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To Bangkok Conference programme

65th IFLA Council and General

Bangkok, Thailand,
August 20 - August 28, 1999

Code Number: 999-157(WS)-E
Division Number: II
Professional Group: Art Libraries: Workshop
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 157
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

Information Literacy in the Electronic Arts Library: Strategies for the Hybrid Professional

Aniko L. Halverson
Reference Coordinator and Instruction Librarian
California Institute of the Arts Library
Valencia, CA USA
and Joye Volker
Institute Librarian
Institute of the Arts Library
Australian National University
Canberra, Australia


"To be Information Literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." This definition comes directly from the 1989 Final Report of the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy1. Two arts schools from opposite sides of the globe which have acknowledged the critical role of information literacy at the administration level are the Institute of the Arts at the Australian National University, where the Library is implementing an action plan to achieve the goals of improving student and raising staff information literacy2, and California Institute of the Arts, where the Dean of Library and Information Resources has demonstrated a commitment to the use of technology in the curriculum on many levels, including hiring an Instruction Librarian devoted to designing instructional programs based on the tenets of Information Literacy.

The turn-of-the-millennium library calls for Information Literacy to be applied in a world of vast formats, including traditional print sources, digital media and online information. We use this electronic, nearly-21st century context as a springboard for a discussion of how the academic arts library can best serve users' needs by adapting information technologies toward reaching a goal of an Information Literate user population. A new brand of Librarian, a "Hybrid Professional", is required to combine the traditional knowledge base and research principles of the librarian with competencies and leadership in technology. The Librarian becomes the Hybrid Professional when responsibilities evolve to include each of the following: an understanding of library resources, both traditional and electronic; knowledge of hardware and software for multiple platforms; subject knowledge; teaching ability; a public relations sensibility for keeping administration aware of users' needs, and to conduct outreach; and a forward-looking approach to collection development. A significant new responsibility for the Hybrid Professional is the ability to work closely with the systems personnel who are responsible for maintaining hardware and networks. The Hybrid Professional must have a user-driven perspective, and must be an advocate for users' needs when it comes to the installation and maintenance of resources.

The advent of electronic information has created opportunities, as well as mandates, for applying the framework of Information Literacy in the library as a bridge to the curriculum. Strategies from the following areas of opportunity will be addressed: the Help Desk, formerly the traditional reference desk; a formal, for-credit course on Information Literacy; and the concept of the InfoLab. The skills required to implement each of these services demonstrate the transition from Librarian to Hybrid Professional.

At California Institute of the Arts, the library's reference desk was transformed into the more versatile "Help Desk" in January 1999. Because the library is the center of all campus networks (the Institute has a population of 1100 full-time students), and is the home of campus servers as well as network services staff, the library needed to address the large number of questions from Institute students, faculty, and staff concerning hardware and software problems, email, and networking. These questions far outnumbered the traffic of reference questions, either in person, via telephone, or via email, which came to the library.

The solution has been to create the Help Desk, staffed by a technologically savvy student knowledgeable in the various operating systems used on campus, with the ability to troubleshoot computer problems, to answer frequently asked reference and directional questions, and, most importantly, to refer difficult questions as appropriate to librarians (for reference and research needs) or network services staff (for hardware and network needs). This "triage" style of assisting users has proved to be useful in that it enables librarians to spend more time designing instructional programs, and performing collection development. A Help Desk email address was also established and has since been used a great deal, particularly on weekends, which further demonstrates the need for this kind of support. It is envisioned that eventually this student position will be replaced with a part-time or full-time permanent staff position, in order to provide better continuity for the Institute's technical support needs.

The demand for this type of user support illustrates the growing use of computers and technology on campus, and also the central role in which the library plays in students' computing life. We have seen the transition from a traditional notion of "literacy", as it relates to library reference, to much more technology-based assistance. Insofar as Information Literacy includes the ability to locate and use information which is increasingly available in electronic form, access to, and instruction in, hardware, software, and networks have become vital roles of the library. The Help Desk model includes assisting users by teaching them on a one-on-one basis, providing an environment of encouragement which allows people to use technology to apply to their own interests, becoming independent learners. The Help Desk thus supports Information Literacy in a variety of ways.

