Marketing/Teaching Information Literacy for Special Populations
sCIL Open House, January 17 2003
Lynn Lampert, Senior Assistant Librarian, Information literacy Coordinator at California State University, Northridge

For the last couple of years CSUN and the library have been focusing their attention and joining forces to build strong Information Literacy programs. These programs were created on solid ground and reached 18,000 students (mostly freshman) who attended library instruction during 2001-2002 academic year. But there is much more to be attained. The new Information Competence initiatives started by the library, were aimed at target populations that were not being reached — transfer and graduate students, also students that were close to graduation.

The main purpose of the new Information Competence programs was to move the Information Literacy components beyond and above the General Education Catalog, thus reaching these special populations in a greater variety of disciplines.

The driving force behind the successful implementation of the initiatives was the faculty who became aware of the importance of Information Literacy for the academic success of their students through CSU grants and workshops.

Lynn Lampert introduced and discussed two collaborative Information Competence programs that targeted special populations, the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling and CSU Northridge Center for Management and Organizational Development, Los Angeles County.

Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling

In 2001 the Department received a research grant from the California State University Information Competency project that helped faculty to assess the current status and needs to build strong Information Competence skills. The faculty realized that collaboration with the librarians is essential for reaching the departmental Information Competence goals. The new program targeted EPC 602 students. Some of the major characteristics of this user group were the following: they had a limited library experience; they searched primarily in Google to find an answer to their research needs; they were unfamiliar with research methods and basic research tools; and they lacked confidence in their own abilities.

The library’s Information Competence project covered six sections of Educational Psychology 602 and involved 94 students. These students had unique needs related to the changing nature of their profession. They were introduced to Research Methods in three sessions of specialized Information Competence library instruction. The instruction for this special population was achieved through curriculum integration, formal instruction in information retrieval skills and through student interaction with reference librarians on an individual basis. To assess the program the students were surveyed. Preliminary results showed that more than 60% of the students evaluated their skills and noted the improvement from "very uncomfortable" to "comfortable" in areas of using PsycINFO, ERIC, keyword vs. subject searching, and understanding peer-review publications vs. popular literature.

The students were awarded with a "Certificate of Mastery" by the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling. This was another effective marketing effort by the program. The Certificate makes the students more competitive and thus, makes the program more appealing.

Lynn Lampert emphasized that the key element in the marketing of this program was the communication with faculty. The program was successful because it met both the students and the faculty needs.

CSU Northridge Center for Management and Organizational Development (MOD), Los Angeles County

In 1999 MOD partnered with the County of Los Angeles to establish the Los Angeles County Training Academy and to prepare the County’s leaders. The Academy’s educational programs focused on key skills needed by managers to meet the increasing demands in a continuously changing information environment. CSUN librarians partnered with faculty to design a successful Information Literacy component for the program. There were challenges for both sides. The librarians had several questions, such as: how to take the student from keyboarding to copyright; and what is that best way to identify essential skills; and what skills are desirable for the student, the field, and future employers. For faculty, there was a need to look at a broader definition of Information Literacy outside of the one provided by ACRL and CSU. The basics of the curriculum were discussed between the faculty and the librarians.

LA County Training Academy conducted a survey in an attempt to assess the need for building effective online research skills. 70% of the respondents stated that they usually utilize free information on the Internet and 85 % indicated that they had not been trained to use the Internet for research. Obviously this was an area where the librarians could help build strong online research and resource evaluation skills.

Lynn Lampert pointed out that the major factors driving the need of public-public partnership in Information Literacy initiatives are:

Lynn Lampert emphasized that discussion and partnership between educators and employers are essential for the success of Information Literacy training programs. One of the major lessons learned by the librarians participating in the MOD initiative was the ability to be flexible, to be able to pull back, to look at and to understand the faculty’s needs, and to let them express their vision for the program.

The main learning objectives of the program were to teach student to become:

The speaker also pointed out some examples of success in academic library collaboration. These included: curriculum planning; team teaching; research collaboration, faculty development; and publication submissions.

In conclusion, Lynn Lampert shared her tips for successful Information Literacy partnerships:

Submitted by Roumiana Katzarkov, UC-Irvine