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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2000

Conference Reports

Science and Technology Section's General Discussion Group
Highlights from Annual 2000
Bibliographic Instruction in Sci-Tech Libraries: Best Practices

Kimberly Lyons-Mitchell
University of the Pacific

Julia Zimmerman
Dean of Libraries
Ohio University

Kim Lyons-Mitchell and Julia Zimmerman, co-chairs of the Science and Technology Section's General Discussion Group, welcomed about 60 participants, along with four facilitators, to a dynamic discussion on "Bibliographic Instruction in Sci-Tech Libraries: Best Practices." The session began with each of the four facilitators describing unique programs at their institutions, which prompted additional discussion with audience members.

The four facilitators offered extensive experience and innovation to inspire the group. Julie Wood began the program by talking about Georgia Tech's instruction program, which emphasizes teaching and leaning in its approach to bibliographic instruction. Georgia Tech's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning has done several studies on the learning styles of Tech students, and the library's instructional program incorporates this information into library instruction. She suggested that the best way to convince students to attend instruction sessions is to integrate them into a course.

Laura Smart of the University of California at San Diego stated that the best thing that you can bring to library instruction is enthusiasm. She talked about how she reached many groups including students, teaching assistants and faculty by effective marketing, which increased the visibility of the instruction program. She explained that funding for the library instruction program at U.C. San Diego comes from an endowment earmarked for literacy, and that library staff had to promote the concept of information literacy to be included in the endowment. She also talked about the importance of assessing your program.

Joan Reuelle of the University of Virginia highlighted marketing of instructional programs and building personal contacts in order to be effective in learning about users' instructional needs. Joan also pointed out that if the faculty trust the librarians as teachers, they can be your best referrals.

The final facilitator was Randall Halverson of Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. Randall is part of an instruction program which involves active learning in the classroom in an effort to incorporate information literacy.

With all of these interesting viewpoints, the facilitators generated much conversation from the audience. Information literacy is a concept that seems to be everyone's minds. Each of the facilitators was asked to give a brief definition, in their own words, of information literacy. Among their many explanations, information literacy was described as including lifelong learning as well as specific learning objectives. The definition of the term was read from the ACRL standard. Another point raised is that it is very difficult to integrate information competencies into actual course work.

Participants at the meeting also discussed for-credit information literacy courses. A few of the audience members talked about their programs, although it seemed that the consensus was that not many institutions had such a course, but most were very interested in developing one. Online tutorials are also of considerable interest to librarians involved in instruction. Some institutions have programs that integrate information competencies into online instruction, and the course is required for graduation or is offered for one or two credits.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of science, team teaching should be considered. Participants agreed that it is indeed a luxury, and if instruction programs are short-staffed, tapping the teaching faculty is often effective. The facilitators were asked to respond to the issue of faculty resistance to integrating bibliographic instruction into their courses. One helpful comment was for the librarian to prepare a handout for a particular assignment, which may lead to a library portion within the course the following year.

Many useful and innovative ideas were presented during the session. The audience raised interesting points about bibliographic instruction that proved to be common concerns. Bibliographic instruction is gaining popularity in sci-tech libraries. With the keen interest among sci-tech librarians and innovations emerging in STM libraries, the momentum will clearly continue.

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