Research Proposal Literature Review


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This overview of information literacy (IL) and information literacy instruction (ILI) focuses on the terminology used in advocating for and discussion of IL practices in public libraries. Although the focus of the proposal is on public libraries, the practices reviewed also look to academic and school libraries for understanding of how IL and ILI are currently perceived and delivered. This study also considers the unique situation of public libraries in regards to the terminology that has been appropriated by academic institutions, as well as the role of public librarians themselves in providing ILI.

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Research Proposal Literature Review

  1. 1. Running Head: TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 1 TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION: WHAT TERMS SHOULD PUBLIC LIBRARIES USE TO PROMOTE AND TEACH INFORMATION LITERACY Team 7: Alphild Dick, Melendra Sanders, Shelly Speicher, and Julie Temple June 24, 2012 LI 810XA: Research in Library and Information Science Emporia State University School of Library and Information Science Abstract: This overview of information literacy (IL) and information literacy instruction (ILI) focuses on the terminology used in advocating for and discussion of IL practices in public libraries. Although the focus of the proposal is on public libraries, the practices reviewed also look to academic and school libraries for understanding of how IL and ILI are currently perceived and delivered. This study also considers the unique situation of public libraries in regards to the terminology that has been appropriated by academic institutions, as well as the role of public librarians themselves in providing ILI. Keywords: Information science, Information literacy, Information literacy instruction, advocacy in information literacy, IL competencies, Information Society Terminology of Information Literacy Instruction: The Terms Used by Public Libraries to Promote and Teach Information Literacy
  2. 2. An information literate population, in the 21st century, is a key element in helping create an engaged citizenry. Not surprisingly, then, information literacy instruction (ILI) is a hot topic in both scholarly circles and for practicing library and information professionals. However, there is the question of how these professionals can most effectively encourage information literacy skills among diverse populations. Academic and school libraries have an increasingly established tradition of providing library users with opportunities to practice and develop information literacy at higher levels. On the other hand, the role of public libraries should not be overlooked in these endeavors. A number of prominent scholars have noted that, because of their unique history, public libraries are in an excellent position to provide their patrons with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills regarding information literacy. There are a number of public libraries throughout the U.S. that have established strong IL programs; ILI is not new or unexplored territory within public library institutions. But despite these programs, and the potential for other public libraries to institute similar ones, there has been little documentation or scholarship on these efforts (Hall, pg. 163, 2010). This fact is all the more startling given the tradition of advocacy for public library services and programs within the library community. A solid understanding of how IL programs are created, delivered, and supported within public library communities would have great benefit to other libraries that are looking to develop or improve their own. We postulate that advocacy is one of the most important aspects of promoting ILI. Advocacy includes, among other things, the development of a consistent and coherent message. To this end, the language and terminology employed are essential components of this message. Not only can they be the deciding factor in whether or not an individual patron will be interested in pursuing ILI, but they also greatly affect how ILI is perceived within a population. This impacts funding, community support, and the place of a library within a community. With this in mind, our proposal addresses how ILI is discussed, promoted, and assessed by both library and information professionals and patrons and other community members. The articles reviewed for this study were selected in order to provide a framework for queries into the terminology and language used in public library IL advocacy efforts. The articles focus on three main areas of scholarship: history of information literacy instruction and practice, issues in the language and terminology of information literacy, and information literacy advocacy. It is the authors’ goal that this literature review give the reader a strong grasp of current practices in ILI, illuminate possible terminology useful for a survey into patron responses to ILI, and provide a basis for further research. With the understanding that current, reputable research coupled with professional development leads librarians to provide well- supported and effective ILI programs to their communities, this review hopes to empower
