Student-Generated Local Candidate Voter Guides: Teaching Information Literacy through Partnering Librarians and Faculty

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Each semester the Dean of Libraries offers a course enhancement grant to encourage faculty and librarians to develop in-depth assignments to teach advanced research skills. This chapter describes a collaboration resulting from this grant among a Research & Instructional Librarian and two Political Science faculty members. Information literacy skills are essential in interrogating political information ranging from the platforms of particular candidates to the issues embedded within their communities. To support students in gaining these skills, the authors developed a candidate guide assignment spanning two Political Science classes, POSC 101: Introduction to American Politics and POSC 480: State and Local Voting. During Fall of 2018, POSC 480 students worked in groups to create candidate guides for the upcoming November elections. These guides were modeled on the Campus Election Engagement Project and focused on down-ballot races. POSC 101 students were assigned to evaluate the 480 draft guides.To assist students in both of these courses, the librarian liaison conducted multiple information literacy sessions. Student feedback indicated these assignments helped them to look at sources with a critical eye, engage with the lack of substantive issues down-ballot candidates run on, and recognize the failure of media to cover local campaigns. Many highlighted evaluating sources, in particular, as an area of personal growth. It also emphasized the difficulties inherent in becoming civically engaged, particularly for those without the necessary resources and knowledge to search out and evaluate information.