updated: 9/30/2005 8:15:47 AM

Purdue Creates Nation's First Information Literacy Endowed Chair

InsideIndianaBusiness.com Report

Purdue University says it is creating the first endowed chair in information literacy in the nation.

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The university will use a $2.5 million gift it received from Wayne Booker, former vice chairman of the Ford Motor Co. Purdue says students need to understand how to conduct research and how to evaluate the search results.

Source: Inside INdiana Business

Press Release

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University will bridge the world of libraries and information technology to create the first endowed chair in information literacy in the nation, thanks to a gift being announced today (Friday, Sept. 30) from a former vice chairman of Ford Motor Co.

"As information explodes all around us, it is critical to be able to harvest and evaluate it efficiently and effectively," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. "This generous $2.5 million planned gift from Wayne Booker underscores our central mission: to open the doors to information literacy and, therefore, to knowledge."

The person filling the W. Wayne Booker Endowed Chair in Information Literacy will conduct research and launch additional initiatives to increase students' ability to access, assess and integrate information and make good judgments about what information they choose to use, said Purdue Dean of Libraries James L. Mullins. The holder of the chair will be hired after a national search.

"We want students to be diligent information seekers, while being analytical and responsible," Mullins said. "This gift highlights the importance of information literacy, and we expect this person to be a national spokesperson who will help encourage other universities to follow our lead."

Booker, a Sullivan, Ind., native, said he funded the chair in large part to bolster the leadership role of Purdue Libraries.

"An outstanding library is the backbone of any great university," Booker said. Underscoring the importance of information literacy skills, the Education Testing Service, steward of the SAT, created the Information and Communication Technology Literacy Assessment, a tool that was pilot tested this year at several universities. Purdue, largely because it has installed information literacy as a core competency for all of its students, was one of 14 universities selected to participate.

"Students feel as if they know how to do research because they can Google," said Alexius Macklin, associate professor of library science. "But they don't necessarily know how to evaluate the search results or how to search scholarly resources. They also inadvertently plagiarize because of the ease of cutting and pasting information from Web-based material."

Booker took an interest in Purdue Libraries prior to retiring from Ford and relocating from Dearborn, Mich., to Palm Beach, Fla. For example, in 2001 he funded Purdue's Leaders in Information and Communication Technology Integration program.

Macklin, program coordinator of what is now known as LEADER, said librarians are teaching strategies for locating, retrieving and evaluating information. That instruction involves helping students develop information problem solving skills to identify an information need and use appropriate information technologies to find solutions.

"These are skills that will enable Purdue students to continually refresh their knowledge base long after they have graduated," Macklin said.

With this chair, Booker said he wants to provide students with skills to be lifelong learners. Booker, a 1956 economics graduate of Purdue who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2000, said he wants to see critical thinking and communication skills increased in the United States and abroad.

"This gift reflects faith in Purdue's educational leadership for the global business community for the 21st century," Booker said. "The business world is looking for problem solvers who can identify the issues and then find potential solutions. Partnership with Purdue on this initiative is a sound investment in the future and a win for everyone involved."

During more than 40 years with Ford, Booker served in Mexico, Brazil, Japan and England. He was a leader in establishing new international operations and joint ventures throughout the world and represented Ford at many international business associations. Mullins credits Booker for being instrumental in securing nearly $15.4 million in donations to Purdue from Ford over the last 20 years. Over the past 10 years, Purdue has been one of Ford's biggest sources of college-educated employees; at the beginning of the decade, more than 1,000 Purdue graduates worked at Ford.

Mullins said the information literacy skills being taught by librarians also will aid research across a broad spectrum and should be of particular interest to journalists because they are in the business of collecting information and putting it into a cogent report. "They know the importance of accuracy and citation," Mullins said.

Mullins said colleagues at several other universities have already expressed interest in following Purdue's lead in creating a chair to head up the efforts of faculty members charged with teaching information literacy.

"It's a statement to academe and the population as a whole," Mullins said. "We need to think critically. Not everything we read is of the same value."

The announcement is part of a two-week celebration leading up to Purdue's Oct. 15 Homecoming. Events focus on ways Purdue is improving education and helping the state of Indiana as part of the university's strategic plan and $1.5 billion fund-raising campaign.

Source: Purdue University

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