The City University of New York (CUNY) and Information Literacy

CUNY currently does not have a system-wide statement or policy regarding information literacy or the role of the library in instruction. Separate campuses have recognized the concept of information literacy either through required or elective instruction, through faculty council discussion, and, in some instances, campuses have hired an individual as their information literacy librarian. Below is a small sample of ways that information literacy is being approached on different campuses.

          Drop in Workshops
          Library Credit Courses
Brooklyn College
          The Learning Cafe - Information Literacy
Queens College
          Information Literacy -- LIB100

Immersion '99

Five CUNY librarians attended the American Library Association, Association of College and Research Libraries Institute for Information Literacy Immersion '99 program held at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, New York from July 23 through July 28, 1999. The librarians included Lisa De Palo (College of Staten Island), Francine Egger-Sider (LaGuardia Community College), Beth Evans (Brooklyn College), Maria Kiriakova (John Jay College), and Linda Roccos (College of Staten Island). The participants were funded by scholarships from the CUNY Office of Library Services as well as an EDIT grant from LaGuardia Community College.

Immersion '99 was the first of a program designed to train librarians in teaching methodology and program planning. The guiding light for IIL is the concept of information literacy. Information literacy is idea that the need for information is a lifelong human occupation and that the skills needed to find and use information effectively are skills that will remain with the individual even as the environment, resources and technology change.

Participants in Immersion '99 benefitted from direct instruction in the concept and history of information literacy as a course-integrated approach to library instruction. They also were instructed in new possibilities for teaching in the changing higher education environment, fresh approaches to problem solving as relevant to libraries and library instruction programs, the problems and potentials of distance education in the library and on campus, the importance of instruction program and individual class assessment, and the skills needed for being leaders in libraries needing to assert their instructive function on campus.

Small group breakout sessions allowed for networking among librarians and provided an opportunity for a closer examination of problems on individual campuses and a chance to brainstorm and suggest solutions. The IIL faculty offered their expertise by critiquing the action plans developed by each campus librarian at the institute.

ILL Immersion '99 offered much encouragement and instances of practical solutions for instruction programming at each CUNY College individually and throughout CUNY in general.


Immersion '99 was the result of an idea initially explored by Cerise Oberman at the 1997 LOEX conference in Charleston. It was intended as the first of an ongoing program of institutes. Each institute would gather academic librarians concerned with teaching and instruction program planning, offer pedagogy to improve their skills and give an opportunity for small group meetings with colleagues to discuss local practices and problems and help shape goals.

As the first Institute, Immersion '99 provided ACRL IIL with an opportunity to try an approach towards meeting its goals and refining its approach based on the success of the initial gathering.


Ninety librarians out of nearly 300 applicants attended Immersion '99. They applied to one of two tracks, based on their number of years of teaching in libraries. CUNY librarians on Track 1 included Lisa De Palo, Francine Egger-Sider, Maria Kiriakova, and Linda Roccos. Beth Evans attended on Track 2.

From ACRL-IIL: ( Description of the two tracks:
Track 1: designed for new librarians and librarians new to teaching. The curriculum will focus on six fundamental areas including:

  • Foundations: concepts of information literacy and its relationship to critical thinking;
  • Learning theory: as it relates to instructional design and developing as a teacher;
  • Praxis: making the connection between theory and practice using teaching techniques and learning technologies;
  • Assessment: including theory and practice;
  • Programming & management; and
  • Working in the academic environment.

Participants will develop personal portfolios and group projects based on individual needs and interests. Participants will also have opportunities to work with the librarians enrolled in Track II throughout the program.

Track 2:designed for experienced instruction librarians who seek to further develop, integrate, or advance an information literacy program within their institution. Participants will develop and share individual case studies in advance of the immersion program through the Immersion '99 class web site. Change dynamics, systems thinking, institutional outcomes assessment, scalability, distributed learning and the integration of teaching, learning, and technology will be brought to bear on analyzing the various programmatic challenges presented in the case studies. Seminar participants will be expected to develop an action plan for implementation and possible inclusion in a "best practices" report six months after the program."

