Ten Myths about Information Literacy

CILIP | Opinion: Against information literacy – Peter Williams
Against information literacy

Myth – “An ill-founded belief, usually based on limited experience, given uncritical acceptance by members of a group, especially in support of existing or traditional practices and institutions”


This jives with my own experience and my own mental “ten myths about information literacy”

  1. Students need to know about boolean operators (they shouldn’t)
  2. One-shot sessions are a waste of time (done right, they’re not)
  3. We teach life-long learning. Once students leave University they need to remember how to use “X” database system (we teach them to use systems that they don’t have access to once they leave and we call that life long learning!)
  4. Faculty don’t understand information literacy. I think many faculty do understand IL. I facilitated a workshop at the University of Windsor that included a faculty panel who understand IL more than many librarians.
  5. Today’s students are so savvy they don’t experience Library Anxiety. Ask a 14 year old (I happen to have one in my home) to find out something and she’ll find it and understand faster than many of us. Ask an average 18 year old to find a book on a shelf given a call number and their eyes will dart and they’ll reach for the cell phone to a) pretend to have a call to avoid the situation or b) ask a friend for help.
  6. Tours are a waste of time. OK, giving tours can be boring, but they can help alleviate library anxiety (see myth number 5). I have two ideas that work for eliminating boredom during tours: 1) Hide’N Go Seek in the Stacks and 2) Give a tour as an assignment and ask students to lead the tour (I’ve done this in groups of about 10, say in the first week to the group, next week we’re doing a tour, and each of you is responsible for researching that area and talking about that area next week).
  7. We need information literacy because the tools we have (our catalogues and databases) can’t be used without training. OK, let’s take all of our resources we spend on teaching the tools and create tools that don’t need so much training. When was the last time you took a training session before using Amazon?
  8. An online information literacy tutorial is the answer. I don’t think so. I’ve never seen one that wasn’t boring, and I’m including the one’s I’ve helped create.
  9. Students are motivated to learn about libraries because it is good for them. Of course not. But remember without motivation not much learning will take place. Where is the motivation? Find that (and it exists) and you have your hook.
  10. Faculty don’t care about IL. Related to Number 4, but different. Faculty do care about information literacy, but they see it from a different angle from librarians. Stop talking to librarians about IL and start talking to faculty. You may be surprised and what you can accomplish.

Note: This list was started in August 2006 and completed in January 2007.


About Karen Keiller

I am the University Librarian at Lakehead University.
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