on pride and Information Literacy tutorials

When I began serving as Director of Libraries, my supervisor told me that one shift I’d have to become accustomed to was that many of my ‘accomplishments’ would actually be that I had successfully supported the library staff in accomplishing things. As in, stop thinking that I’m someone who does stuff and start thinking that I’m someone who facilitates other people doing stuff while also sometimes doing stuff that is probably also facilitation of other people doing stuff.

This semester, we launched some stuff, and it’s pretty great.

Last year, we had an information literacy librarian depart for greener (browner?) pastures in Arizona, and so we were short-staffed just as our Blackboard campus was being turned into a Moodle campus, meaning that the old Information Literacy online tutorials in Blackboard had to be revamped… and fast, so that (while we were down one librarian) we could offer alternatives to face-to-face instruction to faculty needing General Education Information Literacy support. (IL is an integrated part of our first-year General Education Foundations courses.) We were understaffed, had a hard deadline, and could not do other than succeed. Carol Franck revised our old tutorials, transitioned them to Moodle, and put them out there.

This year, with Elizabeth Andrews on board as part of the Information Literacy team, and with assistance from staff member Alex Gomez who pitched in to learn to create and edit screencasts and video, they were completely revamped in LibGuides. The tutorials relaunched this fall.

I took the time to click through and read them all, and watch all the videos, and I can’t help but grin. I’m hugely proud. The Research In Databases tutorial is clearly right in our wheelhouse; this is the nuts and bolts of “how to do research” for undergraduates, and it’s just who we are, and what we do, and I think we did it well here. The Searching The Free Web tutorial is equally relevant, but (I personally think) even more important. It’s too easy for the uncritical user to skip over learning any of these concepts, realities, and problems, and just blindly seek, find, and use information from the first page of search results in their search engine of choice. I think that part of our role as librarians and libraries can be to turn that uncritical user into a critical one, one who assesses, analyzes, and chooses information sources thoughtfully and well by knowing why and how they’ve found what they found, and how they might ethically use it. Libraries can — and should — have a role in that, and we’re trying through our approach to educating our users about Google, Wikipedia, free vs fee web sources, social media, copyright, privacy, and information ethics. There’s more to information literacy than knowing how to find peer reviewed journal articles, and teaching skills and concepts that reach out into the daily lives of our graduates is a big part of that. The non-library rest of the internet is a big part of those daily lives. So I’m really proud of what we’re trying to do.

I wish I could take any credit for this beyond trying to provide what they needed to do the work, but all the credit truly goes to Carol Franck, Alex Gomez, and Beth Andrews. My pride in what our libraries accomplish is good enough for me, for certain. Yay team!

SUNY Potsdam Information Literacy Tutorials


  1. Very nice! We’ve been doing something similar, but I think we’ve gotten too focused on the idea that tutorial=video and/or interactive technology. This is a great reminder that it doesn’t ALL need to be in that format, and depending upon the topic/our students, shouldn’t be.


  2. Very nice! Am sharing with our library, as we need to build resources to support undergraduate research. We also need to help faculty figure out how to give assignments that are better outlined than “write a research paper on XX” (Carol does an excellent riff on this herself). Have you seen Bean’s second edition of Engaging Ideas? It has a great new chapter on teaching undergraduates research in the classroom, making the “research paper” a much more useful and thought-provoking exercise.


  3. I’m at a small college library, and right now I’m totally inspired by these LibGuides. Our web presence is currently very static, with no tutorials or guides, and controlled by other departments on campus. I’m building a portfolio to propose alternatives for more interactive content, and I’m hoping they’ll be impressed with the possibilities.


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