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A late-twentieth-century reference interview in the music library of my local institution of higher learning:

Erstwhile Researcher: (obviously frustrated) I need information for this paper I have to do on Schubert's Trout Quintet.

Reference Librarian: Okay, what have you done so far?

ER: Well, I looked in the computer and I found some good stuff, but it's not enough. My teacher told me I have to have three books and three articles.

RL: Did you check the online catalog or use one of the periodical indexes?

ER: I'm not sure ... I did do a Hotbot search on the Web....

RL: (to herself) Oh boy ... one more time ... (to the Erstwhile Researcher) You need to use the online catalog to find books...

Many public-service librarians have had this conversation of late in one form or another. The interchange illustrates an ever-increasing need for strong programs in user education and information literacy in our schools and libraries. In most cases, the problem is not finding information--we are inundated with it both in print and electronically--rather, it is teaching our users how to discover, evaluate, and use appropriate information.

Whether we call it user education, library-use instruction, or bibliographic instruction, the goal is the same: to teach our users to be effective, efficient, and independent researchers. Librarians have, of course, been teaching their clientele how to use the library for a very long time. Yet, as a formal discipline, with its own body of literature and designated practitioners, bibliographic instruction is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the early 1960s. The emphasis has been placed primarily, although not exclusively, on instruction within the academic community. A collective act of self-defense by public-service librarians, the development of bibliographic instruction roughly parallels the "information explosion" of the second half of this century. This flood of information, in large part created by advances in technology, affects every aspect of our work as librarians. As Evan Farber notes,

In examining library use instruction over the past thirty years, it is easy enough to point to those factors that have changed; all, or certainly almost all, of the changes relate to computer technology. [1]

Thirty-five years ago, our intrepid Reference Librarian would have shown our Erstwhile Researcher the card catalog, Music Index, and possibly the area where the Schubert biographies were shelved. Today the list of possible resources is quite a bit longer: the online catalog, the card catalog (still used in many libraries; Erstwhile Researcher: "What's a card catalog?"), three or four printed and electronic periodical indexes, and, yes, the Internet (that Hotbot search really did turn up some useful information).

What contributions have music librarians made to the practice of bibliographic instruction? In October 1986, a conference on music bibliography was held at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The conference report, published in 1993, contains no fewer than seven papers devoted to library-instruction topics. In one of those papers, Beth Christensen outlines the projects and presentations undertaken by association members in the years 1978-86. [2] She notes that while bibliographic instruction as a formal discipline within librarianship began in the early 1960s, it was not until the formation of the Midwest Chapter Bibliographic Instruction Committee in 1978 that music librarians began to concentrate their efforts in this area. Instructing the user in the ways of the music library had long been a concern; now that concern had a focus.

Christensen's article details other significant landmarks, among them the Directory of Bibliographic Instruction Programs in the Midwest; [3] the daylong preconference on public services and bibliographic instruction that preceded the 1982 MLA national meeting; the creation of the MLA Bibliographic Instruction Subcommittee in 1983; and the publication in Notes of "Bibliographic Competencies for Music Students at an Undergraduate Level." [4]

As the first list of library skills specifically directed at music students, this article is particularly significant. Divided into two parts dealing with writings about music and the musical artifacts themselves, the article offers both a skills-based and a tools-based approach. The authors identify thirteen different skills (for example, "locate journal articles in indexes and abstracts") and suggest various standard reference tools appropriate to the skill (in this case, The Music Index, RILM Abstracts, and so forth). One of the goals for the list of competencies is to "foster critical thinking and independent library use among music students." [5]

In 1996, slightly more than a decade after the publication of "Bibliographic Competencies," the Midwest Chapter Bibliographic Instruction Committee--by then renamed the Public Services Committee--planted the seeds for another important article, one that greatly expands upon the notion of critical thinking addressed in the earlier article. The authors of "Information Literacy for Undergraduate Music Students: A Conceptual Framework" [6] incorporate concepts from the fields of learning theory and cognitive development that were becoming prevalent in library education at that time. Setting aside specific sources and particular skills, the authors describe four broad concepts to be used as a basis for bibliographic instruction in the field of music: (1) how information is identified and defined by scholars, (2) how information sources are accessed intellectually by users, (3) how information sources are organized physically within libraries, and (4) how information sources are structured.

