LIS Curricula Introducing Information Literacy Courses Alongside Instructional Classes

Article excerpt

Library and information studies (LIS) programs have commonly used the terms bibliographic instruction, information literacy, and user education interchangeably for courses on instruction. Some of the shared topics in these courses have been teaching and learning theory, instructional design and techniques, and program management. This study reviews LIS curricula available publicly on the Web for programs accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and finds that, for the first time, three programs are offering information literacy as distinctive separate courses alongside other instructional courses. Moreover, course descriptions for these courses indicated that instructional theories still featured prominently in them. The article discusses the implications of these developments and reiterates that user instruction alone provides learners only with the lower-level aspects of information literacy. Higher-level competencies are obtained in the process of learning. It concludes that LIS courses on information literacy ought to present it within the larger context of student learning.

Keywords: LIS curricula, information literacy, Library user instruction, general education curriculum, higher-order skills

The growth of user-education courses in LIS programs was well reviewed by Westbrook (1999). She noted that LIS programs were resiliently responding to the increasing demand on librarians to provide user training in a variety of ways. The demand has seen remarkably high growth in the last three decades. Reference librarian job-postings whose duties included instruction in the College and Research Libraries News, for example, rose from 0% in 1973 to 100% in 1990 (Lynch & Smith, 2001). Westbrook observed an enduring rise in the number of user-education courses offered in LIS programs during this period. The rise was in the areas of bibliographic instruction, information literacy, and user education. These courses have traditionally offered training on learning theory, instructional design, teaching techniques, and program management among other topics.

A 2007 content analysis of textbooks used for information literacy instruction in LIS programs showed that most of the texts were dedicated to instructional subjects such as: instructional models, techniques, design, and methods; learn- ing theory and curriculum; motivation; testing; measurement; grant writing; and student assessment (Mbabu, 2007). The study found that out of the consider- ably high number of textbooks used by the thirteen programs that offered infor- mation literacy courses, only two text- books addressed at least one of the learning procedures recommended for developing competency in information literacy: determining the information needed, retrieving the information, criti- cally evaluating and synthesizing re- trieved information, integrating and applying knowledge, and understanding the economic, legal, and social implica- tions of the information needed (ALA, 1989).

Those findings demonstrated that, for the most part, information literacy courses addressed the same issues and topics as traditional user-education courses. This study sought to find out which LIS programs, if any, offered information literacy alongside one or more user-education courses, thus recognizing it as a distinctive subject area. A review of course listings of all LIS programs accredited by the ALA was conducted from March to July 2008. The course selection criteria and methodology were adapted from Westbrook (1999). Course descriptions were retrieved from the Web to identify fulltime recurrent credit courses dedicated to user-education, information literacy, bibliographic instruction, or instructional roles.

Fundamental Research Milestones of Information Literacy

Presidential Committee of Information Literacy (1989)

Zurkowski (1974) presented information literacy as the ability to use a variety of information sources in everyday problem solving. …