What is the Library’s role in the USEM classes?
In the USEM classes, we aim to address the concept of information literacy. Graduates need to be information literate, have critical thinking skills, and be lifelong learners – and the Library works with faculty to make that happen.
USEM is our opportunity to meet all the new students – we probably have interaction with 90% of the first year students through USEM. When they come here we have the opportunity to take them on a tour – it’s a good time for us to introduce the Library to students in a fun way. I like to find out more about their experience with libraries – how they used libraries in high school, or how they use the public library – and then kind of bridge that to how they’re going to use this Library.
That also makes our interaction with new students an introduction to academic culture. They’re spending their first few weeks getting used to being at SPU…but there’s also an academic culture that they’re entering into. When they come here we show them how they’re going to be using more scholarly resources then they ever did before, and some of the nuts and bolts of using the catalog, getting things that are on reserve, and we talk about study habits. We try not to overload them because they’re learning so much in their first few weeks.
What is Information Literacy?
That’s a good question – I don’t know that there’s an agreed upon definition by everybody. First of all, there are different facets to Information Literacy. There’s the technology part where they have to know how to use technology, there’s the tool part where they have to know how to use the catalog, the data bases, and the books. There’s the evaluative part in which students have to know what makes a good source, and why they would be using it. They learn how to make judgments as to when to use the catalog, the databases, google, etc.
Then there’s applying that…how do you take all this data, all this information that you found and actually synthesize it into your paper and then how do you share that. It’s a big process.
Why would you say that Information Literacy is important?
Well on the most fundamental basic level it helps students do their projects and papers better. There are certain requirements that they’re going to have for papers. For example, a student might need five academic journals – so our job is to help the student find those academic journals. Our hope then is that those skills are transferable so that the next assignment the student gets, the student knows where to go and how to get help.
Do you help students figure out which sources are credible and which are not?
Yes. Credibility is incredibly important – sources need to be as credible as possible. Sometimes what I do is I’ll do a google search for a topic and take the first ten results. I divide my class into groups, each group will take one result, look at it, and then report back as to whether they would use it as a source for their paper. Who wrote something, what was their motive for writing it, who published it, is it on the web published by an individual or is it in a book published by a university press, how old is it, does it matter how old it is, who are they citing, are they citing reliable sources, are they citing anyone at all – these questions are all part of the discerning process.
What is your biggest piece of advice from a librarian’s standpoint to freshmen starting classes at college?
It’s so hard, but don’t procrastinate. We all procrastinate, but even little steps of starting early really help. The earlier students start gathering those the better, because it gives them more time to read and understand sources. If someone’s having trouble finding things then, it also gives them time to ask for help.