  3. 3. TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 3 public librarians in their roles as information literacy instructors. As librarians are well aware, information literacy programs reach well beyond the reference desk paradigm of librarianship. However, it is imperative for the future of ILI that we advocate effectively for these services, which can only be done if we understand the impact our presentation of ILI has on communities. Statement of Research Problem: While a great deal of discussion has gone into the widely accepted definitions of information literacy, current research has only begun to address the matter of the effects of terminology on the reception of information literacy by patrons in various library settings. As Isaacson (2003), Lin (2010), and Hall (2010) point out, the term “information literacy” might have negative connotations, implying that patrons are lacking sufficient information comprehension skills. With the advent of Web 2.0, the information community agrees that the acquisition of information literacy is more critical than ever; as Everitt and Mills (2009) write, “Web 2.0 has been said both to harness collective intelligence but also to encourage a mob of stupidity” (as cited in Koltay, 2009, pg. 247). Learning to separate information trash from treasure takes more than passing familiarity with the Internet. Nonetheless, patrons are often reluctant to participate in information literacy instruction. Isaacson (2003) suggests that “people may become just as ashamed of being illiterate in information as they are of being illiterate in other ways” (p.42). Although there is much research and writing related to information literacy and information literacy instruction, little of it focuses specifically on the public library. A number of possible reasons for this deficiency have been proposed. For example, Genevieve Hart (2006) points to the remnants of the warehouse paradigm as continuing to influence how public librarians view providing patrons with information as opposed to providing information literacy training (i.e., teaching critical thinking skills that would help them locate and evaluate information independently). Moreover, an analysis by Tibor Koltay (2011) strongly suggests that the perceived divide between academic and public libraries presents a kind of obstacle in the development of viable ILI programs within the public library arena. As discussed previously, this is not a sustainable situation for public libraries. Indeed, public libraries must take on a larger role in ILI; with that in mind, more extensive study can only assist advocacy efforts. As more scholars call for a focus on public libraries, the specific language utilized to discuss ILI gains increasing importance as a research focus. It is the goal of this paper to establish the need for study of the terms used for information literacy programs and advocacy. Using a mixed-methods approach including content analysis of advocacy literature
  4. 4. and IL promotions, we will determine the most common terms and phrases used to promote ILI, with the ultimate goal of creating a survey with which public opinion related to information literacy terminology can be judged in order to aid in the provision of ILI by public libraries. History of Information Literacy Instruction and Practice Before delving into a study focused on the terminology of information literacy (IL) and IL advocacy campaigns, it is important to first review literature that details the history of IL as well as literature that depicts other researchers’ and information professionals’ perceptions of IL. In their chapter, Information Literacy Instruction, Esther S. Grassian and Joan R. Kaplowitz (2009) provide a brief, but useful, overview of the history of ILI, tracing the understanding of information literacy from the early “library use” instruction found in the United States during the 19th century, through the bibliographic instruction of the 1970s and 1980s, to the current ideas of IL with their broader focus on both technological expertise and the skills necessary for lifelong learning that ILI enhances. They also address the expansion of those involved in ILI, demonstrating its implementation in academic, school, and public libraries. After establishing the importance of information literacy, Grassian and Kaplowitz discuss the steps involved in the creation of an ILI program, describing the process of planning, implementing, and evaluating such programs. In the course of this discussion, the authors provide useful recommendations for each step, including the promotion and advocacy of ILI programs. They write, “Peer-to-peer comments, word-of-mouth, creative publicity, and branding all contribute to ongoing and expanding success of ILI programs” (pg. 2438). They also emphasize the role of strategic partnerships with various stakeholders in the effort to establish and enhance ILI programming, noting the obvious partnership opportunities among libraries, specifically among different types of libraries, but also suggesting resources outside of libraries altogether. The importance of strategic partnerships will be discussed in greater detail in the Information Literacy Advocacy section of this review. The chapter concludes with a section focused on ideas for improving one’s teaching abilities and methods. Interestingly, many of these techniques are in line with the suggestions that Webber and Johnston (2000) and Marcum (2002) propose for best practices in teaching IL. Unlike Webber and Johnston or Marcum, Grassian and Kaplowitz clearly see ILI as within the domain of libraries, nor do they question the current definitions of information literacy. Rather, they provide an overview of the subject that would be perfectly at home in a library and information science class.
