Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lots of questions at #i3rgu !

Mark Hepworth led a plenary discussion session on this, the 2nd day at the i3 #i3rgu conference in Aberdeen, Scotland. In it he posed some questions that had emerged from the sessions so far. The picture on the right is not from the plenary: it is a notice on a Church of Scotland building opposite my hotel.

As a caveat: these are quick notes from the discussion - and if I have left out or misrepresented contributions it is not deliberate. The first question was have models and frameworks like the SCONUL 7 Pillars model and the ACRL framework had had their day? Various opinions emerged (all of which could form the basis of an interesting discussion!) e.g.
- that they were past their sell-by date as they didn't capture the reality of using Web 2.0 tools;
- that they need to be reviewed in light of research evidence, also given that they were not based on empirical research;
- they they were useful as tools for introducing learners to the concept of IL;
- that they might be a good sounding board as long as they weren't used too long or too exclusively;
- that they were only useful as historical artefacts;
- that they were a manifestation of the anglo-american love of pseudo-scientific models;
- that they were a pragmatic response to a complex concept.

A second question was: is information literacy a practitioner's interpretation of information behaviour? and - associated with that - how do we deal with the complexity of information behaviour?. Some questions and comments that arose from that were:
- which part of that complexity do we attend to (e.g. investigate through research)? we probably need to make choices about that.
- we need to differentiate between complexity and difficulty - e.g. that search may seem simple but is complex
- there was the issue of whether it was really simple and librarians were making i big deal of it or (my view) that if anything librarians are too modest about the expertise they bring to bear on information problems
- there is a lot of complexity around exactly how search engines work and how you get the best out of them.

The third question was: how can we represent and communicate the benefits of information literacy? This had come up in several presentations (e.g. getting attention for IL in workplaces of different kinds). Some points were:
- that it was important to present the threats/problems of not being information literate - this could be done in terms of lost time, wasted time etc.;
- in relating it to a new rhetoric around labour and what it means; so this means re-examining the terminology;
- that you should translate the concept and frame the concept according to the context (e.g. particular kind of organisation);
- understanding better how information is managed  within an organisation, and ensuring that library and information professionals are looking at the whole information picture;
- usefulness of compiling examples of how and why it makes a difference for specific purposes;
- should we use the term "information literacy" or not? there was a lot of animated discussion about that ;-))

And finally -  do we need a forum to discuss information behaviour methods and theory?
- there were already conferences and journals, though those are not venues for ongoing debate;
- there have been other projects to develop virtual spaces for research/discussion, but none has quite succeeded;
- should there be more distinct "methods" strands in research conferences.
This also developed into more of a discussion about being moressertive about the value of the research that we've done, in particular not being apologetic about qualitative research. Also, simultaneously I lost connection with the conference broadband, so I will finish this up hastily with the power of my mobile data stick. As you can see, this was a plenary with more questions than answers, but they were interesting questions.

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