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Creating a Culture of Connection among Instructors, Librarians and Students

Relying on Google or Wikipedia for everyday information has become a common practice for most of us. Ease of use and instant results make them a natural first choice. But they can also undermine the skills students need to be successful at university. To be successful academically, students must develop their information literacy: the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information effectively and ethically. This requires making the transition from researching on the Internet to researching in one of North America's foremost research libraries. It is just one of several new literacies—statistical, cultural, geospatial, etc.—that students will need for both university and beyond in their working, civic and personal lives.

Conducting academic research is not an innate skill that students have when they arrive at university. So the challenge for librarians, faculty and teaching assistants is to create opportunities within the curriculum for students to develop research questions, explore a wide variety of resources and integrate what they have learned into a research assignment. To that end, Professor Shafique Virani, Professor of Islamic Studies, has his second year Research Opportunities Program students attend an all-day "Research Induction" held in Robarts Library. Here students learn a number of research techniques from how to conduct a literature search through to the transliteration of Arabic and Urdu for library catalogue searching. Heather Cunningham, Faculty Liaison Librarian for Biology on the St. George campus, worked with Jill Wheeler, Lab Coordinator and Alison Parker, the head T.A., to create a Biology Research Guide for the 1,800 students in BIO120: Adaptation and Biodiversity, who need to learn how to create a basic search strategy, read a scientific article and understand the peer review process.

Information literacy is not simply for students at the beginning of their academic career. With the rapid growth of electronic resources and over one thousand article databases to choose from, graduate students will also benefit from in-depth library workshops tailored to their research needs. Jenny Mendelsohn, Faculty Liaison Librarian for Political Science, has worked closely with students in Professor Michael Stein's POL2810 Masters Research Seminar, building their knowledge of research through their submission of a library research report in which they outline the critical thinking underlying their research process. One student wrote, "I think similar library-use seminars should be mandatory for all new M.A. and Ph.D. students. The seminar, coupled with the fact that we were required to prepare a library use report, made me more conscious of my research process".

Raising students' awareness of the challenges and complexities of conducting research and of the richness of the research collections held by the U of T Libraries requires the creation of a culture of connection among faculty, librarians and students. In collaboration with faculty, librarians can support student learning and success by promoting information literacy.

Faculty wishing to integrate information literacy outcomes into a course assignment can contact their faculty liaison librarian listed at http://main.library.utoronto.ca/liaison/index.cfm?sel=sgc

Patricia Bellamy

Top of page: Eveline Houtman works with students at an information literacy session.