Information literacy at Ursinus College is based on our belief that to remain viable in the modern world the traditional notion of a liberally educated person must be linked to changing information technology and contemporary information sources.
Unlike other colleges, we do not define information literacy simply in terms of acquiring updated research skills for finding and utilizing facts. After all, the questions sparking inquiry can change as information is gathered and assessed. Accordingly, we think of information literacy more as a “state of mind” or “way of being” centered on a set of intellectual dispositions like healthy skepticism and creative curiosity that lead to disciplined and analytical inquiry and culminate in good judgment about thoughtfully marshaled information. Hence, information literacy at Ursinus is not seen as the varyingly defined product of multiple academic disciplines. For us, information literacy transcends academic borders entirely in reflecting our conviction that neither the multidimensionality nor the ubiquity of information guarantees the generation of knowledge.
The goal of the Myrin Library’s information literacy program is for librarians to participate fully in the development of Ursinus students by encouraging and teaching them to be information literate. Librarians seek to foster a sense of intellectual excitement as students approach increasingly complex questions and problems as they progress at Ursinus, thereby instilling in students a quality of mind that stays with them long after they graduate.
Integration Across the Curriculum
Given our rich conception of information literacy, we do not commit its inculcation to our library alone, as do many other colleges. Instead, information literacy here is the shared responsibility of students, faculty, and academic programs working in conjunction with the College’s librarians. Indeed, information literacy infuses our entire curriculum, beginning with the Common Intellectual Experience (CIE). If students are to “cultivate the self-knowledge necessary to live a considered, independent, and responsible life,” as articulated by one of the main goals of CIE, they must be information literate – that is, thoughtful, curious, and aware individuals who can navigate through the world exercising informed judgment and participate in civic life based on well-considered opinions. Students take the first step toward that end in CIE, learning to read texts and images closely and to consider them critically. The effort to instill information literacy continues beyond CIE, progressing from our departmentally based introductory courses, to our intermediate courses, and ending in our “capstone” courses. Yet the acquisition of information literacy does not cease when our students graduate; if we do our jobs right, it will continue for the rest of our students’ lives.