I was able to get to the third day of LILAC Conference 2011 (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference) this year held in London on the final day at the LSE. I’ve put down the main points I picked up from some of the sessions I attended.
Does information literacy have a future? Geof Walton & Alison Pope.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that people are concerned about their future in an economic climate of cuts that this session was so well attended. Geof Walton modelled a session on enquiry based learning by giving us all a set of questions to discuss in small groups and report back.
It was a discursive session that covered a lot of ground, here is a selection of the type of issues that all the groups came up with:
- How do we manage the expectations and perceptions about the library and information of various groups; from students to academics / researchers to admin staff.
- How to make more connections to get more timely training/ teaching into student’s courses.
- Information Literacy as a birthright, related to literacy in general being able to read. Its not a luxury but a life skill.
- Need to be able to demonstrate the positive outcomes.
- Teach alongside academics so they can contextualise information literacy skills.
Geof Walton emphasised the need for research informed teaching, and enquiry based learning. Information literacy is the scaffolding to enquiry and it can blend with technology supported learning.
Information Literacy beyond 2.0. Peter Godwin
Peter Godwin had trouble getting any sound for his video clips, but that didn’t matter as he is direct and entertaining enough without needing to resort to videos. He favours big global themes and here are a few he mentioned:
- Web 2.0 is old now, but actually no one knew what it was. Its settled down but not gone away and we are all influenced by it. Students don’t know what web 2.0 is although they experience and use it themselves all the time.
- We are heading for an increasingly mobile and social world and that won’t change. Our job is to accommodate to that.
- There are early adopters and slow adopters. People don’t change quickly. We can watch the early adopters and watch from their mistakes.
- The nerds are a minority. Most young people use tools but don’t have a techie understanding of them.
- Younger generation are not good at sharing and neither are academics / researchers or librarians. We need to reallocate the time we have and change the way we behave and work.
- Only when you try to write something for wikipedia do you realise how difficult it is.
He had some engaging thoughts on information literacy, for instance it has been ‘pampered’ by its attachment to academia, he suggested we should be thinking of it in the context of transliteracy. This made me think that information literacy as we know it is based almost entirely on textual information rather than visual or audio. We are dealing with increasingly multimedia information for instance from the familiar such as video to emerging technologies for instance Mike Matas; A news generation digital book and augmented reality / virtual reality. New media is in perpetual development but on a day to day basis our students need help dealing with old media and communication tools. Perhaps the gap between the two is where we come in at present.
This links in with Jesus Lau’s keynote speech on the UNESCO project to develop international indicators of information literacy. He has been developing this alongside folk from the media world to develop Media Information Literacies. The focus is on everyday experience for instance access to news media rather than academic information. The competencies are based on how these intertwine.
Information Literacy of Health Students: assessment and interventions. Lana V. Ivanitskaya
Led by faculty member who is not a librarian Lana Ivanitskaya is an academic in industrial / work psychology. She designs tests such as personality tests and has to assess them.
Her first point was that competencies are not just knowledge and skills but also attitudes and beliefs. If you only focus on the skills you will miss a lot. Students own knowledge of their skills gaps is a familiar scenario for librarians. First year students think there is nothing you can teach them (often), PhD students seem to have the opposite attitude. Lana Ivanitskaya described the RRSA (research readiness self-assessment) online survey which includes tasks such as evaluating websites and application of knowledge. The survey includes ‘soft’ questions which assess the students’ beliefs as well as their results and they have found this is very predictive of their level of attainment.
The RRSA survey also found some interesting differences between students and experts at information skills. They found experts better and that students overestimated their skills. In fact the experts under estimated their skill the more expert they were.
Lana stated that students still find how to do research hard and are not taught how to do it. She compared the number and quality of references cited in student papers between those who had completed the RRSA and those that had gone through library information literacy training. She found that the impact of library teaching was three times better than the RRSA, but that the students preferred doing the RRSA and were more willing to do it.
So the message? Lana wondered if we should focus more on online training. Without seeing in detail what either the RRSA consisted of compared to the library training its hard to say of course. Perhaps its down to the old messages of getting to the students at the right time and place and using the right voice.
Knotworking as a means to strengthen information skills of research groups. Elija Nevalainen & Kati Suvalahit.
Finding new ways to connect with colleagues across campus that work isn’t always easy. At the University of Helsinki they had success using ‘Knotworking’ a way of working developed by one of their academics, Professor Yrjö Engeström. The process brings together different groups from across the organisation to work more quickly and less hierarchically than team structures. ‘Knots’ are formed to find solutions to specific problems, and the problem they wanted to address was how to re engage with researchers.
Here is my summary of what they found:
- Research groups think information literacy is for the good but they have no time to do it, its best aimed at Masters students.
- Information skills still important to research groups are; bibliographic tools, searching databases, current awareness, obtaining material you can’t get locally, establishing networks of contacts, organising references, consulting library staff.
Interestingly the librarians learnt that their changing role put them in the same boat as the researchers, and they learnt a lot about the researchers from this project. The project also had the unexpected effect of gelling together the researchers as a group. The project reinforced the value of personal networks and working with user groups. Working with researchers as equals also had a beneficial effect on the library staff who developed greater confidence in working in emerging subjects and services they don’t yet have expertise in. These themes are not new of course, but success in developing a change in culture is something often dreamed of but not realised.