- Student Engagement and Information Literacy, and: Teaching Information Literacy Skills to Social Sciences Students and Practitioners: A Casebook of Applications
By its very nature, the field of academic librarianship is one that looks simultaneously inward and outward. In looking inward, we prepare studies that focus on the improvement of academic library practice; in looking outward, we prepare studies that demonstrate how academic library practice reflects the concerns and priorities of the larger institutions of higher education of which our libraries are a part. Within the field of academic librarianship, few topics engage our practice and our passion like information literacy. In these two recent releases from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), we find excellent examples of both trends: one, a collection focused on the practice of information literacy, and the other, an exploration of how information literacy instruction may be seen as one facet of a theme drawn from the broader literature of higher education. Although different in aim, scope, and presentation, both of these collections provide the reader with the opportunity to explore the limits and possibilities of the teaching role of librarians on the college campus.
Cook (Shippensburg University) and Cooper (Syracuse University) present the latest example of a familiar tool of the trade: the lesson plan collection. Earlier efforts in this area include Patricia O'Brian Libutti and Bonnie Gratch's Teaching Information Retrieval and Evaluation Skills to Education Students and Practitioners: A Casebook of Applications (ACRL, 1995), and Gail Gradowski, Loanne Snavely, and Paula Dempsey's Designs for Active Learning: A Sourcebook of Classroom Strategies for Information Education (American Library Association, 1998). In each of these collections, the reader is presented with a number of model lesson plans, as well as reflective components that allow contributors to discuss what happened during the lesson and to offer suggestions for future practice. Such collections are typically focused either on the application of a particular type of teaching in the library environment (for example, [End Page 100] active learning), or on information literacy instruction aimed at a particular field or discipline (such as teacher education). The current volume is a thematic sequel to the Libutti and Gratch collection but is distinguished by both its broader scope and its focus on the standards for information literacy instruction articulated and promoted during the decade since the earlier collection was published. Using those standards as a common framework, Cook and Cooper bring together two dozen short vignettes to present an introduction to a variety of approaches to information literacy instruction in different disciplines and different formats.
Although there is literally something for everyone in this collection (or, at least for everyone who is interested in social sciences librarianship), the collection, as a whole, is uneven. The editors suggest a common template for each chapter that is to include, for example, the identification of learning objectives for the lesson under review (tied to the document "Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education" available at http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlstandards/informationliteracycompetency.cfm), a lesson plan, and a report on the actual instruction; but the way the template is applied differs across the chapters. Moreover, although earlier collections focused on a specific pedagogical approach or subject area, the current collection is dedicated to presenting examples of information literacy instruction from a wide variety of disciplines and fields. This approach allows the editors to provide a scope that may be appealing to a broader audience of librarians, but it also means that the collection lacks the depth found in earlier collections. There are many excellent contributions to this collection, but its appeal to the reader will depend on the reader's interest in the specific fields highlighted and on the reader's need for practical examples of the application of the above-referenced competency standards to the classroom.
Which brings us...