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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Approaches to Information Literacy: Accomodating Student Cultures in Institutions of Higher Education

Mary Michel Abdoney.

Information Literacy, or 'IL', has been one of the most researched topics in library science for over three decades. However, as the concept of IL has changed its structure due to various technological advances, related disciplines such as educational psychology, higher education administration, and even instructional technology have discovered the significance of teaching students how to seek out and evaluate quality information. Institutions of higher education share the common goal of creating scholars who are prepared and eager to seek new horizons with their research. One would think that with the plethora of information available via the Internet that scholarly research would greatly improve, but just the opposite is true. Rather than a "great wealth of information", many students and professors perceive this boom as a "great burden of information". Thus, the previously popular bibliographic instruction (also known as library instruction or library orientation) has morphed into IL, moving away from library tours and catalog orientations and toward search strategies and search tools.

However, the Internet has created a new generation of web-savvy students who feel quite confident with search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Ask Jeeves, among others. These services are suitable for everyday research for personal use, but they do not suffice for scholarly research. Librarians have stressed this point for years, but still, students resort to web tools for convenience. This convenience has produced student research which lacks authority and substance. How do we get through to students that making the extra effort to come to the library will greatly benefit their performance as scholars?

Many have answered this question with repetitive approaches such as numerous library instruction sessions, library tutorials, multimedia presentations, brochures, or lengthy lectures highlighting the glorious opportunities the library holds. Still, many student cultures identify the library as a superfluous step in the research process. Professors, administrators, and librarians at such campuses are still scratching their heads at this problem because what they do does not work. Are instruction librarians taking a one-size-fits-all approach?

The simple answer is yes. Just as all people are different, so are campus cultures. Librarians must address the fundamental needs of the students (and faculty) in order to build a successful IL program. Teaching students how to search library databases to find journal articles is a wasted effort if the student does not know what a journal article is. Emphasizing the difference between a peer-reviewed journal and popular magazine is of no use to a student who does not understand how and why different types of information get published in different periodicals. This paper will examine the importance of assessing the basic needs of students in order to fully serve their information literacy needs. It will also examine the current value of traditional reference service in the library and how information literacy initiatives have changed attitudes toward reference service.


Mary Michel Abdoney  (United States)
Reference/Science Librarian and Assistant Professor
Reference Department Eckerd College Library
Eckerd College

Mary Abdoney graduated from the University of Florida in 1999 with a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and a minor in Secondary Education. She received her Master's of Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida in 2000, then shortly joined the faculty of Eckerd College as Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor. She has served as the librarian for the US Geological Survey Center for Coastal Research and is currently working with the information literacy component of freshman orientation at Eckerd.

  • Information literacy
  • Reference service
  • Undergraduate research
  • Bibliographic instruction
  • Library instruction
  • Library orientation
  • Librarian
  • Internet

(Virtual Presentation, English)