A ‘Road Map’ for Teaching Information Literacy

What was your favorite takeaway from Information Outlook last year? For Elizabeth Price, assistant professor and business librarian at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, it was a new insight into teaching information literacy.

The Information Outlook article I enjoyed most in 2017 was “Teaching Employees to Make Better Decisions with Data,” by Meryl Brodsky.

Like the author of this article, I’m the business librarian at a university. I spend most of my time consulting with groups of third-year students who are drafting a business plan as part of a 12-credit Integrative Business course. They are using library resources such as IBISWorld, BizMiner, and Mintel Academic to justify their forecasts (and, they hope, earn an A).

Each semester, I seem to answer more questions from these students about how they should interpret the data to make decisions. Seeing them struggle with that step made this article resonate strongly with me. I liked that Brodsky had 10 implementable suggestions that cover access, instruction, and outreach. I hope to use her ideas to start a conversation with faculty about helping students become more comfortable with analysis instead of merely data compilation (and to banish students’ preconceptions that they’ll always find the “right” answer in one of our databases).

As a librarian, I’ve spent most of my career teaching information literacy—a term that often doesn’t translate outside the library profession. But Brodsky argues persuasively that I need to expand my work with students and faculty to include data literacy, too (as long as I don’t call it that!). Happily, she gave me a road map for how to proceed.

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