Join us for a SILC Community Conversation on July 22

The SUNYLA Information Literacy Committee will be holding an informal community conversation next week on Wednesday, July 22 from 1-2pm via Zoom. We plan to discuss active learning strategies for synchronous and physically-distanced instruction. If you have examples of how you have promoted active learning in one of these contexts, we’d love to hear about it! 

We will not be recording this meeting, so that participants can feel comfortable speaking frankly about any concerns they might have.

Email westb[at] for the Zoom meeting link.

We hope to see you there!

Free Online Presentation

Learning together: Case studies in implementing faculty learning communities around information literacy

Presented by Jenny Dale, UNC Greensboro; Joanna Gadsby, University of Maryland Baltimore County; Hazel McClure, Grand Valley State University; Debbie Morrow, Grand Valley State University; Heather Snapp , Florida Gulf Coast University; Katy Sullivan, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Tuesday, July 21st 1pm CT until 2pm EST
Register here
Sponsored by the ACRL ULS Professional Development Committee

Have you ever wished that you had more time to engage with teaching faculty and other instructors at your institution about information literacy in a more in-depth way? In this panel presentation, librarians from four different institutions will share their experiences working with information literacy-focused faculty learning communities. 

Election results!

The SUNYLA Membership has voted in favor of the bylaw change to rename the Working Group for Information Literacy (WGIL) to the SUNYLA Information Literacy Committee (SILC)!

Along with the name change came a revision to SILC’s charge, which was updated to provide future committee members with greater flexibility in the projects and activities they pursue.

The SUNYLA Information Literacy Committee (SILC) shall:

  • Investigate system-wide initiatives relating to information literacy and offer recommendations for SUNY librarians to become involved.
  • Provide a forum for reflecting on concerns or interests relating to teaching practices and/or instruction programs.
  • Recommend and/or sponsor educational opportunities relating to information literacy for the SUNYLA community.

SILC has several exciting projects upcoming for the 2020-2021 academic year, stay tuned! You may submit any questions to Brandon West, Chair of SILC at westb[at]

Call for Submissions

This site is intended to be a collaborative space for SUNYLA members to share best practices, exchange ideas, and engage with each other on topics related to information literacy instruction.

We are currently soliciting posts that are centered on our work with teaching faculty. Some ideas for posts include:

  • A partnership with a professor(s) or an academic department
  • Successful outreach strategies to faculty
  • A review of a recent scholarly article focusing on this topic
  • An opinion piece

Interested in contributing? Visit our Submissions Guidelines page. Questions can be directed to WGIL co-chairs Alice Wilson ( or Brandon West. (

January Lightening Talk

There was a last minute cancelation and our talk with Christine Faraday has been postponed until a new date can be scheduled. Filling in last minute, Carleen Huxley presented a short talk on her experience teaching a college success course with an information literacy emphasis.


Google Slides:

Lightening Talk Recording: Using an information literacy self-assessment quiz in an online orientation

For those of you who weren’t able to make it to the October Lightening Talk, here is a link to the recording of Dana Longley’s (SUNY Empire) presentation of Using and information literacy self-assessment quiz in an online orientation.

First two WGIL Lightning Talks

During our annual WGIL meeting this past June, several of us expressed a wish to know more about what everyone else is doing on their campus, to share knowledge and experiences.  So we came up with the idea of doing “lightning talks” once a month through Zoom.  These will be short fifteen-minute presentations about a project, an experience, collaboration or anything you feel others involved with library instruction would like to know.

Our intention will be to record each session and upload the recording and any other supporting documents or links here on our blog.  The first two Lightning Talks were presented in August and September.


Carleen Huxley, SUNY Jefferson Community College

Information Literacy Initiative at SUNY Jefferson


Logan Rath, SUNY Brockport

Recorded Session



Pivot Instructional Focus from Search to Find and Use

Pivot Instructional Focus from Search to Find and Use
by Rebecca Hewitt, SUNY Polytechnic Institute

From 2013-16 I co-led a research project at Hartwick College on the information literacy practices of first year students based on authentic assessment of student work using a rubric that assesses four aspects of how student find and use research sources.  

More about that research can be gleaned from the poster presented at SUNYLA 2017, Closing the Loop: Operationalizing Three Years of Information Literacy Rubric Assessment Results, reproduced below (Figure 1).  Through three cohorts of first year students, the most consistent finding is that students are more skilled at finding appropriate sources of information than they are at using the evidence in those sources effectively and citing appropriately.

Figure 1.  SUNYLA 2017 Poster.

First year students consistently show close to proficiency level skill in understanding the research requirements of their professors and identifying and acquiring sources that meet those requirements.  This finding shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone working in academia today; building information systems that label sources in ways that closely match the requirements of many research assignments is intentional (see Figure 2, Source Type Icon Set from EBSCO Discovery Service).  Not only library services, but popular search engines such as Google facilitate searching limited by academic criteria, as in Google Scholar.

