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October 15, 2012

Information Literacy Month => Promote With Your Stakeholders

I wrote this article for the October issue of the OASL newsletter. Thought I'd post it to OSLIST as a reminder about Information Literacy Month (ILM). As noted at the end of the article, nobody is asking anyone to do all of this. Pick and choose, or promote ILM your own way.

Information Literacy Month: Promote! Promote! Promote! Promote!

Information literacy skills are vital for learning, working, and thriving in the 21st century. Not that we need to be convinced, but some evidence of IL’s importance is that the skills are heavily represented in the Common Core State Standards for English and for Literacy in the Content Areas. Now, thanks to the efforts of the OLA President & Past-President and the State Librarian, Governor Kitzhaber issued a proclamation establishing October 2012 as Information Literacy Month. This aligns with the National Forum on Information Literacy’s countrywide awareness campaign. This is a golden opportunity for Oregon school library staff to promote information literacy and our role in developing the related skills in students and even educators.

Ruth Toor and Hilda K. Weisburg are retired school librarians who are actively involved in the American Association of School Librarians, and they authored a book called Being Indispensable: A School Librarian’s Guide to Becoming an Invaluable Leader. In the concise practical guide, which is available to borrow from the Oregon State Library, they call for librarians to know their mission and to know their stakeholders in order to know where and how to exert their influence. Toor and Weisburg divide stakeholders into four categories – administrators, community, teachers, and students. With that in mind, here are a few ideas for promoting Information Literacy Month.

Promote ILM with Administrators!
Start out easy – simply let your school principal/s know. Ask when you might have 15 minutes of their time to discuss Information Literacy Month, define IL, and explain how you are using its promotion to collaborate with teachers.

Invite a board member to participate in a special activity you planned around ILM. Too busy in October? Plan now to do something next month.

Promote ILM with the Community!
Ask to speak at a PTO/PTA meeting. Give a short IL lesson that can apply to the parents as well as their children. For example, offer some tips for cyber/Internet safety or teach them about as a way to check the facts in “rumor emails” before forwarding to friends and family. Make it short and lively, and leave the audience with the message that what you taught is just one example of an IL skill that you and/or the teachers teach the students – their kiddos.

Have you asked to present about the library and its program to community service groups? No? Well, here’s a great reason to start. Approach Lions, Kiwanis, or even the chamber of commerce, etc., and ask for some time at one of their next meetings. With proper approval, you could bring along some students to demonstrate skills they’ve learned by having them teach mini-lessons to the audience.

Promote ILM with Teachers!
Here’s another chance to start out easy. How about simply approaching the various grade levels as a whole and asking the teachers if there are any specific IL skills they would like to see developed in their students? The lessons can be done later, but you can start the collaboration process now.

Is there something about the library that you wish all teachers knew or knew better? Does it relate to IL? If so, ask for a few minutes to go over that at a faculty meeting. For example, you could review your library’s copyright policy and share some resources that they can consult later. Be sure to stress that ethical use of information is an IL disposition, to reference one of the strands in the AASL standards.

Another idea to plant now is rethinking field trips, if there’s still money to go on excursions. Ultimately, field trips are supposed to support or enhance learning, but in my experience, some were such routine annual events that the learning took a backseat. For example, do the 3rd graders visit the zoo? Maybe the students could each pick one animal they will encounter at the zoo, do some research on that animal, and then be the expert who teaches the others about the animal when they see it at the zoo. That would be a great opening to teach such IL skills as generating guiding questions and how to use an emphasized resource, like Grzimek’s Student Animal Encyclopedia available in GVRL on OSLIS.

Promote ILM with Students!
“But I already do this,” you may be saying. True. But consider stressing IL lessons as just that – information literacy skills. Help students make the connection with the bigger picture, like where X fits into the research process and what might come next.

A different way to emphasize the general concept of IL is to create a game and play it with students. You could play “Sore Thumb.” Create a question with three or four possible answers, but make one answer totally ridiculous so it sticks out like a sore thumb. Give students four thumbs, each marked with A, B, C, or D. As you show the question and the answer choices, have students, individually or in teams, read and think quietly for 30 seconds, and then ask them to show their sore thumb (A, B, C, or D). Questions can be about the research process in general, how to use resources, citing sources, how to find items in the library, Internet safety, media literacy (understanding the purpose of commercials, for example), etc. The idea is not to make the answer hard but to find an engaging way to introduce or stress the concept of IL.

Now that you are almost done reading the article, this is a good time to remind you to…breathe. Don’t panic. Nobody is asking you to do all of these things. Be picky and choose a few, or promote Information Literacy Month in your own way. And, if you have some restrictions around teaching because you are a library technician, adapt these ideas or run with the ones that work as presented. For example, play the game with students, and approach teachers about the resources available to them and their students via your library and the State Library, asking how and when the teachers might want to incorporate the resources in their lessons. Thanks for your efforts!

See these two postings for more ideas on how to promote ILM:
OSLIST...Ideas for October's Information Literacy Month
Libs-Or...Oregon Information Literacy Month Badge & Resource Page


Jennifer Maurer
School Library Consultant
Oregon State Library