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Library Instruction and Information Literacy | University of Hawaii at Manoa Library


The rapid advent of technological change over the past fifteen years has had a profound effect on society and higher education. Academic disciplines are increasingly relying on information technology to collect, organize, analyze, and disseminate information to students and peers. Technology has prompted institutions of higher education to re-examine and restructure the nature of traditional education itself. General education programs are adding technology requirements to ensure that students have the skills and competencies needed for today's online workplace.

Online technology has transformed the library. PCs, the rise in end-user searching, the steady growth of electronic information, and user remote access require skills unneeded only a few years ago. Librarians teach users how to access information rather than serving as intermediaries. Until recently, library instruction programs were primarily responsible for teaching users how to use online bibliographic catalogs and one or more periodical index databases to find items within library walls. Technology now enables users to reach far beyond that which is available locally.

The number of different library management systems, coupled with developments and improvements in Web-based server technology, have prompted instruction librarians to redesign objectives, teaching methods, and materials. Instruction librarians now teach much broader concepts for searching and retrieving information that can be applied to almost any search interface. Library instruction has become more holistic as a result. Librarians have attempted to integrate instruction into the broader curriculum by working cooperatively with instructional faculty through team-teaching, learning communities, and freshman seminars. In addition to teaching students simply how to locate and retrieve desired information, librarians teach students the major elements of scholarship, the nature of investigation, who creates knowledge, how it is disseminated, emphasizing the role of libraries. Librarians are also responsible for teaching how to evaluate information for quality and reliability, as well as the ethical issues involved with using information created by others and providing proper citations.

Technology and education

Technology is changing the nature of pedagogy. The American Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information Literacy made the following two observations in a document released on 10 January 1989:

Information Literacy

"Information literacy" has been championed by librarians nationwide as a set of competencies that everyone should have to get the most from the online world. The American Library Association defines information literacy the ability "to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."1 This is not a new or radical departure from instructional activity conducted by librarians prior to technological innovations. Librarians have been in the business of teaching individuals to be independent researchers for years, albeit at reference desks, and not in classrooms, with or without the aid of computer technology.

To help students attain and retain an acceptable level of information literacy in their academic, professional, and personal lives, librarians and educators must impart to students the importance of taking responsibility for their own learning, in school and after graduation. The pursuit of new knowledge, or "staying current" (often alone, and on one's own time) is a fact of life for people in many professions. The Association of Colleges and Research Libraries (ACRL) published a report titled "Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education" where the idea of "lifelong learning" is essential in producing highly skilled workers:

“Developing lifelong learners is central to the mission of higher education institutions. By ensuring that individuals have the intellectual abilities of reasoning and critical thinking, and by helping them construct a framework for learning how to learn, colleges and universities provide the foundation for continued growth throughout their careers, as well as in their roles as informed citizens and members of communities.” 2

This idea is reiterated in the report written by the Presidential Committee on Information Literacy cited earlier:

Many institutes of higher education are catching on to the concept of "lifelong learning" evidenced by numerous mentions of the phrase in mission statements.

Information literacy at the University of Hawai'i

The Mission statement of the University of Hawai'i places a high priority on the importance of creating and disseminating knowledge through research and scholarship "permeated by a multicultural focus and experiences that are distinctly Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific." University and Library faculty must also ensure that UH students are suitably prepared for a lifetime of technological change.

The ACRL developed standards enabling instruction librarians to promote information literacy and to meet the goals and objectives of library, institution, and the standards for accrediting bodies like the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

The ACRL has identified the outcomes of information literacy as a student's ability "to master content and extend their investigations, become more self directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:

Academic libraries must build instruction programs that rely on a central core of information literacy competencies and have the means to assess student outcomes. Since accessing much of a library's information these days requires the user to be competent with a computer, users must first understand the basic operations of a PC. Often, a greater familiarity with word-processing, search, and image software, and peripheral hardware, such as scanners and digital cameras is required when "raw" information is analyzed, synthesized, and processed into new information and outputted in the form of reports and presentations. Ensuring that users have the requisite computer skills to use library databases is an onerous task for librarians. Instruction programs must be prepared for students that have little or no computer experience, and those who have substantial experience, often sitting side-by-side in the same class.

A recent information technology proposal, released by the National Science Council in 1999, calls for a greater command of information technology, combining continuous education and lifelong learning. Whereas information literacy focuses more on content and communication ((including authoring, information finding and organization, research, information analysis, evaluation, and assessment, the new proposal focuses on intellectual capabilities, conceptual knowledge, and contemporary skills. The word literacy has been replaced with fluency:

People Fluent in Information Technology ("FIT persons") are able to express themselves creatively, to reformulate knowledge, and to synthesize new information. Fluency with information technology entails a process of lifelong learning in which individuals continually apply what they know to adapt to change and acquire more knowledge to be more effective at applying information technology to their work and personal lives. Fluency in information technology requires three kinds of knowledge: contemporary skills, foundation concepts, and intellectual capabilities.

FIT individuals are those who:

To be FIT is to possess knowledge essential to using information technology now and in the future.

As education becomes more integrated between regular instruction faculty and the library, and as bridge programs and learning communities expands, librarians should make every effort to promote "FITness" as well as information literacy.

The ACRL has suggested the following roles to administrators, instructional faculty, and library faculty to integrate the practice of information literacy into the academic experience:

Administrators must create opportunities for collaboration and staff development among faculty, librarians, and other professionals who initiate, plan, budget, and/or sustain information literacy programs through continued funding.

Instructional Faculty must establish a context for learning, inspire students to explore the unknown, offer guidance on how best to fulfill information needs, and monitor progress and completion of student work.

Library Faculty must coordinate the evaluation and selection of intellectual resources for University programs and services; physically organize and maintain the collections; provide instruction on how to access, interpret, and evaluate information found in them. Additionally, library faculty also provide guidance on the ethical use of information as well as how to properly cite sources according to the criteria of a particular discipline.

Assessment plays a central role in achieving information literacy and lifelong learning. In addition to creating and promulgating information literacy standards, ACRL has also developed performance indicators, learning outcomes and assessment materials.

Library Instruction Program Assessment

To ensure that the library's instruction program is meeting the goals and objectives of the University's mission, as well as its own library and library instruction missions, librarians will review and revise the program's structure, curriculum, overall effectiveness, student assessment, and faculty outreach during Spring 2002, one year before the WASC Accreditation Visit scheduled for 2003. This review will provide vision and direction for the program at UH Manoa libraries as well as opportunities for collaboration with instruction librarians throughout the UH System.


  1. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report
  2. ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education
  3. Being Fluent with Information Technology
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