Teacher librarians are faced with a massive amount of information in both print and digital form and how to provide access to, and understanding of, for their students. Information literacy is an essential skill for success in the twenty-first century’s digital information explosion. This reflection will outline why information literacy is more than a set of skills, not merely isolated tasks, but a much more complex process.
Information literacy is a process as seen in the models of Kuhlthau’s Information Skills Process, Herring’s PLUS model, the Big 6, and the NSW DET’s ISP model. Yet the process of finding information becomes more than a group of skills when students reflect upon their journey. It is the act of reflection that takes students from merely information receptacles to forming their own reflective practise and developing a new type of literacy able to be used across many disciplines (Herring, 2011). Each widely used model of information literacy uses an evaluative phase: the Big 6 evaluation, ISP assessment, NSW DET assessing, and PLUS model self-evaluation (Herring, 2011). It is in this phase that the skills of guided inquiry become a process for learning and where the teacher librarian can support learners by providing practises such as evaluation sheets, facilitating reflective blog posts or discussions with records of group observations at the end of units of work training students in reflection.
Information literacy is not merely a set of skills as it also includes the behaviour involved in the research, taking into consideration the emotive aspects underpinning the process of inquiry. Information research behaviour is as important as the skills used in the process of finding the information. Kuhlthau’s ISP model was instrumental in identifying the behavioural elements of the research process and linking them to the recognition of a holistic approach to finding information. The central concept of uncertainty, rather than information seeking equalling more certainty, paints a constructivist picture of the process (Kuhlthau, 2008). Intervention at the point of need is the “area in which an information user can do with advice and assistance what he or she cannot do alone or can do only with difficulty” (Kuhlthau, 2008). The teacher librarian can directly support students to continue with their research in this phase through scaffolds, questioning techniques, recalling strategies and discussions about searching.
Information literacy is using the skills of inquiry and applying them in relevant situations that have real meaning for students (Eisenberg, 2008; Kuhlthau, 2008; Rutherford, et al., 2006). This means that information literacy in the school context needs to be linked to outcomes significant to students to develop meaning. Student learning outcomes are greatly increased when this approach is taken (Sizemore & Marcum, 2008). Their ability to construct meaning from their methods of research and display their knowledge in real world applications create better literacy outcomes. As a teacher librarian this is where creating significant tasks using tools such as blogs, wikis, online book reviews, podcasts or group presentations to peers supports this type of learning. Being a creative twenty-first century librarian embracing all the available tools is essential (Gordon, 2009).
Information literacy goes beyond the library into the classroom as well as beyond the students’ stage of learning towards a lifetime of learning, therefore collaboration with school staff is essential in developing an effective information literacy program (Herring, 2011). The practical implications of information literacy point to the librarian as a vital motivator, instructor and collaborator. Collaboration between principals, teachers, students and the school librarian is one of the most useful ways of running a successful information literacy program (Herring, 2011). The role of the teacher librarian is to effectively collaborate with staff to create an information literacy program which goes beyond the library by co-planning units of work, creating pathfinders to support classroom subjects, in-servicing colleagues on new areas of technology and participating in whole school planning committees.
Information literacy is a type of literacy which is still undergoing scrutiny as to its definition. Even so, the implications for a twenty-first century teacher librarian are to continue to remain pivotal in teaching students to see it as a developing process in their search for information throughout their lives. Information literacy is more than a set of skills for finding information it is an emotive, physical and practical way of interpreting information.
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