Immersion in Australia: An Information Literacy Health Spa for Librarians?
Doskatsch, Irene, Australian Academic & Research Libraries
Starting a paper with a confession is unusual; nevertheless my admission sets the context for this paper. Over a decade ago, when interviewed for a subject librarian position at the South Australian College of Advanced Education Library, I struggled to answer a question about reader education. My preservice librarianship qualification had not equipped me with a pedagogic grounding for designing and delivering training. The teaching role of librarians and the facilitation of information literacy were not covered by the curriculum. In 2002 applicants for a library position assuming an educative role might be asked to explain how they would use technological innovations and changes in pedagogy as leverage for creating new alliances with academics and contributing to the institution's teaching and learning framework. I suspect most applicants would struggle to answer such a question.
This paper recounts preparatory work to establish the Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) professional development program. It is in two parts: the first describes the author's experience of an Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Institute for Information Literacy Immersion program in Plattsburgh, New York, and reports the results of a survey to find out whether the programs offered by the ACRL Institute would meet the training needs of Australian and New Zealand teaching librarians. The second part discusses whether ANZIIL should provide professional development, based on the Immersion model, for librarians assuming an educative role.
What is an Immersion Program?
The ACRL Institute has three basic goals:
* prepare librarians to become effective teachers in information literacy programs
* support librarians, other educators and administrators in playing a leadership role in the development and implementation of information literacy programs, and
* forge new relationships throughout the educational community to work towards information literacy curriculum development. (1)
The drive for the ACRL Institute to develop an Immersion program came at a time when significant numbers of US universities and colleges were beginning to incorporate information literacy competencies in curriculum requirements thereby creating a demand for information literacy programs and instructional librarians. Job advertisements for positions involving information literacy were increasingly emphasising the library's educative role and seeking applicants with creative teaching skills and an ability to participate in curriculum development and outcomes assessment. (2) Prominent academic librarians were also concerned that:
information literacy and its pedagogy [has] largely been self-taught, nurtured by colleagues, or learned through attendance at a wide variety of professional conferences and programs. (3)
A 1993 survey revealed that only ten library schools in the US and Canada offered a full course in library instruction. (4) Three years later a survey sponsored by ACRL investigated the perceived importance of teaching competencies to university library directors, and whether instruction experience or academic teaching qualifications were important in gaining a position requiring delivery of information literacy programs. It confirmed that university library directors do take into account pedagogic knowledge and skills in the employment process. (5)
In 1997 Cerise Oberman, Dean of Library and Information Services at Plattsburgh State University of New York, presented a paper at the annual LOEX Conference proposing the concept of an Institute for Information Literacy. Her proposal received enthusiastic endorsement from both practitioners and ACRL who provided establishment funds and set up an advisory group to progress Oberman's proposal. The next year the advisory group invited 25 individuals, including librarians from academic, school and public libraries, provosts and school system administrators, library school faculty, practicing instructional librarians, and library directors to a forum to develop strategies to advance:
* the problems and challenges identified by the advisory group
* the concepts of information literacy
* the ideas for an intensive Immersion program
* the characteristics of an Immersion graduate, and
* ideas for other types of programs that the ACRL Institute could offer. …