Book Reviews

Melissa N. Mallon. The Pivotal Role of Academic Librarians in Digital Learning. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited, 2018. 150p. Paper. $50.00 (ISBN: 978-1-4408-5217-6). LC Z675.U5 M327.

Book cover: The Pivotal Role of Academic Librarians in Digital Learning

The Pivotal Role of Academic Librarians in Digital Learning contains a collection of chapters that relate to the instruction of digital literacy and information literacy in the digital age. Since the digital landscape changes rapidly, it is important to have current information on this topic. Chapter 1 provides an overview of what instruction librarians do. The account of curriculum mapping is particularly useful. Chapter 2 discusses the particular library instruction needs of professional programs in universities. Chapter 3 is the core of the book, describing what digital literacy is and what is needed by students who live in the digital age. Chapter 4 explores library pedagogical techniques in the online learning environment. Chapter 5 outlines library instructional assessment; several good ideas for assignments to gauge student learning are offered. Chapter 6 covers information literacy instruction in general education courses in which students are introduced to college-level information literacy. Chapter 7 discusses combining self-directed and collaborative learning in library instruction. Chapter 8 wraps the book up by relating information literacy instruction to the overarching goals of a university. The author also offers a brief, unnumbered conclusion to finish the book.

The Pivotal Role’s author, Melissa Mallon, is Director of the Peabody Library at Vanderbilt University. Prior to her work at Vanderbilt, she coordinated library instruction at Wichita State University and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. She holds a master’s degree in library science from Louisiana State University and a BA in English from Wichita State University. She is well versed in strategies for online information literacy instruction and digital literacy instruction, which shines through in her book.

While this book appears to be a monograph, it reads more like an edited volume. It is a collection of the author’s articles and conference proceedings. This makes the progression of ideas somewhat difficult to follow, since the chapters don’t have a single, cohesive scheme for headings. Readers have some work to do in determining how these chapters fit together, and content overlaps across multiple chapters. Chapters 1 and 3, as newly written pieces, are of the most help in binding the ideas of the book together. Readers may benefit from reading chapter 3 before chapter 2. Chapter 2 stands out from the others as the most specific article in the mix; therefore, it might be better saved until closer to the end of the book. The most successfully integrated previously published chapter is chapter 5, on assessment. Chapters 4 and 7 have a great deal of overlap, since both describe the same pedagogical method.

The figures in the book have mixed levels of impact. Some of the figures are useful illustrations. For example, Box 1.1, where the author lists learning outcomes for various levels of undergraduate students, is valuable for delineating when students should be learning various information literacy concepts. Box 3.1, in which the author sketches a framework for how information literacy can be incorporated into various general education courses, is also a useful tool for planning library instruction. However, some of the figures are not well described or clearly necessary. For example, in figure 1.5, the author offers a diagram to map the process of librarian and faculty collaboration, but it is not explained in the text. In figure 5.1, which lists examples of in-class assessment activities, it is unclear why the image was not simply provided as a bulleted list in the text. The image of a concept map provided in this figure is so small as to be illegible and seems distracting rather than illuminating. The Appendix of Technology Resources is useful as a checklist for academic librarians to ensure they are aware of the tools currently available to them for teaching information and media literacy.

Overall, this book provides useful background on digital literacy instruction and information literacy instruction in the age of digital research tools. It is important for academic librarians to keep up to date with changes in these areas. However, the book would benefit from being organized by the different elements of digital literacy instruction (such as faculty needs, student needs, instructional methods, instructional tools, disciplinary differences, sequence of instruction, institutional goals, and assessment) rather than as a compilation of articles. The chosen format of the book leads to repetition for the reader. The strength of edited volumes usually comes from the synergy of a variety of perspectives, methodologies, and expertise offered by a variety of authors. Since this book is single authored, it’s not necessary for it to be broken into separate articles, and it could offer more cohesion to the reader if it were reorganized. Librarians looking for background on planning information literacy instruction in the digital landscape may also want to look to books such as Creating and Maintaining an Information Literacy Instruction Program in the Twenty-First Century (2013) or Enhancing Teaching and Learning in the 21st-Century Academic Library: Successful Innovations That Make a Difference (2015). The first has a very clear progression and the second offers a diverse set of perspectives.—Sarah Rose Fitzgerald, University of Alabama

Copyright Sarah Rose Fitzgerald

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