An Educators Guide to Information Literacy: What Every High School Senior Needs to Know

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Category: Information Literacy, Research Strategies - [email protected] Magazine

For others, it means entering the workforce or joining the military. For all, it means that their ability to locate and evaluate information is about to be put to a very real, high-stakes test. Whether attempting to locate the college that meets their needs, navigate the daunting process of online job searches and applications, or sort fact from propaganda as they make important life choices, high school students carry with them all of their information needs from middle school with the added necessity of beginning to use their information sorting and searching skills in real-world situations that directly impact their lives.

At this level, the SLMS not only continues to guide students through the academic exercises and resource evaluation begun at lower grade levels but also continues to curate a robust collection of literature and nonfiction materials of interest and value to students. They also take on the very important task of empowering young people to attend college, engage in the workforce, and prepare for the realities of adult life. The SLMS will use the knowledge students have gained over their many years of library instruction and begin teaching them to apply what they know to the decision-making process.

This is essential for students who need extra support for difficult or overwhelming research topics. As Anderson points out, real-world examples from high schools have shown that when Media Specialists are removed, over-taxed teachers often find it necessary to simply cut research projects or information literacy skills from their lesson plans p. Yet the questions students must successfully answer are simultaneously deeply personal and intrinsically tied to the realities of the outside world, requiring true information literacy skills.

Some such questions might include:.

News & Media Literacy

As is evidenced by the above questions, many US high school students are facing real choices that may affect their whole lives, and some are doing so with very little guidance from trusted adults. At this point in their lives, students who have had access to a comprehensive K-8 school library program with a qualified SLMS have a significant advantage over their peers, and those who continue to have access to a program are positioned more favorably still.

What is Information Literacy?

This is because the high school SLMS not only helps students access databases and scholarly resources for school assignments, teaches them how to responsibly and ethically use information, and guides them through the process of finding resources that meet their personal needs, but also points them toward a future in which they will be able to employ a critical eye and a questioning mind as they interact with information through the remainder of their lives. A public library and a school library are a perfect partnership, sharing many of the same goals including equity of access to information and resources for students, lifelong learning, and critical use of information and technology NJASL, Both libraries wish for their students and student patrons to be knowledgeable and informed citizens.

When one half of this partnership does not exist, students become disadvantaged and become an underserved population not ready for an information age. A public librarian can serve patrons from an early childhood age until long into their adult lives. From board books and storytimes for infants, to adult book clubs and homebound services for the elderly, a public library plays a broad role in its community and a public librarian provides patrons with lifelong learning IFLA, The most important role, arguably, is serving the student community.

Public librarians serve students in grades kindergarten through college during after school hours, on weekends, and on school vacations. These public librarians who serve student populations rely heavily on school librarians to teach students information literacy skills so that public librarians can support their curricula during those after school hours Abram, In the 21st century world in which we currently live, students must be able to navigate the information world accurately and credibly.

Without school librarians and effective school library programs, public librarians become burdened with the additional task of having to teach students basic research skills, digital literacy skills, digital citizenship skills, and many more skills that fall under the umbrella of information literacy. Legally, a public librarian should not replace a school librarian simply because a public librarian is unqualified.

Differentiating Instruction: A Guide for Teaching English-Language Learners

According to the Rutgers Master of Information Program website , this additional course plan is approved by the state and it is a requirement for School Library certification. The school library media specialization has been designed to meet the New Jersey Department of Education requirements to become certified as a School Library Media Specialist by the State of New Jersey. With this degree librarians can work in elementary and secondary creating collections, providing information on literacy education and collaborating with teachers to provide a wide range of learning opportunities for students Rutgers, , p.

This is a specialty that a public librarian does not have. Public librarians who serve a student population do, however, have other specialties.

One of those specialties is to act as a support for students in many other areas of their lives. These areas can be extremely broad but extremely important, leaving little to no time to replace a School Librarian and their duties. Public librarians are trained only to reinforce research skills and critical thinking skills in support of school libraries. When a librarian comes across a student who has not had the opportunity to access an information literacy curriculum during their education, both the student and the public librarian become disadvantaged.

The short interaction that a public librarian has with a student is extremely important and will determine if the student feels their needs were met. A student who experiences a frustrating and disappointing reference interview is at risk of never returning to the public library, resulting in a student who will lack out of school education such as homework help and access to resources for questions related to academia, health, and finances. All of which relate to life long learning.

A common reference interview between a librarian and a patron aids both parties. Not only does it allow the librarian to know exactly what the patron needs but also, by asking the right questions, it allows the patron to explore what their exact needs are.

