Library Users Get CLUE

August 30, 2001

Nick Marinello
Phone: (504) 865-5714

"This is not your father's library," quips Lance Query, paraphrasing an old advertising slogan to make a point about a new development at Howard-Tilton library.

Query, who took over as dean of library and academic information last year, is steering the library into the uncharted waters of the Information Age. With the help of Tulane faculty and the Innovative Learning Center (ILC, formerly ACLRT), Query believes the Tulane library can distinguish itself as a pioneer in creating an information literate campus.

"When I interviewed for the position here I shared with President Cowen my interest in creating at Tulane a teaching library within three years," says Query. "I think we have an opportunity for Tulane graduates to leave here information literateable to discern what is the most appropriate information and what is not."

Other schools are guiding their libraries in the same direction but, says Query, "they are not ahead of us. If we move with dispatch we can be ahead of other institutions."

Query says he hopes that Tulane students will leave the university with two sets of knowledge: one based on course material and the other on the ability to find information themselves. "Too often I see students using the first 10 hits on Yahoo, or using exclusively electronic resources," says Query. "And that's not good."

Helping Howard-Tilton launch its transformation into a teaching library is the new Center for Library User Education. Created last year, CLUE was originally housed in what Query calls a miserable little space with one work station. In April, however, the library, in conjunction with ILC, received a grant from the RosaMary Foundation to renovate 3,500 square feet on the third floor of the Howard-Tilton library into a lab and classroom equipped with 24 workstations.

"This center signals to our students and faculty that the library is not a museum of books," says Query, who adds that ILC is a wonderful ally in the project. The teaching faculty need to be aware of the technology that will help enable students to become information literate, he says.

The ILC, which began in 1999 as the Academic Centers for Learning, Research and Technology, offers faculty training in instructional technologies from browsing the Internet to scanning a picture for a PowerPoint lecture. It also operates Blackboard, through which instructors can post course information on the Web and communicate with students. (Inside Tulane will feature a more extensive update on ILC activity in its Sept. 15 issue.)

According to Hugh Lester, director of ILC, addressing the technological needs of both faculty and students within the same venue makes sense. "What is exciting to me and the folks at the library is that for the first time Tulane has put the mission of the library, the ILC, and the education of our students on how to use these resources, all where they need to be."
Lester and Jean-Paul Orgeron, who heads CLUE, both expect a good deal of overlap in the work they are doing. Orgeron sees CLUE as providing two tracts for achieving information literacy. The first has been developed in the form of walk-in workshops where students receive instruction on how to use both traditional and electronic library resources. Workshop times are published on the library's Web site as well as posted on bulletin boards around campus.

"We will answer questions such as, 'Where can I begin looking for articles and books?'" says Orgeron, adding that one goal of the center is to give students a better sense of how information is arranged. "Students also learn to negotiate the many decision points they may encounter on the Internet. We touch on issues such as fair use, copyright and the authority of Internet sites," says Orgeron.

How to determine if the information you acquire online is accurate and credible is an important topic. CLUE also offers course-related instruction in which the center works cooperatively with faculty and their students to integrate library resources and information technology into course curricula.

With the help of the library's academic department liaisons or through recommendations from ILCfaculty members, contact Orgeron to set up a course-related session at the center. The faculty member will talk with librarians about tailoring library resources to the particular course. The session, which involves the faculty members and students, will then present instruction on what library resources are appropriate for the content of the course.

"This is the kind of situation where input from both the library and ILC can work synergistically. This is where we bring faculty and students--two important partners--into one center," says Lester.

"These sessions have been very meaningful to students, who tend to react very well when instruction is tied to a specific end," says Orgeron, who notes that more than 3,000 students took advantage of CLUEs resources last year. With a grand opening slated for sometime this fall, expectations are high for an even greater participation by students and faculty.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000