Last week, hundreds of instruction librarians gathered in Columbus, Ohio for the biggest LOEX conference ever. I was thrilled that the planning committee included a presentation about service-learning in the program. Chris Sweet, Information Literacy Librarian at Illinois Wesleyan University, presented a case study of a course with which he was involved at his institution. He was embedded in an environmental studies senior seminar that employed service-learning pedagogy. The students in the course identified their own community partners and sustainability problems in their communities. In the end, they were able to bring about some important change. One student’s project, for example, enabled the local farmer’s market to take food stamps. Another student documented the environmental benefits of roadside prairies. You can imagine how much information they needed in order to accomplish these projects. You can probably also imagine that not all of this information could come from the standard reference interaction of “I need scholarly articles about [x] topic for my [x] class.”
Sweet also suggested some emerging best practices for library support of service-learning courses, including: tie service-learning and information literacy to the institution and/or library’s mission statement(s), use information literacy to strengthen the contexts of service setting and reflection portions of S-L courses, and identify existing “information needs” in S-L courses and explain how library collaboration could help address those needs.
It was great to meet another librarian who is championing the pairing of information literacy and service-learning! Keep an eye out for his chapter, Information Literacy and Service-Learning: Creating powerful synergies, in the forthcoming title Information Literacy and Social Justice: Radical Professional Praxis.