As a member of the CILIP Information Literacy Policy Board I have been working recently on a blog and literature review of texts relating to information literacy in the workplace. This will be published by CILIP on their website, available to all for download, on Monday 16th June via this link: [ http://www.cilip.org.uk/information-literacy-is-for-life ].
The text of the blog follows:
Information literacy is for life, not just for a good degree.
Arguably, librarians and information professionals have been involved in developing the information skills and competences of their users since the beginning of libraries. Until recently this was known as bibliographic instruction (to insiders) and library skills (to everyone else). Now we call this type of intervention information literacy, and have expanded our definition to include various aspects of research such as critical evaluation, data managing and presentation of findings. Everyone else now just calls this digital skills. The concept and practice of information literacy has been widely discussed in library and information professional literature in recent years. In the main, these discussions have focussed on practice in Higher Education (HE), specifically on how librarians may be involved in developing the skills of students to enable them to maximise the use of academic resources, predominantly library-based, in order to meet the requirements of learning outcomes of their courses.
More recently this focus has widened to examine transition from school and Further Education (FE) into University, recognizing universities’ increasingly high expectations of new undergraduates information literacies. This widening of focus is also starting to bring workplace information literacy under the spotlight. It’s an exciting time for this area of research, as theory and practice can be seen to start to reflect the Alexandria Proclamation assertion that “Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals.”
Over the last few months I’ve been drawing together literature relating to this topic in order to provide a view of this particular information landscape. I’ve found academic theoretical and practice-based research and official reports from stakeholders including government, professional associations and industry and commerce and drawn them together in order to provide an overview of the main issues around workplace information literacy.
Employability and Transition
Despite the very term ‘information literacy’ originating in 1974 in a text relating to the workplace it is only in recent years that attempts have been made to extend the lifelong learning element of this literacy from Higher Education to the workplace. This is a difficult transition. What were initially thought of as being generic skills and competences do not successfully transition from education to the workplace, and do not sufficiently enhance job seekers’ employability. Research into auditors, businesses and law firms indicates the information literacies taught in school, FE and HE do not always meet the expectations of employers and the requirements of the workplace setting. The research suggests that the key differences in the workplace such as a need to look through physical documents, for example (as opposed to electronic databases), and the accepted practice of seeking advice from networks of colleagues (as opposed to solitary research practice in the university) should be addressed more explicitly in preparing students for the workforce.
Interestingly, differences are sometimes perceived rather than real, being caused by different terminology – environmental scanning or current awareness, for example. Once this semantic gap has been successfully bridged, it is much easier to get employer buy-in to the process. If we are to bridge that gap then we need to know about the context in which the workplace information practices take place. And the best way to do this is to do research in the real world, using theoretical models drawn from, for example, the already extensive work by library theorists on user information needs and behaviour. The complexity of the workplace cannot be successfully addressed by a one-size-fits-all information literacy programme, the approach needs to be sensitive to the context – and to the sociocultural practices of the communities that are a part of that context.
Evidence based practice should be used to develop this area. The UK National Health Service (NHS), in the drive for reduced administrative costs and better practice, have made important inroads by embedding information literacy into the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of the workforce. Australian research into the practices of firefighters and ambulance officers has been extremely influential in development of theory. Research into legal practice in the UK has also been influential, being recognized at professional association and government level. Linking work-based practices to theoretical principles through robust research does have impact.
Factoring the monetary value of days lost through searching the web is a perhaps more headline-busting approach. Using both (robust research, monetisation of lost time and wasted opportunities) in tandem encourages policy makers to pay attention. The current UK initiatives around the digital divide and digital inclusion recognise the value inherent in a lifelong learning approach to information literacy to address problems around employability and the skills of small business owners – usually without referring to it by name. The fact that government is now recognizing a need for the recently launched digital inclusion strategy is an extremely significant opportunity for library and information professionals to continue in their efforts in promoting this area.
Just in case you missed it at the beginning, many thanks to CILIP: “The blog was originally published on the CILIP website: http://www.cilip.org.uk/information-literacy-is-for-life”
For the full literature review please see the CILIP blog link.
ALISS AGM 2014: Developing Digital Literacies for a Digital World slides for my presentation ‘Reflecting on digital competences’ now online here [ALISS AGM 2014 slides] as a pdf. Thanks to everyone for listening and asking such interesting questions. Great stuff on the day from Sally Patalong at Coventry University and Beth Clark and Victoria Bird from SOAS.
