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Information Literacy: An essential "how to"

UAlbany studentsLiteracy used to be a term associated only with reading. In today’s world it has come to include having the technological skills necessary to create and disseminate information in all formats – print and electronic. UAlbany undergraduates who want to “hit the academic ground running” are in luck because of a course called Information Literacy.

The course teaches students to find, organize, use, produce, and distribute information in print, electronic, and other formats. “Demand for many sections” of Information Literacy (UNL 205) “has been fierce!” notes Coordinator of User Education Programs Trudi E. Jacobson. She collaborated to develop the course four years ago with Deborah Bernnard, Carol Anne Germain, Carol Anderson, Jerry Burke, and other University librarians. It also fulfills the General Education information literacy requirement.

Students learn to utilize the latest Internet search tools, as well as “Minerva,” the libraries’ online catalog “for determining what we own and a key component of being able to find resources.” The class also features instruction in using electronic indexes and accessing research resources. “We like the course to be as useful as possible to our students, so we encourage them to tie their work into what they are doing in another course,” Jacobson says. “We ask them to write an annotated bibliography on a topic of their choice as the final project, and if they are able to do the research for another course’s paper via our assignment, that is just ideal.”

Sophomore Renata Daconti took the class in her freshman year. “I think this class is very important because it helps students develop their research skills. It helped me find better resources for papers and projects and decreased the amount of time I spent looking for reliable sources. It was an excellent class – one everyone should take.”

In addition to assisting students to acquire the information literacy skills they need to conduct research, do homework, and write term papers, the course “will increase students’ value to employers,” observes Jacobson, who co-authored the book Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes, published this year by Neal-Schuman. Those same skills come in handy, she adds, for “researching job opportunities and preparing for interviews.”

The course’s web address gives insight into what students think about the course. (http://library.albany.edu/divs/usered/unl205/testimonials.html), UAlbany student M. Curtis-Medina: “. . .I came into class with some working knowledge of how to research various databases. What I was not expecting to learn was how limiting my habitual practices were for pulling together projects. This course polished my unrefined skills and taught me how to maneuver within a technology that is as vast as it is constantly changing.”

In late 2002, the success of UNL 205 led to the addition of UNL 206 – Information Literacy in the Sciences, taught by UAlbany science librarians, Gregg Sapp and Alexander Gyamfi. An advanced class is forthcoming.

Related Links:
Courses UNL 205/206
Minerva Online Catalog

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