From Barbara Ciambor, Outreach Librarian, Rochester Regional Library Council

The Information Literacy Continuum Committee, working under the auspices of the Rochester Regional Library Council (RRLC), is an example of a collaborative group of academic, school and public librarians in the Rochester, NY area, committed to ensuring that students in K-12 and higher education institutions learn information seeking skills. The group has developed a continuum of information literacy skills needed for a transition from high school to college.

The committee was first formed in 2004 as a result of a Library Services and Technology Act funded, New York State Library Division of Library Development grant awarded to RRLC, to promote the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library (NOVEL) databases. The committee’s original charge was to encourage lifelong learning through the use of the NOVELNY databases but the group quickly broadened its scope to include students’ information literacy skills.

Area academic librarians were concerned that students entered their institutions lacking basic information literacy skills, yet school librarians knew they were teaching these skills. There was obviously a disconnect somewhere, and librarians were interested in working collaboratively to define the disconnect and discover what could be done about it.

The committee posed the question ‘What if we could develop a document that would assist students with the high school to college transition, introducing specific skills with reinforcement as part of the process?’”

A lengthy collaboration produced the “Core Library & Research Skills Grade 9-14+” document which outlines grade levels at which specific skills in each step are expected to be introduced and mastered. The document has been shared throughout the Rochester area, at a workshop hosted by St. John Fisher College, for the Rochester Area School Librarians (RASL) and feedback has been received from librarians in the U.S. and abroad. Committee members have had the opportunity to present at regional library meetings and conferences, including a joint presentation with the Buffalo area High School to College group at the Spring Sharing session of the School Librarians’ Association of Western New York (SLAWNY)

Information Literacy Continuum Committee members have organized and participated in a variety of programs to help educate school and academic librarians about information literacy instruction at the different levels. School librarians have attended academic library orientations, which include tours of library buildings as well as discussions about library instruction at the host institution. Academic librarians share their expectations for incoming students, and high school librarians discuss their experiences teaching students information literacy skills. An “Information Literacy Discussion Forum” was held, attended by both school and academic librarians.

Collaborative activities have included a panel presentation by academic librarian members to a faculty meeting at Brockport High School. The college and university librarians discussed what they felt were the skills students were lacking, and made suggestions as to what high school teachers and librarians could do to address these issues. Topics of discussion ranged from note taking and writing skills to research and social skills. Overall the resounding message was that incoming college students need to better understand the research process, including how to take adequate notes, identify or focus a topic and associated key words or phrases, how to evaluate web sources, and how to cite sources. The panel stressed that repetition and reinforcement was critical to success, all agreed that the more students wrote and researched in high school the better.

The panel discussion generated a great deal of positive feedback from Brockport High School faculty and administration, with one teacher observing “It was great to make a connection with people in the academic arena, they reaffirmed that we’re on the right track. I definitely gleaned some good ideas from their feedback.” The high school librarians have also stated that the experience of collaboration has added a level of credibility to interactions with students and teachers, sharing the realistic expectations of librarians and faculty at the college level.

Two new members representing public libraries have joined the committee. With their input, the committee will broaden its focus to learn how information literacy can be supported across a “continuum” of lifelong learning.

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From Dean Hendrix, Coordinator of Education Services, University at Buffalo Health Sciences Library

Three years ago, the University at Buffalo Health Sciences Library (UBHSL) and the New Visions Honors Level Connection Program from Erie I BOCES began a collaborative program to teach practical information literacy skills to high schools seniors in the area.

Focused on health sciences careers, these students spent one day a week at a local hospital (Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital or the Buffalo VA Hospital) during the school year. At the beginning of the year, their teachers assigned the classes controversial questions in field of health sciences to research, and ultimately debated in a formal setting.

Students are expected to research both sides of an issue.

Past questions include:

* Should the United States government legalize medical marijuana?

* Should the United States government pay for universal health care?

* Should local, state or federal legislation ban unhealthy behaviors (riding a motorcycle without a helmet, trans fats in foods, smoking in public areas, etc.)?

* Should US citizens be allowed to fill prescriptions in pharmacies residing in foreign countries?

* Should the US government allow human cloning research?

In October, the classes came to UBHSL for hands-on training in some basic information literacy skills including the nature of different types of resources, the information cycle, database searching, evaluative methods and synthesizing information into a useful product.

The evaluative piece of the curricula was stressed heavily. Discussions were centered around the assessment of books, journals, magazines and websites as well as more in-depth delineations regarding study types (randomized controlled trials, review articles, editorials, case studies, etc.).

Due to the age of the students (read: attention span), interactive activities and group work were incorporated into the library instruction. Students were encouraged to come to the UBHSL, or patronize their high school libraries to refine their positions on the issues.

In November, students wrote a position paper with references culled from their previous research. The quality of their sources was assessed. The capstone to this collaboration was a formal debate held in the hospital in front of family, friends and hospital staff. Broken into teams of four, the students argued their assigned positions in a Lincoln-Douglas debate format. I served as one of three debate judges. It was extremely gratifying to see these students eloquently speak on these contentious topics. One student made a point to discuss the higher level evidence presented in a review article in order to add weight to his argument. It was a health sciences librarian’s dream to be sure.