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Integrating Information Literacy Into Your Courses

Library Instruction Pilot Plan for Spring '23

This spring, librarians will pilot and assess a new model of library instruction to better meet the needs of librarians, faculty and classroom instructors, and all of SUNY Oswego’s students.  

Librarians will teach instruction sessions for ENG 102 and offer a series of library / information literacy workshops that will be available to any and all students in person, online, and asynchronously.  

Librarians will not be available to teach library sessions specifically for other classes, but will be offering proof of attendance at workshops.  It is our hope and intention that you will assign student attendance at library workshops for a grade or extra credit.  

We will also be offering resources and consultation support as you design classes and assignments to incorporate information literacy concepts. (We've started putting together some resources here on this set of pages.) Our goal in doing this is to reach as many students as possible while taking stock of what we need and hope to accomplish through our library instruction program, and planning improvements for future semesters.  

We held a Winter Breakout Session about this at 11 a.m. on January 9, 2023, which you can view here if you're interested. We’d love to hear from you!

Why We're Trying This Now

Under the current, “traditional” model of library instruction at SUNY Oswego, individual librarians collaborate with individual faculty members to bring a single library / information literacy session to one of the faculty member’s classes. There are two complementary threads of reasoning as to why this model needs to be examined and revised.

The first thread of why library instruction needs to be examined has to do with the unequal and inequitable distribution of library and information literacy instruction among courses. The library’s widest reach to students is achieved through our agreement with ENG 102, where every ENG 102 class will have a librarian come in to teach a class session. An estimated 60-75% of all SUNY Oswego students take ENG 102 (M. Murphy, personal communication, November 29, 2022; D. Furlong, personal communication, November 30, 2022), most in their first year (D. Furlong, personal communication, November 30, 2022). However, the corollary of that is that 25-40% of students waive ENG 102 through transfer credits or by otherwise meeting the requirements. This means that there is no single course in which librarians can reach all students.

Furthermore, some students may never have another librarian-led class session after ENG 102. Other students may have numerous library sessions over their college career. It is worth noting that online/distance/Syracuse campus students typically receive less library instruction than their main campus peers, but otherwise the distribution of library instruction throughout students’ careers at SUNY Oswego is unpredictable and inconsistent.

The second thread of reasoning for examining library instruction focuses on the fact that the library instruction program at SUNY Oswego was created in the 1970s and has kept basically the same form ever since: librarians work with individual faculty members / instructors to tailor a library instruction session to that professor’s class. Libraries, technology, understanding of student needs, pedagogical best practices, and SUNY Oswego itself have evolved since then, but the overall structure of library instruction has not. In particular, Penfield Library has gone from having 20+ librarians involved in library instruction in its heyday to having 8 librarians available for library instruction (and everything else) as of the start of Spring Semester, 2023.

The status quo of library instruction is a heavy and unpredictable load on librarians, particularly at a moment when they are simultaneously being asked to pull extra weight in other library-specific duties due to current staffing levels. This, in turn, puts severe limits on librarians’ proactive contributions to students’ mastery of information literacy, effectively tying librarians to a single tool for that purpose: one-shot library instruction sessions.

Pulling those two threads together, we see that under the current model librarians are devoting massive amounts of time and energy to an instruction program that does not reach all students and precludes librarians having time to support students and faculty in other ways that might have broader, more consistent reach. Thus, this is a moment to ask: How can librarians best support student information literacy?

How we’re going to assess and move forward

Penfield's librarians are currently examining the goals and objectives of library instruction. We are trying new things in Spring 2023 so that we can assess how well they work. Our findings from that assessment will impact our plans for future semesters.

We're looking for faculty members who are willing to help us out with assessment of how things go this spring, since you're the ones who will know if you assign students to attend workshops, if those students actually do attend workshops, and how good the research they're doing for their projects is. If you think you might be interested in helping the library assess our pilot this spring, please reach out to Assistant Library Director Emily Mitchell.

Regardless of what model we end up using in future semesters, the library commits to always working with faculty and classroom instructors to proactively support students' information literacy.