  5. 5. TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 5 Toby Leigh Matoush (2006) mentions the importance of partnerships between librarians and faculty in his description of the IL programs provided for the students of San Jose State University (SJSU), particularly for college freshmen. He writes that although some librarians give only one-shot instructions of basic library use, “others worked closely with MUSE professors to develop tailored instructional sessions focused on finding material for the class assignment” (pg. 160). In order to make efficient use of the students’ class time in the library, the librarians created online tutorials that the students completed before class, which allowed them to focus on the MUSE professors’ course content in more depth; the SJSU professors understand the benefits of having more than just a one-shot IL session. In his article, Rethinking Information Literacy, James W. Marcum (2002) highlights the importance of a number of previous authors, including Breivik, Neely, and Bruce, demonstrating how their presentation of information literacy expanded it from a library concern to a much broader topic of interest to the world. In fact, they establish information literacy as “central to the very learning process” (pg. 2). Marcum goes on to illustrate the current IL model as a process in which information proceeds through key stages, “progressing from noise (unorganized data) to perceived data, to (organized) information, to knowledge” (pg. 3). However, Marcum questions this model and calls for moving beyond the current information literacy paradigm to something he is naming sociotechnical fluency (pg. 20). Although he does not give a specific definition of sociotechnical fluency, he conveys the idea of mastering the skills necessary to negotiate social, visual, technical, and informational knowledge within the broad context of one’s life, not only academic situations. This model lends itself to public libraries, where academic success is not the focal point of service provided to the patrons. Marcum discusses in great detail the compartmentalized ideas of IL and how the checklist of “skills” often used to assess IL competency ends up being taught in an oversimplified manner that gives the impression that information literacy is easy to attain. Yet at the same time the actual definitions of information literacy call for so much expertise as to be impossible to truly master without a higher degree in information or library science. Tied up in Marcum’s call for a change in theory is the need for a significant change in the understanding of how information becomes knowledge. Marcum argues that knowledge is not the next step from gaining information, but instead that knowledge comes from the complex interaction of learning, which takes place in multiple ways and contexts. He stresses that gaining information is not the same as knowing how to integrate information into a knowledge context. In some ways, Marcum’s arguments align with those of Webber and Johnston (2000) in their call for acknowledging that IL is more than a simple set of “skills” for use in learning about other
  6. 6. subject, but rather should be considered a subject of study in its own right. Along with Webber and Johnston, Marcum calls for significant changes to the way IL is taught, focusing on the need for social context, peer evaluation, and group work as important to gaining competencies in information use and knowledge. However, he calls for more drastic steps than simply reworking the way IL is taught, instead suggesting a new understanding of what is necessary for participation in the modern and future information world, stating, “it is learning rather than information, and sociotechnical fluency rather than literacy, that comprise the agenda for tomorrow” (pg. 21). Sheila Webber and Bill Johnston (2000) make the case that the way IL has been discussed and defined has established teaching strategies that both devalue IL and make it appear less complex than it actually is. In their article, Conceptions of Information Literacy: New Perspectives and Implications, they argue that this oversimplification and incorrect pedagogic approach perpetuates a perception of IL as simply “library use” education that is best taught as a one-shot in a conjunction with a course about a separate subject. Much of the blame for this oversimplification is laid upon the tendency to define IL through a “list” of competencies individuals must master in order to be information literate. Webber and Johnston present an overview of how this “list” system of definition grew out of “many years’ experience that librarians have in ‘user education’” (pg. 384). The authors argue that “this fragments the field of knowledge and reflects a ‘surface learning’ approach (with a short-term focus on the task in hand) rather than a ‘deep learning’ one (in which the students are encouraged to reflect on and contextualize what they are learning” (pg. 384). Rather than a list of skills that is learned by rote, the authors envision IL education as a discipline of study in its own right, with its own philosophical underpinnings and theories. To achieve this goal, they propose that information literacy should be the domain of information scientists rather than librarians. To support their endorsement of a change in pedagogical approach, Webber and Johnston present evidence drawn from a course they created together which was successfully taught on multiple occasions. In planning the course, they utilized an “action research approach to course design,” a method of teaching that “allows the investigation of educational questions and professional experience by integrating practice, and analysis of practice, as a unified development” (pg. 388). Webber and Johnston demonstrate how this approach allowed students to reflect upon their own understanding of and competencies in information literacy, arguing that the ability of students to perceive their own changing attitudes toward IL is an essential component to learning to be more information literate. They trace some of the changes that took place in student perceptions, from an early student focus on the technology
