Info Lit and the Diva: Integrating Information Literacy into the Oberlin Conservatory of Music Opera Theater Department

Article excerpt

The teacher wondered ...

what the problem was. (1) Her students had been having such difficulties with finding research materials for their papers. Perhaps it was the assignments themselves, which were admittedly quite demanding of their information-literacy skills. Her students were so keen to learn about opera, and they seemed so enthusiastic about the interdisciplinary aspects of opera research, but somehow they could never quite pull all the information together. They were all wonderful, intelligent, and talented students. Perhaps she was failing them as their teacher.

The librarian pondered ...

how to convey to students that learning to find information is crucial. How do I get performers to understand the importance of well-honed library skills? Sometimes I think they believe that just being able to play their instruments well will make them successful in the music world. Aren't they curious about the bigger picture? Don't they wonder about the translations of the arias they are singing, or the social context for the characters in the opera they are performing? They are so talented, but why the complacency?

The teacher brooded ...

over what to do. Maybe if she created even more detailed reading lists and bibliographical handouts they would start to understand the need to cross-reference their research materials. Perhaps they would even venture to the Main Library and make the first vital leap into the literature and performing arts resources in the Library of Congress's PN classification section. Maybe they would even discover the Art Library and begin the wondrous journey into the history of scenic design. But it all seemed so futile.

The librarian speculated ...

about what was happening in the opera-theater class. She knew many of the opera students and had heard them speak of the assignments for Introduction to Opera Theater. The students come in the library with huge research projects assigned to them, and they wander around the library looking for resources as if they are looking for a needle in a haystack. I wonder if their instructor has explained the research process. For that matter, I wonder if even she knows how to find library material?

The teacher knew ...

that the research materials were there in the library for her students to use. The teacher stood up suddenly from her desk. She could bear it no longer She opened the office door and strode towards the library. She felt that within its walls there lay the answer to her quest, that if she could even for a moment make contact with one of her opera students in the library, she could lead him to the bound-periodicals section and show him the door to interdisciplinary research. As she slid through the entrance gate she noticed an unfamiliar face behind the Information Desk.

The librarian was pleased to be working at the Information Desk.

The teacher stopped at the desk. "Excuse me, but I was wondering if you could help me?"

In 1876 Otis Robinson made the following statement on academic libraries which summarizes the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century view of library education:

   A librarian should be more than a keeper of books; he should be an
   educator.... No such librarian is fit for his place unless he holds
   himself responsible for the library education of his students....
   All that is taught in college amounts to very little; but if we can
   send students out self-reliant in their investigations, we have
   accomplished very much. (2)

Robinson's statement is noteworthy in that he holds the librarian responsible for the teaching of skills needed to use the collection, as well as for building and maintaining it. Since Robinson's time, much has happened in terms of library instruction. In the last thirty years we have moved from teaching individual tools, to the use of conceptual frameworks in instructional design, to instruction and learning activities based on learning theory, to an information literacy model. …