Monday, July 23, 2007

Unclear on the Context: Refocusing on Information Literacy's Evaluative Component in the Age of Google

There is a LPP Special Issue on Libraries and Google now up. One of the articles is Unclear on the Context: Refocusing on Information Literacy's Evaluative Component in the Age of Google by Genevieve Williams.

From the article:

The advent of Google has provoked an uneasy alliance in academic librarianship. We marvel at its speed, flexibility, and simplicity, and simultaneously wonder when it will replace library websites and the resources they provide to students.

Our students arrive at college already familiar with, if not expert in, Internet searching; with the wealth of information available on the surface Web, why delve deeper? Proscribing searching the free Internet for resources is no longer a viable option, if in fact it ever was: with government-issued information going online, freely available bibliographic indexes such as PubMED and the Protein Data Bank, specialized primary resources in history and anthropology, and the growing Open Access movement, to prevent students from using Google actually does them a disservice.

The rise of Google calls upon academic libraries and librarians to evolve yet again, in a number of ways. One critical area of adaptation is information literacy. Stanley Wilder, in his article “Information Literacy Makes All the Wrong Assumptions” (B13), claims that among other things, information literacy removes the information students find from the disciplinary context in which they are to seek and use that information. In other words, proclaiming information literacy as a distinct discipline commits the very act of which librarians accuse Google: it decontextualizes information, turning it into a thing to be manipulated for its own sake rather than used for a particular purpose. The time has come for librarians to re-evaluate the definition, application, and context of information literacy: in particular, how these must adapt to the age of Google.

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