The libraries represented included ARL Research Libraries, libraries ranging from colleges with enrollments as small as 200 students to universities with enrollments as high as 200,000, and departmental academic libraries.


Track 1: 60; Track 2: 30; 2 observers
21%: male; 79%: female;
32% were from Northeast; 25% from Midwest; 25% from South; 19% from the West; 5% other; 19 from New York State; 6 from California; 7 from Michigan
13% from community colleges; 12% from research universities; 10% from large colleges (over 10,000); 12% from smaller colleges, etc.
Education: 38 came with subject masters; 5 with doctorates; 2 ABDs (interestingly, only half of these college librarians had a second graduate degree).


The Institute ran for four and a half days. It opened with a plenary session and ended with an opportunity for self-evaluation. Librarians from both tracks were present at both of these sessions. The majority of the time the librarians were separated into the two tracks for lecture segments and small group meetings. The lecture content was covered under six broad categories each with an instructor. The categories were determined by patterns of need and interest seen in the applications of the participants.

Track 1
Day 1 - Learning Theory - Joan Kaplowitz, UCLA Day 1 - Teaching Methods - Randy Hensley, Univ. of Hawaii Day 2 - Management - Gene Engeldinger, Carthage College Day 2 - Assessment - Debra Gilchrist, Pierce College Day 3 - Information Literacy - Mary Jane Petrowski, Colgate University Day 3 - Leadership - Karen Williams, University of Arizona

Track 2
Mary Jane Petrowski, Head of Library Instruction, Case Library, Colgate University lectured about Information Literacy, Eugene Engeldinger, V.P. for Academic Information Services at Carthage College lectured on Problem Solving, Debra Gilchrist, Director of Library/Media Services at Pierce College, lectured on Assessment, Randy Burke Hensley, Central Information Services Head, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii at Manoa lectured on Teaching, Joan Kapolowitz, UCLA, Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library lectured on Distance Education, and Karen Williams, Social Sciences Team Leader, University of Arizona Library lectured on Leadership.

The lecture segments were interspersed with small group meeting segments. The speakers each were assigned as leaders/observers for the small groups that reconstituted the Track 1 and Track 2 librarians. The small groups included approximately 5-6 librarians from one of the two tracks. Track 1 met in "Arena" groups with a faculty member to discuss the day's program or any other concerns, such as assignments. Students, prior to the Institute, were asked to bring a problem with them and an example of a lesson they had used and be prepared for discussion. These groups seemed to be arbitrarily selected, and CUNY Track 1 librarians met with different groups. During the last two days, Track 1 met in ten other groups now based on college type and size, i.e. community colleges, large research universities, small liberal arts colleges, large colleges, etc. CUNY librarians met in at least three different groups. Track 2 students were asked to bring a formal case study of their institution for discussion. The goal of Track 1 was to present problems for consultation with the Track 2 librarians when librarians from both groups were reassembled in groups according to institutional size on the afternoon of the fourth day. The goal of the Track 2 librarians was to develop action plans based on discussions of their case studies in their small groups with the other Track 2 librarians and present the action plans to the mixed track groups that were assembled on the afternoon of the fourth day. The speakers would examine and comment on the action plans following the Institute.


Approximately 2 months prior to the Institute, ACRL established a listserv ( to keep participants informed about the logistics of the conference and to distribute assignments and suggested readings prior to the Institute. The listserv remains in place through July 2000. Recent postings have included references to instruction program models, assessment tools, and campus and library mission statements on information literacy. Postings have also advertised professional positions and continuing education opportunities. References include:

Tutorials and Courses

         Claremont Colleges (Blais Tutorial)
         State University of New York at Binghamton (Harp 200 Courses)
         University of Minnesotta (QuickStudy: Library Research Guide)

Evaluation and Assessment

         University of Nevada, Reno (Assessment in Library & Information Literacy Instruction)
         Appalachia State University
         Gettysburgh College
         University of Buffalo
         Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Mission Statements & Reports

         University of Buffalo
         University of Minnesotta
         Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Continuing Education

         Think Tank III
         Think Tank III (for registered user)

Future Information Literacy Immersion Institutes

Immersion is being offered again in the year 2000 at the University of Washington in Seattle. Visit the Project Initiatives site to apply.