Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Framing a Strategy: Exploring Faculty Attitudes toward Library Instruction and Technology Preferences to Enhance Information Literacy

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Framing a Strategy: Exploring Faculty Attitudes toward Library Instruction and Technology Preferences to Enhance Information Literacy

Article excerpt

There is much truth to the old adage "Be careful what you wish for." After years of advocating for the importance of information literacy at the university level, the Western Michigan University (WMU) Libraries were successful in placing information literacy (IL) as one of the strategic goals in the University's Academic Affairs Strategic Plan in 2010. The spotlight is now on the Libraries to lead this campus-wide initiative. Adding to this challenge, the evolving use of technology in education raises the issue of how to best take advantage of technological tools and advancements to achieve our goals. Other academic libraries are likely grappling with similar issues, especially in light of the increase in online education across much of higher education. Exploring current faculty attitudes toward library research instruction and their use of technology can help librarians adjust to teaching trends within their institutions. Knowing the faculty's opinions will keep services relevant and engaging for students who are becoming more and more accustomed to asynchronous instructional formats, similar to the type of application-based tools--such as those for mobile devices--that they practically take for granted. (1) It can also shed light on new ways to collaborate with faculty through a variety of instructional methods, whether online (taught using a learning management system), hybrid (taught both face-to-face and online), or traditional instruction.

As the WMU Libraries are modifying their own IL program in response to the new University's Academic Affairs Strategic Plan, it was an opportune moment to take stock of the current program, and the ways it is perceived by the faculty. The Libraries have never surveyed the faculty at large regarding library research instruction; heretofore, the majority of data has been collected informally and anecdotally. Therefore, we developed and sent a survey to our faculty. The aim of this study was three-fold:

1. to gauge current faculty perceptions about library research instruction

2. to determine how faculty are using technology in instruction

3. to examine faculty opinions regarding the incorporation of technological formats in future library research instruction

Our goal is to use the data collected to examine our current IL program, with an eye to developing new ways to advance instruction through technologies that faculty use and/ or those they wish to see the Libraries employ in delivering library instruction. It is our hope that this study can serve as a model for others seeking to improve their IL programs based on the technologies being used by their faculty.


A scan of the literature of the past thirty years showed a significant number of articles that address faculty attitudes toward library instruction and which informed this study. Maynard (1990) surveyed the faculty at The Citadel regarding their attitudes toward library instruction. Maynard compared the English instructors to the rest of the faculty in the institution. Although the sampling size was small, nearly all the respondents thought instruction was important and they were satisfied with the librarians' instruction. There was a difference, however, in their attitudes toward collaboration with a librarian--while 75 percent of the English faculty thought that both librarians and faculty members should be involved in the research instruction, only 40 percent of the non-English faculty shared the opinion that collaboration was desirable. (2)

Thomas (1994) conducted a study in 1982, and again in 1990, which analyzed faculty attitudes toward library research instruction at California State University Long Beach. One finding was that in 1982, only 16 percent of the faculty indicated the curriculum was too full to accommodate library instruction, but in 1990, this had jumped dramatically to 53 percent. (3) Today, this is still a recurring theme in the literature. …

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