Last month I blogged about the latest information literacy special issue of the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship. The issue includes an interesting article by Jason Sokoloff of James Madison University titled “Information Literacy in the Workplace: Employer Expectations.” Jason surveyed employers of recent JMU business graduates and compares ACRL standards to the managers’ expectations of research skills in new employees. I mentioned I would write a post focused on some ideas from this article. Here it is.
Jason’s study “attempts to bridge the apparent divide between academic information literacy research and the perception of information literacy as a workplace skill.” He surveyed managers of recent James Madison graduates, asking open-ended questions on research sources in the workplace as well as the research skills of the graduates.
One general conclusion: library info lit competencies don’t translate very well for these business managers.
That shouldn’t be too surprising, right? The ACRL standards are intended to serve the info lit needs of college students. For example, each section of the standards begins with “The information literate student…” And in the “Use of the Standards” paragraph the ACRL committee members write
To implement the standards fully, an institution should first review its mission and educational goals to determine how information literacy would improve learning and enhance the institution’s effectiveness. [Emphasis mine]
Perhaps there is an opportunity here for academic business libraries to draft information literacy guidelines for the professional life of our graduates. Indeed, in his conclusion Jason suggests ways that libraries could better prepare business students for the research they might need to do in the workplace. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Jason writes that the biggest mismatch between the standards and employer expectations is ACRL Standard 5:
The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.
The surveyed employers emphasized that they prefer free sources of information over subscription sources, which usually aren’t available to the workers anyway, and that the entry-level workers are expected to only work with information provided them from their managers.
(This is one point where the experience of UNCG graduates might diverge a bit from the James Madison examples. For UNCG graduates who work at small companies or become entrepreneurs (social- or for-profit) and access NC LIVE databases with their public library card, researching with business databases is still relevant. A few recent graduates contact me each year for a reminder of how to access NC LIVE, or for a refresher on using SimplyMap or identifying competitors with ReferenceUSA or Hoovers.)
After summarizing his findings, Jason recommends that academic business librarians consider a “better balance between core information literacy standards and direct preparation for the experience of information usage in the workplace.” For example, he continues, perhaps we should emphasize the importance of professional relationships within a business in suggesting and exchanging information, rather than the individual researching on his or her own. Jason suggests
Rather than teaching students to use a database that they’ll likely never use again, more effort could be channeled into developing partnerships between librarians and researchers. (p. 15)
So perhaps the business librarian should perform more searches for students instead of only teaching how to do the research. This shift in strategy would promote “the workplace reality that information users are not left to locate information entirely on their own.” (p. 15)
Jason concludes with concern about the “apparent lack of workplace concern for information awareness and its ethical use.” He encourages academic business librarians to continue teaching the ethics of business information to our students.
Quite an interesting article!