Integration of Information Literacy into the Curriculum: Changing Students’ Relationships with the School Librarian

Posted 06/18/12
Last updated 07/10/12

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Motivated by a shared inquiry question, a team of librarians at Deerfield High School (Illinois) gathered data to support a push to integrate information literacy skills into the curriculum, and developed a fruitful collaboration with other departments resulting in a co-taught Medieval narrative project. Among other important outcomes: a change in student perceptions about the role of school librarians.

Just a few years ago, Deerfield High School staff participated in collaborative inquiry as a part of their annual evaluation process.  Prior to the 2006-2007 school year, members of the library department (two librarians and the library director) began noticing an increase in the number of staff requesting assistance with teaching information literacy skills and investigating concerns about plagiarism.  These observations led the department to spend the year investigating the following inquiry question:

Internet Sirens“How do we ensure that DHS students graduate with the information literacy/technology skills needed to be successful after high school?"

The team spent that year gathering data that reinforced the need for integrating these skills into the curriculum.  With survey data, interviews from other schools, and a literature review for support,   they led the charge to form a cross-curricular Information Literacy Committee to develop a set of Information Literacy and Technology Standards and Targets for the school.  In addition, the committee developed a survey tool to be used for assessing student progress toward achieving these standards.

With shared agreements regarding student outcomes in information literacy and a means to assess student progress, the next step was to address these standards within the curriculum.  Here is where the librarians met their greatest challenge.  In a school where each department and each teacher had considerable autonomy, it was a challenge to convince some staff to collaborate on a cross-curricular unit.  The librarians found that building informal relationships with staff members and beginning the process with willing partners helped to move this collaborative partnership into the classrooms of the more reluctant colleagues—“to trickle down” as one librarian puts it.

The biggest hurdle was in convincing classroom teachers that this collaboration would not be one more thing to add into the curriculum, but that the librarians would be full partners—fitting the information literacy skills into content that they were already teaching, grading papers, and assessing the students right along-side their content-area partners.

Members of the social studies department and the librarians met the summer and early fall of 2010 to review and revise the research projects in all freshman classes.  As a result, all students in the first-year and second-year  World History course now participate in a co-taught Medieval Narrative Project, in which students research the lives of a historical figure from the time period and  compose a  narrative told from the selected figure's point of view. This partnership between the librarians and social studies department continued to develop beyond the implementation of this one research project.  Their ongoing goal is to integrate information literacy standards across the grade levels and into additional content areas as well.

Two important outcomes resulted from the thoughtful work led by this small team of three librarians at Deerfield High School.  First of all, the team received the 2011 Collaborative School Library Award from the American Association of School Librarians—a well deserved recognition.  The second outcome, however, is much more meaningful to at least one member of this team.  Listen as librarian Marisa Fiorito describes the greatest benefit that she has gained from this process—that of changing student perceptions about the role of school librarians.

In the 2011-2012 school year, the collaborative research projects continued to occur, but the staffing and organization at the school was in transition.  The three members of the library department described here no longer work in the same building, and Deerfield’s library department is merging with the technology department.  Members of the team did not seem discouraged by this, however.  In their minds, the work of cross-curricular integration of information literacy has only been paused temporarily, and they are anxious to re-group and to continue their forward momentum in the next academic year.