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Dr. Alison J. Head

Dr. Alison J. Head

Last July, Purdue University Libraries was selected as the site for Project Information Literacy’s inaugural Visiting Research Scholar program. The program—implemented over the 2017-18 academic year—enabled Purdue Libraries faculty researchers to consult with expert information-literacy researcher Dr. Alison Head, the founder and executive director of Project Information Literacy, a non-profit organization based in California.

Throughout 2017-18, Head—who is also a senior researcher at the metaLAB at Harvard—has mentored Purdue Libraries researchers on their scholarly research projects, both large and small, through the program. She will be on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus in mid-May to complete the program with Purdue Libraries faculty, as well as deliver a talk that is open, free to the Purdue campus.

Head will present, “How Today’s Students Conduct Research” from 10-11 a.m. Thursday, May 17, in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center, room 1132. According Head, the talk will cover what she and her fellow PIL researchers have learned from students about students’ research practices. Registration is available at https://purdue.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_exERowtW6fjZBWt.

“We are now working on our 10th research study at Project Information Literacy,” Head noted. “My talk will cover what students have taught us about their research practices and information seeking and how they go about fulfilling course-related research, e.g., what their strategies, techniques, and workarounds are. I will also touch on our current news consumption study (which comes out in October) and what we are finding out about students’ personal uses of news—where they are getting news, what their consumption habits are, and how confident they feel about fake news. This study looks at students through the lens of their experiences, and my presentation will help shed light on something that very few educators and librarians know much about,” she added.

About PIL and the Visiting Research Scholar Program

According to Head, the PIL Visiting Research Scholar program began with a pilot phase in 2016-17 at the University of Nebraska Library.

“The program’s sole purpose has been for PIL to provide a year of research consultations, so that librarians may be become more qualified and improved information literacy researchers,” Head explained.

Since 2008, Head and her team of PIL researchers have interviewed and surveyed over 16,000 undergraduates at more than 88 U.S. four-year public and private universities and colleges and two-year community colleges. PIL has published nine open-access research reports as part of the ongoing study.

In a 2016 Inside Higher Education column, Barbara Fister called PIL: “hands-down the most important long-term, multi-institutional research project ever launched on how students use information for school and beyond.”

Articles about PIL’s work have also appeared in The Atlantic Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Education Week, Inside Higher Education, Library Journal, and The Seattle Times.

Head also led the 2007 exploratory information literacy study, a forerunner to PIL, at Saint Mary’s College of California, where she taught as the Disney Visiting Professor in New Media for 10 years.

Head earned her Ph.D. in information science, as well as her MLS and BA degrees, from U.C. Berkeley. She was awarded the inaugural S. T. Lee Lectureship in Library Leadership and Innovation at Harvard Library for 2017-19. In addition, she has been a Research Fellow and a Faculty Associate and at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, as well as a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, where she studied human-computer interaction.

Learn more about PIL at www.projectinfolit.org.