Information literacy and the first year student

An excellent article that scratches beneath surface myths about first year students and their need — or not — for “research” activities.

Information literacy and the first-year student shares the work of Anne-Marie Deitering, a librarian and professor of undergraduate learning initiatives at Oregon State University.  Deitering seeks to dispel the myth that research assignments are the best way to engage first year students in information literacy. By waiting until students are involved in deep research assignments, librarians may miss their best opportunities to help students develop information-handling skills.

Librarians need to drill deeper to learn what a first year student really needs to know.  How can we find out? Develop relationships with faculty who work closely with first year students; connect with student services on campus, who routinely collect data as part of recruitment efforts and ongoing communication with students.  And don’t just look at national stats or trends, but figure out the specifics for students at your institution.

I really valued the ideas in this article, especially the recommendation to focus on your local needs rather than pay excessive attention to national or North American trends.  Just today, I was thinking about how to match library instruction to retention rates for first year students at the U of T.  But then I learned from our registrar that, unlike most North American institutions, where retention is a big and worrisome issue, U of T’s retention rate in Arts and Sciences is 92-94%. As a result, there’s no real reason to measure for retention, because once they are in, our students STAY.


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  1. Update — the Library has registered for a seat for Anne-Marie’s upcoming webinar on this topic, which will be held on July 23 2012, 1-2:30 p.m. Watch for details on the UTLIBRARIANS email list.

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