Learning Commons celebrates 2020 Jay Scholar

Hilda and Ellen Jay

The Jay Information Literacy Scholarship was established in 2017 by two former educators and school librarians. Hilda Jay graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelors in Education and Library certification in 1945. She went on to get her masters and Ph.D. on the east coast. Ellen Jay, Hilda’s daughter, also studied Education and Library Science at IU, receiving her B.S. in 1985 and M.S. in 1986. Both Hilda and Ellen taught in public schools and universities, wrote books on information literacy, and advocated for the teaching of critical thinking skills.

Four students are gathered around a small table in a library.
The Learning Commons is a 24/7 technology-
focused learning center located on the first
floor of the West Tower of Wells Library.

The Jay Information Literacy Scholarship is given each year to a student working in the Teaching and Learning Commons of the IU Libraries with the intent of furthering information literacy instruction. Hilda and Ellen wrote "that information literacy is essential to student success and lifelong learning. In order to achieve academically and be productive citizens, students need to be able to identify an information need, locate, collect, organize, interpret, evaluate, and share relevant information in meaningful ways.”

Teaching and Learning

Margaret, who is working on her dual Masters in Library Science (MLS) and Comparative Literature, is passionate about teaching. In 2016, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Classics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From there she went to Northwestern to pursue her interest in Art History. However, the more experience she had teaching inspired her to reconsider her academic path. “I realized I got much more fulfillment out of teaching and helping other people with their projects and developing syllabi and that kind of thing than focusing purely on my research.” Margaret came to Indiana University because it offered a dual degree in Library Science and Comparative Literature, her “guilty little pleasure.” 

When she arrived at IU, Margaret’s first job was with IU Libraries' department of Teaching and Learning. Working at the research desk in the Learning Commons, Margaret helped students, and even some faculty, develop research questions and then identify the sources they needed to answer those questions.

Last summer, Margaret and Learning Commons librarian Meredith Knoff reworked “the process of the research interview to make it more dialogic.” They wanted it to feel more like “a conversation between research assistant and patron.” Margaret says, “We didn’t want it to feel transactional. We’re here to provide tools, so they (patrons) can find the information. We’re not here to give them the information, so really rooting it in those information literacy concepts where if you teach them the proper tools of finding it, then they can find it. It’s a transferrable skill they can continue to use.”

Besides helping restructure the research interview, Margaret has helped with library orientation sessions for Groups Scholars and other small projects like exhibits and instructional posters. Having worked with multiple librarians in the department, Margaret is excited about taking on more responsibility.

Margaret appreciates that she will be teaching while being the Jay Information Literacy scholar. “And since I will be teaching for Comparative Literature also, it will pair nicely.” She adds that her work with Teaching and Learning has already brought her considerable growth: “I’ve really been able to fluidly connect two seemingly dissonant departments and roles, and it has made me feel more confident as an instructor and as graduate student. It’s been a truly unique experience for which I am really grateful.”

Information Literacy

The department of Teaching and Learning at IU Libraries is committed to “connecting the libraries to student learning” and faculty with content area support. Information Literacy dominates the field of instructional librarianship. As Margaret clarifies, “There are so many different layers to information literacy. For me I think a good way to sum it up is that to really have people understand the way information has been created and interaction with, and then their position to this information.” The Teaching and Learning department breaks it down into four dimensions: inquiry, evaluation, knowledge creation, and conversation. 

As the Jay Information Literacy scholar, Margaret will be helping create online tools and sessions to help better facilitate information literacy for students and instructors. She is devoted to the topic. Besides being transferrable skills, she says, “When you are information literate, you can then apply it to all facets of your life, not just academic life. But that often starts in the academic realm. And libraries are a great place to teach that, because so much of it is seemingly autonomous. You have to find the sources yourself.”

Enthusiastic about giving students the tools to identify and evaluate sources, Margaret says these tools make students “part of the information cycle, so they can think through muddier issues like authority. Like why is this journal more authoritative than this other journal? Is it just because someone says so? Is it because of its reputation?” She emphasizes the importance of asking questions and “getting them to think instead of just taking for granted that all these things are true. Getting them to be a little more critically engaged.” 

Each spring a call goes out to the Department of Information and Library Science for Jay Information Literacy Scholarship applicants. The IU Libraries Teaching and Learning department also looks for students interested in teaching who are aligned with their objectives. If you are interested, please send an inquiry to libinstr@indiana.edu or wait for the spring call for candidates.