Grassian, Esther S.; Kaplowitz, Joan R. Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2009. 41pp. 80.00 USD. ISBN-13: 978-1555706661. ∞

Instruction librarians have been working hard to find ways to deliver more effective instruction sessions since the days of bibliographic instruction, and as such have become pioneers of information literacy evolution. Through the years, countless information literacy instruction publications have appeared in the form of articles, books, etc., and Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice is no exception.

The book is divided into five themed sections and seventeen chapters. Part one covers the background and history of information literacy. The introduction examines the librarian’s role in information literacy instruction and how the characteristics of students and the classroom have changed in terms of technology use by both students and instruction librarians. This section also looks at the history of the definition of information literacy from the 1960s, when information literacy was called bibliographic instruction, to the 1980s when Patricia S. Breivik first came up with the definition of information literacy which was later endorsed by the American Library Association.

Part two looks at information literacy instruction building blocks covering learning theories. Chapter three provides a basic overview of the concepts, terminology and prominent figures in the areas of psychological learning theories. As information literacy is concerned with students' critical thinking and active learning skills, chapter six defines critical thinking and how these skills can be applied to student learning. This chapter also looks at the history and definition of active learning and provides tips on when, where and how active learning can be applied to information literacy instruction. Some useful active learning techniques which librarians can apply in the classroom, such as role playing and scavenger hunts, have been provided.

While Parts one and two look at the theoretical aspects of information literacy, parts three and four cover practical aspects such as planning, development and delivery of information literacy instruction. The authors describe the planning stages in chapter seven as recognizing the learner’s need, analyzing the situation, developing goals, designing assessment methods, implementing the plan and reviewing assessment data. The ‘Instructional Menu’, which is chapter eight, looks at different forms of instruction, i.e., synchronous or asynchronous, remote or face-to-face, paper and online instruction. The authors also give advice on when to use which form of instruction, and points to consider when making your decision, including time, budget, staffing etc.

As effective teaching cannot occur without some form of assessment, the most important chapter in this section is chapter eleven which is about assessment. This chapter has a detailed section on why librarians should include assessment in their instruction while the rest of the chapter covers different levels and types of assessment tools. The authors do acknowledge the fact that assessment of information literacy instruction does not always occur, as our assessment does not necessarily count towards a student’s grade.

The heart of the book is part four which touches on the actual delivery of information literacy instruction. This section offers tips on how to be a good teacher by listening, engaging and inspiring your learners while taking a learner-centered teaching approach. Librarians who are new to teaching might find the section on practical teaching considerations particularly useful as the authors offer advice on how to deal with stage fright and how to get the student’s attention. There is no shortage of publications about information literacy instruction, but few address teaching a diverse population. The authors have dedicated chapter thirteen to this topic. Although the chapter does not go into much detail about techniques on how to teach diverse populations, especially students with disabilities, it does raise awareness about the diversity of students, such as international and English as Second Language students.

In this day and age, information literacy instruction often makes use of instructional technology in one form or another, and this book has made no exception by covering “Using Technology to Support Pedagogy" in chapter fifteen. Use of technology in the classroom goes beyond just computers and can include devices like clickers, PDA’s and so forth. This chapter offers a table with different types of technological applications that librarians can try, such as blogs, podcasts and wikis. The final chapter looks at visions of the future while acknowledging that the book does not solve the riddle of effective information literacy instruction but rather provides tools and techniques to help instructors solve information instruction riddles themselves.

There is a CD-ROM that accompanies the book, and although there is some overlap with the content in the book, the CD-ROM might be useful for quick reference. For example, the CD-ROM has a table listing the characteristics of different learning styles mentioned in chapter three.

The publication will be more appealing to new and inexperienced instruction librarians as it offers tips on how to approach teaching, understanding different learning styles and how and when to use technology in the classroom. There is an abundance of publications on information literacy instruction; however, the value of this book lies in its holistic approach to information literacy instruction and learning. Although the publication does not offer anything new for more experienced librarians, libraries that offer information literacy instruction will still benefit from purchasing a copy of the book.

Thumeka Mgwigwi, Reference Librarian,, York University, Toronto, Ontario.

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Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research (ISSN: 1911-9593)