Information literacy without librarians? My experience at the ICEL

This past June I presented a poster at the ICEL (International Conference on E-Learning) 2011 conference in Kelowna, BC. As you can expect the crowd was international, from various disciplines and levels of academia: professors, directors, instructors, course administrators, Education PhDs, etc. If you look the website the presenters focused on different aspects of education, some hot topics were student engagement in the classroom, course evaluations, online course management systems (Blackboard, WebCT, etc.), social media in online learning and much more.

Information literacy was discussed many times as a key issue in higher education. There was a lot of talk about teaching students not to over rely on Google, teaching how not to plagiarize, and building life long learning information literacy skills. What I found interesting is that they (educators, academics?) didn’t discuss librarians as being able to help with information literacy. In fact, there was no talk about libraries and librarians at all. When I mentioned that I was a librarian, some even asked why I was there! Most people I spoke to have no idea that we do instruction or even care about information literacy (including 4 Canadian scholars whom I chatted with, one was a Microbiologist from Alberta, another an Assistant Professor in Education from BC, a CompEng Prof from Vic U, and a manager of instructional design from UofT’s Faculty of Medicine). I tried my best to spread the word about our efforts in information literacy, but let me tell you, it was news to them 🙂 Some of you may have already experienced this, but it was kinda of a shocker for me.

In my 3.5 years in the profession, I’ve developed this fantastical image of librarians as ‘information illiteracy’ slayers. This is not how members of other departments and disciplines view us. Needless to say, I learned that we still have a lot of work to do in spreading the word about how we can help with information literacy. I’m not sure how to do this correctly, I don’t think advocacy is the answer. Perhaps collaborating and making connections outside of the library field is a start…I think.

On a lighter note, I had a wonderful time. Kelowna is beautiful and I felt really lucky to be in a place were others had similar interests: to improve the learning experience of students and more importantly, to give them the proper tools for future research.

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