Does this finding also serve as evidence that search technology has eliminated the need for advanced search techniques?  Even novice researchers, such as the first year students studied, can be effective without any understanding of Boolean Logic, nesting, truncation, phrase searching, and controlled vocabulary.

We have left the days of Dialog Bluesheets behind.

If students are effective searchers, in that they understand the research guidelines of  their professors and can identify and acquire sources that meet those requirements with little or no intervention by librarians, what value can we add to the research process of lower division students?  The answer, suggested by the first year students my colleagues and I studied at Hartwick, is how to use and cite evidence from research sources effectively and ethically. Students consistently score lower in these aspects of information literacy.

With respect to the use of evidence from research sources, common weaknesses include:

  • excessive quotation of sources,
  • over reliance on a single source, or citing too few sources, for a work of that length, and
  • including unattributed facts or unsubstantiated conclusions in their work.  

Yes, these issues do overlap with those commonly taught in lower division composition and English courses, but instructors in these fields universally assure me that students can’t get enough reinforcement on these points, and that I am welcome to cover them in my research classes.

How can you easily pivot the focus of your instruction?  Try requiring students to produce a deliverable that is light on the finding skills with greater emphasis on the using and citing skills.  For example, my introductory nursing students have a homework assignment to complete after the research instruction class that requires them to find one scholarly research article and work with it in two ways:  they must produce an APA citation for the article (copying the EBSCO or Google Scholar citation generator version is sufficient), and they must incorporate one fact from the article in a sentence with an appropriate APA in text citation.


Figure 3.  NUR 134 Homework Assignment

With this assignment, the students are practicing all four aspects of information literacy covered in the Hartwick rubric:

  • identifying an appropriate source,
  • using a piece of evidence from that source by summarizing, paraphrasing or directly quoting it,
  • creating an appropriate in text citation, and
  • Generating a full bibliographic citation.

With this assignment students are asked to practice many of the skills of research and writing in miniature, with just one source and just one piece of evidence from that source.  There are aspects of information literacy covered on the Hartwick rubric, such as sufficiency of sources to support the argument, that are, perhaps, too advanced to be addressed by this assignment, but librarians have long advocated the baby steps approach to the research paper, and this lesson plan represents one baby step toward acknowledging that our tools have changed and our instructional practice must change apace.

Web Accessibility and WAVE

Web accessibility – what is it and what does it mean?  Simply put, web accessibility refers to whether or not an individual with a disability can easily make use of web resources.  Can the person – who may be blind or deaf or suffer from a physical impairment – make use of the same information that an able-bodied person may find on the web?

With the ever-expanding internet, accessibility for all individuals has escalated in importance. In recent news, individuals with disabilities have chosen to litigate against organizations, companies and colleges in order to force these institutions to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This can be seen in the New York Times article by Vivian Wang, “College Websites Must Accommodate Disabled Students, Lawsuits Say”.

Seeing this trend, the Ritz Library team at Dutchess Community College chose to be proactive in evaluating our Ritz Research Guides for compliance issues. Our guides use the LibGuides software, a common library standard.  In order to help in the process, WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) was used.  WAVE offers a free extension for either the Firefox or Google Chrome browsers, or it can be used online through their website. WAVE analyzes each web page in relation to screen readers and determines what pertinent information is missing for a person with disabilities. The tool produces a report for the user to review.


Fig-1. Example of WAVE output.

Much to our immediate dismay it was apparent that we had compliancy issues with our libguides.  We had numerous issues with widgets having missing or incorrect labels and with images missing alternative text data.  Alternative text allows a screen reader to describe the picture that is on the web. In a few cases, we had images or words all in capital letters that made differentiations for screen readers difficult.  We used the article “Making Accessible Links: 15 Golden Rules for Developers” by Gian Wild to assist us in determining and correcting the problem when the WAVE message was ambiguous, and also as a basis for future research guides creation.


<div id=”guidedFieldSelectors”>

<input type=”radio” name=”searchFieldSelector” id=”guidedField_0″ value=”” checked=”checked” />

<label  for=”guidedField_0″> Keyword</label>

<input type=”radio” name=”searchFieldSelector” id=”guidedField_1″ value=”TI” />

<label for=”guidedField_1″> Title</label>

<input type=”radio” name=”searchFieldSelector” id=”guidedField_2″ value=”AU” />

<label for=”guidedField_2″> Author</label>


Fig-2. Sample creation of div id and label code.

For our non-compliant widgets, we reached out to the various vendors for solutions to update their widgets with correct labels.  Our image libraries in LibGuides were updated so that all images contained alternate text.

Within one to two weeks we were able to bring all of our guides into compliance, and pass an auditing review by the college.

In our desire to create best practices, we have created the following standards:

  • All imported images must have alternate text specified
  • All Ritz Research guides must be WAVE compliant before being placed in a public status

There are other considerations that can be looked at in the future for improving web accessibility for the disabled, including analyzing screen color contrasts and if labels are being used effectively.  As technology expands so does the need to stay abreast of developments so that all individuals can maximize the plethora of information found on the web.


