Introductory Comments by Josephine Crawford
Dear Library and Information Science Colleagues,
Library-provided user education has come a long way since my undergraduate experience at the University of California in the 1970s. After attending a combined library tour and bibliographic instruction session in the first week of classes, I came away with a lasting lesson on when to use the card catalog versus periodical indexes.
Fast forward to the 21st century. We now have the Internet and the World Wide Web, and library services are usually delivered in the online context. The digital information world is much more complex and users’ expectations have changed dramatically. In addition, the information-seeking habits of library users are often shaped by their experiences with the Web’s "killer applications," as embodied by Google or Amazon.
Today patrons may not come to a library at all. Many library users work remotely – from homes, offices or Internet cafés. They may alternate between using desktop or laptop computers, Web-capable cell phones or personal digital assistants. Students assume (often in error) that basic Internet searches will suffice in writing research papers. They may have never heard about the hidden or dark Web (i.e. the content, often of considerable value, that Internet search engines cannot find and index). They may not appreciate the value of information in paper form on library shelves. As a result of these circumstances, librarians and other educational professionals are introducing information literacy, in all its forms and aspects, into school curriculums.
What is information literacy? The development of a growing set of skills and competencies in finding, evaluating and making use of information in appropriate ways. An information literate person becomes, today and into the future, more thoughtful and versatile in seeking and using information.
Even for a conscientious user, the digital world poses tremendous challenges in becoming and staying information literate. Today’s wired and wireless educational and professional environment is expanding and adapting at an exponential rate, and at many levels and layers simultaneously. User interfaces change frequently as a result of continuous improvement efforts by developers. A plethora of information-delivery systems exists, some with much more content than others. Content can overlap and/or be split across systems, given that there is no overarching content management system. Users must learn to navigate between the Internet’s open resources, and fee-based services that may appear to be free by virtue of the users’ affiliations with specific institutions.
Via sophisticated and growing user-education programs, libraries today deliver training and coaching on information literacy to large numbers of individuals. Libraries of all stripes guide users on where to search and how to search. Libraries teach users to evaluate information for authoritativeness, accuracy, currency and completeness. They help users seek out other points of view. To sum up, libraries help users locate, evaluate and apply information successfully in academic, employment and life contexts.
Innovation and collaboration are the primary adjectives that come to my mind in reviewing the articles presented in this pamphlet. By collaborating with faculty and other colleagues (such as instructional designers and user-interface experts), librarians are reaching users directly and indirectly. To deliver instruction of substantive and measurable value in the digital era, libraries are employing creative approaches and devices. In addition, frequent and thorough evaluation of instructional methods feeds into a cycle of continuous improvement.
Please join me in applauding the many contributions put in place by information professionals working in diverse environments, as these colleagues help library users connect with and truly benefit from electronic resources and state-of-the-art information systems.
Josephine Crawford, MLIS, Manager of Curriculum Development, Endeavor Information Systems, Des Plaines, Illinois, USA
Josephine Crawford has over twenty years experience in academic librarianship and systems management. Prior to joining Endeavor Information Systems in 2003, she worked at UCLA, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota. In her early career, Ms. Crawford helped introduce technology into traditional library functions, including acquisitions, fund accounting, serials control, reference, authority control, cataloging and circulation. More recently, she has been involved in OPAC and website design, electronic resource access and delivery, user authentication, license management, digital libraries, local area networks, server support and portals/gateways.
At Endeavor Information Systems, an Elsevier company offering library software systems, Ms. Crawford spearheads development of training and educational opportunities for library staff and information technology professionals.