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Librarian's Research in Professional Spotlight

By Loyola University on Thu, 08/26/2021 - 14:20

Elmwood Nationally Recognized for Research in Information Literacy Pedagogy

After a career teaching English and American Studies at the college-level, Assistant Professor Victoria Elmwood began her second career as a librarian at Loyola by contributing meaningfully to information literacy instruction at the Monroe Library. She has focused on best practices and methods for teaching source evaluation, and her latest scholarly research centers on the increasingly high-stakes question of how to determine the integrity of a source. Published in the December 2020 issue of top-quartile journal Communications in Information Literacy, “The Journalistic Approach: Evaluating Web Sources in an Age of Mass Disinformation” outlines a new approach to teaching students of all ages how to make these kinds of assessments. And then people started taking notice.

It came first in an email from Serbian librarian Anđelija Lazić, who requested permission to translate the article for republication in Korak Biblioteke (The Step of the Library). And as of August 25, 2021, the article has been downloaded 495 times. This not-too-shabby number of downloads in just eight months was no doubt influenced by the article’s recognition this past June by the Association of College and Research Libraries’s Instruction Section as one of 2020’s top publications on information literacy. The article focuses on an approach to teaching source evaluation that ensures a deep, qualitative assessment as opposed to the shallower read that results from a checklist-based method. Though the eponymous journalistic approach is more time-consuming than the checklist method, the article notes, users can expect to become more adept at applying this method with practice. 

Elmwood says she was both surprised and delighted by the recognition. “I see so many students who think Google is all they need to get good information, but I have to remind them that sometimes you get what you pay for,” she explains. At the same time, Elmwood notes, “Even sources from library databases can use a layer of evaluation.” 

Her peers at the Monroe Library also value the journalistic approach. Elmwood’s method of source evaluation, which grows out of several earlier critiques of the checklist model, has been integrated into the library’s new suite of information literacy modules for use in First Year Seminars. Indeed, information literacy is included as one of the three key learning objectives for the course, which is in the Loyola Core. Regarding the new push for teaching information literacy to incoming freshmen, Jason Ezell, the library’s Interim Dean of Research, Teaching, and Assessment says, “By adopting Victoria’s journalistic approach to teaching source evaluation, we demonstrate how crucial information literacy is to our Jesuit mission.” He goes on to say, “We give them the tools for acting justly in an increasingly complicated information environment by teaching all our students to engage information complexly and meaningfully.”