Welsh Information Literacy Project: Bite-sized best practice day – 01/08/13

The following report is by Rebecca Mogg, Deputy Chair of the CILIP Information Literacy Group.

The day was opened by Mandy Powell from CILIP Wales who gave an inspiring speech about the value of librarians’ support of information literacy and provided some background to the Welsh Information Literacy Project (WILP).  The CyMAL funded project has been running since 2010.  It began at Cardiff University and resulted in the development of an overarching statement for information literacy in Wales and a curriculum framework and associated learning units for information literacy ranging from entry level to doctoral level.  The units are accredited by Agored Cymru who are responsible for developing and accrediting qualifications for learners at all levels in Wales.  Learners can work through the information literacy units in whichever context they are learning and, if they wish, go for the option of attaining Agored Cymru credits by producing evidence in the form of a log book.

In 2012, WILP re-located to north Wales to Coleg Llandrillo in Conwy where the focus has been on the implementation of the framework through working with schools and public libraries.

The aim of this best practice day was to share some case studies where the Framework has been put into practice.

Public libraries

The first half of the day focused on public libraries.  Lisa Thomas from Caerphilly County Borough Council told us about a project called ‘Get Caerphilly Online’ (@GetCOnline) where the library is working with a range of partners in the area, including charities, on a co-ordinated project to support those wishing to get online or use new technologies.  The project includes the ‘Digital Fridays’ initiative where library staff offer one-to-one drop in sessions aimed at enabling members of the public to learn how to complete whatever task they want to do online e.g. email, online shopping, completing online benefits claims forms or use technology such as eBook readers and tablets.  The initiative has proved very popular, with over 400 people in less than 6 months participating.  It’s ideal for those who just want to learn how to do a specific task and don’t have time to attend a full, organised, course.

The following presentation focused on how the framework has been used for public library staff development.  The learning units have so far been trialled by Gwyneth, Monmouthshire and Merthyr Tydfil Public Library Services where staff have been trained to levels 2 and 3.  The training has been based around real-life queries which have been received from members of the public.

Speakers from Monmouthshire talked about their experiences.  In particular Erica Sheppard-Aldecoa from Macmillan Monmouthshire gave a very interesting talk on how completing the units had helped increase her confidence in supporting users of the health and cancer information service she provides for Monmouthshire public libraries.  She focused her log book on supporting members of the public who wanted to know more about how complementary therapies can help cancer patients.  There are a lot of myths and research data around this area and Erica used the training to help her develop her skills in finding good quality information and identify gaps in the research so that she is better able to support and signpost members of the public.

School libraries

Given this event was in the school holidays, I was particularly impressed that the presenters at this part of the day had given up their time to speak at the event!

The first presentation came from Sioned Jones who is the Literacy Co-Ordinator at Holyhead High School.  Sioned talked about how the WILP framework has been used with year 7 students who have been identified as needing more support to improve their reading but do not have special educational needs.  Working with the School Librarian, Sioned developed a programme whereby students attend 90 minute sessions once a fortnight to improve their reading and research skills.  They were given the chance to select a topic to research and write a presentation about it.  Incorporating the WILP framework into this programme enabled the students to develop skills in evaluation of sources, finding information and referencing alongside developing reading skills strategies.  It built up their confidence to ask questions and to identify and talk to relevant people to find out more information about their chosen topic.  When re-tested 69% of students gained an improved reading score.  The School is now considering introducing the framework to Key Stage 4 students who are working on projects.

Alison Bagshaw, School Librarian at Llanishen School in Cardiff then talked about a project to embed information literacy into curriculum, again focusing on year 7 pupils.  The WILP framework was used alongside students’ learning about the crusades.  Alison conducted a pre- and post-self-evaluation audit with the students and interestingly found that many students rated their skills highly in the pre-test and then more realistically in the post-test, after completing the WILP framework.

Finally, Myfanwy Jones, who works for Conwy Libraries Service, described her involvement in a partnership project between Conwy Libraries and local schools to work with year 6 students who are transitioning to secondary school.  She organised a full day using the WILP resources focused on developing students information literacy.  Students worked in groups on a topic of their choice around the subject of castles.  After receiving instruction in the morning, students were then free to research the topic using the skills they’d learned.

As a higher education librarian, I was fascinated to hear more about the work which is going on in schools and public libraries to develop information literacy in Wales and was impressed by how much progress the WILP project has made since its inception in 2009.  The project is due to draw to a close in spring 2014 and so the focus is now moving onto how to maintain this momentum in the future.

The WILP web site is packed with more information including case studies and advocacy resources for school librarians.

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