Dean's Update: What is there to Learn about Information?

Dean's Update: What is there to Learn about Information?
Jenny James Lee
October 8, 2014

[The Dean's Update is a reoccurring column introducing the Libraries' monthly newsletter In Circulation.]

Information is ubiquitous. Yet, many of us spend a lot of time looking for it, collecting it and storing it for the future. We produce and disseminate information daily through email, texting, social media and more. With this constant interaction with information it is easy to feel overwhelmed by it and realize that the deluge of information we experience is well reflected by such emerging metaphors as data smog, infobesity, infoxication, or information glut . The result of the Information Age is that we suffer from information overload.

When information was scare, its curators valued the collection, preservation and organization that goes into sharing physical materials and information. Access was simpler - you mastered the indices and list of core sources in your field, trusted the selection of what to read and remembered the important parts of an identifying citation. The library magically did the rest to have the information sitting on a shelf for you. Librarians helped you learn, through their bibliographic instruction, about lists and systems of organizing and describing materials, and were pleased if you were satisfied with their efforts to connect you quickly to the piece of information you needed.

However, academic life has changed, as have many other activities requiring information. The Internet opened channels for sharing data and information. Google has made finding information easy and continues to do so by achieving its mission statement “to help organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful .” Some wonder if there’s anything left for the library to do with information—born or reborn digitally, found any and everywhere, and available any time of the day or night.

Academic libraries may have less pressure to collect information sources as they become available through other means, rather their contribution to the academic experience may increasingly include instruction in dealing with information overload. Collection development is turning into access building —using e-publication filters to narrow the choices for students to find those reading materials most relevant to their work within their curricula.

Library instruction is also changing. At Drexel, we are exploring how to use our expertise in the organization of knowledge, in scholarly communications and in the research and pedagogical approaches our faculty develop and share with students. In this issue, and in upcoming issues of our newsletter, you’ll find details about some of the approaches we are taking.

In partnership with faculty and staff, we work to prepare our students to have competitive advantage in the Information Age by being skilled navigators to find the information they seek, smart judges of sources they find, brilliant analysts of knowledge they read and ethical authors of their own disseminated insights. Our Personal Librarian program continues to find ways to welcome new students and help them feel comfortable in starting their journey to become confident in finding and using information. We have licensed a new tool, Browzine, that we expect will be intuitive to use, but also powerful in developing habits of selecting authoritative sources of information, and organizing digital articles for personal reference and future alerts to related readings—the concept of creating personally customized information on virtual shelves is a contemporary tribute to nurturing the library of your mind. My excitement about our finishing the design of an online course slips a teaser for an upcoming story—the Libraries in conjunction with the College of Nursing and Health Professions and with help from a Fellow in the Honors College, will soon test a credit course introducing basic concepts of “informacy” that can also be refitted for use in other disciplines.

The academic year is well underway. We look to assist in improving academic experiences to prepare for a lifetime of learning through effective engagement with information.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries

[1] Serrat, Olivier “Toward a Library Renaissance” Asian Development Bank: Knowledge Solutions 127. September 2014