World Library and Information (IFLA) Conference taking place in Cape Town, South Africa. Another talk in the Literacy and Reading session was Literacy Matters! Information literacy, reading and libraries from Sharon Mader (Chair IFLA Information Literacy Section, United States).
Like others in this session, Mader started by looking at the term literacy. She identified that it could be seen at a personal, professional, national or global level. Looking at her own region, she noted that one in six people in Louisiana had literacy problems, so that even in developed countries there were inequalities in literacy levels (as is highlighted in the Lyon Declaration on access to information and development).
So, how do literacy and information literacy relate to each other? Mader first turned to Wikipedia to see what it said about the term literacy: there it was noted that the term had developed from the simple ability to read and write, to include a wider range of literacy skills. She then looked at the definition of literacy of the IFLA Literacy and Reading section, that incuded “the capacity to question, problem solve think and create” which overlaps with definitions of information literacy.
That brought Mader to information literacy. She talked about the Media and Information Literacy Recommendations developed by IFLA with UNESCO and accepted by the UNESCO General Conference. Then Mader mentioned the definition of Information Literacy that was presented in the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy, which includes ethical engagement with information and creation of new knowledge. The Lyon Declaration talks about universal literacy being essential in order to gain access to information, which should link literacy and information literacy.There is a statement from IFLA Literacy and Reading section relating to the Lyon Declaration here, by the way
Obviously those assembled at the IFLA conference thought that literacy matters, and libraries support literacy: but not everyone seems to be so committed to that. The IFLA Toolkit: Libraries and the UN post-2015 development agenda can help librarians take the message outside of the circle of those who already know. The toolkit "provides background on the issues and practical advice on how to set up meetings with government representatives." Mader mentioned the UN2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and particularly goal 16 where ensuring access to information is said to contribute to sustainable development. The Lyon Declaration is a response to the new agenda and several sessions at this IFLA conference look at how libraries can contribute to these new United Nations sustainable development goals.
Going back to IFLA’s Media and Information Literacy Recommendations, these urged governments to embed MIL in curricula, use MIL for employability etc. However, this needs advocacy to achieve, to lobby government to implement the recommendations. The IFLA Information Literacy section has got IFLA project funding to produce a MIL Recommendations Advocacy Brief, to help people campaign. There is also a workshop session on Thursday which is also looking at the impact of information literacy, and I’ll blog a report from that (though probably not a liveblog as I will be helping to facilitate, I think).
Photo by Sheila Webber: marimbas and librarians at the conference exhibition opening yesterday