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Education in Libraries

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The library is an institution that is part and parcel to all in the realm of academia. It is a place to do research, foster critical thinking and for educating book lovers. However, a framework for operation and information literacy education is required for effectiveness and efficiency. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) board of directors endorsed the ‘Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education’ in 2000. It contains six standards with a basis for the definition and assessment of information literacy namely determining the extent and nature of the needed information; effective and efficient access of the needed information; critical evaluation of the information’s credibility; incorporation of specific information into an individual’s knowledge database; a comprehension of the socio-economic and legal issues pertaining to information access and use; and effective use of the information to achieve a particular purpose.

Background Information

According to Todd (1999), an understanding and use of new technologies boosts the effectiveness of the librarians as facilitators in developing the knowledge and skills of the student in management and processing of various pieces of information in terms of quality and quantity.

Technology has had a tremendous impact on the role of the librarian as an instructor. The focus has shifted from “bibliographic instruction” (traditional resources of the library) to “information literacy” which incorporates the ever rapidly expanding digital technologies (Grafstein, 2002).

Technology and electronic information came at a time when there was a paradigm shift to new educational programs. Therefore it was imperative that integrated learning be initiated in institutions of higher learning to accommodate the emerging technological era. As a case study, technological advancement has catalyzed a fast tracking process of adaptation at SUNNY Cortland, the State University of New York, which has 64 universities and colleges all over the state. This institution required that the students specify their competency in ‘information management’ apart from including 10 specific areas of skills and knowledge upon graduation. This entails ability to execute basic computer operations; understanding and using basic research techniques; and locating, evaluating, and synthesizing information from an array of sources. The library has been instrumental in this capacity building process.

These transformations have put the libraries at the nerve centre in delivery of education and an exhilarating opportunity for librarians to be at a vintage point as inventive educators. On the contrary, technology has created some other challenges in its administration and equipping of students with skills and knowledge necessary in the retrieval and utilization of information resources.

Impacts of Technology on Instruction

The unprecedented increases in familiarity with computer skills and knowledge was unaccompanied by disciplined users. According to the US Census data of 2000, 51% of households had one or more computers while 42% of the households had at least one member who used the internet at home (US Census Bureau, 2001). Although technology is here to stay, many students are not honed with skills for effective use of technology.

Surprisingly, this status quo is not apparent to the students who seem to be abreast with technology but lack the skills necessary to manage the sea of information in electronic form. Manuel (2002) emphasizes this in her article “Teaching Information Literacy to Generation Y” where she notes that student’s overconfidence with operation of a computer cripples their prowess in information literacy since they are overambitious with their ability to search and access information.

Many a time, students are impatient and therefore they like to find huge chunks of information easily and quickly. Through use of internet search engines such as “Google”, students think that they are successful when a variety of information presents themselves. The students thus think that research is not as cumbersome as it is portrayed. More often than not, they do not look into the credibility of the information in a particular site. Other problems that students need to address include remote connection to databases, accessing information on remote servers using the file transfer protocol and downloading. Further, a comprehension of the difference between search engines and an index, selection of a database, evaluating information, narrowing a topic and various differences among databases have prove to be a hard nut to crack for the students.

In addition, student sometimes find themselves between a rock and hard place when it comes to citation of sources. Many students do not understand what plagiarism is and its ethical and legal implications. For that matter, students need to be educated on the research process.

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