Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Article Note: Information Literacy for the Humanities Researcher

Citation for the article:

East, John W. "Information Literacy for the Humanities Researcher: A Syllabus Based on Information Habits Research." Journal of Academic Librarianship 31.2 (March 2005): 134-142.

I read the article full-text via OmniFile.

This short article aims to "suggest ways in which our existing knowledge of user behavior in the humanities can be applied in the development of an information literacy course for humanists" (134). The paper basically looks at the literature related to the search habits of humanities scholars, then takes the lessons from the literature to create learning objectives for an information literacy course. The concept of the article is interesting and a departure in style from other academic articles. In terms of the literature, the article presents a lot of material that humanities specialists will likely be aware of. I know I was aware of a lot of the facts cited from my coursework in humanities librarianship in library school and through my other graduate work. This includes common knowledge like books are the preferred research tool and that humanities scholars do not really see librarians as an information resource. On that last one, it is good to point out that scholars in this field tend to view in a positive light the Special Collections librarians and their subject specialists.

The article lays out a plan for the course on the basis of skills that humanities scholars should have based on their research needs. It addresses topics such as identifying appropriate research tools, effective database searching, and how to keep current in the field. Additionally, the article looks at specific material formats (books, articles, electronic resources) and provides learning objectives related to the formats as well. For example, the author suggests that humanities scholars wishing to stay current may want to use alerting services from publishers given that very often a small number of publishers publish most of the monographs in some fields (138). So, the learning objective related to this is: "researchers should be aware of major publishers in the discipline and be able to make use of alerting services which they offer" (138).

Readers need to keep in mind that the article only provides the objectives. The objectives provide a starting point, but librarians then need to add activities and ways to measure the success of the objectives. The article does not provide any form of lesson plan or activities. However, the article is an excellent starting point for developing an information literacy course for graduate students in the humanities.

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