The library is a place to do research, foster critical thinking and for educating book lovers. However, a framework for operation and information literacy education is required for effectiveness and efficiency. The librarians have replaced “bibliographic instruction” (traditional library sources) with “information literacy” due to the ever transforming and expanding technological knowhow. These rapid changes have widened the instructional role of the librarians. In a report, the ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy defined an information literate person as one who can recognize when information is needed and has the ability to evaluate it after location and use the information effectively.
An understanding and use of new technologies has boosted the effectiveness of the librarians as facilitators in developing the knowledge and skills of the student in management and processing of various pieces of information in terms of quality and quantity. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) on the other hand include a section on Information technology and Information Literacy in their Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education which focuses on the relationship between the two.
Technology and electronic information came at a time when there was a paradigm shift to new educational programs. Therefore it was imperative that integrated learning be initiated in institutions of higher learning to accommodate the emerging technological era.
As a case study, the SUNNY Cortland, the State University of New York, requires that the students specify their competency in ‘information management’ apart from including 10 specific areas of skills and knowledge upon graduation. This entails ability to execute basic computer operations; understanding and using basic research techniques; and locating, evaluating, and synthesizing information from an array of sources. Information literacy, computer literacy and technological proficiencies have been linked at Cortland. The library has been instrumental in this capacity building process.
These transformations have put the libraries at the nerve centre in delivery of education and an existing opportunity for librarians to be at a vintage point as inventive educators. However, technology has created some other challenges in its administration and equipping of students with skills and knowledge necessary in the retrieval and utilization of information resources.
Impacts of Technology on Instruction
The unprecedented increases in familiarity with computer skills and knowledge has been unaccompanied by disciplined users as shown by the US Census data which notes that 51% of households had one or more computers as at the year 2000. Although technology is here to stay, many students are not honed with skills for effective use of technology.
Surprisingly, this status quo is not apparent to the students who seem to be abreast with technology but lack the skills necessary to manage the sea of information in electronic form.
In her article “Teaching Information Literacy to Generation Y”, Kate Manuel notes that student’s overconfidence with operation of a computer cripples their prowess in information literacy since they are over ambitious with their ability to search and access information. The students thus think that research is not as cumbersome as portrayed. More often than not, they do not look into the credibility of the information in a particular site. Other problems that students need to address include remote connection to databases, accessing information on remote servers using the file transfer protocol and downloading.
In addition, student sometimes find it challenging when it comes to citation of sources. Many students do not understand what plagiarism is and its ethical and legal implications. For that matter, students need to be educated on the research process.
Technology and the role of the library
Librarians must be part of improving learning results by empowering and informing the students with technology hence helping them in effective access and interaction with information and making use of it in a responsible and purposeful way. As it has been pointed out earlier, many students lack the rudimentary principles of research; in view of the ever expanding arena of information to a cyberspace, the instructional role of the librarian can never be emphasized than it has. The librarian is instrumental in instilling skills of evaluating both print and electronic materials on the Web to students so that they make informed decisions as to whether a material is appropriate and reliable for the research. This is necessitated by the fact that librarians no longer have the control over electronic resources like they had with traditional library resources.
Librarians must embrace the dynamics of what and how they teach to catch up with the ever changing technology which fosters creativity in the classroom. It is, however, imperative to note that certain programs are essential in the delivery of the needed skills in information literacy. The inconsistencies in the background of the students has necessitated the designing of instruction programs that factors in these differences.
Modalities of integrating Technology and Information Literacy Instruction
In order to help students gain technological skills and prepare them to develop research skills, various institutions have designed various programs that help in instilling such vital skills. For instance, the electronic “Speakeasy Studio Café”, a Web-based information literacy program at Washington State University enables the librarians to pass the tenets of information literacy in an online interactive environment.
At SUNNY Cortland’s library, the credit bearing computer application courses and single session workshops are examples of ongoing programs that help a student in navigation and retrieval of information resources during research. With time, issues on copyright, intellectual property rights ownership and plagiarism are addressed.
In addition, the for-credit application computer program which includes electronic research, retrieval of information and information literacy is available. In a one-credit “Computer Information Retrieval” course, topics like introduction to retrieving information, documentation and database organization are covered while in a three-credit course, “Computers and Society”; topics like copyright, privacy issues and information ethics are covered.
In 1994, a new curriculum for education was applied at Eastern Washington University. It had courses that accommodated computer literacy and information. This has seen technologists and librarians coming together to develop courses that include lectures and practical experience. Another modality that aims to promote integration between technology and information literacy is the University of Washington UWired program. Librarians, curricular specialists and technologists have collaborated in order to link technology and information literacy with education process.
Moreover, at Alvemo College in Wisconsin, students are helped to develop computer and information literacy skills through class sessions and Web tutorial modules, assignments, online quizzes and an electronic discussion board. The “Technology Toolbox” developed by librarians at Augustana College in Illinois is another milestone in integrating technology and information literacy. It enables students to develop skills in text editing-mailing and information skills such as use of library sources. These case study examples show how the librarians are involved in the restructuring of the education process through integration of technology and information literacy.
In conclusion, it is necessary that an academic institution brings on board librarians, technologists, teaching faculty and the administration for the successful endowment of the students with the capacity to search for appropriate and reliable information both from the print and electronically. Capacity building of the librarians and provision of resources to boost the understanding of new technologies should be emphasized.