Sunday, April 06, 2008

Library Instruction in American Colleges: Way Up!

A press release from Primary Research Group of interest to those interested in library instruction and information literacy.

April 4, 2008 -- Primary Research Group's new report -- College Information Literacy Efforts Benchmarks (ISBN# 1-57440-099-1) is a North American survey presenting data on the information literacy efforts of colleges from the United States and Canada.

Some of the key findings of the 175-page report were that:

The mean percentage change in the number of classes or presentations given between the fall semester of 2007 and 2006 was +20.26%, with a median of +5%. The minimum offered in the sample was -50% while the maximum was 576%.

A mean of 9.64 instructors gave formal classroom instruction or presentations in information literacy in the last year for which statistics are available, with a median of 4 and maximum of 325. U.S. respondents had almost 3 times as many instructors giving sessions than did Canadian colleges.

Business, psychology, sociology, nursing, education, and English were commonly listed as one of the top three academic departments that had requested the most library instructional presentations or classes in the past year.

Librarians in the survey estimated that 23.5% of their students that had not taken any formal information literacy training knew a few essentials of Boolean searching. In our prompt, we indicated that Boolean searching basics included the use of quotation marks, "or" and "and." Private colleges reported that 32.5% of their students fell into this category; public colleges, 18.3%.

Data was more hopeful in assessing the student body's skills in using the online library catalog. Nearly 45% said their student body was competent, while 42% said they had basic knowledge at best. Just 9% considered them very unskilled, and nearly 4% reported they were highly proficient. Canadian libraries were 3 times more likely than U.S. ones to consider their students highly proficient in the use of the online catalog.

Just over 13% of survey participants administered a test to assess student skills in Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet software.

Almost 17% administered a test to incoming freshmen or transfer students on their understanding of plagiarism. Almost 27% of research universities gave such a test. Nearly 21% of colleges with over 10,000 FTE students also gave this test, nearly twice the rate of mid-sized schools.

Almost 70% of the sample used student evaluation forms to assess the performance of information literacy or other library science instructors. Student evaluation forms were more popular with public colleges than private, and most popular with research universities, 80% of whom reported using such forms.

63% of survey participants offer presentations or brief classes to new students during new student orientation. Such classes were more commonly offered by Canadian libraries, research universities, and colleges with fewer than 1,000 FTE students. 71% of libraries at which librarians held faculty status conducted such orientation sessions, while less than 60% of participants whose librarians did not hold faculty status offered the sessions.

Barely 5.4% of the sample required a 1 or 2 credit information literacy course for graduation, and just 3.6% required a 3 or more credit course. However, over 23% of the sample required information literacy training integrated into basic writing or composition courses.

Just over a third of the sample believed that the English department, or equivalent department with similar responsibilities, seemed to try but could do better in terms of carrying out its information literacy responsibilities. Just 23% believed that the department was doing well enough, while 22% believed information literacy was a high priority for them and that the department made time for them. Just 8% believed the English department to be laggard, and 12% believed their collaboration to be an excellent one.

Nearly 48% of the colleges sampled offered interactive tutorials in information literacy topics to students. Just a third of bachelors-granting colleges offered such tutorials, while 6 out of 10 research universities did so.

The vast majority of the sample, nearly 84%, reported that the library was not really involved with computer technology training on campus.

Nearly 73% of the libraries in the sample had one or more instructional labs or learning centers designed for information literacy instruction in which much of their formal literacy instruction took place.

Half of the libraries in the sample reported making tutorial links and other resources available through course management systems such as Blackboard and WebCT.The report is based on detailed benchmarking data from more than 110 North American colleges; data is broken out by type and size of college for easier benchmarking.

For a table of contents, sample pages, and other information, visit our website at

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