Lately I have been seeing a phrase circulating the internet, and no, it’s not Bieber Fever. My classmates and I have also been talking about it a lot in our online UTK classes. What is this phrase, you ask? Information Literacy. As a future librarian, what do I need to know about it? As a library staff person currently working in an academic library, why should I care and how does it affect the students I interact with on a daily basis? According to the Grand Poo-bah of information, Wikipedia.com, information literacy is “a set of competencies that an informed citizen of an information society ought to possess to participate intelligently and actively in that society.” Apparently this is an important subject because Wikipedia goes on to say that President Barack Obama designated October to be “National Information Literacy Awareness Month.” One thing my classmates and I have been discussing is what exactly constitutes someone as participating intelligently and actively in society? Who decides what intelligently and actively means? Something we considered is whether or not terrorist groups would be labeled information literate. Because, when you think about it, they got together, located information, gathered said information, and effectively used that information to do the dirty deeds they intended. So according to that very broad definition of information literacy, they are in fact, information literate. Now, whether those deeds are intelligent or not is in the eye of the beholder. Throughout this discussion with my classmates, I kept thinking to myself, “What if we didn’t have this chance to talk about this topic, or any topic for that matter?” Certainly, one of my favorite things about the UTK program is that we get the chance to talk to each other during our class periods. I attended Drexel University for a few semesters before transferring to UTK and I never got the chance to talk with my fellow classmates like I do now. Don’t get me wrong, Drexel is a great school, but all their classes are taken asynchronously. The only time I got to “chat” with my classmates was on the discussion board, so occasionally, days would go by before someone would respond to a post. At UTK, however, we have a text chat option to use during class so that we can talk amongst ourselves while class is going on, and this is in addition to our ability to speak to each other through headsets and microphones. There are some professors that essentially forbid us from using it during class, but for the most part, my professors have been eager for us to talk to each other. I should mention here that text chat is not always on topic, but I do think it is fun for us to talk about things other than school. Although, I guess I can see why some professors restrict our text chat use. Talking about our favorite Dairy Queen Blizzard flavors doesn’t exactly contribute to our learning. But, I think interaction with classmates is one of the key features of being a graduate student at UTK. Our classes are usually small in number, so we really get to bounce ideas off of each other. In fact, I think what we do every week in class is the best form of information literacy there is. We are informed citizens who get together once a week to participate intelligently and actively in learning to be the best librarians we can be.
Alison DePollo is the Student Supervisor/Stacks Manager, Circulation Department at Sherrod Library, East Tennessee State University. firstname.lastname@example.org