Ames Library makes academic progress

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Rebekah Smith

Illinois Wesleyan University’s Ames Library has recently been awarded the prestigious Information Literacy Best Practices Exemplary award by The Association of College Research Libraries (ACRL). Ames was chosen because of its “fully operational system of communication contributing to student learning.  Equally impressive are the partnerships they have forged to integrate information literacy into all disciplines,” according to the ACRL.

Information literacy focuses on improving a student’s ability to identify the posed problem or topic and effectively locate the best information to offer a solution.  To be able to convince and persuade someone, the best, unbiased information must be gathered and presented.  This is the goal of the Illinois Wesleyan librarians, to equip students with the tools to find success with the incorporation of information technology.

“One of the contributing factors to gaining this award has been our 3-year Andrew Mellon Foundation grant for writing across the disciplines and information literacy,” said university librarian Karen Schmidt. “The grant, which comes to a close at the end of this calendar year, has enabled the library faculty and teaching faculty to collaborate on course and assignment development that embeds information literacy skills into our curriculum.”

Through collaboration and use of the Mellon Foundation grant, faculty have been able to completely redesign courses to better incorporate information literacy— which is essential for every career path.  Information literacy “empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals,” according to the Alexandria Declaration published in 2005.

The purpose of the program is to help IWU students develop skills to gain knowledge about information research.  Heading up the program is Chris Sweet, Information Literacy Librarian.  “We are teaching students how to find, evaluate, and synthesize information,” Sweet said. “It’s a skill that should transcend the academy at Illinois Wesleyan.  It’s a skill you can use as you go out into future careers.”

By using this grant, librarians have been able to work with the teaching faculty to completely redesign the curriculum to better incorporate information technology.  In the past, librarians have been able to meet with classes once or twice to present tools for information technology, but with the help of the grant, there can now be more of a partnership.  “Dropping in is important but not integrated—that’s what we’ve been striving for,” Sweet said. “Seamless integration that makes sense rather than an afterthought.”

Other winners of the award include Purdue University, University of Rhode Island, Radford University, University of Manchester, University of North Carolina and George Washington University.  “This award means that we’re doing a very good job nationally collaborating with different people and entities on campus,” Sweet said.  “When we get put next to them in one of these awards, it’s very good company.”

The Ames librarian staff is more than willing to assist students with research for projects, papers and assignments.  “The main thing that we care about are the one-on-one interactions,” Sweet said.  The librarians possess a wealth of knowledge to assist students.