Welsh Information Literacy Project – Phase 4

We are grateful to Siona Murray for this guest post & congratulate the WILP team on a very successful year! Look forward to Phase 4 …

This post has been written to introduce some of the activities for Phase IV of the Welsh Information Literacy Project (WILP), which will run until March 2014. You can catch up with the project achievements on the project web pages and for more detail of our aims for Phase IV. A Phase III short report will be published in the Journal of Information Literacy in June to compliment the full project due later that month. You can also read more about the project in the recent edition of the Library and Information Research journal.

In this post we want to expand on a few of the main objectives for Phase IV:

  • Promotion and advocacy activities to highlight the importance and relevance of embedded Information Literacy (IL) within the curriculum
  • Facilitate the embedding of IL activities and skills in Public Libraries and Schools, with the addition of extending support to end users
  • Supporting Local Authorities and selected schools to run pilot projects incorporating the IL framework

We also wanted to take the time to reflect on what we’ve learned as a team over the past year and how that will inform the development of Phase IV.

Encouraging primary and secondary schools to engage in IL activities and facilitating schools to provide accredited training for their students will continue to be a major focus of the project. This has included liaising with Agored on behalf of teachers and librarians, especially in relation to clarification of cost per qualification, the development of support materials and identifying who will be responsible for the internal verification process. Enabling access to accredited IL qualifications for younger learners is a new approach and as such will take some time before the pathways to providing these qualifications are clear cut. The project team are actively involved in supporting an additional 5 schools to embed IL activities within their curriculum for Phase IV and we are eagerly awaiting the final results of the Phase III pilot projects and the insights they will give to help others. Conwy and Powys library services are also discussing some innovative IL activities with local schools and youth services which will further help to support younger learners.

The network of IL Champions within the Public Libraries have been very supportive and active – not only taking the accredited qualifications themselves, but in encouraging other Library staff to also develop their IL skills. Merthyr Tydfil and Monmouthshire libraries have led the way in this approach. Gwynedd libraries extended the IL training option to other Council staff through in-house CPD activities and Cardiff Libraries have undertaken an in-house audit of staff ICT skills. Training will then be provided for staff to update their skills and support the ever changing needs of library users and the queries they have, such as searching for jobs, entitlements or health information.The project team will be supporting the Public Libraries further by clarifying the internal verification aspect of qualifications for staff and for library users. IL Champions from the WILP network have also been at the forefront of supporting digital inclusion activities locally too. Flintshire libraries have begun talks with Communities 2.0 to explore the possibility of collaborating to provide Universal Credit information support. Conwy and Carmarthenshire authorities may also be providing help of this kind. South Monmouthshire libraries too have begun to provide IL training within job seekers drop-in surgeries. Public library champions have also been at the forefront of attaining accredited qualifications themselves, with Merthyr Tydfil and Monmouthshire champions having just completed the Level 3 Agored log books.

You’ll also see more representatives from the Education and Public Library sectors on the Steering group for Phase IV, alongside longstanding FE and HE members. This reflects the scope of the project and the transferability of IL skills across learning landscapes. We have also been watching the developments of the employability skills debate currently active within FE and HE – especially in relation to information/digital skills of students, graduates and job seekers. Within the Higher Education sector over the past year there has been a concerted effort to strengthen the skills of learners and prepare them for the world of work. We have been contributing to the conversation on the importance of Social Media skills for new graduates too, especially in relation to understanding how information is managed online, how to curate your personal brand awareness and how to share positive contributions on digital platforms – for both learners and tutors. We tweeted that we were writing a blog post for WHELF and asked for any questions on IL that our followers wanted answered. We had an interesting question on Twitter from  @AmandaC_Bennett who wanted to know :

“I want to know how all the other literacies – transliteracy, digital literacy etc link to Information Literacy?”

This issue of cross-over, blending or transition (however you want to define it) between these ‘literacies’ is something that the project team, an indeed anyone involved with Information Literacy, has hotly debated. It can be a very personal opinion and informed by the background you most closely associate with – libraries, ICT or teaching for example. The way we have found most helpful in promoting the importance of IL, is to demonstrate that the IL skills identified in the Framework are the bedrock/roadmap/building blocks of all the other literacies. The skills are scalable and most importantly transferable – across subject, platform or sector. These are lifelong, relevant skills that provide the solid foundation for Digital Literacies/Media Literacies/Health Literacy/Financial Literacy etc– that these specific literacies are the next step on the continuum of IL. You could also take a look at the archived Scottish IL Project webpages to get a better idea of the WILP approach too. If you feel you want to explore the topic further (and don’t agree with our approach!) then you could take a look at the Multiple Literacies post on the Transliteracy & Libraries blog and also this article by Thomas P Mackey and Trudi E Jacobson in College and Research Libraries,  which seeks to redefine Information Literacy as Metaliteracy. Both of these articles would be a great starting point to further discussion on how all these pesky literacies could interact.

Over the past few weeks the project team has also been reflecting on our experience of Phase III, both the challenges and lessons learned, to help inform our approach to Phase IV. The team’s experience of being involved in WILP has been overwhelmingly positive. However, the biggest challenge that the team faced during Phase III was in supporting the attainment of accredited IL qualification units outside of traditional FE/HE pathways. Issues of cost, lack of clarity surrounding internal verification responsibilities and lack of awareness regarding accreditation centre locations have made this aspect of the project less clear cut that originally envisioned. Solutions to these issues are being developed though, and it is hoped that the project activities will make the process much more accessible for schools and public libraries in the future. The team’s main aims for Phase IV are:

  • Encourage more schools to embed IL activities within the curriculum
  • Support information literacy having a more prominent place in the next set of Public Library Standards for Wales.
  • Facilitate an IL FE/HE Community of Practice for Wales
  • Develop sustainable exit strategies for the project end in 2014

The level of intervention required by some sectors has also been more intensive than originally planned, but the enthusiasm and motivation of the groups we have worked with has made a huge impression in the team. The creativity and determination of teachers, deputy heads, school librarians and public librarians to improve the service they provide and better support their user groups has been inspiring. IL Champions involved in attaining Agored qualifications have reported how much they enjoyed the experience and highlighted how quickly they were able to transfer this new IL approach to answering queries in the workplace. The project team are working collaboratively to ensure that the WILP framework, resources and accredited qualifications can be practically applied, so they can make a genuine contribution to the advancement of IL advocacy and IL skill development in Wales.

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