Review of Information Literacy in the Digital Age

Belatedly cross-posting this review that I wrote last month (via Goodreads).

Information Literacy in the Digital Age: An evidence-based approachInformation Literacy in the Digital Age: An evidence-based approach by Teresa S. Welsh and Melissa S. Wright.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a clear, accessible writing style, the authors provide a broad overview of the many facets of information literacy: cultural literacy, network literacy, media literacy, government literacy, and financial literacy, to name a few. Each chapter concludes with exercises to help readers engage with the topic and a list of resources for further study. This introductory text will be frustrating for those wanting an in-depth treatment of a particular aspect of information literacy, though such was not the authors’ aim for this book. Welsh and Wright accomplished what they set out to do: develop a teaching tool for information literacy instructors.

The strength of this work is the authors’ inclusion of context for each topic, which serves two purposes: 1) to situate the topic (ethical literacy) in a socio-historic context (university accreditation and faculty tenure) and 2) to relate the topic to a specific library instruction context (fair use and plagiarism). The example from the chapter on ethical literacy reveals the text’s noticeable bias toward academic libraries; however, many other chapters explore themes that are relevant beyond the academia. School and public library professionals may use the themes explored in this text as a stimulus for further thought.

A table of contents is available from the publisher’s website.


When Fair Use Wins, Everybody Wins

U.S. District Judge Harold Baer (NY) threw out the copyright infringement suit filed by Authors Guild against HathiTrust partners University of California, University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, University of Michigan, and my own institution, Indiana University. Most of the materials in HathiTrust are scans originally produced by Google (the Authors Guild suit against Google is currently in appeal; publishers have settled with Google out of court). In addition to a fair use defense, Judge Baer cited the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as HathiTrust gives full-text audible access to the visually impaired.

If you want to read up on the case, there are more links on the Around the Web section of HathiTrust.

HathiTrust by the Numbers (as of October 2012). HathiTrust has 10,546,680 total volumes, 5,550,428 book titles, 274,239 serial titles, 3,691,338,000 pages, 473 terabytes, 125 miles of shelf equivalent, 8,569 tons of print matter equivalent, and 3,230,844 volumes (~31% of total) in the public domain.

E-textbooks and laptop juggling

On my way back from lunch, I saw a student sitting on the library terrace with her thirteen-inch MacBook Pro propped on her lap, on it’s end, like an open book. She had rotated a PDF document ninety degrees and was using the arrow keys to scroll through the document. My wrists ache just thinking about it.

Ergonomics of laptop balancing aside, this reminded me of a recent article reporting that students participating in the etextbook pilot prefer reading print texts to electronic. Brad Wheeler, who is spearheading the etext pilot at IU, is confident that students will grow to prefer e-textbooks because of the better functionality possible with etextbooks (not to mention the cheaper price–at least 35% less than print).

I did a little reading up on eTexts at IU and looked in to the features provided by the Courseload platform. It supports all of the things I like to do with my electronic texts: searching, bookmarking, annotating. The annotations offered via Courseload are a bit beefier with options to tag, add notes with links, and embed media. Students can view annotations that the instructor has chosen to share with the class and students may opt to share annotations with the instructor or other students. Etexts and annotations are available offline and sync with Oncourse when a connection is available. Students have access to etexts and their annotations for as long as they are a student at IU. Students may opt to print etextbooks or receive a professional bound copy from publishers for a fee.

I wonder what the laptopbook student thinks about the eText initiative. Does she get frustrated by the device or software she uses to read her etexts? Does she take advantage of annotation tools? Does the etext platform help her collaborate with other students more effectively? Is collaboration a priority for her or her instructor? Does she have a genetic predisposition to carpal tunnel syndrome?

I annotate PDFs and EPUB files frequently but I’m not sure how many of my colleagues do so, or whether they use annotated documents for collaborative work. I have a favorite go-to app on my mobile devices to annotate PDFs. I also annotate texts on my desktop, although not as often. I would find it grating to have to use another app and have all of my annotations siloed off in a place separate from all of my other documents. I would also be greatly concerned about whether I actually owned the content I was creating or not. It is unclear whether students or instructors are even able to export their notes and annotations upon leaving IU.