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The Information Literacy needs of Select Committee Researchers

In this guest blog post, Anne-Lise Harding shares some of the practitioner research she has carried out during her first year working in the House of Commons library with Select Committees, and the specificities of their Information Literacy needs. Anne-Lise is Senior Liaison Librarian at the House of Commons and the Government Libraries Sector Representative for the Information Literacy Group.

Anne-Lise Harding
Anne-Lise Harding

In the first post in my series on introducing formal Information Literacy to the work of Select Committees I discussed scope, audience and finished by asking three questions:

  • How do you train highly competent researchers?
  • How do you enrich fully functioning practices?
  • How do you go beyond traditional, HE-focused Information Literacy?

In this next post I will discuss how I resolved these questions.

How do you train highly competent researchers?

This was a difficult issue for me to wrap my head around. I have a background working in academic libraries, delivering IL instruction mainly to undergraduates. With a heavy focus in the IL research; I had a community of practice to rely on and students to take on a well mapped-out learning journey.

In the research I conducted in my earlier post, I was able to discuss with Select Committee colleagues

  • Their research practices
  • How they had evolved to suit the needs of the Select Committee
  • How policy area affects their research
  • The typical running of an inquiry

This allowed me to build broad profiles to differentiate what interventions to build for each group.

  • Early career generalist
  • Generalist
  • Early career specialist
  • Specialist[1]

Additionally, I investigated the lifecycle of an inquiry in depth in order to pinpoint the different stages information literacy-related activities happen and drew out five focuses to articulate modules around:

  • Identifying information need
  • Searching for information
  • Assessing information
  • Manage information needs
  • Communicating information

Through both activities I had a good understanding of my primary audience and their research needs.

How do you enrich fully functioning practices?

This takes me to my next question. Select Committee researchers are highly competent and already use high-level skills to support Parliamentary scrutiny.

Here, the word enrich is key. As opposed to my previous roles, I am not teaching anything new, only thinking about best practice in the Information Literacy field, in Select Committees and in carrying out research.

The last thing I want to do is stand in front of an expert crowd and tell them what they already know!

I had to come up with a blend of existing practices and library expertise but also find a meaningful element to Select Committees and Parliamentary scrutiny.

Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront in Parliament. For Select Committees it translates in increasing the diversity of evidence received, the diversity of witnesses, the effort to make everybody able to participate in this democratic process, from start to finish.

I felt this was a very relevant to Information Literacy education and be an effective way to create a relevant curriculum for Select Committee colleagues.

How do you go beyond traditional, HE-focused Information Literacy?

With diversity at the heart of Information Literacy or Information Scrutiny as I have chosen to call it, an enrichment approach, researchers profiles and focuses highlighted; I had enough information to build a curriculum offer that pushed the boundaries.

But this is for a next blog post…

[1] Denotes a research professional with an advanced knowledge and/or qualification in the policy area they cover.

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