The Instruction and Outreach Department manages and coordinates library research instruction for students, faculty and staff through course-related workshops, outreach activities, personal consultations, research guides and other instructional materials.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Standard(s) Operating Procedure

Perhaps it is only in the small, rarefied world of library instruction that an appointment to the ACRL Information Literacy Standards Committee is something to get excited about (okay, maybe ‘excited’ is too strong).  I am happy to be part of this group for several reasons.  One is that I get to work with some smart and energetic librarians like Ellysa Cahoy from Penn State and Bob Schroeder from Portland State.  Another reason is that I have an ambivalent relationship with the ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education (okay, people who know me well can snort now…) and as part of the committee I get to be up close and personal with them.

So, how do I really feel about the standards?  First, I’m glad that there are standards, because accrediting bodies and other such groups love the fact that standards exist.  When I was doing learning outcomes assessment work at the University of Maryland, those of us whose discipline had standards (like engineering and education) were in much better shape when it came to writing student learning outcomes assessment, because we had national guidelines to draw on.  But, on the other hand, how useful are the ACRL standards when it comes to planning the library instruction that we do every day?

Sometimes the ACRL standards seem a bit abstract or lofty for the average 50 minute instruction session. Granted, the standards encourage a degree of collaboration with classroom faculty that recognizes that some of the standards and outcomes simply don’t belong in a library instruction session.  A more pressing question is, how have the standards held up since they were developed ten years ago?  Do they deal adequately with changes in technologies and the recognition of new literacies? 

The good news is that ACRL has authorized a revision of the standards.  The Information Literacy Standards committee will be designing a process by which that revision will get done.  It promises to be a long, complex, but ultimately rewarding process.  I hope that we can learn from the recent revision of the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, as well as the discipline specific standards developed through ACRL.
I hope that the revised standards are relevant, clear and above all useful.

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