Magazine article Information Outlook

Information Literacy for Professional Programs: Two Case Studies at One University

Magazine article Information Outlook

Information Literacy for Professional Programs: Two Case Studies at One University

Article excerpt


Information literacy is a basic skill that all students should possess. Educators, employers and librarians lament students' lack of information literacy skills. Students in professional programs are often particularly difficult to teach as they have already successfully passed undergraduate instruction and overestimate their level of information literacy. In other words, they think they know it all. In some extreme cases faculty have their own information literacy deficiencies and are unable to recognize or remediate the problem in their students often overestimating the information literacy levels of students. Complicating this is the barrier of professional school faculty being unwilling or unable to include librarians and information literacy as part of instruction particularly within the classroom.

This paper will discuss and contrast the integration of information literacy instruction in the professional programs of Law and Pharmacy at Drake University. In the pharmacy program, the librarian has become an integral member of the instruction team. In the law program, the librarians have made great strides with, among other things, one-shot instruction sections in seminar classes which are aided through individualized class web pages.

Professional programs are intrinsically and deeply connected to their body of professional information which is often complex and vast. Modern professionals in a variety of disciplines are largely judged successful or not based on their ability to locate and manipulate appropriate information and this is particularly true for Law and Pharmacy. For these professions, producing students that do not know how to find and evaluate information can lead to jail and even death for those reliant on the professional's skills.

Through these case studies, the authors hope to illustrate how integrating information literacy skills into professional programs is advantageous and possible without compromising other aspects of the curriculum, requiring major additional resources, or making additional work for non-library faculty.


Drake University has an FTE of 4,600. The pharmacy program has about 800 students and the law school approximately 450 students. Together, these two graduate professional programs account for over 25% of the student body. The law library has five librarians of which two regularly provide outreach and instruction sessions. The pharmacy program has a dedicated librarian who is affiliated with the main campus library (Cowles Library).

Accrediting bodies, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) for Pharmacy and the American Bar Association (ABA) for Law, recognize the need for graduates to be information literate. Guideline 12.1 of the ACPE accreditation standards state that graduates must be able to "retrieve, analyze, and interpret the professional, lay, and scientific literature to provide drug information and counseling to patients, their families or care givers, and other involved health care providers" as well as "demonstrate expertise in informatics." (2) Standard 302 of the ABA accreditation document is that a "law school shall require that each student receive substantial instruction in: ... legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem solving, and oral communication ..." (3)



Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences offers a PharmD as well as, beginning in Fall 2007, an undergraduate health sciences degree. It is somewhat unusual for a school to have a pharmacy program with no other allied health sciences such as nursing or medicine and this has presented a challenge for the main library to support a thriving program with very specific needs.

In 2005, Cowles Library participated in the LibQual+[R] evaluation process in an effort to identify potential strengths and weaknesses of the library. …

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