Thursday, March 20, 2008

LILAC conference: 2nd report

This is the second report on the LILAC (UK information literacy) conference which is taking place in Liverpool, UK, 17-19 March. In this post I’ll concentrate on workplace information literacy. Firstly, the photo is part of a poster which gave results of a survey of Australian Government librarians, that was carried out a few months ago (authors are Jennifer Kirton, Lyn Barham and Sean Brady, Wollongbar Agricultural Institute).

Some of the questions asked the librarians the extent to which they saw each of the six information literacy standards (as outlined in the ANZIIL framework) as being their job to develop with departmental staff. They also asked about the information literacy training that was carried out.
On Monday of the conference I attended a presentation from John Crawford on the study Christine Irving and he had been doing into workplace information literacy. This is part of their overall project in Information Literacy looking at the spectrum of sectors and including development of the Scottish Framework for information literacy (which I’ve blogged about before and which was the subject of a conference keynote). Their project website is at and there is a page specifically on workplace IL.

John started by highlighting some of the previous research into workplace learning, giving a summary which stated that “All theorists (e.g. Lave and Wenger) agree that learning in the workplace is a form of social interaction”, but that there is disagreement as to whether learning is exclusively situated in the particular workplace (or whether it is more amenable to influence from and to the outside world). John noted that the library literature and educational theory literature don’t connect (well, actually he talked of a “complete disjunction”) and one aspect which pedagogic literature neglects is that of intellectual property.

Another couple of points I’ll pick up are that he felt that “the daily round of tasks” could substitute for the curriculum in developing information literacy. This fits in with things I’ve blogged before about tying IL training in with workplace tasks or forms (such as linking into project cycles). The issue of “professional ideologies” was also raised, and I think there are parallels here to study of academics, where conceptions of information literacy are seen from the perspective of someone within an academic or professional grouping (e.g. a chemist’s perspective of information literacy).

John reported on findings from interviews with care home staff, staff at the Scottish Tribunal, Scottish Government, and Social work and NHS staff. As I would have expected, people were an important source of information in all cases, and this means that the role of human relationships in information activity needs to be taken into account. Adult literacies training was seen as "powerful driver" that might encourage information literacy.

Also unsurprisingly (I'm afraid), public libraries were not seen as relevant to people's workplace information needs. One point made in the conclusion was that "an understanding of what constitutes information literacy is widespread in the workplace but is often implicit rather than explicit and is based on qualifications, experience and networking activity." There was a lot of interesting material in teh presentation and John & Christine intend to write it up and also are pursuing follow up activities.

Finally I will briefly mention the i-skills in the workplace initiative, which Netskills have been carrying out. (NB for US readers this is not the ETS iskills, it is something that was called "i-skills" first ;-) This initiative is aimed at non-academic staff in further and higher education in the UK. There have been a number of workshops (firstly free, latterly with a modest fee) in which staff could reflect on their own i-skills and aim to develop them further. One tool that has been developed out of this work is a self-evaluation form online, so that people can identify which information literacy or information management skills they most need and how well they think they are doing in them. This is not a test, it is self-rating, but the profile gets stored online so you can refer back to it. This is in the final stages of development and should be made freely available. The website for this initiative (with information on resources and workshops) is at

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