However, the interview becomes meaningless if the student does not know what to do with the information they were just given. Without school librarians and effective school library programs, public librarians will come across more and more students who cannot efficiently access and navigate databases. Students will leave the public library discouraged and angry that they could not complete their assignment and librarians will be discouraged that they cannot effectively support what is supposed to be taught to the student during school hours. However, a student who has not had access to either a school librarian or an effective school library program an issue of inequity will not only have trouble navigating resources and databases, but they will have trouble navigating the physical library.

A public librarian cannot effectively do their job if a student is afraid to simply walk through the doors or approach a librarian. Public librarians rely very heavily on school librarians to set the standard for not only what students are capable of in a library but also what a librarian is capable of doing for the student.

For an academic librarian, school librarians are a crucial ally in facilitating information literate students.

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What is digital literacy and why does it matter?

Together, those two documents give us the guidance for students from K and then beyond. Burke points out that due to the structure of both the Standards and the Framework, there might be a gap in student learning. She also provides a sample of the language of the Standards and the similar learning objectives of the Framework. For students to get to a point where they have an open mind and are looking at diverse perspectives, they need to have experience with those skills. Learning to evaluate different ideas and mindsets with learning activities in K will set them up to evaluate their own bias and critically look at different sources with an open mind.

Threshold concepts- and the idea behind the ACRL Framework- is to, like riding a bike, permanently learn the skill. To achieve that skill, the students need the background that would come from exposure to the AASL Standards. However, that is not usually the case. Students often come to college overwhelmed by the research process. The Project Information Literacy Study interviewed students entering college on their information literacy skills and found that many of their interviewees found college research overwhelming.

Why Information Literacy?

In addition to struggling with the task of college level research, students arrived at a place that had, on average, 19 times as many databases as a high school library Head, Academic librarians find themselves unable to cover the higher-level concepts without covering the basic concepts from K Many college courses have prerequisites, however there are no prerequisites for library instruction or research. For example: a popular assignment in college is for students to find sources, many times scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles.

Librarians can focus their information literacy session on how to distinguish a scholarly peer-reviewed journal article from a trade publication. However, without learning what a periodical is- something that should have been learned at K level, the concept of what a scholarly peer-reviewed journal article is becomes impossible. The disconnect becomes a major issue of equity. Students who have had the instruction and the research in K are better prepared — they have seen databases such as those provided by the vendor, EBSCO and have received specific instructions on how to search.

Some people may be quick to say that since colleges have librarians, this is not an issue as the students will see the librarian once they enroll at their chosen higher education institution. That is not true. First, while many colleges and universities have innovative library instruction programs to ensure that all or most students in their first year attend an information literacy session, that is simply not guaranteed in all universities.

In addition, if students have never interacted with a librarian before, they might not know that reference librarians exist and what they to expect if they talk to one. Finally, if librarians are trying to get the students up to speed for what they should have learned in K, they will be unable to bring students to the level that they need to be at for college level research.

College faculty and adjuncts, unaware of this disconnect, will assign research papers based on their own learning outcomes and the course skill level. An academic librarian cannot replace a school librarian in the same way in which a college professor cannot replace a first grade teacher. School librarians generally receive a different type of training than academic librarians — the coursework for obtaining their MLIS reflects this training.

While academic librarians possess the MLIS, they do not necessarily take the coursework that school librarians do. That coursework prepares school librarians for the challenges they will face not only as librarians but as professionals who interacts with children and students, like a teacher, guidance counselor, or other K professional.

Information Literacy Guide: Prepare Your Students

The academic librarian cannot replicate what is taught in K Saunders, Severyn, and Caron surveyed high school and college librarians and found a discrepancy between what high school and college librarians think each other teaches their students. The recommended approach is for more collaboration between high school and college librarians. This was also echoed in Varlejs , who looked at the information literacy gap between high school and college students.


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We have identified in the preceding paragraphs why school librarians are essential, and why librarians outside of K should be alarmed about what is going on. The task force has started campaigns, made legislative visits, and currently has two bills in the New Jersey State Assembly that, if passed, would respectively mandate a school librarian in each school based on school enrollment and integrate an information literacy curriculum to be instructed by a certified SLMS.

We know in the state of New Jersey we have a lot of work to do, but we are happy that our work has raised awareness so far.


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We also know that the more librarians from diverse specialities who are made aware of this issue, the stronger our voices will be in addressing our needs. We know that librarians need to advocate for themselves, but if we advocate strictly for our own specialties, we miss the bigger picture — that all libraries need each other and all librarians are essential. Whether you are a SLMS or not, advocacy can be as simple as:.

No matter how you choose to participate, advocacy has been and will continue to be the key to ensuring that students in our home state and states across the nation have equitable access to the types of high-quality, professional school library programs they deserve.