"In the beginning there was Chaos. And the students moved aimlessly upon the face of the library. And the reference librarians said, 'Let there be instruction.' And there was instruction. The reference librarians brought forth the workbook, and the fifty-minute lecture; and the students no longer moved aimlessly about, but searched purposefully through the card catalog and the journal indexes and the serials catalog. And the reference librarians looked upon what they had wrought and they found it good."(1)
We smile at this reading first because user instruction is so much more than this today, but second because we can still relate to doing this type of library instruction.
To identify the current trends—or themes—of user education in the United States I looked at the programs, activities, and literature on Bibliographic Instruction—BI—at the national level. In my information gathering I went back five years to 1990-91. Additionally I have gained insight to current and ongoing trends by reading messages daily on the BI Listserv which began in April, 1990, and by attending national conferences.
(The center portion consists of the elected officers and Council members and the staff that manage ALA.)
Divisions Round Tables
Am. Assn. of School Librarians, AASL LIRT and User Instruction
Am. Library Trustee Assn., ALTA other for Information
Assn. for Library Collections & round tables Literacy (UIILC) Technical Services, ALCTS and other ALA
Assn. for Library Service to Children, ALSC committees
Assn. of College and Research Libraries, ACRL
Bibliographic Instruction Section (BIS)
Assn. of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies, ASCLA
Library Administration and Management Assn., LAMA
Library and Information Technology Assn., LITA
Public Library Assn., PLA
Reference and Adult Services Division, RASD
Young Adult Library Services Assn., YALSA
ALA has 11 Divisions which include divisions for specific populations such as academic and research libraries, school librarians, public libraries, children, adults, and specialized and cooperative library agencies. The Divisions have further subdivisions. For example, the Bibliographic Instruction Section (BIS) is a subdivision of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Division.
ALA also has its own national committees, such as the User Instruction for Information Literacy Committee (UIILC). There are 18 round tables in ALA. The round table concerned with BI is the Library Instruction Round Table or LIRT.
As you might expect, BIS is primarily concerned with library instruction in academic libraries while LIRT on the other hand is concerned with library instruction in all types of libraries: school, public, special libraries, and academic. There are also other groups in ALA concerned with BI and literacy, such as the Adult Lifelong Learning Section of the Public Library Association Division.
ALA has 55,400 members. ACRL is ALA's largest Division with 10,400 members and BIS is ACRL's largest activity section with 4,150 members. LIRT has 1,100 members (as of April, 1995).
ALA holds two conferences a year. The winter conference is solely for planning and discussion; the summer meeting includes programs presented by all units of ALA including BIS and LIRT.
There were more programs relating to BI at the 1991 ALA Conference than at any other conference year between 1990 and 1995, including programs by units outside the ACRL Division. The Public Library Association, for example, highlighted current nationwide literacy projects:
Data received from the 1990 U.S. decennial census also influenced the
program topics presented at the 1991 Conference because it reported a more
culturally diverse population in the United States. LIRT'S 1991 program was entitled: "Cultural Diversity Strategies for Promoting Information Literacy in a Changing World," combining both
information literacy and cultural diversity issues in BI.
BIS held a 1991 pre-conference with the theme: "Cultural Diversity and Higher Education: BI in a Multi-Cultural Environment." "Bibliographic Instruction" in Library Literature. As a way of monitoring the themes in the library literature on "BI" in the United States during the past five years I looked under the entries, "Bibliographic instruction" in the indexes of Library Literature and noted the parallel of the professional literature with the programs at national ALA conferences. (4)
Most of the BI literature is written about academic and school environments. However, in 1990 there was an article from Public Library Quarterly entitled, "BI in the Public Libraries: To Have or Not to Have, That is the Question." The author concluded that "when the evidence is collected, in most cases, out-of school adults will be better served with a formal bibliographic instruction program." (6)
When I became Editor of the BI journal, Research Strategies, in 1990, I decided to write editorials that reflected the pulse of the times. Therefore, one of my quarterly editorials in Research Strategies in 1990 was on information literacy, challenging BI librarians to identify ways of reaching members of society who do not enter the library to also "learn how to learn." (7) Another 1990 editorial was written just prior to the Second White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services (WHCLIS). I suggested that BI librarians consider themselves one of the human resources conference delegates were seeking in focusing national attention on how library and information services can contribute to a literate, productive, and democratic society. (8)
As if to help BI librarians in their plight, the 1991 Library Literature indexed chapters from the LIRT Library Instruction Handbook on how to plan library instruction programs in school media centers, public libraries, academic libraries, etc. (10) Another book for school librarians was indexed entitled, The School Library Program in the Curriculum . (11) During the past five years there has been a nationwide effort to more closely integrate library use and the curricula in the elementary schools. Most articles on BI for elementary and high school students for all years related to improving research skills.
