la Plante passes on power of information to students

Jane la Plante, chair of the Gordon B. Olson Library and information literacy librarian

By Shalom Baer
University Communication Student Assistant

MINOT, N.D. – Jane la Plante has always recognized the power of information.

After eight years of a career in social work, la Plante, who has worked in the library for nearly three decades, moved into a field where she now spends her time helping students learn the skills they need to find and recognize credible information.

“I found that social work is a very noble profession, but I worried too much about peoples’ lives, so I guess I’m too sensitive to do that,” la Plante said. “But I noticed that I was always helping people by giving them materials to read, mostly books. I was always giving people books, and I realized that the way I make sense of the world is by finding out information, and that if I really wanted to help people in my style of helping, I could do a better job in a library. People would be coming to me for information, and information is power.”

She went on to get her master’s degree in library science out of state, and then returned to North Dakota, where she is originally from. She began working at Minot State in the Gordon B. Olson Library in 1989 as an access services librarian. la Plante is now the chair of the library and information literacy librarian. Her two positions require a range of tasks.

“We have changed the way we run the library from a directorship to a chair, so we’re run now more like an academic department. I do most of the same things that a director does, but it’s a little more participative of all the librarians,” la Plante said. “I schedule all the librarians on the reference desk, serve on the reference desk, and I do individual research consultations with faculty and with students. I teach classes for other faculty who want to bring their class over if they’re going to be doing a paper or some kind of research project, and I help students learn how to use library resources.”

In these classes and consultations, la Plante essentially helps students learn how to find information, something she enjoys thoroughly.

“Some people like to fish. I like to look for information,” la Plante said. “When I can help a student find information that they really want to find — especially if they’ve been looking and they’ve been frustrated — and I can see the little light bulb go on, I know that they’re not only going to have the article or the book that they found that day, but they’ve realized that you can learn how to search better and get information.”

In a world where information is at our fingertips, la Plante aims to teach students how to find credible information, not just any information.

“If you’re out there searching, it’s like the Wild West, you don’t know what you’re going to find, and I think that makes librarianship more interesting. Some people think libraries are sort of obsolete, but I think that it’s much more intellectually interesting to me to help people figure out how to know what they can trust and what they should use rather than just how to search,” la Plante. “Because searching has become so much easier, it frees me up to teach people more interesting, higher level ideas about information. Like who’s sponsoring this information, what is their motive, who are they, and what are their credentials? Understanding how to make sense of the information you find is really a wonderful skill to have, and I am proud to try to inculcate that in Minot State students.”

She doesn’t feel that information-finding skills expire once a student leaves college.

“I’m hoping that the people I teach will learn information literacy skills so they can be good information users all their lives,” la Plante said. “It’s probably one of the more important things about a college education in my opinion. Whatever you learn in college will be obsolete very quickly, but if you learn how to learn, you’ll have that forever. Part of learning how to learn is learning how to find information.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 01/08/19   

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