Through these articles, music librarians attempted to codify the skills and tools necessary for teaching clientele to think critically and act independently. Even as we did so, the rapid development of electronic information technologies greatly increased the complexity of the library environment. We began moving from librarian-mediated searching of databases and indexes to end-user searching. And although we knew we needed to teach concepts and not specific tools, we felt compelled to teach mechanical skills first before we could even begin to think about teaching concepts. Our handouts and instruction sessions were given over to explaining when to enter information where on the screen and what to push afterward. This problem was exacerbated by weaknesses in our first- and even second-generation online systems, which were inferior to the card catalog, particularly for locating music materials. Consequently, when preparing to teach, we found ourselves spending a significant part of our time trying to puzzle out how to work around the deficiencies of our new electronic "time saver."

Librarians, possibly even more than the teaching faculty, quickly became aware of the need to integrate user education into the music curriculum, particularly in light of the changes in technology and the flood of newly available information. We recognized that many of the students being graduated were not library or information literate. These same changes also had a significant impact on the teaching faculty. Pressed for time as they tried to incorporate more information into the same number of class sessions, an older generation of faculty members often found it difficult to make time for the librarian or for adequate library instruction. Moreover, these same faculty members were pressed as they struggled to maintain their own research skills in the face of fundamental changes in their work environment. The next decade will see a new generation of classroom instructors who were educated in our brave new technological environment. Will they more readily seek Out the librarian as a partner in the educationa l process?

In the current educational milieu, it is vital that the librarian be flexible and creative in offering an assortment of opportunities for instruction. We have all had occasion to work with our clientele one-on-one at the reference desk. As class sizes increase and lines at the reference desk become longer, however, it is not always possible to provide satisfactory instruction in this setting. An ideal for many of us is working with teaching faculty to integrate instruction into the classroom or studio. This type of instruction is frequently presented in one or two class sessions of a basic survey course. Semester-long courses, focusing on information literacy in music and taught by music librarians or by a faculty-member/librarian team, occur less often, particularly at the undergraduate level. Integrated instruction is tailored specifically to the audience, since the needs of students in a piano studio are quite different from those in an undergraduate music-history course or a graduate course in choral lit erature.

Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) arose alongside our first online catalogs. As the personal computer became commonplace in the library, we longed to take advantage of this new tool for library-instruction purposes. Besides, a substantial portion of our clientele seemed fascinated by the technology. Unfortunately, the rapid pace of technological change meant that the CAI program we spent weeks creating was obsolete the following year--the software antiquated and the hardware out the door.

Not all attempts at CAI in the music library became technological dust. Two related articles in Foundations in Music Bibliography address this form of library instruction in use at Indiana University in the late 1980s. Michael Fling and Kathryn Talalay report on two programs at the IU Music Library used to teach students about music uniform titles and basic reference tools. [7] Like all initial attempts at computer-assisted instruction, use of these programs was limited to the computers they ran on. With the development of the Internet and the creation of programs and software tools that allow for shared programs and systems, it has been possible to move beyond the stand-alone computer. Currently, the Indiana University uniform titles program is available on the Music Library's Web site [8] and can be used by anyone to instruct music students in this very difficult concept.

Printed bibliographies, handouts, and guides are found in every library. Often devoted to a specific topic or directed at a particular segment of a library's clientele, these print materials have been migrating to the Web in recent years. The MLA Bibliographic Instruction Subcommittee, recognizing that a guide prepared for one library could be adapted for another, created the "Directory of Music User Guides for Libraries." Begun in 1996 and periodically updated, the Web-based directory has been one of the subcommittee's major initiatives. Its stated purpose "is to bring together in one place descriptions of user guides that have been developed for music collections with information on obtaining copies of the guides." [9] The guides are organized into eight subject areas: Bibliographies and Pathfinders, CD-ROM and Electronic Sources, Course Syllabi and Outlines for Library User Education, Finding Aids for Scores and Recordings, General Guides to Music Collections, Newsletters and Acquisitions Lists, Online Ca talog Guides, and Miscellaneous Guides. Many are available immediately via a hypertext link, and contact information for the guides' producers is provided for those not available on the Web.