  7. 7. TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 7 aspects of IL to a later understanding of the importance of “evaluation, application and organization of information as being subjects distinctive to information literacy” (pg. 391). Although some of the suggestions Webber and Johnston present align with Marcum (2002), such as reflective analysis of learning and social/peer interaction within the classroom, they differ in their emphasis on the idea that IL should be treated as a distinct educational discipline. Marcum calls for less isolation and more integration of ILI into everyday learning environments, for example job training, while Webber and Johnston’s pedagogical approach is clearly academically situated. Evaluation is also an important topic within the discussions of IL and ILI. In his article, Information Literacy Assessment: Where Do We Start?, Andrew Walsh (2009) addresses issues of how best to evaluate ILI in the context of academic libraries. The article categorizes and evaluates nine assessment tools, ranking them based upon criteria such as how difficult they are to administer and whether they truly gauge an individual’s skills. Walsh's discussion of papers and portfolios as methods of evaluating student learning provides an interesting perspective; he points out that while these two assessment techniques have shortcomings, they appear to be the ones best suited to demonstrating actual learning outcomes. Along these lines, Walsh also points out some difficulties of self-assessment, called for by Marcum (2002), or self-reflection, called for by Webber and Johnston (2000), as gauges of student learning, noting that self-assessment and even self-reflection are highly subjective and students often assess themselves to have greater skill than they actually obtain. While all of the options Walsh investigates have been used in conjunction with an academic library or academic classes, the discussion of ILI assessment resonates with the emphasis Grassian and Kaplowitz (2009) place on assessment of ILI outcomes in all settings. What skills are precisely contained within domains of IL presents another significant challenge to researchers. One such researcher who concerns himself with this question is Tibor Koltay. In his article Information Literacy for Amateurs and Professionals: The Potential of Academic, Special and Public Libraries, Koltay (2011) contends that the technologies presented in Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 are more accurately thought of as “toys” than as useful tools for scholarship. Koltay contends that both the careful analysis of critical sources and librarians themselves have become more important in academic and special libraries, while public libraries are perfectly situated to offer “digital” literacy skills such as Web 2.0 applications. Koltay argues that, in fact, the public library is the ideal setting for such amateur learning because public libraries serve the uneducated masses, and not professional scholars. So, while ordinary citizens are the consumers of information, scholars are the creators of information. The divide that Koltay
  8. 8. assumes between the missions of academic and public libraries is illustrative of challenges public libraries face in establishing credibility as providers of real and viable information literacy programs. As can be seen in the literature previously discussed, IL has become an important concern in almost all libraries; however, there has been little scholarship on information literacy in public libraries. In her article, Public Praxis: A Vision for Critical Information Literacy in Public Libraries, Rachel Hall (2010) points to the relative silence of the Public Library Association in relation to IL as well as earlier scholarship by “Harding (2008), Hart (1998), Jackson (1995), Lewis (2007), Virkus and Walter (2003), [which chronicles] this dearth of literature and research on the subject of public libraries and information literacy” (pg. 163). Hall postulates that this deficiency of scholarship could stem from misunderstandings of information literacy, noting, “Perhaps there is too much confusion surrounding the concept itself, leading public librarians to believe that information literacy is only relevant to academic and research institutions” (pg. 163). Hall goes on to argue that the opposite is true. She writes that “information literacy is actually beautifully relevant within the mission of public libraries” (pg. 163), because it supports one of the most central goals of public library service, providing opportunities for lifelong learning within a community. Because of this alignment, Hall proposes that the public library is the perfect place to teach information literacy, looking to the educational works of John Dewey and Paolo Freire to discuss the best ways to teach the skills that lead to lifelong learning in order to create an educated, engaged populace. Hall draws from new literacy studies and critical literacy theory to coin the phrase “critical information literacy,” meaning that librarians must abandon the position of power that the teacher student paradigm establishes and instead meet their patrons on the common ground of patron interest and concern. Hall provides the example, “in some communities, this approach might mean using Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook as instruments to pose problems and uncover hidden voices" (pg. 168). This provides a departure from Koltay’s argument, as it validates newer Web 2.0 media within ILI. An effort to meet the patron on equal terms that address specific patron needs and questions can be compared to Marcum’s calls for sociotechnical fluency, in that it too stresses the need to present information literacy as an integrated part of everyday life and not as something removed to educational settings. However, unlike Marcum (2002) and Webber and Johnston (2000), Hall clearly argues that the public library is the best place to teach information literacy, rather than the workplace, the school library, or academia.
  9. 9. TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 9 In their in-depth history of information literacy (IL), Information Literacy: Essential Skills for the Information Age, Kathleen L. Spitzer, Michael B. Eisenberg, and Carrie A. Lowe (1998) trace the development of the idea of IL in more detail than any other resource previously discussed in this review. The book clearly illustrates different pressures and concerns that have played a part in building the current definition of IL. In order to demonstrate the broad range of involvement in and concern about IL, Spitzer et al. highlight some of the key groups who have taken a hand in defining it, from the American Library Association to the American Association of Higher Education and the National Education Association, as well as various accreditation associations. Spitzer et al. also discuss some of the literacies that are commonly encompassed within IL, such as visual literacy, media literacy, computer literacy, and network literacy, providing clear definitions of each drawn from their own as well as other scholars’ research. Although the authors call for an inclusion of more “literacies”, they do not question the “list” approach to defining IL; like Marcum (2002) and Webber and Johnston (2000), rather, in this book Spitzer et al. present the current definitions as a culmination of decades of discussion about information literacy. This overview of IL and the authors’ detailed look at the establishment of national and state educational standards of IL, mapping out the academic and school library approaches to IL, provide a useful history. However, two areas of discussion are of more relevance to this research. Spitzer et al. present examples from some public libraries that “teach information literacy skills to groups, and in one-to-one sessions” (pg. 205), from Deerfield Public Library in Illinois to the Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL), a branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. Another IL project cited was developed through a partnership between the Lila Wallace Readers’ Digest Fund and the America Library association which allowed Onondaga County Public Library in NY to develop a literacy/learner curriculum that teaches “basic literacy students how to search for information using a computer…how to communicate via e-mail, how to read their search results, and how to analyze information found in print and electronic resources” (pg. 206). These examples illustrate the types of IL programs typically found in public libraries, programs that are focused on everyday technology and information skills rather than academic skills. Another relevant aspect of the book is its discussion of IL in the workplace and the ways that technology is transforming professional expectations so that information literacy is a key component of successful business practice. The authors highlight five trends drawn from Banner that will require the general populace to have increased information skills: The Virtual Organization, The Just In Time Workforce, The Ascendancy of Knowledge Workers, The Growth
  10. 10. of Worker Diversity, and The Birth of the Dynamic Work Force. Further discussion of these trends could prove useful for advocacy of IL programs in public libraries. Issues in the Language and Terminology of Information Literacy In regards to the ways in which information literacy as a term is used in the LIS field, there are two main veins of discussion. By far, the most prominent discussion deals with how IL is defined. It is frequently noted in literature that there is a lack of consensus and clarity as to what IL is and, just as importantly, how it applies to individuals. This is especially true of IL within the context of public libraries. The other line of inquiry, which is less frequently explored, deals with the terminology used to discuss, advocate, and market IL outreach and programs within libraries. It is this line of inquiry that this study is most interested in, but it is still necessary to consider how information literacy is defined, as it ultimately has bearing on the terminology. For the purposes of this paper, we ascribe to the 1989 ALA definition of information literacy, which states that, “to be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (ALA, 1989). This definition is broadly accepted, though, as the following scholarship observes, not without reservations. One of the most essential works in this field is Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age, by Kathleen L. Spitzer, Michael B. Eisenberg, and Carrie A. Lowe (1998). This book provides a comprehensive overview of the history and practice of information literacy in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Although it focuses on a number of important topics, the work offers a key exploration of how IL is defined, exploring the evolution of the term, from Paul Zurkowski’s introduction of the topic in 1974 to ALA’s 1989 definition. The book raises important questions regarding the ALA definition of information literacy, pointing out that it does not accurately define literacy among different mediums. They write, “It is important that we consider all of these possibilities when we use the term information and that we not be tied to the mental image of printed words and numbers. Using information in a variety of formats requires literacies beyond the basic literacies of reading and writing” (pg. 26). Another scholar who both utilizes and questions the ALA definition of IL is Rachel Hall. Hall’s article, Public Praxis: A Vision for Critical Information Literacy in Public Libraries (2010), deals with, in part, the evolution of the definition of information literacy. For her part, Hall broadly ascribes to the ALA definition of IL as stated above and notes, as we do, that this definition is broadly accepted among information literacy scholars. However, she also points out that this
  11. 11. TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 11 acceptance is not universal; according to Hall, information literacy, as a term, has been a source of conflict among scholars. She writes, “Twenty years ago, ALA wrote the by now canonical library definition of information literacy…While this definition provides a useful starting point for understanding information literacy, a number of writers have pointed out its shortcomings” (pg. 163). Although scholars have various and unique objections to this definition, Hall suggests that the critical voices—such as Alan Luke, Cushla Kapitzke, and Michelle Holschuh Simmons—find that the definition characterizes the “learner” or “user” as a passive recipient of skills. Hall also cites the work of scholar, James Elmborg, who argues for “an alternative definition with richer critical possibilities” (pg. 164). She suggests that, in accordance with Elmborg’s definition, IL is the set of knowledge and skills that allow individuals to receive, decipher, and create information “appropriate and valued” within their own community (pg. 164). Similarly, Edward K. Owusu-Ansah, in his article, Debating Definitions of Information Literacy: Enough Is Enough! (2005), presents a broad overview of the history of and conflicts in the definitions of IL. Owusu-Ansah suggests that, “these debates often create impressions of potential conflicts when there are truly none. Though [librarians] think they say different things, proponents of various interpretations do say mostly the same things in different ways” (pg. 367). Owusu-Ansah discusses the contributions of scholars such as Eisenberg and Kuhlthau and organizations such as ACRL and ALA to the definition of IL, but most interestingly, he maps the ways in which practicing librarians have influenced the definition. He notes