By Meredith Farkas | January 9, 2005
Here is an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that has been causing some controversy on the library-related listservs. Information Literacy Makes All the Wrong Assumptions rails against the traditional ideas behind information literacy curricula. While I disagree with much of what the author has written, he does raise some interesting points. I’ve never seen any studies regarding the effectiveness of traditional information literacy curricula, but I’m sure some exist and I’d be very interested in seeing what conclusions they came to. I never took an information literacy course in college and I never once consulted with a reference librarian, yet I only used scholarly materials in research. But this was before Google, when databases like J-Stor and Lexis-Nexis were the easiest ways to get information (though I was more likely to go to the stacks for my research). I think the author is right that not all students may welcome the help of a librarian because the average student “assumes that she is already an expert user of the Internet, and her daily experience leads her to believe that she can get what she wants online without having to undergo a training program”. I also agree that students may not feel that they’re drowning in information, and that information literacy instruction may increase the complexity for students rather than make information seeking easier. But unlike the author, I do think information literacy teaches a valuable lesson to students in how to distinguish between quality sources of information and sources that are not quite so worthwhile for research. It exposes teens raised on Google to databases filled with peer-reviewed journals. It teaches them how to hone their searches. I agree with the author than some of the assumptions information literacy is based upon are probably not true (or are at least not true for every student), and I think his suggestions at least provide interesting food for thought.