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Coast To Coast

Coast To Coast

Library Instruction and Information Literacy
Thursday, December 14, 2006

Vinta Oviatt
By Vinta Oviatt
OCC Instruction,
 Electronic Resources, and Web Librarian

The OCC Library provides a variety of resources and services in support of the campus curriculum, information literacy, and lifelong learning. To access the OCC Library's library’s Web page, go to

In previous newsletters, I listed the definition and the key components of “Information Literacy Competency” as adopted by the California Academic Senate ("Information Competency in the California Community Colleges" by the Counseling and Library Faculty Issues Committee, 1996-97 I also discussed a brief history of the term; the history of information literacy/competency in California higher education; and information competence here at OCC.

As I’ve mentioned in previously, the library/information science profession has been very involved in information competency from the beginning. California community college librarians have been teaching and training and working with their discipline faculty regarding information competency for over ten years. I’ve been attending workshops and conferences and staying aware of it for about the same amount of time. The California Academic Senate has adopted several papers on it and currently is encouraging all community colleges to require it for their A.A. and A.S. degrees, and the WASC accrediting agency includes it in their examination of the general education and the library education of college students. But information competency and its full significance are new to Orange Coast College.

In this final newsletter for this semester, I’m including some of my thoughts on information competency, gained from the many workshops and online classes that I’ve attended or from the books that I’ve read on this topic, including “Integrating Information Literacy into the Higher Education Curriculum” by Ilene F. Rockman and Associates (Jossey-Bass, 2004) and “Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice” by Esther S. Grassian and Joan R. Kaplowitz (Neal-Schuman, 2001), both of which we have in our OCC Library. In addition, I’m involved in a very active Internet listserv for information literacy.

First, the concept of information competency requires a change in thinking about the library. The 21st century library is more than just a “repository of knowledge” or as only “support” to the college curriculum; instead, it needs to be considered as key to curriculum and student success. The library should assume a stronger teaching role in the educational process and student learning, and the campus needs to support this. The librarians themselves should do more than teach about research tools accessed in or through the library; instead, they should teach concepts, processes, and other information skills.

Second, information competency requires a change in thinking about the teaching/learning process. It is student centered, rather than either resource or teacher centered; it trains the student to use both critical thinking and communication skills; and it requires the librarians and discipline teachers to function as coaches or guides.

Third, it requires a change in thinking about library/information research skills. Today, these skills are very different from what most of us received in our college education (all those years ago). According to the findings of “OCLC’s White Paper on the Information Habits of College Students” (June 2002) and California State University’s information literacy assessment studies (2000 and 2001), “evidence indicates that students are entering [colleges and universities] without core information literacy skills and abilities such as critical thinking, decision making, and self-directed learning. This . . . study also finds that students tend to exhibit an over reliance on Web-based information resources and sources found through search engines, as opposed to other sources such as information found in library catalogues and subscription databases. In addition, students often search using keywords rather than controlled vocabulary terms. . . . Thus, they often miss important sources of information” (Rockman 14-15). Another recent paper adopted by the California Academic Senate discusses how the lack of information literacy skills is an obstacle to student success (“Academic Literacy: A Statement of Competencies Expected of Students Entering California’s Public Colleges and Universities,” 2002, at

Even this week’s Time magazine cover article on “How to Make Your Kid a Better Student” and bring our schools into the 21st century, recommends that students become “smarter about new sources of information.” It states that “in an age of overflowing information and proliferating media, kids need to rapidly process what’s coming at them and distinguish between what’s reliable and what isn’t. ‘It’s important that students know how to manage [information], interpret it, validate it, and how to act on it’.” A summary of the time magazine article is available from at But librarians and other faculty don’t need to be told any of this; they know that today’s students lack information research skills, for example:

· They have difficulty finding articles.
· They have difficulty knowing if a web site is authoritative.
· They find too much information and don’t know how to refine their search strategies.
· They don’t know what’s available and how to effectively use all the electronic resources that are available.

Fourth, as mentioned in the definition and in my previous newsletters, information competency requires a collaborative effort between library faculty, discipline faculty, computer science faculty, and instructional design specialists. As the Academic Senate paper (mentioned above) states, “information competency is the fusion or integration of library literacy, ethics, critical thinking, and communication skills.” In other community colleges, collaborative training in information competency is incorporated into their learning communities; into their First-Year or Freshman Experience programs; into programs to prevent plagiarism; and into library courses or components that the discipline faculty members offer as extra credit or in addition to their classes.

Finally, for the colleges that have embraced information competency and have supported collaborative efforts of librarians and discipline faculty to enable their students to become information literate, the studies show that the results are positive. Glendale Community College’s institutional research study “reported a positive relationship between student participation in a semester-long information competency course and grades in other courses. The results of the longitudinal study indicate that information competency instruction has had a significant impact on student success” (Moore, Brewster, Dorroh, and Moreau, 2002; reprinted in Rockman 15). This study can be found at

As mentioned in the previous newsletter, the library would like to begin a discussion at OCC regarding information literacy/competency. This may involve courses, components, workbooks, tutorials, and other aids. We understand that information competency involves close collaboration with faculty teaching in all disciplines, with computer science faculty, and with staff involved with instructional design. We also know that we need to work closely with CSUs and UCs to make sure our transferring students are information competent. Most of all, we understand that information literacy competency enables a person to have a lifelong ability "to find, evaluate, use, and communicate information in a variety of methods.” The library and librarians want that for our OCC students.

For more information on library instruction, information literacy, or electronic resources, contact me at Ext. 21057 or mail to: