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University Libraries Creates the Lifelong Learners Employers Need

By rpietrucha on August 1, 2015 5:00 PM | Permalink

UNLV University Libraries provides a wealth of resources to lifelong learners of all ages.

What do today’s employers look for in recent graduates they plan to hire? The answer might surprise you.

A majority value information literacy skills more than creativity and even tech savvy, according to the Hart Research Associates report “Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success.”

Information literacy is the linchpin of informed, mission-critical decisions that can make or break a business. Information-literate workers possess the ability to identify a need for information, search for and locate that information, thoroughly evaluate its credibility and applicability, and utilize it effectively and ethically. Yet fewer than three in 10 employers surveyed believe recent graduates have these crucial problem-solving skills.

The UNLV University Libraries is producing the lifelong learners employers need through the activities, programs, research, and partnerships it engages in. The Libraries works one on one with students, guiding them toward the effective use of resources and the creation of innovative research. It partners with faculty and departments to develop courses and assignments that integrate research and inquiry-based learning. It creates self-directed learning experiences outside of the classroom, such as exhibits, to generate “Aha!” moments. It works with co-curricular campus organizations to help students develop learning and life skills. It hosts events to raise awareness and share key information with the Las Vegas community. It even shapes its physical environments to support all types of learners.

“The University Libraries stands at the epicenter of UNLV’s efforts to ensure Southern Nevada has the skilled human resources it needs to become a national leader,” said Libraries Dean Patricia Iannuzzi. “We have the largest collection of information literacy experts in the world employed right here, and we are revolutionizing the way lifelong learning is incorporated into UNLV’s curriculum.”

Learn more about the work the Libraries is doing to create information-literate professionals and the result of its efforts in the sidebars below.


INFORMATION LITERACY GRADUATE FELLOWS

Thanks to a generous endowment from the Libraries’ Advisory Board, each summer several Information Literacy Graduate Fellows collaborate with library faculty mentors on projects that directly inform library practice and promote lifelong learning among UNLV’s undergraduate population.

A previous fellow evaluated undergraduates’ research questions, finding common themes that can be included in future lesson plans and learning objects. Another developed a rubric to analyze annotated bibliographies, pinpointing where freshman struggled with the work so those areas could be addressed. A third conducted a qualitative analysis of undergraduate transcripts, informing library instruction within the UNLV College of Education.

Naturally, all Information Literacy Graduate Fellows hone their own information literacy skills through the opportunity, growing academically and professionally. Two of last year’s fellows co-authored manuscripts with their faculty mentors here, while another worked on data that will be presented by library faculty at an international conference this October.

“Working with the Information Literacy Graduate Fellows has been an invaluable experience for both me and, from what I heard from them, the fellows,” said Erin Rinto, University Libraries’ undergraduate learning librarian. “They indicated that viewing the research process from the Libraries’ lens of information literacy instruction was extremely helpful to their own practice as teachers and that they plan to use the materials we developed together in their classrooms.”


PROJECT INFORMATION LITERACY

UNLV was recently selected to participate in the national Project Information Literacy (PIL) study on recent graduates’ engagement in lifelong learning after the degree. Alison Head, executive director of PIL, stated that she selected UNLV because it is located in America’s No. 1 smart city, providing job opportunities and an information-rich environment that promotes lifelong learning.

The study indicates that UNLV’s recent alumni believe the university “(taught) them to learn how to learn … (and) think analytically” and gave them the confidence to “learn anything on their own,” so they actively search for the information they need to be successful.

The most unique finding PIL discovered with respect to UNLV, however, is the degree to which UNLV grads feel they had gained critical thinking skills. “UNLV scored 7 percent higher in this area — higher than any other public university in our study sample,” Head stated. “Whatever instruction and support UNLV students are receiving from the University Libraries and elsewhere on campus, they have graduated truly believing they have gained some key critical thinking skills during college that they can adapt and use throughout their lives.”

The complete results of the study will be available in October/November of this year. For more information, please visit the PIL site at projectinfolit.org.