Monday, March 02, 2009

Invitation to Participate: The LILAC Project

What Is Information Literacy?

While many teachers warn students to be wary of relying on information from online sources, perhaps, instead of steering students away from them, it's more a matter of helping students understand when and how to use such sources. At any rate, the following definition from Wikipedia is a good starting point:

Several conceptions and definitions of information literacy have become prevalent. For example, one conception defines information literacy in terms of a set of competencies that an informed citizen of an information society ought to possess to participate intelligently and actively in that society (from [1]).

The American Library Association's (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, Final Report states, "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" (1989).

Jeremy Shapiro & Shelley Hughes (1996) define information literacy as "A new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and philosophical context and impact." (from [2])

Information literacy is becoming a more important part of K-12 education. It is also a vital part of university-level education (Association of College Research Libraries, 2007). In our information-centric world, students must develop skills early on so they are prepared for post-secondary opportunities, whether in the workplace or in pursuit of higher education. (Wikipedia)

What Is the LILAC Project?

LILAC stands for Learning Information Literacy across the Curriculum. We hope to begin with a small pilot study to determine where the "disconnects" might be between what and how we are teaching students these important skills, and what students actually do. LILAC is dedicated to finding a way to assist students (and others) to locate, evaluate, and synthesize information--whether that information is online or in print (or in some other medium)--by helping them to know

  • when information is needed,
  • what kind of information is needed,
  • where to go to locate that information,
  • how to evaluate the information,
  • how to integrate the information with other ideas
  • and finally, how to adequately cite information, ideas, words, pictures, and other borrowings.

According to results of testing of information literacy skills, whatever we are doing now to teach these essential skills to our students just is not working. Even though educators and librarians have tried a wide variety of ways to teach these skills-from lectures and tutorials, hands-on workshops, librarian-teacher partnerships, and more-students continue to fail. Even when they are able to do well on tests of skills, usually immediately following instruction, they are not able to apply these skills nor do they seem to be able to take these skills with them as they continue to progress in the university.

The LILAC project hopes to pilot a study which might include ethnographic/case studies, surveys/questionnaires, "research aloud" protocols, and more. To begin, I am looking for one or two teachers of first-year writing and librarians/media specialists at a variety of institution types to help develop the small pilot study and administer it at their own institution. Then, hopefully, we can expand the study (once we have fine-tuned it). Based on my own recent experience working in this area, it is a sought-after topic for conference presentations, journal articles, and books, and, of course, an essential one for our own classrooms.

Interested? Let's Meet!

I will be visiting select institutions in late March and through April to meet with interested people, or, if I can't make it to your institution, I'll be happy to meet with you online. For more information, visit the LILAC blog at If you are interested, please contact me at to schedule a time and place when I can come and meet with you.


  1. So, would this be where I go to make Wikipedia be seen as a credible source?? =D

  2. Well, it's not about any given source being "credible" or not--but whether it's "credible" for a given purpose, audience, topic, etc. -- about evaluating each source in terms of how you plan to use it. So, no--this project is about identifying when/whether students are learning this stuff (and, of course, along the way, hopefully discovering what teachers/librarians/computer programmers/whomever can do better/differently).