Information Literacy Through Service-Learning

LSU and LSU libraries

Louisiana State University (LSU) is among 1% of universities in the United States designated a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution. LSU educates roughly 30,000 young men and women of all ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds each academic year (LSU Office of Finance & Administration, 2019, University Fall Facts 2018). As stated in LSU’s Strategic Plan 2025, the University exists to address “the broader needs of society” (LSU Office of Academic Affairs, 2017, p. 1).

LSU’s footprint in Baton Rouge is enormous. The campus is situated on 2,130 acres south of downtown Baton Rouge (Ruffin et al., 2006, p. 49). As a corporate citizen of the greater metropolitan area, the University recognizes the reciprocal relationship between University and community and its obligation to the community and is therefore committed to public service in many areas affecting the progress and wellbeing of the larger local community.

The LSU Libraries exists to “advance research, teaching, and learning across every discipline” (LSU Libraries, 2018, para. About Us). In addition to supporting the work of students and faculty in addressing the broader needs of society, as a publicly funded entity the Libraries also serves the general public, providing research and reference services and allowing check-out of certain library materials with the presentation of official state identification. In addition to providing millions of books, hundreds of databases, and individual and collaborative study spaces, the Libraries provides its core constituencies with expertise in subject-specific research and with education to help them take advantage of the Libraries’ many resources.

Information literacy (IL)

Library and Information Science is a discipline, which exists in the service of information and the information user. For decades, LSU Libraries has engaged in bibliographic instruction of one kind or another. Library instruction has occurred and still occurs on many levels:

  • • Individual, point-of-service instruction takes place daily at the Reference Desk. Librarians explain the following to student-scholars; the mechanics of research, how to use specific databases, and how to employ strings of keywords to get focused results, thus equipping them to move forward on their own.
  • • Librarians also provide extended one-on-one research assistance to students and faculty. By appointment, librarians will interview patrons to determine exactly what they need to know, and then guide them in the use of appropriate research tools. These consultations last as long as necessary and occur as often as necessary to achieve results for the patron.
  • • Librarians also meet with classes during the semester, generally on a onetime basis but more often if needed. These one-time instruction sessions are requested by faculty to prepare their classes for up-coming research papers.

The Libraries, until recently, offered a one-credit course called Research Methods and Materials, more commonly referred to as LIS 1001. LIS 1001 was designed to educate undergraduates in the use of specific library resources to enable them to complete their research assignments. The LIS 1001 course was about the nature of Information — the different kinds, levels, and depths of information; how it is created, organized, and stored; how to search for and find it; and how to use it. The challenge of teaching LIS 1001 online and in the classroom has been getting the students to see that the skills they learned were not just for this course, but were transferrable to their other courses and to their lives outside academia. Librarian-instructors want students to understand that the need and search for information were things that would be in their lives always and that if they understood something of information they would be the better for it.

The Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership (CCELL)

One important element of LSU’s community relations effort is the Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership (CCELL). CCELL was established specifically to promote “the integration of teaching, research, and service to encourage civic responsibility and to enhance learning and social accountability” (LSU CCELL, para. About Us). CCELL does this by actively cultivating campus and community partnerships. The point of CCELL is not to supply volunteers to community programs — that is done by another program.

The CCELL program’s focus is to combine instruction with service to enhance the student instruction and connect the students directly and intimately to their community partners. Even as the community partner benefits through the free services the students provide, the students also benefit by applying what they are taught in the classroom to real-world situations. The knowledge they acquire in the classroom becomes something real and connected to their environment. Depending on how the classroom teacher and the community partner structure the experience, this approach can be an all-around win.

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