Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Information literacy and the public library

I have long believed that Public Libraries have a key role to play in Information Literacy. Recommending key reliable web sites, like the one (Medpedia) I have just blogged about , for example.

Michelle wrote about public libraries and their take up of Web 2.0 in our book, describing her study tour in the United States.

Here is an edited version of an important article about Public Libraries and IL by Jane Harding, which first appeared in Australian Library Journal in August 2008. She spends some time on investigating what IL might be.

She says

"While there are many perspectives on whether information literacy is a skills set, an attribute, a capability, or a process, there is agreement that it is a problem solving activity that involves critical thinking and the ability to apply information to an individual's life. It is this constructivist emphasis that is seen as differentiating information literacy from bibliographic instruction. Its focus is on developing a person's ability to 'learn how to learn' and therefore provide a foundation for lifelong learning. Information literacy is clearly more holistic and far more complex than user education.The questions are how can these concepts be taught in the public library environment and are public libraries actively engaged in doing so?"

She regrets the lack of coverage on PLs and IL in articles and books worldwide.This is a useful article which should be read by all public librarians, as she documents the kinds of IL activity she has discovered. Also the restraints documented in 1990 are still around :
- librarians' reluctance to assume a non traditional role ; poor public perception of the function of the library ; lack of resources ; absence of underlying philosopohy to serve as a basis for coherent planning.
She thinks these are being addressed (Hooray).
She concludes
"Public libraries, with their very large and diverse client base and lifelong contact with users, are ideally positioned to lead in developing information literate communities. Little guidance and literature has been available to public libraries on how they should go about this. Despite this, there is sufficient published material providing evidence that public libraries are actively and creatively meeting the information literacy development challenge. They have had to find a balance between professional ideals, public demand, and available resources. They are capitalizing on their strengths and opportunities within the boundaries of existing limitations. The challenge now is to determine if current approaches and programs meet community information literacy needs and if not how to remove the obstacles and pave the way for public libraries to increase their contribution to the development of information literacy in their communities."


Jean Doolittle said...

This isn't just for public librarians! School library media specialists who are involved directly in instruction need to promote the important role they can play in developing student's metacognitive skills. Librarians may have moved beyond their image as the lady with the bun saying "Shhh", but they continue with a reticence to toot their own horns and promote their value. People would rather have a library in their neighborhood than almost any other structure, but they are reluctant to provide financial support. Advocacy is very very important for all types of libraries today!

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