Friday, March 4, 2011

My quest so far ..

So, I've been talking about my ongoing quest for programming information literacy in the sciences at my university for a while on Adventures in Library Instruction. (Side note, I love the ambitious language .. adventures! quest! Clearly, we're all having way too much fun with this.) In Episode 23, I finally caved and said I'd start a blog to document my ongoing journey.

Lo and behold, I'm making good on my pledge. So what am I going to talk about? Well, the long (and not always straightforward path) toward trying to institutionalize information literacy outcomes in each of my science departments on campus. I'm currently liaison to:
- biology
- chemistry
- computer science
- environmental science
- math/stats
- physics
- psychology

Some basic stats about my university: around 10,000 students, half undergrad, half graduate. We are a strongly social-science leaning school and have not historically been known as a destination for science folk. The provost is currently working on improving our science departments.

None of these disciplines currently has a formal instruction partnership with the library (or myself). I've been asked almost every semester to come talk about PsycInfo in the undergraduate psychology research methods class, and a couple of undergraduate environmental science seminars. Last semester, I came in to a chemistry lab to talk about searching Web of Science for methodology articles. That's really it. My goal, at the end of this, is to support these departments in teaching research skills (which I broadly define as the ability to recognize, search for, evaluate and use the appropriate scientific information in their classes) such that each student that graduates with a science degree here will have more or less the same level of information literacy competency relevant to their field.

Ambitious, huh?

There are some underlying factors that are either motivating this or I think will help me:
- we already have some good partnerships, most notably with the freshman college writing class (which about 2/3 of first years take - the others opt out), the business school, and the school of international service.
- the university is currently taking a look at its gen ed program, and it's expected that whatever replaces college writing will be required of everything. This means that I can safely assume that all science majors should walk into their major with a basic understanding of how to search for library resources.
- the provost has remarked (more than once) that he doesn't think librarians should be in the classroom (cue boos, hisses, and heckling). I would really love to get some partnerships in place before he really starts thinking of ways he could make this happen. (or at least have more faculty support if he tries)
- all departments are required to create department-level learning outcomes for their students, along with how they will assess the degree to which students are obtaining these outcomes. This has been an awesome resource not only to figure out what's going on in each department, but where information literacy may or may not be happening.

A brief timeline of relatively recent activity:
- I talked to my boss about my goals. She suggested scheduling a meeting with several of us to meet with the associate dean for undergraduate studies (who happens to be in the biology department), because I felt like I couldn't get far without administrative "up high" support.
- As a result of scheduling this meeting (including a pow-wow of said librarians on how we should approach this), I talked to the associate dean firsthand .. who said in lieu of one big meeting, she'd actually like me to talk to departments individually, and recommended that I meet with the head of each department and the chair of each department's undergraduate studies committee (who knew such a committee even existed?!).

So that's where I stand. How will my quest fare?? This tale will continue. :)

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