information literacy, bibliographic instruction, and mind-mapping – part one

The catch-phrase these days in library reference work is “information literacy,” a concept which is defined by the Penn State faculty senate as being comprised of four interconnected components:

  1. knowledge of information sources, the organization of information, and the nature of knowing the attributes of scholarly knowledge;
  2. skills in finding, evaluating, using and effectively communicating information;
  3. generalization of knowledge and skills to various applied settings with a positive disposition toward the use of new and extant information sources and information technologies;and
  4. social context for the use of information, equability of access to information and the dissemination of knowledge

I have no desire to merely create a handful of informational literate students. I approach my role as a theological librarian as a ministry — a ministry which hopefully enables students to concentrate on their studies and less on Dewey decimals. Read my post about the ministry of theological librarianship.

I think Hermann Witsius was correct in saying that no one learns well unless he learns in order to teach and that no one teaches well unless he has first learned well.1 Since these students are presumably studying with the goal of eventually teaching others (it is a seminary, after all), then they (we) must learn appropriately. My goal, then, is to teach students how to navigate the world of information — tools, taxonomy, architecture — in order to enable their study of other disciplines, not just to add another discipline to study.

But how? I can offer workshops — but students do not come to workshops that they are not required to attend. So I am left with attempting to foster relationships with faculty who are sympathetic with the goal of enabling students to do more effective research and then lobby for a chance to address their students. Some faculty are really quite open to the idea. This week, for instance, I am teaching the entire week’s worth of all of a particular faculty member’s Written Communications and Comp 2 classes, the result of which is really quite effective). Others are moderately receptive and are willing to give me a one shot introduction to bibliographic research. Still others are at least willing to send their students to me if they need help.

So I’m constantly polishing the presentation. Not so that it is impressively slick (well, not just that), but to find the most effective way to present the information. Soon, d.v., I will be able to transform these sessions into workshops with a cart of designated laptops. For the time being, however, it must be a one-sided presentation.

My appeal, then, is for ideas to make the sessions better. I’ve used Powerpoint. I’ve used mindmapping programs like MindManager. But I do not yet feel like I’ve found the best way to present the material. I typically use one of the two for the instructional aspects of the presentation, and for demonstration of online tools I use Firefox.

Any ideas?

1 Hermann Witsius, On the Character of a True Theologian (Greenville: Reformed Academic Press, 1994).

2 Comments Add yours

  1. spudart says:

    I’d love to see the materials you use in your sessions. I love the whole world of tools, taxonomy, architecture. And even more I love learning about God, theology and all the rich depths resources God has so graciously blessed us with.

    Right now I do all my research online. I’m curious, do your sessions speak only of resources available in your library. Someday I need to post all the places I visit when I’m researching a particular greek word in a particular verse, or where to find info on particular topics.

    (by the way, I came across your very interesting blog by your account on, I saw that there were a couple people who also linked to and I just had to check out who they were… of course you were one of them.)

  2. Paul Roberts says:

    Hopefully I will have something within a few months that I can post here to demonstrate what I cover in my sessions. I’m creating an autorun disk for our distance education students that will hopefully better equip them for not just using our library, but for information competency in general.

    I checked out your site at spudart, and really enjoyed looking around. You are a very talented artist!

    Thanks for the comment.

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