Library Staffers to Spill Secrets of the Internet


Annett Ritzko, Web Editor

Maureen Cech, University Archivist, and Meredith Knoff, Information Literacy Librarian, have co-organized a series of three “Information, the Internet, and You” workshops designed to help students and faculty alike better understand how information is propagated through internet sources and finds its way to you.

Workshops will be held Feb. 9 and 23, and March 16 from 12 to 1 p.m. at the McGowan room in the Mary Kintz Bevevino Library. Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunch while listening to short lectures and participating in open discussions led by Cech and Knoff.

The first workshop will  focus on popular internet tools and search engines. Knoff explains that it will concentrate on everyday internet tools such as Google, how it works, and how to get more out of “Google searches.” Another topic is how to tell a good Wikipedia article from a bad one.

The second workshop will be more about content, said Cech.

“Our overarching theme for the whole series is thinking about the information you need. Ask yourself, what do I need and how do I get it? And so the second workshop is going to be focusing on the content of different kinds of information,” said Cech.

Cech said students must pay attention to the arguments certain social media and other outlets are producing in order to elicit feelings or opinions in readers. She also said that many of the skills she and Knoff are trying to highlight are ones many students already use in their classes.

“Students should be dissecting the text and information they are receiving through the internet the same way they do in class. So you can use a lot of the things you’re already learning and just apply it to this wider web content and really look at the information cycle: how information gets to you, how quickly it gets updated, and how it moves through different stages of verification and by whom,” said Cech.

To wrap up the series, Knoff said they will be discussing many kinds of reliable scholarly sources anyone can access on the internet. Although the library has many resources for students and faculty, Knoff said there is also a lot of quality information that can be found online.

The inspiration for these workshops came from watching students, faculty and staff interact on campus, Cech said.

“One of our missions in the library is to make information literacy part of campus culture. We hope it does not just affect you as a student, but also as a human being,” said Cech.

Both Cech and Knoff understand that good research practices take time to develop and make routine.

“The word Meredith used, demystification, is a perfect word for what we are trying to achieve with these workshops. We practice these research skills and sometimes it’s very rote for us and professors who do it all the time, but we have to try to break it down for students and others who are just beginning to learn them. We want others to understand that what we’re doing is not magic,” said Cech.

The pair stress that with information comes empowerment.

“Being an informed citizen is important because then you can battle some of the problems happening in today’s world and become a master of the tool rather than a passive recipient,” said Knoff.

Cech and Knoff want to gauge attendee reaction and get a head count of how many people will attend the workshops before they plan more for the future. However, they say there will still be a lot more to cover.  They chose information they felt would be most useful for a wide audience for their first lectures.

At the very least, Cech and Knoff hope students will learn to question more often and “Ask a Librarian.”