I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to share some findings from my research into academic library staff digital scholarship competences next Wednesday at the ALISS AGM. Tickets still available, folks! :http://alissnet.org.uk/aliss-agm-2014-developing-digital-literacies-for-a-digital-world/
For those unable to attend, slides will be uploaded to this blog after the event.
The title of the talk will be “Reflecting on digital scholarship competences”. It reports on the findings of the survey taken by SCONUL as part of its involvement in the JISC Developing Digital Literacies (DDL) programme.
The slides for my LILAC 2014 presentation are now available. They contain numerous links embedded in the pictures and logos are are designed as a signposting exercise to help you locate useful resources from the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme around digital literacy and scholarship.
I look forward to presenting findings of the Mapping Resources to Competences report (on Friday morning at 0945) at this week’s LILAC 2014 (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference) in Sheffield, UK. Slides will be made available through the conference’s Slideshare account (http://www.slideshare.net/infolit_group) and will also be uploaded to this blog.
In order to assess and benchmark the effectiveness of its own digital presence, its members’ digital literacies and to propose changes to professional development where appropriate, SCONUL was a participating professional association in the JISC Developing Digital Literacies (DDL) programme, which ran from July 2011 to December 2013. During this process SCONUL drew upon the considerable expertise within its community, and worked in close collaboration with peer organisations and specific outputs to explore new approaches to embedding digital literacy in working practices.
This presentation considers the key findings of a baseline survey, mapping them to relevant outputs from the DDL programme. The threads that tie these outputs together are based on taking a strategic perspective to institutional change based on ‘inter-departmental multi-stakeholder conversations’. These conversations involve not only librarians but other services, as well as faculty and students, in a unified process which acknowledges that digital literacies are not the sole ‘property’ of one department but the responsibility of the wider academic community.
Resources around policy and strategic change management recognise the importance of collaborative conversations within and across institutions. Developing networks and collaborations through conversations can enable a cooperative stance. An informed approach is more likely to amplify the voice of the library in these negotiations. This will help maintain the library’s relevance in the changing information landscape. Following and citing good practice examples will contribute towards making good practice common practice, and adopting and adapting formal CPD frameworks will contribute towards strategically meeting these aims. Using up-to-date tools for staff and student development will keep libraries on the cutting edge of development and delivery of digital literacies, and the more widespread use and continuing development of the Seven Pillars, and the new Digital Literacy Lens, will help to unify the sector and provide stakeholders with a consistent message.
Mapping resources to competencies (link to PDF)
In order to assess and benchmark the effectiveness of its own digital presence, its members’ digital literacies and to propose changes to professional development where appropriate, SCONUL has been working as a participating professional association in the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme, which runs from July 2011 to December 2013. During this process SCONUL has drawn upon the considerable expert advice available within its community, and worked in close collaboration with peer organisations and specific project outputs to explore new approaches to embedding digital literacy in working practices.
This downloadable document [Mapping resources to competencies (PDF)] explores resources and developments around the JISC Developing Digital Literacies (DDL) programme through a SCONUL lens. It considers the outcomes of the SCONUL baseline survey (2012) and maps key findings from the survey to relevant resources available through the JISC Design Studio resource, which collates project and association outputs from the DDL programme. The DDL programme has generated a large number of resources. This document is designed to help SCONUL members focus on those most relevant to them in the pursuit of developing digital literacies.
The threads that tie these outputs together are based on taking a strategic perspective to institutional change based on ‘inter-departmental multi-stakeholder conversations’ – involving not only librarians but other services as well as faculty and students in a unified process which acknowledges that digital literacies are not the sole ‘property’ of one department but the responsibility of the wider academic community. These conversations can be facilitated through careful examination of many of the links to resources in this document – and many more can be found on the JISC Design Studio.
Developing networks and collaborations through these conversations will enable a cooperative stance and an informed approach is more likely to amplify the voice of the library in these conversations. This will help maintain librarians’ relevance in the changing information landscape. Following and citing good practice examples will continue to contribute towards making good practice common practice, and adopting and adapting formal CPD frameworks will contribute towards strategically meeting these aims. Using up-to-date tools for staff and student development will keep libraries on the cutting edge of development and delivery of digital literacies, and the more widespread use and continuing development of our Seven Pillars, and the new Digital Literacy Lens, will help to unify the sector and provide our stakeholders with a consistent message.
A discussion of this work can be found in the current issue of CILIP Update (December 2013)