In addition to its music user-guides project, the Bibliographic Instruction Subcommittee sponsored the opening plenary session at the 1990 national meeting in Tucson. Two of the five presentations were related to technology (instruction methods for CD-ROM products and a report on one of the Indiana University CAI programs mentioned above). The remaining presentations dealt with the "one-shot" approach to instruction; the teaching of a formal, semester-long course in music bibliography; and a report on the bibliographic-instruction survey conducted by the subcommittee. In recent years, diverse topics have been considered at the subcommittee's open meetings: the development of an information literacy course for undergraduates; library instruction for foreign speakers of English; and the creation of an interactive Web site that directs patrons to music research materials.

The Bibliographic Instruction Subcommittee serves as one locus for user-education discussion within the Music Library Association. Music librarians, however, discuss library instruction and information literacy topics in a variety of forums. On the national level, the Education Committee sponsored an "Ask MLA" session entitled "New Approaches to Bibliographic Instruction" at the 1995 annual meeting. Instruction topics were also part of the "Ask MLA" session on "Managing Technological Change" in Seattle in 1996. In sponsoring "When You Can't Be in Ten Places at Once: Writing Effective Computer Procedurals for Your Patrons" at that same meeting, the Public Libraries Committee demonstrated that patron-education issues are not only an academic concern. Finally, the association's subject-specific groups have also contributed to the discussion through presentations such as "World Music, Multiculturalism, and Bibliographic Instruction" offered by the World Music Roundtable in 1995.

User education is also a key concern at the chapter level, where the variety of topics is as great as at the national level. Within the last decade, chapters have held sessions on bibliographic instruction for the music undergraduate (Southeast and Chesapeake Chapters' joint meeting, October 1991); the evaluation of bibliographic instruction (New England and New York Chapters' joint meeting, October 1995); bibliographic instruction and the Internet (Chesapeake Chapter, October 1996); and a review of instruction programs within the chapter (Midwest Chapter, October 1996).

Over the past ten years, MLA members have learned to speak their minds via MLA-L, the Music Library Association electronic-mail distribution list. This electronic forum has changed much about professional communication for the association's members. Surprisingly, little discussion of library instruction topics has occurred. A search of the MLA-L archives uncovered several discussions concerning bibliographic instruction and music uniform titles as well as one rather heated discussion pitting reference folk ("My users don't look for it that way") against catalogers ("Teach them how to use the catalog"). While there were a number of postings on the topic of information literacy, only two involved exchanges between members of the association; the remainder were announcements of conferences and presentations from outside the organization. Could it be that user-education issues are so institution specific that electronic discussion is not useful? Our conference presentations at both the national and chapter levels would belie this assumption. Or, are we all so busy doing bibliographic instruction that we have no time to discuss it electronically with our colleagues?

The phrases "bibliographic instruction," "user education," "library instruction," and "information literacy" were not absent in MLA-L postings. They occurred numerous times in announcements for presentations, conferences, and online-training opportunities. However, there was yet another source of postings for these terms: job announcements. A rough count of postings from early 1990 through the middle of 1999 yielded over fifty position descriptions that included at least one of these terms. Clearly, instruction is a big part of our jobs and those who write the position descriptions recognize its importance. Are music librarians really devoting as much time to user education as these position descriptions indicate?

In twenty-five years, when a future editor of Notes asks a group of authors to pause and ponder the profession's recent past, what will have captured my counterpart's attention? While my crystal ball returns only the most nebulous of answers, I predict that the following four issues will form the heart of user-education discussions in the coming decades: the design and evaluation of instruction opportunities formed in direct response to the needs of our user communities; a commitment to continuing education for the librarian; the innovative and creative use of technology; and library instruction for diverse populations, whether physically in the library or in distance-learning situations.

In order to understand the instruction needs of our users, we must listen closely and then plan and evaluate our efforts carefully. Developing a close working relationship with faculty members and classroom instructors is not a new issue but rather an issue that will become more critical as time passes. With ever-increasing information sources easily at hand, instruction will need to be made relevant to the immediate needs of the user. Moreover, we must be flexible enough to provide opportunities for instruction at the point of need through both CAI and more traditional methods such as handouts and guides. At the same time, we have the responsibility to help construct comprehensive and coherent user-education programs that strive to produce information-literate library users. Both faculty members and administrators--in the library and the institution--should understand the music librarian's value as a teacher in this context.

