28 Jul 2014

Information literacy is for life, not just for a good degree - Literature review produced by CILIP

Inskip, C. (2014) Information literacy is for life, not just for a good degree: a literature review, CILIP, UK. Full text.

CILIP recently produced an interesting literature review written by Charlie Inskip from UCL concerning how IL fits into the landscape of lifelong learning and the workplace. Inskip contends that “what were initially thought of as being generic skills and competencies do not successfully transition from education to the workplace, and do not sufficiently enhance job seekers employability”. In this context, perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by academic libraries and librarians is to consider how we can translate the information literacy competencies, behaviours and practices developed throughout university life into useful and meaningful workplace skills.

Below are some of the issues raised in Inskip's discussion:

Bruce (1999) suggests language and semantics could play a key role in strengthening the links between the spheres of education and the workplace. For instance, many information literacies could be mapped more directly and explicitly to common professional competencies and skills, such as environmental scanning, information management, professional ethics, and R&D. Indeed this problem of language resonates across numerous studies (Kluseck & Bornstein, 2006; Hart Research Associates, 2010; Conley & Gill, 2011), which find “many jobs recognized the importance of information skills under another name” [emphasis added] (p. 6).

Overcoming this problem may well require deconstructing our traditional library language in order to consider how we might repackage IL into something more meaningful in the professional context. It may also involve a shift away from a traditional resource-centred IL approach, towards an increased emphasis on those elements which are often most valued in the workplace, such as the importance of information and communication networks (both formal and informal), and critical thinking (Crawford & Irving, 2011).

As well as developing a ‘new language’ to describe IL, further opportunities to strengthen relationships, visibility and links might include:
  • building partnerships with professional and workplace communities to understand the role that information plays
  • recognising the contextual nature of professional environments and workplaces and
  • situating IL within a framework of ‘practice’ rather than ‘skills’ (Lloyd, 2011) 
In this synthesis, Inskip manages to highlight some of the areas that academic libraries can work at to reduce the disconnect between information skills and practices in higher education and the workplace  - language being one of the most important in my view. I think libraries have probably always struggled with 'language' to some extent, be it describing boolean logic or explaining databases to our users. Whilst students encounter new and unfamiliar language everyday in their studies, it is more closely situated within the context of their discipline and so more meaningful to them, whereas library terminology is likely to be more difficult to connect with in the absence of a similar frame of reference Whether this means translating IL into something more generic and transferable, or contextualising it further (as with evidence-based practice for example), or both, I'm not sure yet.


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