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Information Literacy for Classics Majors

September 15, 2010

Librarians are very gung-ho about a topic that many non-library academics haven’t even heard of: information literacy. Information literacy is defined as the skills and basic knowledge needed for the student to operate successfully in the world of information – think “computer literacy” but for information. Librarians visit classes – at UGA we work with a lot of ENGL 1101 classes, and at other schools librarians have a mandate to do a class session in all first-year English classes – and in the course of orienting students to the library’s physical and online resources, also try to introduce basic skills and concepts for college-level research, like criteria for evaluating a web page or article (who is it by, why was it written, who is it aimed at, are the facts it presents accurate, is it trying to argue a specific thesis?), what an academic citation is, what a scholarly journal article is and what peer review means.

At some schools, the Classics department and the library have worked together to develop a set of information literacy standards for Classics majors. One set of criteria I found posted online are those from Classics at Smith College:

WHAT SHOULD CLASSICS MAJORS KNOW?

By the time of their graduation all Classics majors should understand how scholars of Classical Antiquity conduct research and how they communicate the results of their work to colleagues. One way of describing this understanding is “information literacy” – i.e. the ability to conceptualize what information is needed combined with the skills necessary to locate, evaluate, and effectively and ethically use this information.

There are then specific skills and resources students should know and know how to use, listed out by the level and type of class being taken (i.e., Greek at the 200 level.)

Carleton College has a page that not only lists the desiderata for Classics Information Literacy but describes the process by which the standard was developed and a required Analecta Technica – a junior year portfolio:

The overall goal of the Analecta Technica is to demonstrate that students are ready to analyze and interpret elements (e.g. texts, artifacts, institutions, etc.) of the ancient Greco-Roman world within their various contexts (e.g. political, social, linguistic, etc.) through the use of primary sources as evidence and secondary sources to situate their work in the context of the discipline. To achieve this goal, students will need to be able to locate, utilize, and cite the sources indicated above.

The Classics department often thinks of itself – and promotes itself – as a place to acquire a strong liberal education.  Information literacy skills like critical thinking, as well as writing and language skills, are associated by students and faculty alike with Classics in a study by the Center for Hellenic Studies (The Classics Major and Liberal Education, Liberal Education, vol. 95 no. 2, Spring 2009).  Have you thought about the information literacy skills you want your students to come away from your class with? Would talking about this explicitly help your department?  If so, don’t hesitate to contact your librarian liasion, who will probably jump into the topic with great enthusiasm.

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