One of my 1991 editorials focused on the new demands for accountability that were being required by the agencies accrediting United States' colleges and universities. Agencies were asking, "How do you know if students are learning?" (12) Another 1991 editorial encouraged librarians to communicate with one another on the newly established BI-Listserv, and another discussed the necessity of BI librarians participating in NREN, the National Research and Education Network, in preparing for the national information superhighway. (13,14)
The 1992 edition of Library Literature indexed a book: Information Literacy (published in 1991). (15) In addition to information literacy there were now an almost equal number of entries relating to hypermedia, audio-visuals, instructional design, off-campus students, and handicapped users.
The topic of "handicapped users" was due to significant legislation passed in the United States Congress in 1990. The American Disabilities Act said that all agencies and institutions had to be in compliance in accommodating handicapped users by January, 1992. One of my editorials in Research Strategies in 1992 asked whether BI librarians were in compliance as the term "handicapped" referred to the mentally handicapped as well as the physically handicapped. (16)
Five ALA Divisions presented programs with a BI theme during the 1992
conference relating to whole language programs, literacy, distance
learning, and adaptive technologies:
In the 1993 Library Literature there was an approximate tie in the number of entries relating to information literacy and the teaching of CD-ROM products. These were followed by articles on critical thinking and evaluation. There were several articles on handicapped users and a couple of articles on hypermedia and teaching the Internet.
BIS held a pre-conference on "Integrating Active Learning into Library Instruction" The BIS conference program was on "Thinking and Teaching the Internet Within the Curriculum."
Three other programs focused on distance learning and education:
There were articles relating to the Internet, hypermedia, local area networks (the LAN), CD-ROMs and OPACs, a trend that shows the growing need to incorporate electronic sources in BI programs. The 1994 Library Literature indexed the (1991) LOEX Conference proceedings on "Working with Faculty in the New Electronic Library." An article on BI in special libraries articulated the common notion that the primary objective of the special librarian is to make the user aware of what the library has to offer and when it should be used and the objective of training the client in the mechanics of library use should be "secondary." (19)
A significant book for school libraries was published by ALA in 1994: Power Teaching: a Primary Role of the School Library Media Specialist. (20) The "Library Power" privately funded program is designed so teachers can work collaboratively with the librarian in all elementary curriculum areas to help students acquire lifelong information processing skills. The library is therefore perceived as the hub of learning in the school. The program is committed to having twenty-five cities in the United States participating by 1996. Portions of the monies can be used to buy new books that correlate with the themes taught. Other monies can be used for professional development so the media specialists can attend AASL national conferences, for example.
One of my 1994 editorials in Research Strategies asked what kind of professional development there is for the librarians other than BI or reference librarians who are suddenly being asked to do BI, such as catalogers and collection development librarians as staff are downsized and lines of responsibility are increasingly blurred in the academic libraries. (21) Another editorial reflected on the change of student populations in our colleges and universities, with 83% of them living off campus and asked, "How are we accomodating these commuter students with our programs and availability?" (22)
A 1995 editorial in Research Strategies asked whether our libraries are "learning organizations" where organizations value both individual and collective continuous learning at all levels. (23)
"All I can do is hang in there and take one day at a time!"
BIS and LIRT offer more than conference programs. The results of the output of their committees are shared in the profession. In addition to having committees in dialogue with library school faculty, planning an evaluation handbook, and addressing instruction for diverse populations referred to above, there are BIS committees concerned with managing BI programs, with teaching methods, with continuing education, and with creating web pages. The Emerging Technologies Committee is working with the national Coalition for Networked Information on user education for the Internet. BI librarians also like to recognize instruction librarians who have made a contribution to the profession. A BIS committee oversees the administration of these annual awards. One award is for the "BI Librarian of the Year." This $1,000 cash award is presented by Mountainside Publishing Company, the publisher of the journal Research Strategies that I edit. A second award is for the library instruction "Publication of the year," and the third is an award for innovation.
