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As part of the Information Literacy Symposium series directed by Dr. Sharon Weiner, Dr. Paulette Kerr gave a lecture and workshop at Purdue on Friday, November 11, 2011. Both the morning and afternoon sessions were quite intriguing, as Dr. Kerr shared the findings from her doctoral research into espoused and practiced theories that inform information literacy programs at academic institutions.

In the morning, Dr. Kerr described the doctoral research she conducted as a Rutgers’ student that examined 11 academic libraries in the United States using theories of action (Argyris & Schon, 1974).  This enabled Kerr to compare theories espoused in institutional and library documents (mission statements, strategic plans, etc.) to the theories of use inherent in information literacy tutorials provided by academic libraries. The comparison revealed gaps between information literacy goals and outcomes that were espoused and those that were practiced via the tutorials. In general, documents portraying espoused theories referred more to “learning,”  where as tutorials focused more on information access.  Critical thinking was represented in the tutorials through source evaluation, and information use was often limited to instruction related to “ethical use.”

In the afternoon, participants moved to the LearnLab in the Management and Economics Library (MEL). In this session participants were asked to apply applied what they learned in the morning lecture to documents and learning objects from their institutions. The 42 participants, librarians from Purdue and several other academic institutions, began to identify how information literacy was represented in their institutional documents.


Argyris, C. and Schön, D. (1974). Theory in practice: Increasing professional effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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