Is Information Literacy as Vital as Health Class?

Like 99.9% of you, my school requires the core academic courses, the arts and languages, the movement piece,  our students must pass a swim test, and they are required to complete a semester long health and wellness class. I get it. These are all good, necessary pieces.  However, I would argue that an information literacy course is an equally important requirement for our students’ future success.

Try as we may to make the “one and done” research lesson, embedded within an assignment, meaningful, thought provoking, and long-lasting, let’s be honest: they just aren’t for the typical high school student. What kid learns to ride his or her bike after one or two lessons? When we continue on with an assignment, working alongside the classroom teacher to reinforce concepts and to answer questions, it’s better, but allow me to beat that poor dead horse once again when I say that time is the enemy of the solo librarian.

What can we do to fix this?

I am pitching a required semester-long stand alone information literacy course. I know that this isn’t a new concept. Some of you are surely doing it. I recently scoured the AISL listserv archives in search of past discussion on this topic, hoping to find a course description to use as a foundation of my own,  and I found an email from the soon to be retired library Wonder Woman, Betty Niver. Who better to learn from than someone whose history chair has deemed “Best Librarian Ever” (or tied, according to Shannon ;-))? I asked Betty if her course had launched and if so, how it had gone?  She responded, in true Betty-fashion, with an incredibly thoughtful reflection on her experience:

“The short story is that my course happened within the context of an existing course.  All freshmen are required to take freshmen wellness, so I “embedded” myself into that course.  I spent about six sessions with this class in the first semester.  I based everything in Haiku, our online learning management system.  Basically the curriculum was a variety of resources I put together from a number of different sources.  The first class involved a library tour and learning Destiny (which was a bit of review for most).  It included creating resource lists, logging into one’s account for due dates and an assignment with specific searches to complete.   The next class focused on information and information literacy.  In August of 2014 I attended a conference at Indiana University South Bend that focused on the new Higher Ed information literacy competency standards.  Aside from AISL in 2014, it was one of the finest experiences of my career.  It reaffirmed that many of the info lit models have a lot of overlap.  They may use different terminology but there is so much common ground.  I loved the IUSB presentation by two Notre Dame librarians that detailed their initiative, Remix, which had its roots in the new higher ed standards.  It was developed by Notre Dame librarians in conjunction with Notre Dame’s ed tech people.  Remix is Discover, Mix, Share.  That’s the boiled down strategy of do your research, create something from the knowledge and share it with the world.  That’s what school libraries are all about! The rest of the sessions focused on specific resources and a variety of strategies.  I included modules from ResearchReady, which I subscribed to this summer as well as JSTOR’s Research Basics, which is truly amazing.  There were several quick projects to complete as part of the course.  What I’ve just described is what I did this year, as the “course” has evolved over two years.


Has it been effective?  I think it has been helpful and I’ve been mostly pleased, though it was still a bit isolated.  Courses like this are better than nothing but without a hook from a collaborating teacher, they lack something.  What I am very pleased about is that I’ve collaborated with more teachers on more projects over the last three years than ever before.  More teachers knew about my embedded course and I think it reinforced my other efforts to work with teachers on various projects.  It has taken longer to respond to this email because I taught six classes yesterday at the request of teachers!”


I love Betty’s ideas. I understand that embedding within an existing course is oftentimes the only solution given scheduling challenges, but let’s dream together, shall we? If our course knew no boundaries, if we included everything that a student should know to build a solid information literacy foundation, what would we include?

I’ll start:

Library orientation, both print and digital. Know your way around the books themselves as well as the stacks. Be able to differentiate between different types of publications and know how to cite them. Familiarize yourself with the location, downloading, and accessing of information in e-texts.

Mining for background info, keywords, etc.

Databases. ‘Nuff said.

Google. Ditto.

Note taking—this is critical in the minds of my history faculty. Our kids need some help here.

Copyright (text, images, music, etc.)


Developing a thesis for various types of arguments (thanks Dave Wee!)

Presentation technology

Basic IT (adding printers, using Google Docs, saving to the cloud, embedding hyperlinks, etc.)

If we could collaborate with multiple departments and give assignments that support these existing courses, assignments, etc. even better!

What have I missed? What else should we add to this list?

If you already teach this course, could you share your course description? karchambault at I’ll compile and add to the Wiki.

13 thoughts on “Is Information Literacy as Vital as Health Class?

  1. Katie,
    As usual, your post is timely! I’ve been saving every query and comment about research at the upper school level for the past several months. I wonder if we couldn’t get a group together in Tampa to discuss this subject further.

  2. Whoa, Katie! This is GOLD! To add to the list maybe:
    -Types of supporting evidence: statistical, historical, contemporary
    -Reading an online interface–look for: filter/sorting options, peer reviewed sources, etc.
    Going to forward this post to a bunch of folk here who, I think, would love the model you outline. Thank you for the great share!

  3. Fantastic stuff ! I’m fortunate to have Academic Support staff to work with and so have harnessed some of this onto their learning strategies bandwagon (1/2 hour lessons offered to Gr 9/10s throughout year). However, as you note, time certainly doesn’t allow for thorough immersion & sufficient play for all grades – excited about talking about how to take it to the next level.

  4. Great post, Katie. I am one of those who currently teaches the ever-evolving, stand alone, one semester 9th grade research class (my syllabus in already on the wiki) and am always interested in what others are doing and trying to do. I’ve recently been trying to incorporate Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari’s Guided Inquiry Design model into what I am doing and weaving a lot of the skills you listed into this framework. It’s a challenge, but I’m finding that students are more engaged when I follow this model. I will not be in Tampa but would appreciate and (perhaps) look forward to a follow-up post on the discussion of your collective great minds ;).

  5. This is a fantastic blog post and discussion! Thanks Katie. Sorry I’m late!

    We are in process of developing two information literacy classes. One is an online course that we are hoping will get approval by edx. The other is a 1st semester info literacy course for 11th-12 to be followed by a 2nd semester history class in which students will complete a research paper to submit to the Concord Review. We are really excited about both these potential courses. The syllabus are still in development, but I’ll share when they are finished. For each of these courses though, we are using the ACRL Frameworks for Information Literacy as our course framework.

    I’d add to the already fantastic list:
    -An understanding the process of research
    -question creation

    Very much looking forward to meeting up to talk more about this over lunch in Tampa. Thanks!

    • Ooooh, I love this! I’m adding your info. to my “working document” to discuss in Tampa. Can’t wait to hear more about it!

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