LIRT's liaisons publish the activites of all groups involved with library instruction within the American Library Association to keep BI librarians informed. They do this through their newsletter. At ALA conferences LIRT members staff a booth in the exhibits and organize dutch-treat lunches and dinners where anyone interested in library instruction can have a meal with other librarians also interested in instruction. Two of LIRT's committees are concerned with instructional materials and computer applications. Since 1983 Research Strategies has been considered the journal of library instruction. Through the columns and the refereed articles, authors share a blend of conceptual frameworks and practical applications. (25) Daily messages are exchanged on the BI-Listserv, including position announcements, conference announcements, and queries to the list. While there is a current interest on instructional uses of the web there also also recurring questions such as how to teach a credit course. (26) BI librarians in the States have varying degrees of skill and knowledge regarding library instruction. That is why they use e-mail, read the literature, attend conferences, and publish. The same is true for each country. That is why I want to commend this Round Table for initiating an exchange at the international level. I am pleased to be with you today.
2. American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Information Literacy: Final Report. Washington D.C.: H. W. Wilson, 1989.
3. Information on ALA Conference Programs was taken from the annual printed programs published by the American Library Association, Chicago, Illinois. Tapes of ALA programs can be purchased through ALA headquarters, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, Illinois 606ll. Librarians unable to attend conferences may also benefit from program summaries that frequently appear in the "BIS Newsletter" or LIRT's publication, "Library Instruction Round Table News." Recently summaries have also appeared on the BI-List. Other divisions of ALA (AASL, PLA, and YALSA) also report in their publications.
4. Library Literature. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1990-1994.
5. The "Information Literacy" Column in RQ is published quarterly by the Reference and Adult Services Division, American Library Association, Chicago, Illinois.
6. Kaehr, Robert E. "Bibliographic Instruction in the Public Library: To Have or Not to Have, That is the Question." Public Library Quarterly 9.4 (1989) 5-12.
7. Wittkopf, Barbara. "BI Librarians and Information Literacy." Research Strategies 8.2 (Spring, 1990) 50-51.
8. Wittkopf, Barbara. "White House Conferences and BI." Research Strategies 8.4 (Fall, 1990) 158-159.
9. Huston, Mary, Issue Editor. "Toward Information Literacy--Innovative Perspectives for the 1990's." Library Trends 39 (Winter, 1991) 187-366.
10. The LIRT Library Instruction Handbook. Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1990.
11. The School Library Program in the Curriculum Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1990.
12. Wittkopf, Barbara. "BI Librarians and the Accreditation Process." Research Strategies 9.3 (Summer, 1991) 114-115.
13. Wittkopf, Barbara. "BI Dialogue: Past and E-Mail." Research Strategies 9.2 (Spring, 1991) 58-59.
14. Wittkopf, Barbara. "BI Involvement in the NREN." Research Stragegies 9.1 (Winter, 1991) 2-3.
15. Information Literacy. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Co., 1991.
16. Wittkopf, Barbara. "Making Sure We're 'In Compliance.'" Research Strategies 10.1 (Winter, 1992) 209-210.
17. Wittkopf, Barbara. "Riding the Electronic Information Train." Research Strategies 11.4 (Fall, 1993) 186-187.
18. Harrington, J.E. and Spindle, D.O. "Cooperative Planning for Service and Instruction" [SLIS faculty develop a BI course for University of Oklahoma distance education students]. In Off-campus Library Services Conference (6th: 1993: Kansas City, Missouri) The sixth Off-campus Library Services Conference Proceedings. Warrenburg, Missouri: Central Michigan University Press, 1993, pp. 83-96.
19. Blue, Richard I. "Bibliographic Instruction in Special Libraries." Science & Technology Libraries 14.2 (Winter, 1993) 119-137.
20. Vandergrift, K. E. Power Teaching: a Primary Role of the School Library Media Specialist. Chicago, Illinois: American Library Association, 1994.
21. Wittkopf, Barbara. "Who's Conducting BI Now?" Research Strategies 12.2 (Spring, 1994) 66-67.
22. Wittkopf, Barbara. "Accomodating Commuter Students--the Majority!" Research Strategies 12.1 (Winter, 1994) 2-3.
23. Wittkopf, Barbara. "Is Your Library a Learning Organization?" Research Strategies 13.1 (Winter, 1995) 2-3.
24. LOEX Clearinghouse,Linda Shirato,
25. Barbara Wittkopf, Editor, Research Strategies:the Journal of Library Concepts and Instruction,
For subscriptions: Mountainside Publishing Company,
P.O. Box 8330,
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48107.
26. Bibliographic Instruction Listserv.
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