Librarians and faculty at Lafayette are increasingly concerned about the need to graduate “information literate” students, those who know how to find, evaluate, and use information and who understand the ways in which information is created, disseminated, and organized in our society. The goal of the Lafayette Libraries’ Information Literacy Grants is to encourage faculty to develop more classes in which students have these opportunities to develop information literacy skills.

Lafayette students are introduced to a few information literacy concepts in their First Year Seminar meetings with librarians, and some have an additional opportunity to develop information literacy skills in upper-level classes as faculty teach them how to use discipline-specific sources of information. But students need additional and repeated opportunities to find and evaluate information, to learn from experts how information is disseminated and gathered in a field, to examine their own methods and skills in seeking and using information, and to explore some of the economic, social, legal, and ethical issues that arise from new methods of producing and distributing information. Since 2002,  55 faculty have received information literacy grants.

Faculty who wish to add information literacy to any existing class above the 100-level to be taught in the spring semester are invited to apply for a grant. Those who are awarded the grants will receive a $1,500 stipend. To be eligible, the class must include projects in which students gather, evaluate, and use information; involve collaboration with a librarian; and provide opportunities for students to do at least one of the following:

Discover that the information they use exists within a framework developed to record, store, and access it and that research allows them to tap into an ongoing conversation among scholars;

  • Example: Students trace a seminal idea, theory, or discovery through five years of literature, comparing newer articles to those that preceded them to determine what knowledge has been added, where contradictions exist, and what questions remain unanswered. Students also look for reports of this work in the popular press to determine how the material has been simplified and if it has been reported accurately.
  • Example: Students use a portion of the library’s manuscripts collections as part of a research project. In addition to using the information gathered from the collection, students write a brief analysis of the collection itself, describing what it contains, what’s missing from it, how the collection was organized by the original owners, and what all of this reveals to researchers.

Critically examine the research process;

  • Example: Students keep a journal of their research, record where and how they searched for information, how they altered their approach to the topic during the course of the research, and what steps they took when they were feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, or frustrated. At points in the semester, the faculty member or librarian reads the students’ journals and provides advice.
  • Example: Students interview those who work in a field to find out how they acquire the information they need in their field: how they keep up with what’s new, what they do when they’re embarking on a new project, and what they consider the best sources for information in the field. Students compare this with their own approach and discuss differences in the information-gathering processes of novices and experts.

Explore the economic, social, legal, and ethical issues surrounding information in today’s society.

  • Example: Students debate the ownership of scientific information by researching and defending the views of the constituencies involved: scientists, not-for-profit publishers, for-profit publishers, librarians, and database producers. Students also write a short paper describing how various resolutions of the debate could affect their own access to information.
  • Example: Students research one of the issues surrounding privacy of information in the digital age and draft federal legislation to address the problem.

Ideally, information literacy concepts will be woven into class discussions throughout the semester and each project that involves gathering or using information, but the class should also include one or two sessions devoted to information literacy. Students’ work on information literacy should be part of their grade.

How to apply

To apply for a grant, write a two to three page description of how you plan to enhance a class with an information literacy component and send it to Lijuan Xu at Skillman Library. Include the name and number of the class that you are planning to enhance as well as the name of the librarian with whom you plan to collaborate. The deadline for spring 2025 will be announced in fall 2024. Questions may be addressed to Lijuan Xu at or extension 5152.