Scalable Information Literacy

Remember back in August when we basked in these last glorious dog days of summer, and looked with such wide, hopeful eyes towards the onslaught of September?

Now it’s November, and for many of us the tornado of Fall semester behind us, we have some time to look back and reflect on the insanity that was.

Librarians have been working really hard to get an information literacy presence into the classroom for decades. Some with great success…. Maybe even a bit *too* much success. Given the enormous time constraints placed on librarians as they become increasingly in demand for in-class teaching, I’ve started thinking about where we go from here. How can we continue to push forward an information literacy curriculum that meets faculty demand, is effective for student learning, and doesn’t create a Fall teaching schedule that makes us want to collectively crawl under our desks with a box of kleenex and a bottle of finely-crafted whiskey?


I was giving this concept some thought throughout September and October. You know, between inhaling my lunches hunched over my laptop, and falling asleep on the late-evening subway rides home. I’m curious about what happens when we get to that point where our information literacy efforts are just too successful.

It seems that, as with services and technologies, scalability is going to become an increasingly difficult thing to manage for librarians. I wonder about how we can pursue a scalable IL service that works whether we’re reaching 10 classes in a semester, or 100.

As I think through the problem, the solutions always come back to these thoughts:

1) We can’t have IL instruction hinge on librarians alone, unless libraries are equipped to hire a LOT more instructional librarians (haha. *weeps*). We need help.

2) Students don’t learn information literacy well when it’s a one-off workshop session. IL has to be embedded in the course curriculum to make sense beyond the walls of the library.

3) We have liaison relationships that lots of on-campus groups would just DIE for. We can leverage these relationships beyond the “yep, see you Thursday at 7pm!” conversation.


I want to explore how librarians might approach the issue of scalable information literacy. The stuff I’ve thought of include: 

Curriculum Maps: Can we get IL goals mapped to the learning objectives of entire programs? Can we get information literacy embedded at the programmatic level and delivered through course deliverables?

Train the Trainer: Can we get faculty to approach these issues through their own teaching? Is teaching teachers how to teach IL a more realistic goal to trying to teach IL ourselves?

eLearning: Can we get tech to do some of the heavy lifting for us? Are people having success with tying completion of online modules to course deliverables? As a tool for a flipped-classroom approach that could compliment an in-class component? Has someone solved the riddle for making these things actually be attractive and usable and entertaining for students?

There are probably lots of other interesting tools I haven’t thought of. I suspect that any good solution will involve more than one approach, and anything MUST ensure that faculty relationships continue to flourish and students… you know.. learn stuff. But I imagine some librarians are very much looking for ways to use their time more strategically while still furthering the goals of information literacy. It may be that scalable IL efforts are the solution to this problem.


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