Also at California Institute of the Arts, a formal, 2-credit course on library and Internet research, called Critical Studies 114, has been taught by librarians for the past several years. The course serves as an introduction to the tenets and skills of Information Literacy. Students become familiar with the variety of resources available; are required to obtain an email account; learn to formulate search strategies; learn to evaluate information; and compile an annotated bibliography on a topic related to their major. Support by administration for this course, which is taught by a librarian, demonstrates that Information Literacy is recognized as a necessary part of the curriculum. While the course is not required, it is significant to note that a growing number of American colleges and universities offer for-credit courses on Information Literacy. The next step for Critical Studies 114 is to increase enrollment from approximately 12 students each semester to perhaps 25. In addition, librarians are working to include an assignment or component related to the library in the English composition course required of all entering freshmen. This will introduce all students to the library early in their career at the Institute, and expose every student to the concepts of Information Literacy.

Moving to the other side of the globe, at the Institute of the Arts Library in Canberra Australia (an arts school of 400 full-time students and 350 extension students), all foundation, or freshman, students receive an initial orientation to the library and an introduction to access to electronic information as well as a research skills tutorial later in the year. These orientations are required as part of the Art Theory course component. The students use the library intensively as they are dependent upon the library for their visual and text information in its myriad formats. The Director describes it as the 'hub' of the Art School.

The advent of the Web changed forever the approach to accessing information. A recent initiative has been to create the "InfoLab" to provide electronic access to information resources as well as increased word processing and email facilities. In late 1998, the Institute of the Arts Library put forward a proposal to create a computer lab supported by the ANU's Teaching Learning and Training Support Unit (TLTSU) in partnership with IT services within the Institute of the Arts. Space for the new InfoLab has been provided in a central location where it can be featured as an innovation of the School of Art.

While demonstrations using the Internet are provided within the Library's seminar room using digital projection, and hands-on training workshops in using electronic databases, journals, and the Web for research purposes are provided in the InfoLab with its multi-platform computers allowing for student preferences. Drop-in sessions are held where students who may lack computer skills, Internet skills and information-seeking skills are given assistance. Often the students' approach is task-oriented and crisis-driven. The Drop-in session offers a service at the student's point of need in a simple and user friendly environment. The next step will be to provide a Web-based self-help package to enable students to learn information skills in the visual arts at their own pace and convenience.

The skills necessary to provide services such as the Help Desk, a credit course on information Literacy, and the InfoLab, are markedly more diverse than traditional skills required of librarians. Both Institutes have identified competencies for a librarian capable of managing facilities such as the InfoLab and training students in both Information Literacy and technology literacy. These skills include the development and delivery of courses which cover library resources, both traditional and electronic; the use of a variety of software packages and computer platforms; innovative approaches to communicate ideas to staff, faculty, and students; the ability to solve problems, use mathematical techniques, and apply statistics; and to work independently and in teams. The knowledge base is equally important. The Hybrid Professional needs to have a breadth of knowledge about the subject, its organization both in the traditional literature and in electronic resources in order to apply the most effective search strategies. Finally, often intensive collaboration with systems personnel, who may not have a first-hand understanding of users' needs, is vital.

It has been said that the electronic library will render the librarian obsolete. This is not at all the case; in fact, the proliferation of electronic resources available for use in arts libraries has created an increased need for human interaction3. Librarians have been called upon to re-invent themselves as Hybrid Professionals. The impact of the convergence of technologies which mediate knowledge, as it heightens educational potential, has compelled us to evolve. It falls to us as arts librarians, in collaboration with academic and network staff, to translate new formats into a set of strategic actions to allow visual arts students to acquire the necessary skills to become information literate. This is our imperative not only as it relates to their studies, but also in their future careers as lifelong learners.


  1. American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. "A Progress Report on Information Literacy." March 1998. http://www.ala.org/acrl/nili/nili.html (Retrieved May 17, 1999).
  2. BI-L discussion list. Online. Moderator: martin_raish@byu.edu (May 1, 1999).
  3. Oberman, Cerise, Bonnie Gratch Lindauer, and Betsy Wilson. "Integrating information literacy into the curriculum: How is your library measuring up?" College and Research Libraries News. http://www.ala.org/acrl/nili/integrtg.html (Retrieved May 20, 1999).
  4. Schmidt, Janine. "The University of Queensland Cybrary." January 28, 1999. http://www.cybrary.uq.edu.au/cybrary.html (Retrieved May 20, 1999).
  5. Warger, Thomas. "What Are We Missing in Instructional Technology" in The Edutech Report Vol. 14, No. 11: 1 - 6.


1 American Library Association, Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. "Final Report of the Presidential Committee on Information Literacy." Washington DC, 1989.

2 Richards, John. "Strategic Directions 1999-2001: Moving Forward." Canberra ACT Australia: The Australian National University, 1998. 18.

3 Hathorn, Clay. "The Librarian is Dead, Long Live the Librarian." PreText Magazine. http://www.pretext.com/oct97/features/story4.htm (Retrieved May 17, 1999).


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