Information Literacy

Please read and reflect on the following executive summary for this proposal,
or even better, the full proposal given here: InformationLiteracyProposal.pdf
Then please read and contribute to the commentary for this proposal.

Executive Summary: Information Literacy
Authors: Randy Piland and Megan Squire

In the April 17, 2011 issue of the Wall St. Journal, the bar graph to the right appeared in the Review & Outlook section, under the headline “Where the tax money is”. The editorial presented an argument as follows: in the ongoing debate about extending the Bush-era tax cuts in the U.S., most of the taxable income resides with the middle income earners (represented by that high bar in the middle), so that is who should be taxed the most. The graph itself is marked “Source: IRS”, implying that the data came from a government source.

The article created something of a firestorm of controversy. The total number media responses to the original graph and article currently total over 100,000. Many of the responses were sophisticated – using statistical reasoning, economic analysis, and historical references to make a case for or against the data as presented. To craft a persuasive argument in response to this article requires the following:

  • the ability to locate materials to support or counter the argument;
  • the ability to find out whether the data shown is valid and accurate, comes from the sources stated, and is accurately presented;
  • the ability to assess and critique the motivations and biases of each article’s author;
  • the ability to understand and critique the graphical/statistical presentation of the data used in a given argument and effectively pose a counter-argument to achieve a purpose;
  • the ability to craft an argument (pro, con or other) that uses the information from a given domain accurately, fairly, and ethically.

These are, as it turns out, five examples of the five standards describing competency in
Information Literacy, a set of skills necessary for meaningful participation in 21st century society.

Would any given student from Elon University graduating in May of 2011 (a) recognize that the data and conclusions on both sides of the debate are open for discussion, and that their input is critical in forming public policy; and (b) have the Information Literacy skills to craft accurate, convincing, timely, and fair arguments to support a position?

In this proposal, first the relevant background is given on the concept and standards of information literacy. Then a case is presented for why Elon University should make an unprecedented commitment to ensuring information literacy competencies in our graduates. Then a Two-Plank radical plan is proposed for infusing information literacy standards into both curricular and cocurricular programs: (1) The Watch is an initiative designed to increase student exposure to information literacy concepts in a dynamic, problem-based way; and (2) The curriculum development plan features “embedded librarians” and a department and program focus. The conclusion discusses the benefits of this information literacy plan for Elon University.

The full proposal is given here: InformationLiteracyProposal.pdf.

Please read the comments on this proposal and post your own thoughts/responses (or e-mail

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