In order to earn the confidence of faculty and administrators, we must continually sharpen our own instruction skills. While it may appear a daunting task, we need to discover and absorb new technologies and teaching skills without losing those still valuable to us. Since our library administrators apparently value user education as a part of our jobs, we must help them understand that resources need to be devoted to continuing education for the instruction librarian. Library administrators should offer--and librarians should take--the opportunity for staff training and continuing education in order to improve their own teaching skills.

The World Wide Web is one example of this type of continuing education need. It offers wonderful instruction opportunities for library users in all types of libraries. In upcoming decades, instruction librarians will need to be well versed in preparing Web sites and creating electronic assignments and learning opportunities. Distributed instruction across the Web will make it easier to reach large classes with minimal effort on the part of the instruction librarian--after she learns how to write the Web page. The Web will allow the public librarian to offer appealing interactive instruction to populations only marginally served before. Many institutions go to great lengths to create technology initiatives for education. The instruction librarian should try to participate in these.

Technology will continue to have a profound effect on the way learning happens in our educational institutions. Not only will it shape the way courses are designed and delivered, but it will also affect the way users access information and the skills they require in the workplace and beyond. The physical walls of the library are breaking down, especially as distance learning increases in popularity. Moreover, our user populations are becoming increasingly diverse in age, language, and cultural heritage. We must design intuitive systems to instruct those who never or only rarely enter the library as well as those for whom traditional methods are less than effective.

Once a foundling left under the music library reference desk, user education is maturing into a gangling young adult, ever eager to learn and become independent. The technological revolution of recent decades requires that this youth mature quickly. Music librarianship has always attracted those who have sought the challenge of administering multifaceted collections and the demand of providing comprehensive access to diverse materials. We pride ourselves on the depth of our subject knowledge and our ability to answer the tough question. In the same spirit, music librarians have taken the first steps in developing and delivering effective library-instruction programs. As we continue to grow and improve as library educators, we will keep in mind the ultimate goal: creating independent and literate music library users.

Leslie Troutman is music user services coordinator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

(1.) Evan Farber, Plus ca change....," Library Trends (1995): 430.

(2.) Beth Christensen, Music Library Association Projects on Bibliographic Instruction in Foundations in Music Bibliographic ed. Richard D. Green (New York: Haworth Press, 1993), 153-56; published simultaneously in Music Reference Services Quarterly 2 (1993): 153-56.

(3.) Music Library Association Midwest Chapter, Bibliographic Instruction Committee, comp., A Directory of Bibliographic Instruction Programs in the Midwest (n.p.: Music Library Association Midwest Chapter, 1982).

(4.) Music Library Association Midwest Chapter, Bibliographic Instruction Committee, comp., "Bibliographic Competencies for Music Students at an Undergraduate Level," Notes 40 (1984): 529-32.

(5.) Ibid., 530.

(6.) Amanda Maple, Beth Christensen, and Kathleen A. Abromeit, "Information Literacy for Undergraduate Music Students: A Conceptual Framework," Notes 52 (1996): 744-53.

(7.) Robert Michael Fling, "Music Bibliographic Instruction on Microcomputers: Part I," in Foundations in Music Bibliography, 157-63 (also in Music Reference Services Quarterly 2 [1993]: 157-63); Kathryn Talalay, "Music Bibliographic Instruction on Microcomputers: Part II," in Foundations in Music Bibliography, 165-81 (also in Music Reference Services Quarterly 2 [1993]: 165-81).

(8.) David E. Fenske, Michael Fling, Brenda Nelson-Strauss, and Shirlene Ward, "Making the Most of the Music Library: Using Uniform Titles,"

(9.) Music Library Association, Reference and Public Services Committee, Bibliographic Instruction Subcommittee, comp., "Directory of Music User Guides for Libraries,"[tilde]segglstn/mugdir.
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Date:Mar 1, 2000

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