Reference Q&A: Interning in Information Literacy

Credo Reference’s recently launched Literati by Credo (LJ, 5/15/12, p.106) offers innovative ways to help students use libraries, and it even helps convince them that they should. Some of Literati’s creators are interns: students from San Jose State University and a recent graduate of Clarion University. LJ spoke to interns Shiva Darbandi and Laura Warren, who outlined what they’ve worked on and how information literacy (IL) instruction is changing.

LJ: Can you describe Literati for our readers?
Shiva Darbandi:
It has four components: Discovery revolves around the curation of content; Education & Assessment involves surveys and workshops; Classroom Integration offers tutorials, modules, and course-content alignment; and Library Promotion provides strategic marketing, social media, and case studies.

Laura Warren

LJ: How can librarians get patrons to realize they need this help?
Laura Warren: As the ERIAL project ( found, successful IL instruction and a positive library image result from librarian and faculty teamwork. Librarians must work on their relationships with faculty before convincing students of the need for IL instruction. The information has to be presented in the context of the professors’ and students’ academic lives, by including links to library resources in course-management system pages, for example.

One product of a recent day of brainstorming at Credo was the realization that students learn best when they don’t realize that they’re learning. This philosophy has influenced Literati and will ideally have an impact on bibliographic instruction in general. Let’s face it, one-shot sessions with titles such as Primary vs. Secondary Sources are not winning users over.

SD: The first step is market research. Before implementing any of the tools, services, or marketing materials available through or independent of Credo Reference, librarians should use resources such as virtual reference chat logs to learn more about their institution’s faculty and their needs. This allows marketing to be customized and therefore made more effective for faculty who can then steer their students toward the library.

LJ: Can you tell our readers about the workshops you’ve developed? How do they compare to what librarians did before?
LW: Literati’s workshops deal with familiar topics‚ teaching students how to narrow topics, move research beyond the open web, cope with information overload‚ and cover subjects of interest to librarians and faculty that are brought up in places such as Libraries Thriving (, which is separate from Literati but similar in its goals of providing support to librarians and working to promote research effectiveness. The workshops for librarians focus on academic library issues such as making the most of one-shot sessions, working smarter rather than harder, and building librarian-faculty relationships, and they provide opportunities for discussion and examples of how Literati can help. The faculty-focused workshops demonstrate how to embed IL tools in course learning-management systems and squeeze IL into what may seem like an already full curriculum.

For students, we address general topics and demonstrate how to use Literati during research. The goal is to get them learning without knowing they’re learning and to begin to apply the new skills elsewhere. Offering workshops on general topics makes the most of a resource that their institution already subscribes to, freeing librarians to focus on more complex concepts that are better taught hands-on.

Engaging web-savvy students

Shiva Darbandi

LJ: What has the interns’ video production company created?
SD: We’ve been working on dynamic videos with sound and some informative yet concise tutorials. Although a few videos target faculty or highlight children’s programming, the bulk of the materials focus on college students. These users are very familiar with the web and assume that online content will be convenient and engaging. We have to draw them in while communicating the institution’s IL goals.

Based on feedback so far, I think we’ve been successful. Librarians enjoy the ability to use our tutorials and videos in the Literati platform and link to them through emails, websites, learning-management systems, and other places online. Credo developed the technology and structure for the tutorials and videos, and the interns provided the library knowledge, allowing the creation of plentiful content quickly. We’ve produced promotional material for archival repositories, digital collections, and newly renovated libraries that covers, for example, choosing a topic, evaluating resources, and the importance of being information literate.

LJ: How can your case studies benefit institutions?
Credo is interested in how institutions take advantage of its tools and services. We design and talk about these features, but the best realization relies on seeing them in use. Case studies are our answer to that. We use statistics compiled as a part of an institution’s Credo subscription to present qualitative information about student use of our services and combine that with the library’s participation in ethnographic interviews and observations, surveys, and/or usability testing to create a full picture.

An institution’s participation in these activities benefits Credo by giving us the opportunity to evaluate our products, but the library can then use the raw data for presentations, evaluations, and marketing. The case study can be shared with current and prospective students and their parents to emphasize the university’s success and its focus on core IL skills.

SD: We work with librarians to create an open-ended, customized research question that will guide the case study. From there we encourage librarians to review a menu of methodology options. We explain the responsibilities involved with each so librarians know that while we write the literature review and collect and process raw data, they may be responsible for recruiting survey participants, for example. While the options provided to each institution are the same, a library’s needs and intentions shape how the research is conducted.

LJ: Have you witnessed students having aha moments when using your information-literacy instruction assessment survey?
It wasn’t designed with that in mind, at least consciously, but that would be a wonderful side effect! Surveys are a great method of measuring the quality of products and services, so such tools have always had a home at Credo. Through Credo Evangelist Jackie LaPlaca Ricords’s leadership, our assessments have seen quite an expansion. Surveys that were once used solely for student feedback have been adopted by public libraries that need a relevant tool for their staff.

LJ: Libraries Thriving gathers an eclectic group interested in eresource innovation. How can librarians get the most from it?
The group invites librarians, faculty, publishers, library vendors, and other educators interested in sharing ideas and working together to increase innovative use of eresources.

Because the community emphasizes collaboration and innovation, the best way for librarians to get the most out of it is to keep up with what’s going on. What’s helpful is that individual components (the discussion forums, the online seminar series, etc.) complement each other. For instance, in celebration of National Information Literacy Awareness Month in October, Libraries Thriving collaborated with the National Forum on Information Literacy (NFIL) to promote President Obama’s declaration of the celebration and the concept of IL. As a result, we featured a shareable IL badge on the Libraries Thriving homepage, started discussions on the forums about IL awareness-raising activities, and presented two seminars featuring Dr. Lana Jackman, NFIL president and an IL enthusiast.

LJ: How have the innovations been received? And what’s next?
Everything has been received with enthusiasm so far. It’s exciting because we started when the videos, workshops, case studies, etc. were just abstract ideas and now we’ve got links to final products. On top of that we’re hearing from librarians, faculty members and library directors that they want more, more, more. As for what’s next, I don’t feel comfortable even guessing! As other interns join the team and more institutions adopt Literati, I’m sure the products will evolve.

SD: Our partnering libraries seem overwhelmed, but in a good way. More than once I’ve observed librarians and staff express shock and delight at the range of tools and services offered. Of course there’s variety‚ some libraries use modules that others don’t need at all. In a few cases, materials were too generic or not generic enough, and we worked on further customization. I can’t wait to see what the next batch of interns produces.

Shiva Darbandi (MLIS; is a solutions associate at Credo Reference. Laura Warren ( is completing her last semester of the San Jose State University LIS program.

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.