The information universe is fierce and ubiquitous, replete with a 24 hour news cycle, trolls, bots, fake news, predatory publishers, and paywalls. The exponential acceleration in access to information during these nascent years of the 21st century is simultaneously a victory for egalitarianism and promotion of social equity as well as a daunting hotbed for scurrilous and obfuscated resources requiring discerning and supple information literacy skills to efficiently and effectively navigate an ever burgeoning wealth of knowledge. If, as the above quotations imply, life-long learning and contribution to the knowledge foundation is an ethical standard for professional social workers and if such is facilitated by information literacy skills, what does this mean for social work education now and in future?
The co-authors of this proposal both hold Masters degrees in social work and library / information science. Between us, we have nearly 20 years of experience as clinician, case manager, and administrator in residential and out-patient settings engaging with adults, children and families impacted by substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, chronic mental illness, and trauma. Employed by a large, urban public institution of higher education since 2011, we are currently on the faculty of the Library Department and serve as academic instructional librarians to the School of Social Work. We are proud to claim our memberships of two helping professions with historical roots deeply intertwined in progressive social justice movements. From this unique vantage point, we are well versed in the information literacy needs of social work professionals and the challenges facing schools of social work to meaningfully integrate information literacy instruction into an already rigorous course of study.
There is a small but recently growing cannon of literature about information literacy and social work education. The authors were able to identify only twelve scholarly articles concerning this topic published between 2005-2015. Since 2015, including the researcher’s own contribution, there have been seven new scholarly articles published, perhaps a reflection of increased attention to information literacy by accreditation entities. Regardless, the general consensus strongly concurs that formal social work education would benefit from a broad inculcation of information literacy instruction into standard social work curricula in collaboration with information literacy specialists (librarians) on the local level.
Additionally, while this research team’s published scholarship and instructional efforts are in evidence within the discipline of librarianship and to our local social work colleagues, it appears not to have garnered attention from the larger community of social work educators. The co-authors are seeking to utilize a poster presentation at the Council for Social Work Education’s APM to invite our social work colleagues, into this discourse. Specifically, we hope to share central elements and themes of our ongoing scholarship and its application to our unique sequence of four progressive information literacy instructional modules embedded into core courses in the social work curriculum, a program now in its fourth year.
Our poster presentation will cover:
A peer-reviewed 2015 publication (completed by one co-author with the proposal’s research contributor) detailing a three year study assessing awareness and use of library services and resources by social work students in our program;
A peer-reviewed 2016 publication (completed by the same research team as above) detailing a national survey of social work librarians across 250 CSWE accredited MSW programs in the United States;
A review of a qualitative study currently underway in follow up to findings in the above study. For this study, the co-authors conducted 27 interviews with social work librarians across the country using an IRB approved protocol;
An overview of the team’s embedded instructional program consisting of a four-module instructional sequence, each mapped to CSWE’s EPAS, ACRL’s competency standards, and explicit learning outcomes.