Event summary: Information Literacy at the interface: learning from practice in the classroom and employment

In May, ILG teamed up with SLA Europe for two special events, a networking evening and half-day workshop, both focusing on Information Literacy in the workplace.

An event review of the networking evening with Nancy Graham (LSE), Stéphane Goldstein (Research Information Network) and Ian Hunter (Shearman and Sterling) can be found over on the SLA Europe blog. It was a very engaging evening which brought together perspectives on IL from different sectors. Some very interesting discussion was generated which communicated the significance of IL as a lifelong skill relevant far beyond academic settings. The evening highlighted areas of good practice as well as work which still needs to be done in order to translate IL skills into something an employer can recognise as an asset, and something a graduate can articulate in an interview.

The next day’s half day workshop similarly captured this cross-sector appeal.
Andrew Walsh (University of Huddersfield) and Therese Ahern (Neftex) offered insight into the strategies, practical techniques and approaches to Information Literacy support applied in their respective sectors. Andrew touched on revisions that had been made to the Huddersfield’s IL strategy, recently reduced from sixteen pages to one – making it easier for decision makers to recognise its value. Andrew then took us through his active learning approaches to practical sessions, which enable participants to learn by doing, and always include a reflective element. Therese then introduced us to the reality of IL in an entirely different setting. Neftex is a geoscience consultancy which supports oil and gas exploration. Librarians at Neftex take information from subscription based sources and interpret them into maps, charts and 3D visualisations – quality assured information is essential to their role. Therese explained the embedded librarianship approach which allows the transfer of ‘library skills’ to non-information management workers through training, mentoring and co-location.

Both presentations are available to look at in more detail. Andrew’s slides can be found here: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/24648/ and Therese’s can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/1J4odOi

These presentations were followed by an activity led by Fiona O’Brien (University of Westminster). In mixed groups of HE and employment based information professionals we discussed our perceptions of the level of IL skills held by our graduates, the aspects of the IL cycle often underdeveloped when graduates arrive in the workplace, and related to this, the aspects which are the most difficult to address in HE. There was agreement that the ‘finding’ stage of the IL cycle was the most consistently targeted area in HE, but the recognition that this was a skill beyond the confines of an academic discipline is more problematic, as is pushing pass the ‘that’ll do’ mentality to find the best information on a given topic, rather than any information. Ethical use of information was raised as an area where many lack understanding both in academia and the workplace – particularly when it comes to copyright and commercial use.

We concluded by considering possible strategies and solutions. Across the groups, the importance of collaborating with professional bodies was made clear. Others pointed to the importance of using real life examples when talking to students and other stakeholders. A particularly popular idea was inviting alumni back into universities so they can communicate first-hand what IL looks like in the workplace and just how these ‘academic skills’ can be usefully applied when students graduate.

It was great to be joined by SLA Europe members for these events, I left with much food for thought and even more convinced that partnering outside our own immediate sectors is a great way to address these IL issues.

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