26 September 2008

At a Faculty Conference, thinking a little differently about Info Lit

I have been in North Carolina this week for the Association of General and Liberal Studies Conference. Cyndi Brandenburg, Kelly Thomas, and I gave our presentation "Too Much Information: Helping Students Deal Effectively with Information Overload." You can see our slides here or check out our wiki here. The presentation went really well. It was a tiny room but we filled it up. While the presentation was fun, it was the conversation that followed that was truly the highlight of the conversation. These faculty were very excited by what we are doing with information literacy in both library sessions and in classrooms. Many of them expressed interest in embedding IL into their own courses or curriculum! YAHOO!!!

It was really interesting to talk about information literacy at a faculty conference rather than a library one. The issues and concerns that these faculty members expressed are not far from those I've heard on library blogs or in the literature. The difference I think is that faculty are surprised to hear that the library would think about information literacy in any way other than as a ploy for using the library. The group of faculty that I sat down with seemed to be wondering how to cope themselves with not information overload among their students but knowledge deficiency. Students, these faculty decried, don't come into college with the general knowledge that they should have. They fear that we are purporting what some of them see as a crutch: the ability to look things up but not to LEARN. Not to KNOW.

That's worth thinking about. It aligns well with a book I have checked out from the library called True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. It's by Farhad Manjoo, the technology/media/politics writer for Salon.com. Essentially, Manjoo argues that it doesn't matter what is real, true, or fact. What matters is whether it does what we want it to do: answer our question, support our point of view, "prove" someone else wrong. The book is fascinating, challenging, aggravating and important, especially for those of us that are designing and teaching programs that we say will help our students find, select, evaluate and manage information. If we focus our programs and instruction on what the Library has to offer, how are we preparing our students for the world they will live in when they graduate and don't have an academic library to draw on? In essence, what are we doing to prepare them for the digital world, the knowledge society, the information age?

These are the questions we grappled with for our 75 minutes of glory. We had to push people out of the room at the end. Needless to say, I loved it. And it gave me a lot of ideas for posts that I hope to hash out over the next few days.

On the more personal side, a few things about the trip itself:
1. Asheville was a really pretty town with the friendliest people I have met in quite some time. It was refreshing.
2. I ate some darn good fried chicken at the Moose Cafe and felt my arteries clogging up as I did it. Fantastic and worth every calorie.
3. I experienced the gas shortage first hand. Every gas station in the area was out of gas and it was a little nerve wracking driving the two hours back to Charlotte. I am thinking of the people dealing with that.
4. I went to an AMAZING book store, Malaprops, and found my motto.  Living it and smiling.

1 comment:

angelin said...

Information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using print or electronic sources in order to identify a set of useful materials.
critical appraisal: the ability to make judgements on the appropriateness and validity of material.
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