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UI program teaches school librarians how to bring new technology into curriculum

IOWA CITY, Iowa ­ For decades school librarians have explained the Dewey Decimal System to students and taught them how to use reference materials for research. But in recent years this curriculum has been greatly expanded as new technological capabilities increased the depth of information students need in order to work comfortably in modern libraries.

In response to school librarians' need for additional training and curriculum support, the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science is sponsoring an Institute on Teaching Information Literacy from July 13-17. The sessions take place in the library at West High School in Iowa City. Jean Donham, an assistant professor of library and information science at the UI and June Gross, librarian at The Blake School in Minneapolis are leading the institute, which has drawn 32 school library media specialists from five states.

The institute is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and will help librarians develop new curricula and lesson plans for teaching information literacy in K-12 schools. It will continue electronically during the 1998 academic year as participants communicate via a course electronic bulletin board, e-mail and a Web site. Participants will then return to Iowa City in June 1999 for a two-day wrap-up session.

"This is a chance for these professionals to gain some insight into the importance of what they teach in information rich schools," Donham said. "It also affords them the opportunity to interact with other people who do the same work."

School librarians are charged with making sure students are "information literate," meaning they have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information to solve problems or make decisions. In the age of information overload from the Internet and other electronic resources, information literacy has taken on the added dimension of being able to sort out good information from bad. "Because so much information is available to kids today, these skills become more critical than ever before," Donham said.

Donham said the UI institute coincides with the release of new national Standards for Information Literacy for Students K-12, jointly published at the end of June by the American Association of School Librarians and the Association for Educational Communication and Technology. The institute will focus attention on these standards and how to develop curricula for teaching them.

Donham prepared the grant application under a provision of the Education Department's Higher Education Act Title II-B program that designates funds for re-training library professionals. This is the first time the UI department of library and information sciences has won this type of grant.