During college, students have the important task of building their information literacy skills. These skills will enable them to find the information they need to complete their assignments, while also training them to use that information in effective and ethical ways.

However, not only will training in information literacy skills assist students as they complete their papers and research projects, these lessons will hone the critical-thinking skills they’ll need throughout college (and life). As Gwenn Wilson writes in 100% Information Literacy Success, Third Edition, “…finding, evaluating, organizing, and communicating information in a meaningful way to the organization are fundamental components of most jobs, no matter what the job title or position on the organizational chart” (5). Thus, ultimately, if students consistently learn and apply these skills, they’ll develop into competent users and consumers of information.

Teaching students the fundamental information literacy skills they’ll need can be an important part of their education, and your campus library stands ready to play a role in students’ acquisition of these skills. If you’d like to incorporate additional coverage of these skills into your own course, review our three suggested ways that the library can support you in the process.

 Three Ways You Can Use Your College Library to Help Build Students’ Information Literacy Skills

1. Schedule a library introduction or information literacy session for your course.

According to our Spring 2015 Engagement Insights survey, 62% of instructors cover research and information literacy skills in their courses. However, only 41% of instructors say that any of their courses include a library introduction or information literacy session.

If you teach research and information literacy skills in your course, and would like support, reach out to your college library!

An information literacy session can go over the fundamental aspects of research and writing, such as using and refining search strategies, identifying and evaluating appropriate sources, and citing sources appropriately. Such sessions are especially useful for students in lower-division or introductory courses. (In fact, many colleges develop sessions expressly for students in first-year seminars or courses such as Freshman English; review your library website for details.)

You might also consider working with a librarian to develop a session specifically tailored to your course’s topic (or even to a particular assignment). Many subject librarians will partner with you to develop sessions that cover such topics as accessing specialized databases and demographic sources, working with primary-source material, selecting and using visual materials ethically and appropriately, or using particular reference sources or collections that are relevant to your class. Contact your library to learn more about the instruction services available to you. We also recommend planning ahead; many libraries request advance notice of two or more weeks.

Wondering if students ultimately find this type of training useful? Notably, 71% of the nearly three thousand students we surveyed said that their course’s section on how to use the library was helpful. So if you decide to add this teaching to your course, know that the great majority of students will find it valuable.

2. Promote the library’s information literacy workshops.
In addition to class-specific sessions, many college libraries offer general information literacy workshops scheduled throughout the school term. Some may take place on campus; others are offered online. Students can register for these sessions at a time that works within their schedule.

During these sessions, students will learn about such library skills as searching the online catalog, developing a research topic, finding appropriate scholarly journals, accessing e-books, and properly citing sources. Many schools also offer sessions that delve into more advanced topics, such as using the archives, completing a literature review, and publishing research. Your college library’s website should have a schedule of all available sessions.

3. Add the library’s online information literacy guides to your course readings list.
No time for an information literacy or library instruction session? Refer students to the online resources and tutorials available from your library. These often go by the name of research guides, “research help” pages, or information literacy tutorials. These thoughtfully designed guides thoroughly address the skills and principles important to students’ competency in writing and research. These sources can also offer advanced students a convenient way to refresh their memories on the important skills that ensure the successful completion of their projects.

On the site, students will generally find resources such as interactive tutorials, videos, style and citation guides, games, and readings, all of which allow them to learn and review concepts in a variety of ways. The sites also list the specific services and resources that your campus library offers. In addition, they’l typically include contact information for your school’s librarians, so that students know who’s available to answer their questions.

To help students find and access these valuable sources, embed direct links on your course website, or list the URL on your syllabus. (Need a specific link to the best resource for your course? Ask your librarian!)

How do you use your college library’s services to help students build and refine their information literacy skills? Add your strategies in the comments.

Reference: Wilson, Gwenn. 2015. 100% Information Literacy Success, 3rd ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.