Event report: Staffordshire TeachMeet on “Information Literacy and Making Judgements: from Brexit to The White House”

Eleanor Johnston, Academic Skills Librarian at Staffordshire University, has kindly provided a report on the recent Library TeachMeet event hosted by Staffordshire University Library and sponsored by the CILIP Information Literacy Group.

Staffordshire University Library TeachMeet: “Information Literacy and Making Judgements: from Brexit to The White House”

This event, sponsored by the CILIP Information Literacy Group, took place on 4th May 2017. We wanted to ask librarians and information professionals about their experiences of how political campaigns use messages, slogans, stories and statistics to persuade voters. Information literacy skills can be employed to dissect the messages and uncover what truths may lie within them.


“Information literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.” (CILIP, 2015)

All the presentations, notes, guides and weblinks from the event are available to view online.

Throughout the event, attendees were able to play the prototype ‘Writing Essays by Pictures’ game. This gave participants the opportunity to visualise the process of researching and writing an evidence-based essay using the format of a board game. The game will now go into production after its accompanying Kickstarter campaign was successful in reaching its funding target.

Julie Adams presented on “The Power of (Short) Stories… or Feelings v. Facts”, asking attendees to consider how short stories and slogans play on nostalgia, sadness, hope and fear. Attendees were invited to come up with a slogan of up to six words for the political party randomly chosen for their table. Slogans included “Not old, not new, just Labour”, “Save Their Future” (Green Party) and simply “Tough” (Conservatives).

We were also fortunate enough to have a live Skype presentation by Graeme Baxter and Rita Marcella, School of Creative and Cultural Business, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. They presented on “#alternativefacts – citizens’ perceptions of the reliability of ‘facts’ presented online by political parties in Scotland”. They have received over 500 responses to their study and, although their research is still at an early stage, so far they can say that factors affecting trust in ‘facts’ include:

  • Levels of trust in politicians in general
  • Levels of trust in specific politicians or parties
  • Political allegiance – e.g. 74.5% of Scottish Nationalist Party supporters felt the SNP facts were very or quite reliable (cf. 44.8% of entire sample)
  • Perception that ‘facts’ will be biased in some way, or subject to some form of ‘spin’
  • Whether or not the source of the ‘facts’ has been given
  • Respondents’ professional or personal experience, particularly in relation to education, healthcare and childcare.

Rita and Graeme intend to publish their full findings later this year.

There then followed a discussion of the Information Discernment Component Rubric that Geoff Walton from Manchester Metropolitan University has been developing, plus details about the CILIP Information Literacy Group’s Research Bursaries.

Finally, Eleanor Johnston from Staffordshire University talked about her experiences blogging from the USA in November 2016. This blog contains interviews with ordinary voters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Voting judgements truly ran the gamut, from “If Donald Trump is elected, it will make both parties think about what they have done to mess up America….stupidity and putting Government first” to “We don’t want to wake up tomorrow with a world full of hate”.

The TeachMeet utilised the Jisc Digital Classroom, and included the use of the Kramer Via App, multiple screens, live Skyping and the visualiser, but did not forget the importance of networking, activities, group discussions and games. Here’s to the next one!

View presentations and other materials from the day

Are you planning to host a TeachMeet or other IL event? Apply for ILG sponsorship! More information can be found on our CILIP webpages.

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