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The Literate Engineer: Infusing Information Literacy Skills Throughout An Engineering Curriculum

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Forum on Collaborative Information Literacy Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1309.1 - 11.1309.17



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Paper Authors


Honora Nerz North Carolina State University

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Honora F. Nerz has a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Manhattan College and a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from The Catholic University of America. Ms. Nerz is currently the Head of the Textiles Library and Engineering Services at NC State University where she oversees library services to the colleges of Textiles and Engineering.

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Lisa Bullard North Carolina State University

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Lisa G. Bullard received her BS in Chemical Engineering from NC State and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon. She served in engineering and management positions within Eastman Chemical Company from 1991-2000. At N.C. State, she is currently the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Chemical Engineering. Her research interests include the integration of teaming, writing, and speaking into the undergraduate curriculum.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Literate Engineer: Infusing Information Literacy Skills Throughout an Engineering Curriculum


Research and information skills have become increasingly important for the current and future success of engineering students. Engineering faculty and administrators have recognized this and as a result, have placed greater emphasis on information literacy in their programs. At North Carolina State University (NCSU), engineering librarians have been building a curriculum integrated instruction program within the College of Engineering over the last four years. This paper describes the ongoing collaboration between the NCSU Libraries and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering to build information skills into the curriculum, detailing specific assignments and grading methods. This paper also looks at current trends and issues in information literacy education for engineers.


What does it mean to be literate? The most common definition, the ability to read and write, is overly simple, implying that literacy is black and white; i.e., one can read or one cannot. It does not take much experience to realize that literacy is not a “yes/no” proposition; rather, it is a lifelong endeavor, with many levels of accomplishment. Kellner defines literacy in a broader fashion, stating that it “…comprises gaining competencies involved in effectively using socially- constructed forms of communication and representation. Literacies are socially constructed in educational and cultural practices involved in various institutional discourse and practices. Literacies evolve and shift in response to social and cultural change and the interests of elites who control hegemonic institutions.”9 Perhaps because of this evolving nature of literacy, academics and other professionals have borrowed the term and attached it to all sorts of skills as a way of defining an individual’s aptitude in a particular arena. We now have, in our lexicon of literacies (to name just a few): technological literacy, media literacy, social literacy, and family literacy.

In academia, information literacy has received much attention from faculty and librarians, the latter group being its primary champion. The reasons for this are, of course, based on “…a fundamental change in industry, economy and society from a manufacturing/product basis to a service/information basis.”15 Kellner calls this change the “Great Transformation” and says that the associated revolution in computer, information, and communication technology “ascribes education a central role in every aspect of life.”9 As a result, colleges and universities have to prepare students for this society in which information plays a central role and the ability to navigate, retrieve and use information effectively is critical to one’s educational, professional, and civic success.14 Thus, “many universities now include information literacy, either explicitly or implicitly, among their graduate attributes/outcomes identified in teaching or strategic plans.”15 The importance of this skill is so widely accepted that it can very safely be stated that today, some form of information literacy education exists at every college and university.

Nerz, H., & Bullard, L. (2006, June), The Literate Engineer: Infusing Information Literacy Skills Throughout An Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--233

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