by Shanesha R. F. Brooks-Tatum (Project Coordinator/Writer, HBCU Library Alliance)
Claflin University serves 1,900 students in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Founded in 1869, the University is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is the oldest Historically Black College or University in South Carolina. Named after the university’s sixth president, the H.V. Manning Library officially opened on December 3, 1967, and it was fully renovated in 2001-2002. It attends to the educational, occupational, and research needs of a small but diverse student and faculty population. The Library’s mission is to support and supplement teaching and learning throughout the University.
Claflin University’s archives have doubled in size since it opened, and the Library now houses smart technology, including an interactive projection display with a white board, podium, and wireless technology. In 2010, through the HBCU Library Alliance/ASERL Librarian Exchange Program, the Library implemented an information literacy program. As an exchange librarian at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, Claflin University Librarian Morgan Montgomery gained the skills and knowledge to design the Library’s Information Literary Program, a series of standard information literacy classes for freshman, upper-level, and thesis-level research. Montgomery learned lesson planning, assessment, effective presentation skills, and teaching methodologies that address various learning styles. She learned how to create subject guides using LibGuides and how to use Skype when delivering virtual reference services.
According to Montgomery, it was imperative that she take a multifaceted approach and be informed about various teaching methodologies because students learn in different ways. She recommends conducting a literature review to find out what components of information literacy to teach and how to construct proper student learning outcomes when designing an information literacy lesson plan.
Outreach has been the key to the successful implementation of the H.V. Manning Library information literacy program. A handout and information sessions at faculty meetings highlight the resources available in the H.V. Manning Library. Faculty members collaborate with the Library and create subject-specific assignments for students to better utilize the Library’s resources. For example, Montgomery was a guest lecturer on the issue of “Banned Books and Freedom of Speech” for an Introduction to Mass Communications class.
“Teamwork is the key to ensuring the H.V. Manning Library’s continued success in working with students, staff, and faculty,” Montgomery explained. “The Library staff is what makes our library a success. The cross-training project that the staff participated in through the HBCU Library Alliance has ensured that staff members are prepared to respond to the needs of our patrons,” added Marilyn Y. Gibbs, Library Director.
Because of the successful implementation of this information literacy program, a campus plan was approved and implemented in 2010, which aims to improve information literacy and increase knowledge of research methods. The campus plan, titled “Enhancing Quality Reference, Research and Services: The Evolution of the Reference and Research Center of Excellence in the H.V. Manning Library,” will create a new information literacy librarian position and research, resources, and services to maintain and enhance the reference department.
University president, Dr. Henry N. Tisdale and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Vermelle Johnson have been supportive of library innovation and programming. The success of this project is reflected not only by the University’s willingness to provide additional personnel and resources, but also by the increased number of information literacy classes that were scheduled this academic year as compared to previous years.
The campus plan has been in effect only a year, but the results to date are positive and promising. Information literacy sessions have increased from 21 sessions serving 300 students and faculty in 2009 to 66 sessions serving 1,605 participants from January 2010 to August 2011. Feedback from students has been positive. In anonymous surveys, students reported that they felt comfortable navigating the databases. One participant stated, “I have taken this ‘research presentation’ before, but I still learned something new today.” Another stated, “Learning how to use the Library’s Website to look up information about my essay was most useful.” Several faculty members have written letters thanking the H.V. Manning Library for providing this service.
Montgomery suggests the following methods for library improvements:
1. Reach out. Contact local HBCUs, colleges, or universities in your area to gain insight on how they made their programs work.
2. Write the vision. Create a vision statement to summarize the aim of your information literacy program.
3. Define your student learning outcomes. What is the focus of your lesson? What key points do you want your students to take away? Incorporate an activity that summarizes what you have taught.
4. Network. Partner with faculty and staff members on your campus. Having people onboard makes it easier to get the message out. This semester faculty members specifically asked their students to stop by the library if they have questions. This has helped students become more comfortable asking for help.
Montgomery shared that she has been affected by the information literacy program personally and professionally: “My definition of information literacy has been enhanced,” she reflects. “I believe, aside from teaching students how to locate, evaluate, and utilize information, you must make the entire process relevant. By engaging students in discussions, various instruction methods, utilizing assessment tools, and connecting the process to real life experiences, the students will be able to see the big picture.”
For more information about the H.V. Manning Library, visit http://www.claflin.edu/library/index.asp.