Librarians and Instruction, Part 2: Embedded, or Standalone?

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I’ve been remiss in failing to mention the emlibs list. Emlibs was started this past spring, is hosted at Miami University of Ohio, and is intended for “embedded librarians in the Learning Management System.” See http://listserv.muohio.edu/archives/emlibs.html . If you”re doing information literacy instruction and haven’t joined yet, you might want to consider it.

Anyway, I recently read an interesting article, “Academic Libraries and the Credit-Bearing Class”, by Margaret Burke of Hofstra University. It’s available at http://bit.ly/MekNLq . At Hofstra, librarians teach standalone, one-credit courses in information literacy, and Burke advocates this approach as preferable to the course-embedded model. I posted a question on the emlibs list about comparing the two approaches, and a helpful, if inconclusive exchange followed, with Ms. Burke taking part.

In the article and the emlibs discussion, one point surfaced that does bother me about some of the embedded instruction initiatives I’ve read about: there’s little or no evaluation of information literacy outcomes, and if there is, the librarian isn’t involved in the evaluation. At a program earlier this year, I heard librarians doing course-embedded IL instruction say they didn’t want any part of evaluating student work. While I can understand the time and logistical obstacles, I think that to adopt that attitude is a shame. After all, if information literacy is important, shouldn’t there be defined learning objectives? And if there are, then shouldn’t they be evaluated? And if the librarian is doing the instruction, as a recognized expert in IL, then wouldn’t the librarian be the logical person to do the evaluation? In my research, I did find examples of librarians evaluating learning outcomes, and in the interviews I conducted, a clear trend among academic librarians to improve their ability to evaluate.

So this discussion has given me a lot to mull over. We need to know a lot more about how information literacy is being evaluated, and ultimately we need to be able to compare the standalone credit-bearing course to embedded instruction as a framework for information literacy education. It seems to me there are strong reasons why the embedded model ought to produce better results, but I haven’t seen any research to back that up.

So — over to you. I’m hoping readers of this blog will have additional insights, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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One Response to “Librarians and Instruction, Part 2: Embedded, or Standalone?”

  1. The Ethics of Embedded Librarianship « This Liaison Life Says:

    [...] Shumaker addressed related issues recently regarding the “evaluation of information literacy outcomes” by embedded librarians. He [...]

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