... Most students never developed any strategies in using a library. It seemed strange that someone would think that bringing in an English class at the beginning of the semester for half an hour would allow the students to learn everything they needed to know about a library. Where were the connections to the undergraduate experience, the undergraduate curriculum? (Adams, 1992, p.442)
This quotation from an 1992 interview with Howard L. Simmons, executive director of the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, on the role of academic libraries in higher education, sums up the challenges that have faced academic librarians in the twentieth century: How do you change the pedagogy of higher education so that professors take advantage of the growing print, audiovisual, and electronic resources in college libraries to enhance learning and create excitement about scholarship and research? How do we get instructional librarians and teaching faculty to work as true partners in the development of a curriculum that motivates students to become more engaged with learning and to develop higher-level thinking skills?
In past decades, when librarians talked to faculty about teaching students "library skills," there was only lukewarm support. Many faculty saw "library skills" as an isolated set of skills that could be useful for students to know but that was not really central to the student's intellectual growth, academic success, or future careers. With little emphasis by teaching faculty, undergraduates realized that learning library skills would not get them many points in the classroom. More recent decades have witnessed reform in higher education with greater focus on active learning, lifelong learning, critical thinking, problem-solving, career preparation, undergraduate research, and assessment of learning outcomes. During the later decades of the twentieth century, an information explosion fueled in part by a revolution in information technology has deeply affected academic libraries and higher education. The confluence of these changes makes the time ripe for a transformation of the traditional mission for teaching "library skills" into a broader mandate for teaching "information literacy."
THE INFORMATION MANDATE
In 1987 the American Library Association formed the Presidential Committee on Information Literacy to explore the role of information in education, business, government, and everyday life and to put forth models for how information literacy could contribute to informal and formal learning at all levels. The final report in 1989 stated:
Information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand. (ALA, 1989, p.1)
The report emphasizes the central importance of information for learning, careers, business, and citizenship. It shows how information literacy aligns with educational reforms to improve the quality of education in kindergarten through twelfth grade as well as in undergraduate institutions. Among its recommendations are: 1. That library associations must work more closely with other professional associations to promote information literacy; 2. that state departments of education and commissions on higher education must mandate the inclusion of information literacy in all curricula; and 3. that teacher education programs should introduce future teachers to the concepts of information literacy (ALA, 1989, pp. 11-13). By the time this final report was issued, all three of these efforts above were already underway. The Carnegie Foundation report by Ernest Boyer (1987) prominently mentioned the direct contribution of libraries to the community of learners. Educators went beyond simple proclamations of the importance of information to establish blueprints for integrating information literacy into school curricula. One clear sign was the publication in 1988 of Information Power: Guidelines for Media Programs, by the American Association of School Librarians and the Association for Educational Communication and Technology. This article focuses on the information literacy mandate for higher education and its effect upon undergraduate faculty and librarians. However, in many cases colleges are playing catch-up with the efforts of K-12 educators to make elementary and secondary students information literate. Undergraduate faculty and librarians would do well to take note of the methods and materials developed by schoolteachers and librarians.
Where are we in 2002 in terms of the mandate for information literacy in higher education? While there has been an outpouring of articles and books published upon this topic in the last decade, the word "mandate" implies greater recognition of the importance of information literacy in the education establishment. For my purposes, I am concentrating upon the current statements by regional accreditation commissions for colleges and schools as barometers of acceptance of this concept. In general terms, these accreditation bodies have been moving in the direction of requiring greater accountability from institutions of higher education to ensure that students are learning and that students acquire the competencies to function effectively after graduation. The current buzzwords are "educational effectiveness," "student engagement," "learning outcomes," and "assessment."
Libraries are no longer seen, if they ever were, as isolated agencies separate and apart from the major teaching and learning activities. The Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges [NASC] (1999) standard 5.B.2 has a general statement about the library's active educational mission: "Library and information resources and services contribute to developing the ability of students, faculty, and staff to use the resources independently and effectively." In the section of the standards devoted to educational effectiveness, NASC makes an even stronger commitment to integrating the library with the educational mission and curriculum:
2.A. 3 Degree and certificate programs demonstrate a coherent design; are characterized by appropriate breadth, depth, sequencing of courses, synthesis of learning, and the assessment of learning outcomes; and require the use of library and other information sources. (NASC, 1999) 2.A.8 Faculty, in partnership with library and information resources personnel, ensure that the use of library and information resources is integrated into the learning process. (NASC, 1999)
These statements make clear that faculty and librarians must collaborate to ensure that students are required to use library resources as a part of the learning process. In sum, NASC colleges must ensure that students can use information resources independently and effectively. In the section on undergraduate curricula, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges [NEASC] makes a similar statement: "All undergraduate programs require the use of information resources in addition to course texts and formal instruction" (NEASC, 2001, standard 4.14). North Central Association of Colleges and School's section 5 on "Evaluation and Assessment" includes two library measures: 1. Use of library and learning resources and instructor assignments that require such usage; and 2. the extent to which students use library and learning resources appropriately (NCA, 2001). The latter is significant because it alludes to critical thinking and the critical evaluation of information, both of which are so important.
The Southern Association of College and Schools [SACS] emphasizes more of the "teaching library" approach to this mandate: "The institution ensures that users have access to regular and timely instruction in the use of the library and other learning/information resources" (SACS, 2001, standard 26). Here the responsibility seems to be with the instructional librarians to work with the teaching faculty to arrange for "regular and timely instruction" about information gathering and use of library resources.
Four of the regional accreditation commissions mention the "IL words" explicitly in their standards. In the section on library and information resources, NEASC affirms: "The institution provides appropriate orientation and training for use of these resources, as well as instruction in basic information literacy" (NEASC, 2001, standard 7.4, emphasis added). This wording is instructive in drawing a distinction between orientation and training on library resources and information literacy instruction. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges [WASC] identifies information literacy as one of the "core learning abilities and competencies" along with written and oral communication, quantitative skills, and critical thinking (WASC, 2001, standard 2.2, emphasis added). WASC also mentions in standard 2.3 that institutions clearly must articulate expectations about student learning in regards to use of library and information resources, with evidence from syllabi and the curriculum. The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools [NCA] places information literacy and the associated skills in interesting contexts in its 2001 Addendum to the Handbook of Accreditation. Its explicit mention of" training in information literacy including research techniques" is in the section devoted to services supporting distance education (NCA, 2001, standard 4c, emphasis added). North Central also states that new students must be informed during orientation about how library services may support learning and about the requisite skills for accessing library resources (NCA, 2001, standard 4b).
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has been one of the most vociferous proponents of information literacy as an intrinsic part of the standards of accreditation. Howard Simmons (1994) reviewed the early 1990s developments of the concepts of information literacy for the book, The Challenge and Practice of Academic Accreditation. The 2001 draft accreditation standards for Middle States, …