that, “librarians, seeking greater participation in the educational process saw a unique opportunity to contribute. They could, concurrent with their existing custodial duties of collecting, organizing and providing access to the multiple forms and sources of information, also help…” (pg. 370). Owusu-Ansah also points out that by creating a more cohesive operational definition of IL, libraries and librarians will be better able to identify the ways in which they can contribute to discussions regarding IL. This, in turn, will allow them to put more time and energy into IL programs and practice. However, scholars are not just questioning the definition of information literacy, but also how the term is being used and understood by scholars and librarians. One of the most direct addresses to the terminology of IL can be found in Peyina Lin’s article, Information Literacy Barriers: Language Use and Social Structure (2010). She observes that, “examining the terminology of ‘information literacy’ is not new” (pg. 551). For example, “competence” and “fluency” are often used as synonyms. The author indicates that as it is currently understood, the term IL has “negative implications that hinder some to pursue active self learning and thus a full participation in civility” (pg. 548). The term literate is affiliated with the ability to read to
  12. 12. most. If librarians offer a class in information literacy, this can imply that the participants “who take the class cannot read or understand, and this may not be the case in those seeking help in diffusion of information” (pg. 548). But more importantly for our purposes, Lin is concerned with the effects that our definitions and usage of terminology has on how IL is perceived, noting that while many scholars have questioned the definitions of IL, none have paused to examine the potential for negative reactions to the term. Lin is inspired by the concepts of heterophily and homophily and their application to IL outreach. She observes that one challenge that presents itself to IL outreach efforts is that IL is “a new idea or concept to the majority of the population” and that “homophily in terms of likeness in ‘language’ is crucial for the exposure to them to be effective” (pg. 554). Another scholar that relies on the 1989 ALA definition of information literacy is Carol Brey- Casiano in her article From Literate to Information Literate Communities Through Advocacy (2006). In this article, she writes that “information literacy is the ability to find and use information” (pg. 183). This definition also borrows from Information Power, published by the American Association of School Librarians. Brey-Casiano suggests that this definition is clear, but the way it is understood and implemented by public librarians requires some examination. What is more important, she notes, is how “public librarians communicate the importance of information literacy to our communities” (pg. 183). With this in mind, she suggests that one of the key factors is the message public libraries create for information literacy campaigns. She writes, “How you develop your message, and deliver it to most effectively make your case, is…critical” (pg. 186). Although this statement does not directly address the impact of terminology on IL advocacy in public libraries, it does suggest that campaigns can, and should, be marketed in unique ways to appeal to patrons—a statement that does not rule out altering terminology. Language is, of course, important in institutional practices for ILI. In Best Practices in Information Literacy (2004), Fiona Hunt and Jane Birks outline practices originally derived from the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) in the association’s “Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices,” providing some interesting observations regarding the nature of advocacy in an institutional setting. Hunt and Birks note that language is important in establishing advocacy practices, citing Patricia Iannuzzi (1998), who suggests that librarians “look for language that ‘incorporates or embodies the spirit of information literacy,’ regardless of whether the actual phrase is used. Many universities and
  13. 13. TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 13 colleges, for example, support the goal of “life-long learning”—a goal that cannot be achieved without information literacy skills” (pg. 29). Another oft-cited work comes from Jane Harding. In Information Literacy and the Public Library: We’ve Talked the Talk But Are We Walking the Walk (2010), Harding thoroughly discusses the issues encountered by public libraries in their efforts to develop information literacy programs. Although this article is less concerned with the strict task of defining information literacy, it is essential thanks to its assessment of the state of scholarship examining ILI in public libraries; as she writes, there is scant work concerning public libraries. Nonetheless, Harding makes a key observation when she notes that, in doing groundwork for this particular article, her search results were significantly expanded when she broadened her search terms to include “user education” and “lifelong learning” (pg. 278). The article The Need for Appropriate IL Instruction in a Public Library Setting by Loriene Roy, Trina Bolfing, Bonnie Brzozowski (2010) highlights a technique often employed by public libraries, that of providing information literacy instruction under the guise of another skill. The authors cite an information literacy program offered at the Austin Public Library where LIS delivered instructional sessions designed to bolster job-seekers’ technology skills and information literacy, focusing on topics such as the construction of resumes and cover letters, interviewing etiquette and technique, and social networking/identity management. Roy, Bolfing and Brzozowski note that the use of terminology relevant to patron needs may have influenced the success of the program. Similarly, in her article, Taking Information Literacy Outside of the Library and Into the Workplace, Annemaree Lloyd (2011) calls for information professionals to examine current information literacy investigations and research. The article asks readers to think about information literacy outside the realm of libraries and in the workplace instead. Lloyd speculates that there is a valuable and untapped resource to be found in the practical applications of information literacy. Rather than using the term information literacy, the author suggests the adoption of the term information practice, which implies constant information diffusion that continually benefits the members of a workplace setting.
