The library supports the college’s defining characteristic as “a community of inquiry” through programs which develop skillful approaches to seeking and using information. Information literacy is a critical underpinning for all else that takes place in the academic library, assuring that students will make informed decisions about their information needs and how to fulfill them. Concepts and approaches to information literacy are taught in multiple ways at Dickinson College: through formal library instruction classes, through assignments developed within academic courses, in workshops, in individual consultations, and via materials accessible on our website.
The Waidner-Spahr Library of Dickinson College is a teaching and learning laboratory. As part of the overall mission of Dickinson College, the Library nurtures information literacy as a lifelong learning process. The librarians are committed, in conjunction with the faculty of the College, to provide useful instruction in the location, evaluation and utilization of information in its many different forms.
The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) recommends a rigorous set of guidelines for teaching information literacy, called the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Briefly, these frames are:
- Authority Is Constructed and Contextual - Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used.
- Information Creation as a Process - Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method.
- Information Has Value - Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world.
- Research as Inquiry - Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry.
- Scholarship as Conversation - Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.
- Searching as Strategic Exploration - Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.
This framework illustrates the complexity of information literacy and demonstrates that information literacy skills cannot and should not be taught “lock step,” but that they should be integrated at appropriate times during the research process. Some of skills associated with each frame should be introduced in the First Year Seminar, while more complex skills higher up in Bloom’s taxonomy can be taught within the context of each major. While teaching information literacy, librarians hold to several key principles. First, like academic writing, research is iterative. Second, information literacy should be made a seamless part of FYS, much like writing skills already are. Third, information literacy instruction is most effective when students implement their newly-acquired research skills. Thus, students should be given the opportunity to complete assignments in which they learn to access information, practice critical research skills, and then implement that information to develop a line of inquiry within a scholarly conversation.