You are on page 1of 8

Ehud Adar LIS 560B Training Module Part A: Information Literacy Among Student Artists

According to the American Library Association (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, 1989: To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. (Eisenberg, et al, 2004, p. 4) A Delphi study in 1998, jointly undertaken by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) concluded with the publication of the Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning guidelines; emphasizing three major categories of standards that educators must strive to encourage in students: information literacy, independent learning, and social responsibility. (Eisenberg, et al, 2004, pp. 20-21) Since then, with the increased use of the Internet and technology, in education, the workplace, and daily life; this definition has expanded to include the generation of digital natives, whose concept of information is no longer limited to printed words and numbers, and whose literacy includes knowing how to negotiate complex information formats [and] be skilled in other literacies: visual, media, computer, network, and of course basic literacy. (Eisenberg, et al, 2004, p. 7) A 2009 Horizon report found that a dedication to teaching these skills still remained the first critical challenge facing learning organizations in the next five years. (Brinkman & Young, 2010, p. 1) For this assignment, I set about analyzing the information needs of a particular user group, that of student artists. As we shall discuss, the needs of this group are just as diverse and constant as any other student, and some unfortunate tendencies

both in the ingrained behavior of these students, as well as the conventional approach to teaching them; necessitate a thorough re-evaluation of how better to teach the information literacy techniques effectively and ultimately benefit them for the rest of their lives. The target group for my analysis, are studio art students at undergraduate universities, a group that has been particularly difficult to reach in terms of information literacy with art librarians noting that it is a challenge simply to bring studio art students into the library. (Brinkman & Young, 2010, p. 1). Though evidence might support some of these claims unfortunately, the responsibility for engaging art students in the library setting must lie on the librarians themselves. Even more troubling among some librarians, is a tacit assumption that there is a correct way to use libraries, and a strong thread of belief that artists deviate from this correct usage. (Cowan, 2004, p.14) In actuality, the library materials these users seek, and the information needs they might have, are the same as student users from other disciplines. Though an early study on the information needs of art students identified most falling into two areas: practical or technical activity (how to) and inspiration (Toyne, 1977, p. 26); a later study, conducted by Day and McDowell (1985) was the first to survey widely where this inspiration came from: subjects and genres besides art that are of particular interest to art students: literature, history, geography, biology, and childrens literature (Hemmig, 2007, p. 345) The Day & Mcdowell study further tried to identify some trends in their seeking, and found that creative artists do not use libraries in the same way as art history researchers; art students perceive libraries chiefly as stores of visual information; serendipitous browsing is the key to their information seeking behavior; little of the library material used by art students is actually checked out; information needs are wide-

ranging and not limited to art subjects; periodicals are used heavily for information on current trends; library materials themselves are perceived as visual artifacts; more than most students, art students prefer human mediation to the use of library catalogs and indexes; ease of access to the library and its collections is critical to use by art students, who tend to find the library useful but unessential. (Hemmig, 2007, p. 345). Later studies seemed to confirm many of these findings throughout the years, not least of which being the importance of browsing or serendipitous searching to an artist. Budd (1989) found that serendipity is considered not only inevitable but desirable and that research in the humanities approximates the process of creation itselfthe act of creation is a personal one. (Hemmig, 2007, p. 348) Littrell (2001) put it succinctly by stating that browsing is not a waste of time or a sign of lazinessit is a valid and necessary process. (Hemmig, 2007, p. 353) All of this talk of the importance of being able to browse in peace however does not mean that the modern librarian cannot stress the importance of literacy with technologies, materials and methods of organization; that would only serve to augment the library as a comforting place for art students of all kinds. Dane (1987) stresses the importance of current periodicals, how-to guides, vertical files, visual resources, auction records and ephemera collections, as well as photocopiers, a photo lab, and cameras for shooting slides as well as the civic responsibilities of providing a gathering place for the community by sponsoring exhibitions and by collecting prints and artists; books by local artiststhe acquisition of materials for handicapped artists, literature on hazardous materials, information on available studio space and employment opportunities, and legal and business information. (Hemmig, 2007, p. 347) Cobbledick (1996) elaborated that

for students in particular, that in their search for creative self-identification, are drawn to the lives and works of successful artists, living and dead, and so need art books to a far greater degree than practicing artists do and that although art students need far less business and legal information, there is a parallel in their need for educational information (graduate school and scholarship guides, etc) (Hemmig, 2007, p. 352). In the digital age as contemporary art expands further into multi-media applications, the demand becomes even greater for fluency in expressing and translating ideas into a variety of communicating genres. (Barnes, 2009, p. 41) In this way, students keeping up with the technologies available is not only important in the library and education environment, for inspiration; but just as vital for many artists today seeking to keep up with the ever-evolving modes of expression at their disposal. This brings us to the realization that the information needs of art students is fundamentally not any different than that of students in other fields; which means that the approach, emphasis, and importance of teaching information literacy to this group must hold true as well. Which is not to say, however, that there arent ways to tailor the teaching of information literacy to specific majors such as to art students specifically, for maximum effectiveness. Yenawine (1997) described the process of creating a visual narrative and understanding visual literacy as being multi-facetedMany aspects of cognition are called upon, such as personal association, questioning, speculating, analyzing, factfinding, and categorizing. (Barnes, 2009, p. 41). In this way, similar cognitive strategies are used in the practice of both visual and written literacy and exercises such as sketching initial ideas, formative critiques, peer evaluation, guided critiques, artist statements, ands sketchbooks are all strategies that help the student artist reflect on

his/her ideas and create meaning through their own works. (Barnes, 2009, p. 41) Discussion and conversation among these students [spark] new ideas and deeper reflections and allow students to make a transition from the personal space of their own perception into the community space of wider insights. (Barnes, 2009, p. 43) Curriculum can continue to evolve to fit users needs through the use of questionnaires and interviews (a sample questionnaire for student artists is included in Appendix A, as well as a link to it online). As Cowan (1994) stresses: the only way we will gain the understanding we need in order to be truly user-centered rather than prescriptive is by talking to the artists themselves. (Hemmig, 2007, p. 354) All of the approaches enumerated above will lead to a community of practice among visual artists, which Wegner (1998) believes includes four components: [1] Meaning (learning as experience), [2] Practice (learning as doing), [3] Community (learning as belonging, [4] Identity (learning as becoming). In conclusion, one recent example illustrating a way to foster the creativity and expression of student artists, as well as practicing information literacy in all its forms, was The Library Project at Miami University, Ohio (2008), at the Wertz Art and Architecture Librar. The project employed a group of students to plan a site-specific installation from inception to creation, conceptually unify[ing] the librarys function as a temporary exhibition space with its normal functions.. Students were asked to think critically about the nature of information and the library, were taught to use multiple research methods and evaluate and and synthesize new information into their project planswhile working collaboratively as a team. They received an introduction into real-world problem-solving professional practices as emerging artistsactivities such as

grant writing, marketing, working with clients and subcontractors, understanding the nature of public art, dealing with multiple and convergent timelines, and other logistical, ethical, and economic issues involved with realizing a large-scale project, and they did all of this while creating a work of art. (Brinkman & Young, 2010, pp. 2-3) It is this type of original approach to information literacy, a discipline-specific one; that will instill a positive relationship with information literacy for artists in the long run, as part of the over-all creative process.

Appendix A Sample questionnaire, regarding information literacy of student artists 1. What area or concentration of art are you focusing your studies upon? (i.e. Photography, Fashion, Drawing, Painting, Multi-media, Graphic Design, etc) 2. Which areas of the library do you find yourself using most often? (Rank the following: Card-catalog/databases for research, current periodicals, art books, general browsing, computer workstations for uses other than research) 3. When you need further information on a topic in the library setting, rank the methods you might employ, in order of preference (Attempting a search yourself because your are comfortable in your knowledge of the library setting, asking a librarian for assistance, asking a classmate or friend, attempting a search yourself even though you might not have a precise idea of where to look) 4. How would you describe your comfort level with technology and computers? (Fluent, extremely comfortable, somewhat comfortable but room for improvement, somewhat comfortable but satisfied with current level of expertise, not comfortable at all but willing to learn, not comfortable at all and dont care to learn) 5. What do you use technology most often for in your own creative pursuits? [Inspiration through browsing the internet, discussion with others, computer art programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, or other (please elaborate)] 6. Do you feel that your art and ability to creatively express yourself would benefit from increased exposure to the technologies mentioned above? 7. Are you satisfied with the amount of technology stressed in your schools art curriculum? (Extremely satisfied, somewhat satisfied but would like to learn more, no opinion, dissatisfied because you are not interested, dissatisfied because it is inadequate) 8. How helpful do you find art criticism for your classes to be, for your own personal understanding of art? (Extremely helpful, somewhat helpful, helpful only if it applies to your chosen medium/concentration, not helpful at all) 9. Do you feel discussion and conversation in the class environment to be a useful tool for better understanding art? (Your own, that of your peers, that of the artists you study) 10. When you encounter a work of art, rank the following in terms of importance to you: [The artists intention or meaning, the aesthetic qualities of the work, possible inspiration for your own work, other (please elaborate). Survey URL: https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/udiadar/156291

Bibliography: Barnes, N. S. (2009). Hands-on writing: An Alternative Approach to Understanding Art. Art Education, 62(3), pp. 40-46. Brinkman, Stacy & Sara Young. [2010] Information Literacy Through Site-Specific Installation: The Library Project. Art Documentation: Bulletin of the Art Libraries Society of North America. 29:1, pp. 61-66 Eisenberg, Michael B., Carrie Lowe, Kathleen Spitzer. (2004). Information Literacy Essential Skills for the Information Age, 2nd Edition. pp. 3-37 Hemmig, William S. [2008] The Information-Seeking Behavior of Visual Artists: A Literature Review. Journal of Documentation. 64:3, pp. 343-362 Salisbury, Fiona, and Jenny Ellis. [2003] Online and Face-to-Face: Evaluating Methods for Teaching Information Literacy Skills to Undergraduate Arts Students. Library Review, 52:5, pp. 209-217. Walczak, David A., Monika Reuter, Diane L. Sammett. [2009] A Program For Introducing Information Literacy to Applied Art and Design Students. Communications in Information Literacy. 3:2, pp. 193-203