Concerns

  • Why are librarians focusing on ENG 102 and not other classes?
    An estimated 60-75% of all SUNY Oswego students take ENG 102 (M. Murphy, personal communication, November 29, 2022; D. Furlong, personal communication, November 30, 2022), most in their first year (D. Furlong, personal communication, November 30, 2022). ENG 102 is the class where most SUNY Oswego students encounter their first, or one of their first, college research papers.  A student’s first research paper is critical to their success in that class and their feelings of belonging in college, and has an outsized impact on decisions about whether to remain in college or drop out (Hodge, 2022). ENG 102 is a library and librarian touchpoint for most SUNY Oswego students at a moment when that touchpoint is especially critical to their college success.  We don’t want to disrupt that. 
  • Students aren’t going to attend library workshops.
    Faculty / classroom instructors teach students what they value by spending time on it and by incorporating it into the students’ grades.  The librarians hope and intend that you will consider assigning attendance at library workshops for a grade or extra credit.  We will have in-person, online, and asynchronous options to make sure everyone is able to attend, and we will be offering proof of attendance (or, in the case of the asynchronous option, results of an online assessment which can be emailed directly to you). 

    We further hope that you will take a look at the resources available to both you and students and incorporate some topics into your own teaching.  We have librarian-created How-To Guides on everything from “Search Basics” to “Write an annotated bibliography,” and a lot of topics in between. You can also use the navigation on the top left of this page to learn more about integrating information literacy into your courses.

  • Students are struggling to attend class, much less complete assignments. Really, they’re not going to attend library workshops outside of class. 
    In addition to encouraging you to assign library workshop attendance for a grade (or as much longed-for extra credit!), we also encourage you to talk up specific workshops that you think would help your students.  Workshops will be available in person, online, and asynchronously to avoid disadvantaging students whose schedules don’t align with ours.  

    One good thing about the library offering workshops is that each workshop will be offered multiple times, and be available asynchronously.  This gets us away from a model where a student who missed class the day of the library session can never make that up.  

    We further encourage you to incorporate library and information literacy content throughout your entire course, rather than concentrating it into a single librarian-led session.  We have guides you and your students can use on how to accomplish common research tasks, guides you and your students can use on recommended resources for your subject area, and suggestions for how you can fully integrate information literacy into your assignments. Librarians are ready and willing to help you think through learning outcomes, activities, and assignments. And if you're willing to add a line to your syllabi about how librarians would love to help students with research questions, all the better!

  • The workshops don't cover what my students need for their assignment(s).
    While we can’t send a librarian to teach your class, we’re happy to help you plan what content you need to teach and identify measurable learning outcomes.  We can also work with you to improve existing assignments, and show you example assignments and rubrics for grading information literacy in student research projects

  • I really want my students to form a connection with a librarian. 
    We want that too!  Please encourage your students to attend our workshops and ask questions at the Research Help Desk.  We even have suggested language for including information about the library’s research help services on your syllabus to make sure your students know it's there for them.

  • My students really enjoyed and got a lot out of their library instruction session in the past.
    Thank you!  That's so good to hear. The librarians hope that you will consider assigning attendance at library workshops for a grade or extra credit, so that your students will come to a workshop and realize that they enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. 

    We further hope that you will take a look at the resources available to both you and students and incorporate some topics into your own teaching.  We have librarian-created How-To Guides on everything from “Search Basics” to “Write an annotated bibliography,” and a lot of topics in between.  You can also use the navigation on the top left of this page to learn more about integrating information literacy into your courses.

  • I like to provide in-class time for students to work on library research in the library. 
    You can still do that!  Faculty and staff members can reserve library classrooms.  If a student runs into research trouble during your session that you think a librarian is better suited to answer than you are, send the student to the Research Help Desk.

  • I still have concerns.
    We had a 2023 Winter Breakout Session about this, which is available for streaming. Also, we'd love to hear from you! We're going to be assessing how things go this semester so we can recalibrate for Fall 2023 as needed. If you're interested in working with us on that assessment, please reach out to Assistant Library Director Emily Mitchell.

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