Monday, September 18, 2017

Bonnie Cheuk talks on workplace information literacy: Sheila blogs from #ecil2017

I am liveblogging the opening keynote from the European Conference on Information Literacy in Saint-Malo, France. This is my live capture of what I think Cheuk said (rather than my own views on the topic), so as usual it may not be perfect (aldso I'll note that a few of the talks will be blogged by both Pam and me for different perspectives).
We have just had the opening welcome from Joumana Boustany (Conference Chair), conference founders Serap Kurbanoglu and Sonja Spiranec, and IFLA representative Lisa Hinchliffe (the second photo shows them with a background photo of Saint Malo).
Today's keynote is from Bonnie Cheuk (Digital, Knowledge and Collaboration, Euroclear): Who care about information literacy in the workplace? She started by talking about her personal journey: she started by undertaking a PhD on infolit in a work context, supervised by Christine Bruce. She went on to work for Arthur Andersen, and then other companies: the theme has been a focus on knowledge management and using information within a business context.

Cheuk said that "language matters", and that in the workplace the focus was on outcomes and her experience was that if she mentioned "information literacy" the businesspeople did not recognise the term. She admitted that this was strange, since the same people recognise that information is important to the business. She did a search in the Harvard Business Review and noted that whilst terms like data literacy and network literacy cropped up, information literacy didn't. From this she concluded that the label "information literacy" was not important in the workplace. However the thing itself could be!
Cheul said that businesspeople were interested in information when it was seen as an enabler of strategy and tactics (e.g. deciding how to innovate, how to avoid accidents). Those in the information literacy community were interested perhaps in other things like students' transition to work, and also perceived gaps that needed filling (for example, in students' ability to translate their info skills in the workplace).
Thus she recommended finding the "magical moments" where the information professional and businessperson could have a dialogue to relate infolit to a specific business need or problem. There was a need to be better at this kind of dialogue, to get to the point quickly so the businessperson actually comprehend infolit's value. Cheuk encouraged us to see the bigger picture: that infolit was just part of an employee's job, that infolit was contextual (she was using a model by Moore, identifying the crisis, efficiency, innovation and effectiveness zones of a job: so indicating that in different circumstances you might be satisficing, needing indepth accurate information etc.) Also there was the issue of the overall information flow, and the information management culture within the organisation. Information has to be seen as a strategic enabler within the company.
To achieve this, Cheuk felt that it could need a refocusing of information literacy, to focus on assking "what information needs to flow to achieve business outcomes" and "what kind of environment can enable information flow". Thus IL in the workplace becomes a strategic planning framework, and a change management framework. The latter requires identifyng the building blocks to empower and enable information flow. Cheuk identified a variety of "building blocks" including personnel, information ethics, values and culture, enabling systems (and training to use them). She said that she turned these blocks into reflective questions: for each block you asked the businesspeople questions relevant to their specific need/situation. For example if the cmpany wants to improve customer satisfaction, then you ask questions about the information flow in connection with the customer, you ask questions about the systems, about what the staff do etc.
She concluded by saying that IL in the workplace becomes strategic, meaningful, practical, agile, tools-agnostoc, contextual and hidden. She felt that enlarged the leadership role of information professional.
This is a (priced) article that Cheuk wrote, that I often use with students:
Cheuk, B. (2008). Delivering Business Value through Information Literacy in the Workplace, Libri, 58 (30)
She blogs at and blogged on this topic at

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