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What is your understanding of Information Literacy and do you think it helps when reviewing evidence during the pandemic?



Jacqueline Geekie, the Public Libraries Representative on the CILIP Information Literacy Group, recently asked question (by proxy) about information literacy and the pandemic in Parliament.


I was recently invited to attend an Evidence Week Event by Sense about Science who brought together members of the public to ask questions of their MP in a virtual meeting.  This is a unique opportunity to ask a question ‘in’ Parliament that means something to you.  I submitted my question prior to the event and send it to my MP too so he was able to prepare for the event.  Unfortunately, my MP, Richard Thomson, was not able to attend as he was in the middle of a Pensions debate but he did send me a full response to my question which is included in this post.

There is a recording of the Youtube live event when you can hear my question being answered by Penny Young, House of Commons Librarian.  The time stamp is 25mins and 30 secs when I asked:

What is your understanding of Information Literacy and do you think it helps when reviewing evidence during the pandemic?

Dear Jacqueline,

Thank you for getting in touch ahead of the Evidence Week 2020 that Sense about Science is organising. I am delighted to receive an invite from you. I have registered for Evidence Week with Sense about Science although I regret I am unsure if I will be able to attend as I am due to be speaking in the remaining stages of the Pensions Bill which is timetabled for that afternoon/evening. I shall do my best to attend on Monday late afternoon.

I understand the definition promoted by the UK’s information literacy group which considers it as a skill that involves the ability to use information effectively, think critically and make balanced judgements when we approach any information. Being information literate, and using the right sources to make decisions is crucial to empower parliamentarians like me to express informed views and effectively scrutinise evidence brought before us. Information literacy impacts on our ability to make well-informed decisions that affect policy development and implementation for example.

When it comes to Covid-19 and information literacy, I would agree that it helps when reviewing evidence during the pandemic. The data we gather and the sources we consult informs our decision-making process. For example, the role of data literacy, which I understand to be a crucial component of information literacy, has presented us with evidence of the spread of Covid-19. MPs can look at this evidence and being information literate, can consult the right sources of information to adopt measures to slow the spread such as social distancing and good hygiene practices. The absence of information literacy can have disastrous consequences on how we deal with the spread and also breeds disinformation. Given the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there is now a concern that the online sowing of disinformation is now growing exponentially and information literacy tackles the spread of disinformation online.

I appreciate you are a Learning Librarian, and as a lover of books, I understand libraries to be the vibrant hub and epicentre of our communities that can promote an understanding of information literacy.

I hope you find this to be a satisfactory response regarding my thoughts on information literacy and why it is important to my role and addressing the pandemic.

If there is anything more I can do for you in the meantime, please get in touch.
Yours sincerely,

Richard Thomson MP
Member of Parliament for Gordon

Anne-Lise Harding, Government Representative on the ILG, has some useful advice if you want to contact your MP.

You can search for your MP here and get their contact details and voting record.

Before engaging with your MP, it is best to be armed with knowledge of what they have done/what has been done in Parliament to focus your question better:

You can search Hansard to see how they have contributed in the Chamber about the issue you would like to raise.

You can search written questions, answers and statements to see how your MP has questioned the issue you would like to raise.

To understand more about an issue, you can consult research from the House of Commons Library (the search function also allows you to search research from the House of Lords Library and POST, the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology).

You can search if the issue has been/ is being scrutinised by Select Committees and the government response.

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