  14. 14. Information Literacy Advocacy IL advocacy is mentioned in passing in many IL articles, but other articles focus specifically on IL advocacy. As seen earlier, the scholar Brey-Casiano (2008) provides tips to help libraries develop and implement an advocacy “Action Plan”. She writes: Recent studies indicate that the general public may not be turning to their libraries for assistance with information, or information literacy. How can we–as librarians, library workers, and library stakeholders–broadcast our role as the ultimate source for information literacy? The answer, of course, is: advocacy. (pg. 184) The two key elements of a solid IL advocacy action plan, according to Brey-Casiano, are having a clear message and networking with stakeholders outside the library to spread the message. Once a clear, concise message has been created, it is important to host an “orientation session for library staff regarding your new advocacy campaign” (pg. 186) to ensure that everyone fully understands the message and how it should be broadcast. One recommendation that Brey- Casiano gives for creating a useful message is to “Think of stories from your own experience that truly illustrate the importance of information literacy” (pg. 186). Personal anecdotes relating IL success stories can be used to promote new and existing IL programs effectively. Brey-Casiano also emphasizes the importance of strong partnerships with key stakeholders, including Library Board members, Friends of the Library, leaders in the local business community, along with other community leaders and members of the local media. By creating strong partnerships with these stakeholders, libraries are able to maximize the effectiveness of their IL advocacy. Harding (2008) highlights the importance of partnerships as well, writing, “many assert that partnerships are both essential and the best way for public libraries to approach information literacy development and an increase in interest in collaborative efforts between institutions is emerging” (pg. 82). Harding discusses partnerships between public libraries and academic institutions, public libraries and other government and private organizations, and public libraries and individual community members. Strong support from these sectors can help public librarians in their advocacy efforts to other potential allies as well as patrons. Weiner and Jackman, in Information Literacy Beyond the Library (2008), take IL advocacy partnerships one step further, moving from the local to the national level. They describe the purpose and activities of the National Forum on Information Literacy, Inc. (NFIL), a nonprofit corporation that serves as an important, high-profile advocate for IL both nationally and, to some extent, internationally. NFIL was founded in 1989, and although the founders “expected that information literacy would quickly become ubiquitous,” the reality is that “societal
  15. 15. TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 15 integration of information literacy remains a significant challenge in the U.S.” (pg. 115). In 2009, NFIL transitioned from a volunteer group to a corporation, which allows them to use “market- based strategies to advance a social mission and sustain its organizational viability. It can now pursue public and private funding to further information literacy initiatives” (pg. 117). With NFIL’s incorporation and increased access to funding, they are able to promote the message of IL and the importance of IL for improving quality of life. One notable act of advocacy was gaining government support of their IL initiatives. The authors write, “In 2009, President Obama proclaimed October National Information Literacy Awareness Month, an initiative spearheaded by the National Forum on Information Literacy (NFIL), with direct support from Senator John Kerry and the late Senator Edward Kennedy” (pg. 118). Such support from noteworthy members of the U.S. government shows that IL can be effectively promoted on a large, national scale. Going one step further, to the international level, Horton (2011) describes the leading international organizations advocating for IL and several important summits where these organizations have met to discuss IL advocacy. The key international organizations include the International Federation for Information and Documentation, the International Federation for Library Associations and Organizations and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science and NFIL also participated in the international meetings. One of their conclusions was that “whatever strategies [they] developed must include a strong component aimed at increasing public awareness of just what information literacy was intended to mean” (pg. 268), which established them as IL advocates on an international scale. In spite of the collaboration of these organizations, “Each major cultural geographic region, even going down to the subregion and the country levels, seems to have its own unique interpretation of how to define and advance the IL idea in the context of its own education and training policies and programs” (pg. 271). While this may not initially seem ideal, it shows that both IL programs and advocacy campaigns are flexible enough to adapt to individual communities and cultures. However, not everyone agrees on the fundamental importance of IL advocacy. David Isaacson, in Let’s Talk Libraries, Not Information Literacy (2003), writes, “It is a mistake to mount a campaign to demonstrate that the public lacks still another form of ‘literacy.’ People may become just as ashamed of being illiterate in information as they are of being illiterate in other ways” (pg. 42). Isaacson’s main concern is in the term “information literacy” as it has implications that patrons who participate in IL programs may be information illiterate. Such
