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September 21, 2012

Ideas for October's Information Literacy Month

I seldom post anything to OSLIST that is not specifically about OSLIS or the statewide databases (Gale and LearningExpress Library). However, since OSLIS is an information literacy website, I feel it is appropriate to promote Information Literacy Month ideas via OSLIST. – Thanks, Jen

In June, Governor Kitzhaber proclaimed October 2012 Information Literacy Month in Oregon. This effort aligns with the National Forum on Information Literacy’s (NFIL) celebration of National Information Literacy Awareness Month in October. As President Obama noted in the proclamation that made October 2009 National Information Literacy Awareness month,
Though we may know how to find the information we need, we must also know how to evaluate it. Over the past decade, we have seen a crisis of authenticity emerge. We now live in a
world where anyone can publish an opinion or perspective, whether true or not, and have that opinion amplified within the information marketplace. At the same time, Americans have
unprecedented access to the diverse and independent sources of information, as well as institutions such as libraries and universities, that can help separate truth from fiction and signal
from noise.

Our Nation's educators and institutions of learning must be aware of -- and adjust to -- these new realities. In addition to the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, it is equally
important that our students are given the tools required to take advantage of the information available to them. The ability to seek, find, and decipher information can be applied to countless
life decisions, whether financial, medical, educational, or technical.

With that in mind, I want to share a few ideas for promoting information literacy next month (and beyond). This is just the start; look for a few more posts later.

Define the Term
We use the term information literacy a lot, but do we have an understandable definition for it? If we are to send a clear message, it should be easy to understand and consistent. If your school, district, or library does not have an official definition, consider using or building upon ALA’s interpretation:
Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed

That sounds deceptively simple. We know the depth and breadth of topics and competencies this entails, but does your audience – students, teachers, administrators, parents – know? When you teach students to evaluate websites, do they understand that it’s in the broader context of information literacy? When you collaborate with teachers on lessons that meet their objectives and yours, do the teachers understand that the lesson (likely) fits under the end goal of developing information literate students? When you lead an information night about media literacy, do parents understand… you get it. :-) 

Promote It Visually
It would be great to promote Information Literacy Month both in physical and virtual spaces. For example…
•    Decorate a bulletin board or the door in the library, or better yet, a space near the school’s entrance or office. Items to post could include any combination of the following:
o    the attached proclamation
o    your definition of information literacy
o    a quiz so folks can test their skills (I envision folder papers with a question on the top and the answer under the flap.)
o    images & explanations of sample info lit skills (like a TV screen with a blurb about learning to decode advertisements; a book with a blurb about learning its parts – table of contents, chapter headings, index, info graphics – to better isolate or comprehend information and …)
o    images depicting examples of using information literacy in “real life” (Have a heading that says, “You’ll use information literacy your whole life. Learn the skills now.” Show a picture of a new car with this under it:  Which car do I buy? What’s the best way to pay for it?, a picture of a college with this under it: Where should I go to college? Is  college or a technical school my better choice?, etc.)  
o    Include related AASL standards in smaller font under the images/headings/explanations described above:
o    No time? Sketch out your idea and ask a volunteer to run with it.

•    Include NFIL’s badge on your school and/or library’s website, in your email signature, etc. Be sure to choose Oregon from the drop down menu before copying any HTML code:

•    Wear a button based on the badge or your own design (like, Ask Me About Information Literacy!). Ask staff, board members, etc. to wear the NFIL badge. For the daring types, wear the button outside of school to promote awareness and discussions in the community. Can students serve as information literacy ambassadors and do the same thing, after some training from you?

Combine Promotion with That for Banned Books Week & Banned Website Awareness Day
Many of you will already be educating about Banned Books Week (September 30 – October 6) and/or Banned Website Awareness Day (October 3) and can fold that week’s activities into what you do for Information Literacy Month. Wearing buttons? Wear two buttons, one for each campaign, during the first week of October. Creating a bulletin board for Info Lit Month? Save a corner to tie in Banned Books Week. Giving a lesson about BBW or BWAD? Discuss how the topics of censorship and filtering fall under information literacy. For example, in the AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, there are many connections:

•    Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught. In this increasingly global world of information, students must be taught to seek diverse perspectives, gather and use information ethically, and use social tools responsibly and safely.
•    3.3.1 Solicit and respect diverse perspectives while searching for information, collaborating with others, and participating as a member of the community.
•    3.3.2 Respect the differing interests and experiences of others, and seek a variety of viewpoints.
•    3.3.7 Respect the principles of intellectual freedom.
Free webinar about BWAD:

Whether it’s something from this list or your own ideas, please take advantage of this grand opportunity to promote information literacy and what school librarians do.

Have a great weekend.


Jennifer Maurer
School Library Consultant
Oregon State Library
250 Winter Street NE
Salem, OR 97301