Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Librarians Applying Information Literacy Standards as Evaluators of Peer-to-Peer Course Content in a First Year College Success Course

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Librarians Applying Information Literacy Standards as Evaluators of Peer-to-Peer Course Content in a First Year College Success Course

Article excerpt

Information literacy is a crucial skill in library science. As experts in information literacy, librarians are able to both use and promote techniques relevant to finding, evaluating, and presenting information. They are relied on by end users to provide the most pertinent resources, and are expected to do so as part of their jobs. This study describes how librarians applied their professional background in the evaluation of student peer-to-peer material in order to provide the most appropriate content for an introductory college success course.

Peer-to-peer learning is a fairly new instruction model that encourages active learning, engagement, and student-to-student communication. O'Brien et al. describe peer-to-peer learning as a process where students learn from one another, and student teachers can better reach student learners because of shared perspectives. In simpler terms, it acts as a tool that creates a bridge between teachers and pupils. (1) That said, it is important that the information students are sharing with one another in peer-to-peer learning sessions is accurate and authoritative. The ability to determine accuracy and authority is one of the key tenets of information literacy, and librarians use this skill when they evaluate peer-to-peer content.

Information literacy is a multifaceted topic that academic librarians address on a daily basis. Understanding how information is presented and how it may be interpreted is a basic principle of information literacy, and this skill is commonly taught to firstyear students in contemporary higher education. Demonstrating how to effectively evaluate and interpret information is also one aspect of what the college librarian does when assisting freshmen during their transition from high school to college.

Oakleaf and Owen (2010) examined collaborative efforts between high school and college librarians. The librarians' goal was to identify areas of overlap in students' information acquisition skills between senior year of high school and the first year of college in order to enhance these skills and ultimately increase college retention rates. Specifically, the college librarians could use this information in the development of information literacy instruction, course session development, and in the improvement of librarian instruction skills. High school librarians could also use these results to pinpoint the skills needed for college-bound high school students. (2) In this example there were benefits for both library populations: those in high school and those in college.

Smalley (2004) also examined the impact of a school librarian presence on information literacy skills, by studying freshmen at a small open-admission college. The library courses taught at this college drew students from three local school districts, two of which lacked the support for full-time librarians. Students that graduated from these two districts and enrolled in the library research course were compared with those from the district that did have librarians. The students' research skills were assessed and the comparisons were drawn from midterm grades and final grades. (3)

At midterm, 57 percent of the top third of students enrolled in a library research course came from the district with librarians. When final grades were turned in, 66 percent of those from the district with librarians earned As, compared to 43 percent and 37 percent, respectively, for the two districts that did not have librarians. (4)

A similar paper ("What Works" 1997) compiled comments from dissertations on the topic of high school students in the transition from high school to college. The authors of these dissertations found that those students with previous access to an academic library were better prepared to conduct research in college courses, evaluated more resources, and referenced more sources of information in their papers than those without this access and background. …

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