The Information Literacy Award – a judge’s view

Nominations are now open for the Information Literacy Award 2017 (sponosored by CILIP ILG and the National Library of Wales).  Independent Library Consultant Gayner Eyre has been one of the many distinguished experts invited to judge this prestigious award during the past few years. We asked Gayner to offer some practical advice and tips to potential nominees. This is what she had to say.
The IL Award has been running since 2008. The original title was ‘IL Practitioner of the Year’; the purpose was to encourage and embed good practice in library and information programmes throughout the UK, to spread the word regarding the meaning and importance of Information Literacy, and to exemplify excellence in its execution. It was recognised that some very good academic work was also being undertaken in the field, so we also started accepting nominations from committed researchers who were having enormous impact on the information community, contributing to and expanding the understanding of IL and disseminating research results through papers, articles and other publications. The criteria for judging the nominations, which had hitherto been focused on practice, were changed in order to also recognise the contribution made by the academic community.

Information literacy has developed enormously in the period during which the
Award has been running. Entries have become increasingly sophisticated. New technologies have been embraced, embedded into IL programmes and utilised in the dissemination of learning objects. There have been so many excellent entries that in most years the nominations have to be finely judged in order to be able to differentiate between entries.

After the first couple of years, the judges initiated a rigorous marking system in order to introduce some objectivity into the process, and a standard grid is now used in the interests of fairness. However there is also a column reserved for comments. This is where the judges will record ‘value added’ which is difficult to define as each nomination is unique. This extra dimension is the same kind of difference that distinguishes between ‘A’ and ‘B’ in an academic piece of work. Many nominations meet the basic criteria, but endeavour, enthusiasm, commitment, and ingenuity stand out in some of the best applications. This will give those nominations the edge and will tip the balance in the judges’ eyes.

Candidates should make sure that they highlight the something special that distinguishes their work and makes them worthy of an award. Previous winners have tended to span across a number of areas; for example, they have introduced a novel programme or used technology in a pioneering way, but then have disseminated this through workshops or conference papers. Some have undertaken ground-breaking research and, through publications, have reached and influenced a great many people. One candidate introduced IL to a whole country, another was a founder member of the LILAC conference, developed and introduced programmes to an institution, wrote books and articles and many other activities. Not everyone can display this level of activity, but the important thing is to demonstrate commitment and show that activities have made a difference.

The final piece of advice to potential nominees is to pay attention to the paperwork. Candidates must tell the judges what they have done and provide evidence of this. The judges can only judge on what is given to them. Some entries have fallen down in the past because there has been insufficient description of developments or impact, and / or no evidence has been provided. There is no place for modesty in the nominations. In some cases the commitment and enthusiasm of the candidate has been obvious, but there has been too little substance on which to award marks.

In summary, the CILIP ILG wants to know of all the good work that is going on and this is an opportunity for potential candidates to showcase that. Anyone who feels that they can fulfil the criteria, should give it a go and boast of their achievements.

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