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Course & Subject Guides

Information Literacy Fundamentals @ Pitt: Talking to Faculty

This guide defines information literacy and discusses strategies to incorporate information literacy into sessions for students.

Realities and Perceptions

Realities and perceptions that impact talking with faculty:


  • Faculty can be hard to reach
    • Time constraints, stress at the beginning and end of the semester, other reasons
  • Faculty are reluctant to give up a class session (14 per semester at Pitt)
    • Some may never allow a librarian into their classroom for various reasons
  • Different terminology for similar concepts exists between faculty and librarians


  • Faculty may equate information literacy with what they see or experience as remedial library instruction
    • Librarians can only provide a limited introduction to IL in the one-shot 50 minute session
  • Faculty may believe students are already information literate or can pick it up on their own
  • Faculty may equate information literacy with technological literacy
  • Faculty may want students to flail about in the information realm or believe that disciplinary expertise should precede any practice of research
    • How can students judge sources before becoming knowledgeable in their discipline?
  • Subordinate role of librarians within institutional hierarchy, even those librarians with faculty status
  • Ambiguous role of librarians in teaching information literacy
    • Different librarians explain things differently
    • Varies across institutions

Defining IL for Yourself

Information Literacy (IL) is a library term.

  • What does it mean?
  • Why is it relevant?
  • Why does it come from the library?

Broader Context

  • How do we place what we call IL into the realm of the faculty?
  • We need to think about IL in a broader educational context
  • How do you explain IL to faculty?
  • How do you explain IL to yourself?

Building a Network

Collaboration is best done on a personal level. This takes time, necessitates a mindset beyond a "40 hour week", and requires the support of library administration and your colleagues.


  • Volunteer for departmental ad hoc committees
  • Get elected to senate or departmental faculty committees
  • Attend committee meetings, departmental and university meetings, faculty seminars and lectures, anything that would involve the library
  • Participate in events such as convocations and orientations
  • Casual lunches with faculty
  • Join the teaching association of your specific discipline.
Various, Simultaneous IL Components
  • One-shot classes as library/searching orientations
  • One-on-one instruction
  • Classroom integrated tools
  • Integrated discipline/IL goals
  • Standalone information literacy courses

Terms to Use with Faculty

1. Critical Thinking

  • “…the education field has labeled a series of attributes as critical thinking, and librarianship has done the same with information literacy. These two groups are not using the same language when they discuss very similar concepts.” (Rebecca S. Albitz. (2007). "The what and who of information literacy and critical thinking in higher education," portal, 7(1), 97-109)
  • Ennis' 12 elements of critical thinking: 
    • 1. Grasping the meaning of a statement
    • 2. Judging whether there is ambiguity in a line of reasoning
    • 3. Judging whether certain statements contradict each other
    • 4. Judging whether a conclusion follows necessarily
    • 5. Judging whether a statement is specific enough
    • 6. Judging whether a statement is actually the application of a certain principle
    • 7. Judging whether an observation statement is reliable
    • 8. Judging whether an inductive conclusion is warranted
    • 9. Judging whether the problem has been identified
    • 10. Judging whether something is an assumption
    • 11. Judging whether a definition is adequate
    • 12. Judging whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable
2. Lifelong Learning

3. Research Skills

4. Research Process
  • Faculty may have a different understanding of the word “research”
5. Conversation Starters
  • What do you NOT see from your students' papers or assignments?
  • How would your students' research papers be better?
  • How can we make this process easier for them?

Approaches to Collaboration with Faculty

There are different levels and stages of interaction with faculty from minimal to team-teaching. The approach depends on the faculty member, your rapport, your network; there is no uniform way to do this. The approach also depends on the discipline, the class level, undergraduate vs. graduate. First year students may need to know what a journal is and familiar topics to find information, navigate it and evaluate it. Upper-class students need more subject specific tools and a deeper understanding of scholarship.

Possible Approach for One-shots

  • Speak another language: Use the term critical thinking for information literacy
  • Imply/State that a critical thinker also needs to know how to find, organize, and evaluate information
    • Independently of or dependent on the student’s level of knowledge of the discipline
  • Emphasize that the librarian can complement the class curriculum or the research assignment by…
    • Helping students learn to systematically approach new topics…and/or…
    • Showing the students discipline-specific tools
  • Clearly communicate what you can cover for their class and any options for delivery or method
    • Make faculty aware that all critical thinking skills cannot be covered in one session

Future Steps for Librarians

Classroom-integrated Tools

  • First steps
    • Keep up with technology developments and tools
    • Learn various (standard) technology applications
    • Develop understanding of pedagogical use
    • Implement in appropriate instructional settings
    • Assess if the technological tool accomplishes desired outcomes
  • Blended librarian
    • The BL helps faculty to achieve student learning outcomes by designing learning tools and objects that facilitate the mastery of information literacy skills (Steven Bell and John Shank).
    • Courseware involvement
      • Macro Level Library Courseware Involvement entails working with the developers and programmers of courseware to integrating into the software a generic, global library presence.
      • Micro Level Library Courseware Involvement, involves individual librarians teaming up with faculty as consultants to participate in developing a customized library instruction and resource component for the courseware enhanced courses.
    • Ideas for courseware
      • Create downloadable items that can be imported into online courses
      • Remind faculty of virtual reference desks and library web presence
      • Offer to create and embed discipline specific IL rubrics
      • “Librarian Role" - librarians become integrated into course management system
  • Stand-alone tutorials

Integrated discipline/IL goals

  • Peter Hernon’s recommendations
    • Defining IL goals in discipline-specific goals
  • Provost’s expected outcomes for students
  • Middle States Accreditation requirements
  • Learning accountability (AAC&U)

Our Own Classroom

  • For credit information literacy courses taught by librarians
    • If faculty won’t let us in to their classroom in meaningful ways, the information literacy discipline may have to stand on it’s own
  • Example: Applied 21st Century Literacies: Information, Visual, Media and Multicultural
    • An immersive experience in critical thinking and problem solving that involves a gamut of information  sources in the form of multimodal texts. A key aspect is the integration of technology tools to provide an infrastructure for exploration of the various "literacies."

Talking to Ourselves

  • We seem to always preach to the choir (ourselves) instead of reaching out in other ways.
  • In the larger collaboration picture, we need to reach out in other avenues. Possible suggestions:
    • Publish about IL in teaching journals outside librarianship
    • Present at academic conferences, not library conferences
    • Establish a new rhetoric to communicate
    • Library as a center for Faculty Development conversations
      • Host CIDDE discussions

PowerPoints and Documents

The information in this guide is based on information in a series of presentations and documents associated with an Information Literacy Workshop presented by the ULS Information Literacy and Assessment Working Group.