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updated: 6/19/2013 6:50 PM

MCC wins grant for information literacy project

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A $50,000 grant is helping McHenry County College figure out where the information literacy gaps are for high school students in the county.

The money, awarded by the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarians Program, will help MCC gather research about how well students locate, evaluate and effectively use information -- skills that have become increasingly important in the digital age when so much is available online.

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Kate Harger, dean of library at MCC, said most students have some information literacy training in high school that helps them figure out what information is reliable for school papers and other assignments.

"But does it prepare them for college? And what we do in college and high school, does it prepare them for their career?" Harger wondered. "We want to teach them to really scrutinize that information and decide how appropriate it is."

This year's research will include data collection from focus groups of high schoolers. Northern Illinois University experts will find out how students get their information, what problems they have in doing so and how school libraries could be improved to help them. They will then prepare a needs assessment to guide the MCC and McHenry County high school librarians' next steps.

A team from about half a dozen high schools in towns including Huntley, Woodstock and Crystal Lake will work with Harger to use that information to create professional development opportunities.

The long-term goal of the Information Literacy for College Readiness project is to apply for another grant from the same organization in hopes of getting up to $500,000 to implement the training program.

Harger hopes to create a series of workshops to give librarians new strategies for helping students achieve information literacy.

"I really think it could be a model for the country," Harger said, "how colleges could partner with their local schools to bridge that gap."

The MCC library also received grants this past year to expand its collections relating to Muslims, blacks and Latinos.

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