Surveying North American Academic Library Websites for
Instructional Outreach and Delivery Reveals a Broad Range of Approaches
A Review of:
Yang, S. Q., & Chou, M. (2014). Promoting and teaching information
literacy on the Internet: Surveying the web sites of 264 academic libraries in
North America. Journal of Web
Librarianship, 8(1), 88-104.
Digital Scholarship & Data Management Librarian
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
(IUPUI) University Library
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America
Received: 25 Aug. 2014 Accepted: 11 Nov.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons‐Attribution‐Noncommercial‐Share Alike License 4.0
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly attributed, not used for commercial
purposes, and, if transformed, the resulting work is redistributed under the
same or similar license to this one.
Objective – To determine the
extent to which academic libraries have used the Web to market and deliver
information literacy both as a service and as a concept.
Design – Survey of web
Setting – Websites of North
American academic libraries.
Subjects – A random sample of
264 libraries selected from Peterson’s
Methods – The investigators
reviewed and analyzed content on academic library websites by recording the
presence of various types of information. Presence was recorded for the term
information literacy, tutorial content, guides and tests, and delivery of
information literacy instruction. The frequencies of tutorials and guides were
Main Results – Approximately 65% of
the libraries used their website to promote instruction, while 30% did not
mention information literacy or library instruction. A wide range of
terminology was used to denote library instruction, but information literacy
was not highly used. Approximately 5% of libraries had no public web presence.
Research guides, tutorials, or both were provided by 64% of libraries. More
than 300 tutorials in a variety of formats, including Adobe Flash videos,
static web pages with little or no animations, webcasts, documents, and
presentations were offered by 111 libraries. The tutorials addressed general
research topics, databases, concepts and technical skills, among others.
Conclusion – While the majority
of academic libraries sampled have incorporated information literacy and
library instruction into their web presence, it is unclear why nearly one third
did not mention these activities. Further study is needed to benchmark how
libraries are using the Web for instruction and outreach.
way academic libraries use their websites to promote information literacy and
library instruction is poorly documented. This is due, in part, to the way
librarians discuss web and instructional technologies. Such discussions tend to
focus on functional aspects of particular platforms (e.g., course management
systems, LibGuides, etc.) or delivery mechanisms (e.g., videos, games, etc.).
Another challenge in studying this area is that contact with patrons happens
across many campus settings, so this broad context is difficult to measure as a
whole. This study attempts to document the use of a particular type of web
presence (i.e., library websites), but implications for use are unclear due to
limitations of the selected method.
applying the EBL critical appraisal checklist (Glynn, 2006), several concerns
arose regarding study validity. The primary limitation of this study is the
assumption that library websites provide an accurate gauge of a library’s information
literacy outreach and instructional activities. For example, the methods
employed in this study would not capture instruction that is described or
delivered in other sites such as course management systems and LibGuides. It is
difficult to assess the quality of the data reported due to a lack of rationale
for the selected methods and insufficient procedural detail for data collection
and coding. Although the data collection spreadsheet is included in the
appendix, it is not clear how the authors gathered data from the library
websites. Was library content on other public platforms or websites included?
How did the investigators browse or search the web content? How did the
investigators ensure inter-coder reliability? The answers to these questions
have a significant impact on the validity of the study, which is questionable
based on the available information.
research on the use of various web platforms to promote and deliver information
literacy instruction is necessary to identify effective outreach and
instructional strategies for various student populations. First, we must
clarify the distinction between raising awareness of library services and
information literacy advocacy and instruction. Second, in examining the library
use of various platforms, we also need to be cognizant of the fact that very
few students start their research at the library homepage (Timpson &
Sansom, 2011). Unfortunately, this study does not deliver immediately usable
results for academic librarians. It does provide valuable lessons for future
research, including the importance of developing focused and answerable research
questions. There is also a need for longitudinal surveys to characterize the
broad landscape of library technology use for instruction and outreach.
Glynn, L. (2006).
A critical appraisal tool for library and information research. Library
Hi Tech, 24(3), 387-399.
Timpson, H. &
Sansom, G. (2011). A student perspective on e-resource discovery: Has the
Google factor changed publisher platform searching forever? The Serials Librarian: From the Printed Page
to the Digital Age, 61(2),