Facilitating and supporting Information Literacy (IL) activities and training for Public Library staff and users is one of the main themes for the Welsh Information Literacy Project (WILP) in Phase III. You can find out more about the previous project Phases here, including the development of an IL Framework for Wales and accredited training units with Agored Cymru. If you want to know even more and see case studies of IL activities in Wales, take a look at the WILP webpages.
The project wanted to address IL skills development in Public Libraries in two ways – both as a tool for continuing professional development (CPD) to up-skill library staff and also to facilitate ways in which libraries can provide additional levels of support and training for users to develop their own IL skills. The scale of this approach to embedding IL skill development, support and training within the Public Library Service throughout Wales is ground-breaking in the UK, but has been influenced by previous innovative and inspiring work, including the Caerphilly Libraries ‘Gateways to Learning’ project. The success of this WILP project stream will also only be possible through collaboration and mutual support across sectors. It is also important to note that IL activities are specifically mentioned within the Welsh Public Library Standards for 2011-2014, WPLS 4 – relating to access to facilities and services:
(j) Information literacy sessions for users (formal or informal assistance to users in developing or enhancing their use of library services and facilities)
However, the project team feel that the relevance of IL skill development goes beyond this and can have a hugely positive influence on many aspects of user’s lives –
• Health and Well-being (WPLS 4, 5, 6 & 7)
• Social Care and Older People (WPLS 1, 2 & 3)
• Equality and Diversity (WPLS 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, WPLPI 2)
• Digital Inclusion (WPLS 4, WPLPI 2, 3 & 7)
• Reading and Literacy (WPLS 4, 5, 6, 8 & 9 WPLPI 6 & 7)
• Employment (WPLS 4)
• Lifelong Learning and Re-skilling (WPLS 4, 7 & 8 )
The first step on the journey is to recruit IL Champions and Contacts within each of the Public Library Local Authority areas in Wales – 22 in all – and to provide awareness raising sessions and a network of support for these IL Champions. The Society of Chief Librarians has been unstinting in its support for this ‘call to arms’, so much so that within three weeks of the request for Champions, 20 Local Authorities had signed up to the training days the project team had arranged. The North and South Wales sessions have been completed, with our Mid Wales session due to take place in Newtown on 9th August.
The Champions role is based on the Welsh Public Library Marketing Champions model – for more information on Public Library marketing activities as part of Libraries Inspire see Alyson Tyler’s blog post here. Having a network of champions improves communication and implementation for project activities, as highlighted by the networks of Champions established as part of Estyn Allan, the Peoples Network, the National Literacy Trust and also within Local Government, for example. Champions are there to be -
the main point of contact, to assist in training, to encourage, enthuse and promote, to advise the project team on local issues and to contribute to IL advocacy across the country.
For Local Authorities who cannot commit to having an IL Champion, the role of an IL Contact will be a valuable aid in circulating and communicating IL updates and providing feedback from their own Local Authorities.
The Champions training and awareness days are a mix of discussion, group work and problem solving. The project team wanted to create a structured opportunity for participants to expand their own understanding of IL and the relevance of these skills to the Public Library service, its staff and users. To take the chance to share best practice and queries with their peers, to develop ideas on how or where IL activities could be embedded in service provision and to explore the possibilities of delivering accredited IL training for staff or informal training for users. It is hoped that this will also lead on to the project team supporting a number of Public Libraries to deliver pilot scheme accredited training programmes for staff and service users. Four Local Authorities have already expressed an interest in taking part in these training pilots.
During the sessions we also take the chance to briefly review the online/digital behaviour of people in Wales – both in relation to E-Safety issues and question how this might also affect future Public Library service provision. How do libraries and their staff keep up with the pace of change and user expectations? A recurring theme which has emerged from the sessions that have taken place so far is the need to acknowledge that a significant amount of IL support is being provided by Public Library staff already – but it has not been formally identified or acknowledged as information literacy support. Identifying this support and opportunities to embed further support in everyday user activities is an important part of the awareness days.
Supporting Public Libraries to deliver IL training and embed sustainable, relevant IL skill development activities is more than just a project objective. It’s a commitment to Life Long Learning, empowerment and inclusion – for both staff and users.