Q&A: Mike Sweet

ljx150101webrefmikesweetCredo Reference is well known to librarians as the creator of Topic Pages, handy collections of reliable information on myriad subjects. The company is a champion of information literacy, having, for example, released various iterations of Literati, a customized resource that helps libraries to make the most of staff information-literacy expertise while freeing up their time by offering premade tutorials and assessments. Part of Literati is Credo’s Information Literacy Course Modules, released last year. Mike Sweet, CEO of Credo, recently talked to LJ about Credo and libraries.

Mike, when we’ve met you’ve expressed passion for making libraries into the best they can be with regard to service and particularly information literacy. Can you tell our readers a little about the philosophy behind Credo?

In 1876, Samuel Green’s Personal Relations Between Librarians and Readers described the essential functions of the reference librarian as answering the reader’s questions, teaching users how to use the library, helping patrons to find good books, and promoting the library in the community. Despite the passage of nearly 140 years, very little has changed aside from the prevalence of technology. Reference librarians today are still helping researchers to answer their research questions, identify trustworthy resources, and navigate the library and the broader information landscape, and libraries must still promote their services to the community, perhaps more than ever.

Credo’s roots are in reference content and this is an area in which we continue to focus and to grow. We have built our products and services around our belief in this fundamental role of reference content and services in library instruction and promoting information literacy.

As a company we are deeply committed to the critical nature of information skills for success in education, the workforce, and life.

Credo has lately moved toward offering materials that are customized for individual libraries. What are the challenges involved in such work?

Credo has always offered platform customization that allowed libraries to brand their Credo instance and point their users to their paid resources as a whole. As we move into customized services it is definitely something new to our customers.

For an industry that has been very accustomed to purchasing one-size-fits-all products, the idea of something that can be tailored to the goals and needs of a particular library is an adjustment. The response has been overwhelmingly positive—our customers seem really happy to have a team of people who want to help them solve the problems that are specific to their library. As the scope of our services has expanded, our team has matured significantly to include instructional designers, subject-matter experts, multimedia technologists—roles that have not been traditional in the “library vendor space.”

Challenges

As you talk to librarians, what are common challenges that you see in their drive to create information literate graduates? Are there related needs that you hear that employers want addressed? And how have you tackled those issues in your newest offering, Information Literacy Course Modules?

Bandwidth: We hear very often from libraries that by using our materials, rather than creating materials themselves from scratch, their staff are more able to spend their limited time on high-value instruction activities and hands-on practice.

Resources: Even when a library has instructional librarians on staff, they may not have the technical resources or expertise to create multimedia materials and cannot afford the time and money it would take to gain such resources.

Faculty Outreach: One of the biggest requests we hear from our customers is to help them in faculty outreach and collaboration. The materials from the Information Literacy Course Modules can be easily embedded into learning management systems, making it easy for faculty to include it in their own instruction. To help with measuring progress we include the assessment piece as well, of course!

Addressing different learning styles: The Course Modules allow our customers to take a flipped-classroom approach: our multimedia materials are used as the session prework and again the library staff can focus their time on high-quality instructional interactions and promoting collaborative learning in the classroom.

Do you have any advice for librarians who would like to approach their management about getting some information literacy teaching assistance?

If a library is looking to champion the cause of information literacy on their campus they should consider how to connect related work to an institutional initiative for instruction, accreditation, a QEP [Quality Enhancement Plan], or retention programs. These are areas in which an improvement in information literacy can have a measurable impact on the whole institution. The library should be a partner, or even a leader in these efforts, since they are the subject-matter experts.

Henrietta Verma is Reviews Editor, LJ

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Henrietta Verma About Henrietta Verma

Henrietta Verma is Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, and was formerly the reviews editor at Library Journal.