Being a librarian, the vast majority of events I attend are for librarians and these are usually focused on information literacy. So I was really pleased to have the opportunity to attend this one-day conference for educators in Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) at the Manchester Conference Centre on behalf of the CILIP IL Group. And I was even more pleased to find that I wasn’t the only librarian in the room!
The packed programme featured a good balance of high-level, strategic presentations and case study examples of innovative practice. Digital literacy was a common theme throughout the day, from both presenters and delegates. There was recognition of the need to develop students’ digital literacy and concern that digital literacy is not always being defined correctly and is instead being associated with IT skills such as programming.
Allison Jones, Subject Librarian at UWTSD Carmarthen, has kindly provided a report on the "Play, Games and Information Literacy” workshop, sponsored by the CILIP Information Literacy Group, that took place in Leeds on Monday, November 23rd, 2015.
I feared that the huge ‘bowls’ of coffee offered before the course were there to keep us awake during the copyright session but, if that was their intention, it was not needed. Following a short introduction by Andy Walsh on the benefits of IL Group membership and an introduction to kinaesthetic learning, we were divided up into teams to see first-hand how games are engaging, fun and an amazing learning tool.
In thinking how I might sum up my experiences of attending the European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL) in October, I was reminded of a parable that I read earlier this year on a friend’s Facebook page. Subsequent research has shown that it’s a story about reading the bible, but the version I read was a secular tale about a boy trying to imitate his grandfather by reading his most treasured book and struggling to understand it. In the story, the boy complains that not only could he not understand most of the book, but that he also couldn’t remember any of the parts he did understand after reading them. The grandfather asks the boy to take an old, dirty, wicker coal basket to the river and bring him back a full basket of water. The boy does this several times with increasing impatience because, every time he does so, the water has leaked through the holes in the basket. Despite trying to do the river basket run faster and faster, the boy finally gives up and, in exasperation, complains to his grandfather that the job is impossible. At this point, the grandfather asks the boy to look at the basket which, of course, has been transformed. Instead of being black and covered in coal dust, the basket is clean.
I guess you can insert your own moral here and I don’t really subscribe to the idea of repeated reading of one book being able to clean a person’s soul (indeed fixation on a single text is slightly counter to the entire concept of information literacy as I understand it). However, my experiences at the conference did remind me slightly of the boy’s attempts to deliver the basket of water to his grandfather, except in my case the basket was Evernote and the river water was over 40 years of sustained, diligent research into an area of library and information science, the lessons from which I now believe should be a fundamental part of everyone’s basic education.
Two weeks ago, I attended the European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL), the third I have been fortunate enough to attend. ECIL 2015 was held in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which is a beautiful medieval city on the Baltic coast. I didn’t know what to expect culture or food wise, and was surprised with the unusual mixture of Scandinavian, middle European with a touch of German and Russian influences. ECIL is turning into a global network for information literacy – there were over 50 countries represented this year, with many from outside Europe. The number of delegates was over 350, from as far afield as Mexico, South Africa and Australia, and around 20 of us from the UK.
The conference was held at the University of Vienna, which is celebrating its 650th birthday, and attended by over 900 librarians. The theme of the conference roughly translated into ‘future libraries’ and explored all the big issues affecting libraries in Austria, including, among others, open access, digitization, copyright and information literacy. The opening keynote was given by Robert Darnton, University Librarian of Harvard, who focused on libraries and openness in the broadest sense of the word. Robert talked about the ‘dark history’ of libraries when their policies were less open, and how academic libraries can be elitist organisations. He highlighted the development of the Digital Public Library of America, which I have to confess had until then passed me by, but seems to be a fantastic ground-up approach to building a digital library collection of America’s cultural heritage. There was also an opening address at the conference from the President of IFLA, Donna Schneeder, who highlighted the challenges of libraries in the digital age.
Almost all the conference was in German, so I was limited in what I could attend without a translator. However, Karin Lach from the University of Vienna, who had invited me to the conference, acted as my guide and interpreter. I attended several parallel sessions focusing on information literacy, including Ulrike Kugler from Vienna University of Economics and Business, who spoke about the work she and a colleague have done to develop online information literacy materials suitable for delivery on mobiles and tablets. Ulrike is the chair of the Austrian information literacy group and has attended LILAC in the past.