Works Cited


Wang, Vivian. “College Websites must Accommodate Disabled Students, Lawsuits Say.” New York Times, Oct 11, 2017,


Wild, Gian. “Making Accessible Links: 15 Golden Rules for Developers.”  Sitepoint, February 20, 2014,

Teaching Information Literacy Skills Through Fake News, Bias, and Self-Reflection

During the course of the Fall 2017 semester, I was asked by a few faculty members to teach a class on how to spot fake news. After teaching a few straight forward instructional sessions, I connected with a faculty member who wanted a slightly different approach. I took this as an opportunity to use the concept of fake news as an entry point (instead of being the focal point) to introduce students to some information literacy skills. (I apologize in advance for the length of this post.)

I decided to begin the class with an icebreaker game called “Telephone”. Some of you may be familiar with this game, or know it under a different name. In brief, one person says a word or phrase that is then whispered from person to person around the room until it ends with the last person saying what they heard. The word or phrase is usually unrecognizable to the original at this point in time. True to form, the phrase I had used was completely different than the phrase that was finally uttered. This game illustrated to students how easily and quickly information gets spread and corrupted. I explained that when we only read headlines, or when we use a quoted quote from an article, we are only hearing what is essentially “whispered” to us. To better understand information, it is always best to go back to the original source.

Besides the “Telephone” game being a perfect illustration of the spread of misinformation, it also served as a way to loosen students up and get them chatting more freely. I then had students silently reflect on their own biases by completing a worksheet where they had to quickly write down a word or phrase in ten identity statements. I started out simple with statements like “Librarians are _______________”, and moved into more complex statements such as “I identify as_______________”. The purpose of having students complete this self-reflective identity piece is to have them begin to examine their own biases. I shared some of my answers with students and how it makes me biased in one way or another. Since how we identify is how we perceive the world around us, it is important to understand our own biases and how that might interfere. Understanding our own biases also helps us to be able to more readily spot other peoples’ biases as well. This understanding is not only helpful in reading news articles, but in reading scholarly or historical research as well, which is important to point out to students. In the interest of privacy, I did not have any students share the answers to their identifying statements. The purpose of this activity was self-reflection.

After the students reflected on their identity statements, I moved into defining what is a fact, an opinion, and bias. We discussed how, especially in newspaper articles, one sentence can contain all three, and that makes it difficult to parse out what exactly is fact and what is opinion. To illustrate this point, and to serve as a warm-up to a more complex activity, I had students read five sentences and determine whether they were a fact or an opinion. Out of the five sentences, one was a trick and contained both facts and opinions.

The day before the class, I selected several different newspaper articles. They all focused on the same story, but were from varying perspectives. I included such organizations as FOX News, CNN, Bloomberg, The Hill, and The National Review. Since we were limited on time, I chose articles that were short and could easily be read in only a few minutes. The students broke up into small groups and each group was given a different article. They were told to read the article and then work together to indicate which parts were facts, opinions, and biases.

As a whole class, I had students share the facts, opinions, and biases they pulled from the articles. I wrote them on the board so we could see how each article tended to report on the same fact or two, but how that fact was interpreted varied widely. We discussed how this not only happens in newspaper articles, but other types of writing as well. There was also a brief discussion on how our biases bias us against different interpretations. I shared how my self-identification as a liberal made me biased towards the conservative interpretations of the facts. I explained that knowing this piece of information about myself allowed me to move past my initial negative reaction to particular articles, and re-read them with a more open mind.

After students identified the facts, opinions, and biases, I explained that the other important piece to this evaluation is learning about the source of the information. Since we were limited on time, I provided each group with background information (taken from Wikipedia and the organization’s website) about the organization their newspaper article came from. I used this moment to discuss with students the importance of using quality sources within their own papers. Using the CRAAP test as an evaluation tool, the students worked in the same groups and used the information provided to determine whether or not the information in their article was of good quality or poor quality. In a whole class discussion, we highlighted how the background information of the organization tended to align with the biases we saw in the writing of the newspaper articles.

The class ended with a brief discussion on how the students could apply what they learned in class to their own academic lives and how they could get further help from the library.

Overall, the class went well and the students enjoyed the hands on activities. Informal assessments throughout the instructional session allowed me to monitor how the students seemed to be grasping the concepts. Upon reflection after the class, I was satisfied with the initial results but would slightly alter the lesson plan for future sessions. The main component that I would change would be to allow more time for discussion after each activity; I believe the students would benefit even more from elongating the time to speak in certain sections. While I was limited to only one classroom computer and a one-shot class, it would be beneficial to make this a two-part library instruction class and have computers available to each student. Having a computer would allow students to look up the background information of the articles on their own, which is a valuable skill to learn.

All students received a handout that we used to work through the different sections of class. In addition, I provided them with a link to a guide I created that supplemented what was taught during class.  In response to the faculty’s interest on this topic, I also created a guide (Teaching in the Age of Alternative Facts) with information on the topic of fake news. It contains some great lesson plans from other libraries.