Tag Archives: information literacy

Fact or Fiction?

While the library is always a key resource for students and faculty exploring Illinois Wesleyan University’s Annual Intellectual Theme, opportunities abound for library engagement in the coming year with our campus focus on the theme of Fact or Fiction?

The IWU mission statement places the nurturing of a commitment to critical thinking and a “spirit of inquiry” among the central goals of a liberal education, and these have been essential to the development and impact across the curriculum of The Ames Library’s information literacy program. Working with partners in Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, our librarians have established student learning outcomes designed to complement and extend the distinctive commitments of our undergraduate education program and to demonstrate why information literacy and critical thinking skills are essential to the development of students as engaged citizens in an informed democracy. And, while the ability “to discern fact from fiction” has always been a foundational goal of education in a democracy, our focus on this theme in 2019 is especially timely, as advances in information technology and the expanding acceptance of “alternative facts” in a “post-truth” environment have raised new questions about what is “true,” about the nature of scientific authority, and about the ethics of creating and disseminating information in an increasingly polarized political environment.

In a recent article, researchers from Project Information Literacy reported on a national study of the ways in which college students discover, discuss, and engage with news and current events, as well as the factors influencing their determination of the credibility of those sources. They found that the classroom offers an important opportunity for students to develop a critical thinking framework for their “news habits,” both as students and as lifelong learners. Discussing the news and news sources as part of the curriculum, they continue, can promote student awareness of the ways in which information is constructed, both commercially and socially, disseminated through face-to-face, print, and (increasingly) digital media, and employed in our society. Information literacy skills related to the news media can form a basis for collaboration among librarians, classroom faculty, and student affairs educators, as well as another means by which colleges and universities can prepare students for a lifetime of civic engagement, which is, of course, another foundational goal of a liberal education.

The Ames Library faculty and staff will be working with colleagues throughout the year to support the study of this year’s “Fact or Fiction” theme in the classroom and through related exhibitions and programs. Working with colleagues in Information Technology Services, we will also explore connections between this year’s theme and the concept of “digital literacies,” including data literacy, media literacy, and the capacity to “[assess] social and ethical issues in our digital world.”

The Annual Intellectual Theme is coordinated at Illinois Wesleyan University by students, faculty, and staff serving on the Intellectual Theme Working Group, whose members work together to identify “an idea or theme with the potential to engage thinking, creativity, and dialogue through multiple disciplinary lenses and interdisciplinary approaches” across the curriculum and co-curriculum.

Librarians Participate in Training for International Study of Teaching with Primary Sources

students studying archives

students studying archives

Earlier this month, IWU librarians Meg Miner and Scott Walter took part in a two-day workshop hosted by Ithaka S&R for institutions participating in the upcoming, international study of teaching with primary sources.

In this study, participating institutions, including IWU, Williams College, Brown University, Dartmouth College, University of Virginia, Indiana University, University of Sheffield (U.K.), Lafayette College, Yale University, and others, will explore how “[teaching] undergraduates with primary sources promotes student engagement and critical thinking skills and is a key ingredient in the current pedagogical push toward ‘inquiry-based’ or ‘research-led’ learning.” Given the history of instructional collaboration among Ames Library faculty and colleagues in academic programs across the curriculum in information literacy instruction, writing-intensive instruction, and service learning, IWU is in an excellent position both to learn from local research set within this global context, and to provide examples of “best practice” to colleagues who will employ the results of this international study to inform their own teaching and learning programs, especially around media literacy, digital literacy, and artifactual (or “primary-source”) literacy.

During Fall 2019, the IWU research team will be conducting interviews with a small number of campus faculty (tenure-system, visiting, or adjunct) who make effective use of, or take innovative approaches to the use of, primary source materials in their teaching. While the focus for the study is in the humanities and social sciences, our team will consider faculty from any department who wish to participate in the study when making our final selection about who to include in the participant pool (according to guidelines provided to all participating institutions by Ithaka).

If you would like to learn more about this study, or to add your name to the list of potential participants in the study currently being reviewed for inclusion, please contact Meg Miner, University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian. Invitations to participate in this study will be issued in August 2019.

Are Libraries Better Than the Internet?

Source: Paul Lowry (Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_lowry/2266388742

Yesterday, journalist Marcus Banks published the provocatively titled “Ten Reasons Libraries Are Still Better Than the Internet” for American Libraries. As he states in his opening line, you’ve probably heard some form of this argument before: “Thanks to the internet, we no longer need libraries or librarians.” But is there any truth to that statement? After all, information abounds on the internet—information that previously you often had to seek out in a library.

As you probably know if you’ve been been a student in one of our instruction sessions, you can’t find everything on the internet. The full text of many academic articles is shrouded behind paywalls; copyright laws prevent you from reading more than a few pages of a book on Google Books; and complex search-engine algorithms bury the piece of information you need on the fifth (or in some cases, fiftieth) page of search results where you won’t see it. Don’t get us wrong; we love the internet. At The Ames Library, however, you never have to pay for the book, article, or e-resource that you need.

Librarians at Ames are also on hand to assist you with points #7 and #8 in Banks’ essay:

7. Librarians can help you sort the real news from the fake. While a plethora of useful, accurate, and engaging content is available online, the web is filled with inaccurate and misleading information. “Click bait” headlines get you to click on the content even if the underlying information is superficial or inaccurate. Misinformation is the spread of deliberate falsehoods or inflammatory content online, such as the Russian-backed ads placed on social media during the 2016 US presidential election. Librarianship has always been about providing objective, accurate, and engaging information that meets the needs of a particular person. This has not changed, and it is why librarians are experts in information literacy.

8. Librarians guide you to exactly what you need. Google is an impressive search engine, but its results can be overwhelming, and many people do not know to filter them by content type (such as .pdf) or website source (such as .gov). Google offers many search tips, which are useful but generic. A conversation with a librarian can clarify exactly what you are looking for and figure out the best way to use Google—or many other resources—to find it.

To learn more about why libraries and librarians are more important than ever, check out the rest of Banks’ article here—or stop by The Ames Library and talk to one of our subject librarians about how to get the information you need to be successful in your classes, grad-school application, and beyond!