May 25, 2005


The theme of the latest ISTL is Open Access Journals, with three very fine articles in the section as well as articles on GIS in small libraries, marine science literature, book reviews and database reports.

Most interestingly, however, is the Viewpoints article Instruction: Teaching or Marketing? by Susan B. Ardis. Ardis's thesis is that we don't really do information literacy instruction as a way of actually teaching our students to be information literate but as a way of marketing our library services to them. To quote her last paragraph:

To sum up, information literacy instruction as it is typically practiced is not truly teaching. Rather, it is a form of marketing where the action takes place in a classroom and librarians are guest lecturers demonstrating and marketing our resources, expertise, and utility. This activity is marketing because we make potential users aware of what their science and engineering libraries can do for them. We demonstrate to users that there are places to go for help when they get stuck or when the public web doesn't give them what they need. My favorite definition of marketing is "the delivery of a standard of living." Life is definitely better when you have some "smarts." A good place to get them is at the library. And, I don't mind going around and telling people so.

Interesting, but I think limited. Sure, some (much? most?) of the instruction we do is really glorified marketing, letting students know that the library does actually provide a useful and worthwhile alternative to Google. When I show keyword searching in the catalogue, do I do it thinking that students don't understand the concept of keyword searching? In part, yes. But mostly as a stealthful way of showing them that we have books that can actually help them with their assignments. So, IL as marketing is a concept I'm comfortable with. But, Ardis seems to me to be promoting the idea that we can offer nothing else to our students, that we should not even aspire to offer something more.

Part of a student's higher education should be to engage the literature of their field, to become familiar with its patterns of scholarly communication, to learn how to become a life-long learner, to understand the social context of the information they produce and consume both during and after their time in school. (And really, see the IL Standards from a few posts ago...) Frankly, as students become more familiar with online searching and as their expectations shift towards the idea that only online information is worth bothering to use, isn't that deeper, more complex understanding what we really have to offer them? If we want to integrate our IL concepts more closely with the academic programs themselves, aren't those concepts what we can bring to the academic table?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting opinion. I've forwarded the details of access to a small listserv of Australian reference librarians. Will foward to you any forthcoming opinions.