  16. 16. implications could potentially damage not only IL programs, but could also negatively impact the public’s perception of the library itself. Instead of focusing on IL, Isaacson encourages librarians to advocate for libraries. He makes a compelling argument, reminding readers that people need to come to the library before the librarians can teach them how to be information literate. Hall (2010), as cited previously, takes a position on IL advocacy that is diametrically opposed to Isaacson and his perspective on the topic; unlike Isaacson, she argues that without something more substantial, like IL, library advocacy can become a hollow popularity contest. Hall points to the Public Library Association and its 2005 strategic plan, in which their “10 to 30 year ‘Big Audacious Goal,’” was to “Make the library card the most valued card in every wallet” (pg. 171). Hall writes, “The rest of the PLA’s Strategic Plan is approximately the same, with the emphasis on garnering fans and financial contributions. While I agree that economic health is essential to the prosperity of any public library, I also think that these goals lack a true core and focus” (pg. 171). Without diminishing the importance of drawing people into the library in the first place, Hall shows that public libraries can use IL programs to better the lives of their patrons. She suggests an alternative goal for the PLA, which is to “Make the public library a central agent in empowering an informed and democratic society” (pg. 171). Although she does not use the term “information literacy,” definitions of IL often include phrases similar to “informed and democratic society,” indicating her intention to make IL a central goal for public libraries. On the perceptions of IL, Hall and Isaacson are in agreement. Hall also expresses concern that the term “information literacy” could negatively impact the perception of IL programs, particularly in light of public libraries’ ongoing emphasis on more traditional “book-based” literacy. “While I applaud the PLA’s efforts to stimulate book-based literacy,” Hall writes, “this may be interfering with public libraries’ willingness to embrace information literacy” (pg. 172). Likewise, Brey-Casiano also points out that “the public library is also a great place to gain the basic literacy skills that form the basis for information literacy. Clearly, one must be able to read before adopting effective information literacy skills” (pg. 184). Although this is true in a very literal sense, it is important to be conscious of the connotations associated with the term “literacy” in the minds of both patrons and librarians. As long as public libraries focus much of their programming energy into traditional literacy programs, the connection of the term “literacy” to IL could influence not only patrons, but also public librarians’ understanding of IL. If librarians themselves do not have a firm grasp of what they are advocating for, efforts are doomed to fail. Relevant and accessible terminology directly
  17. 17. TERMINOLOGY OF INFORMATION LITERACY INSTRUCTION 17 influences the opinions and understanding of everyone involved and the heretofore lack of this terminology has made marketing IL programs challenging. Harding reinforces this concern, particularly regarding the role of librarians, claiming that “many librarians, especially public librarians, may be the least able spokespersons” in efforts of IL advocacy because of “a lack of understanding and knowledge of information literacy concepts by librarians” (pg. 84). Librarians “view information literacy very narrowly as the teaching of information searching skills and use it as an ‘umbrella term’ for a large array of library activities such as user education and library orientation” (pg. 84), which underscores the misunderstandings of IL. While it is important for IL programs and advocacy to reflect the communities in which they operate, there should be more consistency in the definitions and understanding of the concept of IL. Clearly defined terminology could help. Research Aim and Questions The goal of this research is to determine how the term “information literacy” is perceived by both patrons and public librarians and how these perceptions impact the success of IL programs. By examining the terminology used in IL advocacy campaigns, the dominant terminology can be identified. Once identified, a survey to evaluate the reactions of both public library patrons and librarians will be created and distributed. The findings of the content analysis and survey will answer these research questions:  What are the dominant terminologies used in conjunction with IL programs (i.e. information literacy, information competency, lifelong learning, etc.)?  What connotations do each of these terms have, and are they positive or negative?  How do public library patrons react to each of these terms?  How do public librarians react to each of these terms?  What terms best represent the concept of IL while maintaining the best reaction from both librarians and patrons? The findings of this research will hopefully identify appropriate terminology that can successfully market IL programs in public libraries. Assumptions of the Research
  18. 18. Based on the review of the literature above, it is assumed that the term “information literacy” holds a negative connotation, implying that those who need ILI are information illiterate. Similar connotations are attached to the term “information competency,” which would imply that the people in the program are incompetent. The literature reviewed above also indicates that the definition of IL is unclear to both patrons and librarians, and that without a clearer definition, it will be difficult to advocate for IL. Prior to conducting our content analysis, it is difficult to create a viable projection that will serve to guide the creation of our survey. However, we venture that patrons will find everyday language more appealing and accessible, and that the adoption of such terminology will improve the success of IL programs and advocacy. Significance of the Research While the literature reviewed above addresses the need for a change in IL terminology, there seems to be little empirical research that addresses how the term information literacy affects both patrons and librarians, and consequently the success of IL programs. As noted by Hall (2010), there is also a significant lack of research on IL programs in public libraries compared to the wealth of research on these programs in school and academic libraries. This study would address each of these gaps in IL research. It will also propose alternative terms that would market IL programs more successfully.
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  20. 20. Weiner, S.A. & Jackman, L.W. (2010). The National Forum on Information Literacy, Inc. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 17(1), 114-120.