Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pamplona report: 2

This is the second report the Las VI Jornadas CRAI in Pamplona, Spain. Yesterday at the Pamplona conference there were two sessions: mine and one from Carla Basili (Ceris-CNR, Rome). Carla’s talk was titled Information literacy policies in European universities. It was given in Italian, so again I am relying on my minimal skills in that language, with my understanding mostly derived from her powerpoint.
She started by explaining the background of ENIL (
), the group she started with the aim of providing a focus for some European activities. In particular she mentioned the ENIL observatory (
and a diagnostic questionnaire ( translated into 12 languages.
She spent some time on reflecting on the different discourses about information literacy. She put forward two different Italian phrases, one of which puts more emphasis on the “process” of becoming an information literately aware person “Alfabetizzazione all’informazione processo di emananzione politica…” (may be spelt incorrectly), the other of which conveys more the state of being information literate.

I’ll observe that this issue of how you describe the concept – which words you use – is a very interesting one. In the English language the is the information skills vs. i-skills (etc.) vs information literacy debate. In some countries, France and Spain I believe, there have been debates about which words to use to translate information literacy: some using “literacy” words and some “competencies” words. In Spain the “literacy” phrase (i.e. alfabetización informacional) seems to be dominant now. I think that the phrase you choose does have implications for how you will conceive of the subject and go about teaching it.
Carla Basili identified three perspectives: a disciplinary approach (seeing the discipline as being “La cultura dell’informazione”; a socio-political approach (focused, as already indicated, on becoming information literate) and a cognitive approach (focused on individual competencies). If I understood correctly, towards the end of her talk she was advocating an approach to information literacy that took account of these three approaches: education about the value of information, as well as some theoretical understanding (e.g. of information retrieval) and practical skills. She proposed three levels of education.
One thing she wants to develop as a base level is a European Driving License for Information. This is a place where I disagree, as outlined in the talk I did at the IFLA conference a few years ago (see An International Information Literacy Certificate: opportunity or dead-end? at However, I do agree about seeing information literacy as a disciplinary area, and it is interesting to debate where it fits and what it means for educating European citizens. Carla raised some important issues. Obviously I won’t have done her speech justice so (as with the talks in Spanish) I welcome any contributions from other people at the conference who will have understood better than me.
Photos by Sheila Webber: Yamaguchi Park, Pamplona, May 2008.

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