For class this week I read three articles dealing with my hopefully future subset of the library universe: data and business librarianship. I read three articles: “Graduate Business Students and Business Information Literacy: A Novel Approach” from the Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship by Carl Simon; “Interdisciplinary Synergy: A Partnership Between Business and Library Faculty and Its Effect on Students’ Information Literacy” also from the Journal Business and Finance Librarianship by Bowers et all and “Information Literacy for GIS Curricula: An Instructional Model for Faculty” from Journal of Map & Geography Libraries” by Jon Jablonski.
Having been in library school for nearly two years, I understand there is a bit of vagueness around the term “information literacy”. It seems to mean a whole lot of things to a whole lot of different people. During a job phone interview, they even asked me for my definition of information literacy. Everyone gets their own unique snowflake definition. I can’t imagine anyone ever asking me for my definition of “book”, “collection development” or “research”.
I dislike when the term “information literacy” is used to defend old guard, database focused librarianship. There are thousands of “Librarian is better than Google” stories, many of them honest truth. Undergraduate business school students come into academia with no experience of the large propietary world of databases that librarians live. They exist in it, and then four years later, they graduate from it back into the world of ignorant bliss.
The librarians in “Interdisciplinary Synergy: A Partnership Between Business and Library Faculty and Its Effect on Students” seem to have forgotten this in their assessment of information literacy among students. I say this because one of the questions they asked their students was
Without asking the librarian, the professor, or a friend, how capable would you feel in executing the following task (1- very capable, 5 = not capable). Access electronic information clearinghouses, such a Proquest.
Firstly, electronic information clearinghouses. I didn’t even know what that meant until they said Proquest. Secondly, databases like Proquest are proprietary and of course students have not been in a world where skills searching them was needed.
When librarians claim that students have little or no information literacy skills, and they measure information literacy in terms of proprietary skills which they will not use before or after academic schooling, can they really say they are teaching students any sort of necessary skill? It’s a well known fact that these students will graduate into a world without Proquest, without Hoovers Online, and without Boolean search terms.
It seems incredibly arrogant to claim firstly that students have no information literacy skills and then also claim that they have given it to them when you have completely ignored their lives post- academia. More than any other major, undergraduate business students and MBAs graduate into real world information situations. They make decisions which change out economic lives.
There are many definitions of Information Literacy, but let’s get something straight: Information Literacy does not give librarians the right to teach student irrelevant things from a mantle of so called information power. It doesn’t give them to right to penalize students for lack of knowledge of information sources only libraries have. And it doesn’t give them the right to enforce a world of arcane jargon.
I should get off my soap box now and say that all the articles showed evidence of great partnership for the sake of information literacy. Librarians and faculty were identifying problems and solving them through real solutions such as information literacy classes online or in person. I especially enjoyed the GIS article I read. Although it was written by a geographer and not a librarian, I thought it was incredibly useful to librarians like myself that are trying to create GIS and geospatial literacy support in the coming future.
- Jon Jablonski (2004): Information Literacy for GIS Curricula, Journal of Map & Geography Libraries: Advances in Geospatial Information, Collections & Archives, 1:1, 41-58
- Cecilia V. McInnis Bowers, Byron Chew, Michael R. Bowers, Charlotte E. Ford,
Caroline Smith & Christopher Herrington (2009): Interdisciplinary Synergy: A Partnership Between Business and Library Faculty and Its Effects on Students’ Information Literacy, Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 14:2, 110-127
- Carol Simon (2009): Graduate Business Students and Business Information
Literacy: A Novel Approach, Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 14:3, 248-267