Libraries contribute to economy and health

John Crawford has a letter Libraries contribute to economy and health in today’s (Thursday 25th March 2010) Herald in response to Tuesday’s article about East Dunbartonshire – Author attacks plans to axe mobile library and excellent leader Libraries must be given our support

Libraries contribute to economy and health

Congratulations to The Herald for supporting public libraries. As you rightly point out (“Libraries must be given our support”, Editorial, March 23), Scotland has socially inclusive traditions of public library provision dating back to the early 18th century. The world’s first national public library policy document was authored in Scotland in 1699 and Leadhills Library, founded in 1741, is where one of the world’s first lifelong learning policies – mutual improvement – was developed.

These traditions still inform us today. As well as a cultural resource, library and information services contribute both to the economy and national wellbeing. I recently evaluated an employability training programme, run by Inverclyde Libraries, that includes an important information skills element. Here the library service is contributing directly to the regeneration of a deprived community. Libraries are increasingly contributing to skills development such as this. They also help people develop the information literacy skills necessary for learning, living and work, and contribute to the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities by giving people information on which to base health and life decisions. What is more, libraries, compared to other services, are extremely cheap. This is not the place to wield the axe.

Dr John Crawford,

Former director, Scottish Information Literacy Project, and Trustee, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals,


The letter was spotted by Sean McNamara the People’s Network Librarian that we worked with at Inverclyde Libraries.

thanks a lot for the mention and your general appreciation and support for libraries. Also, Alana MacMillan, my line manager also thanks you for that and your inclusion of us in LILAC. Here is our tweet about your letter!

The reference to LILAC 2010 (The Librarians Information Literacy Annual Conference) in Limerick next week is to John’s presentation – Employability and information literacy: a review of a training programme. I’ll post a link after the presentation.

An Information Literacy Strategy for Wales

A couple of weeks ago (November 30th– 1st December) I attended an invitation only conference in Wales on the theme of ‘An Information Literacy Strategy for Wales?’  which was held at the attractively situated if geographically inconvenient University of Wales conference centre at Gregynog House.

All LIS sectors and Welsh education were represented and I was particularly impressed by the willingness of all sectors to work together and learn from each other.

The initial presentations were devoted to reviewing the various sectors and the familiar theme emerged of pockets of excellent good practice which were not being supported by an overarching strategy. I spoke about the work of the Scottish Information Literacy Project and the lessons which Wales can learn from it. After dinner there were sectoral discussion groups and I joined the public librarians and was impressed by their grasp of the role which public libraries can play in informal learning and the good work they are already doing.

The following morning Gareth Evans from Caerphilly Public Library spoke about the work he has been doing with the Open College network which could well be replicated elsewhere.

The conference concluded with a list of action points which included:

  • The production of an overview/vision statement (urgent)
  • The development of a strategy and Framework
  • Making cross sectoral/partnership contacts including outside the LIS sector
  • Developing a National Forum for Information Literacy in Wales
  • Appointing an Information Literacy Development Officer for Wales
  • Accrediting library staff information literacy training skills
  • Include IL concepts in teacher training
  • School librarian posts should be a statutory responsibility
  • Pursue media literacy issues through Ofcom

However if these objectives are to be achieved funding will be a key requirement

LILAC 2009 – Information Literacy and Public Libraries


Although the majority of speakers and delegates at LILAC are from higher education, public libraries were present in the form on one of the keynote speakers and one of the parallel sessions both of which were very good and tied in with the work of our project partners in the public sector.

Key note – Lesley Burger, Princeton Public Library – From Information Literacy to Digital Citizenship Keynote speakers

Lesley talked about how libraries must enable people to become digital citizens for the 21st Century and that information fuels our democracy she quoted Thomas Jefferson – Information is the currency of democracy. She talked about how in the public library they see people day in day out on a one to one bases and that they see people into and through life starting as children into and through adult life.

She also talked about public libraries working with schools (in the US school libraries are disappearing – worrying trend there for us all both sides of the pond) and that before the teacher gives their pupils an assignment they are brought into the library to do the assignment themselves. Something that Ian McCracken does as part of his staff induction at Govan High in Glasgow.

 Key messages were:

  • Information Literacy for the people – take advantage of teachable moments – consider ever interaction an opportunity to change someone’s life
  • Monitor trends and respond
  • Market your heart out – in areas of influence
  • Making information seeking fun
  • Solve real life problems – tie information literacy to this
  • Share experiences together
  • Invest in technology
  • Reach out to those who need you most
  • Partnerships
  • Lead the way
  • Go for the unexpected where people don’t expect you
  • Never give in.

 The trends she talked about included:

  • Internet is everywhere
  • Information is becoming a commodity
  • Use of dizzying array of communication devices
  • Librarians still navigators
  • Library still trusted resource – on ramp to digital highway – access for those that can’t afford purchasing computers etc.

 I hadn’t heard Lesley speak before but a lot of what she said resonated with me and the work we are doing in the project not just in the public sector but in all areas of life. Hopefully it will inspire others to do more within the public library sector.

The public library parallel session I attended was Lisa Thomas & Karen John – Portfolios and partnership: a pilot information literacy project for secondary schools.

The pilot project was a joint project between Caerphilly Public Library Service and a secondary school which followed on from a European-funded Gateways to Learning project which ran in libraries in South East Wales (2005 -07) delivering informal information skills sessions to adult learners to help them ‘learn how to learn’ – knowing where to look and getting the best. Caerphilly Public Library Service developed a proposal to extend the information skills sessions with 14 – 16 year olds in local secondary schools (a difficult to reach group). They discussed the proposal with the school librarian and ran two sessions.

1.      In the school library:

·         Internet – Surfing Safely, Beyond Google used websites of interest to the teenagers – What’s on TV, What’s in Argos.

·         Tied in with Welsh Baccalaureate.

·         School Librarian went through the OCN Booklet, booklet used as portfolio and school librarian signed off on it

2.      In the Public Library:

·         Looked at range of sources, books etc

·         Introduced teenagers to public libraries and the services they offer.

 Outcomes – hard work gaining teenagers interest and belief that they didn’t know it all and that the public library staff did know a thing or two also staff intensive but positive experience for all and awareness of public library for non users.

The PowerPoint’s from both sessions should be able from the LILAC 2009 website at some stage if anyone is interested in learning more.

More of my postings later.





Information Literacy and Public Libraries

Last week was a busy week for the project with meetings and or presentations everyday.

On Monday morning we were in Greenock at Inverclyde Libraries talking with the People’s Network Librarian Sean McNamara about identifying areas for possible IL input into existing courses they offer and new courses for 2009. Courses such as an employability course run through their local community partnership with Fairer Scotland funding and Career Planning in conjunction with the West of Scotland University. Discussed Web 2.0 tools and the possibility of using a blog for learners to give their thoughts and feedback on the course/s. Inverclyde Libraries Manager Sandra MacDougal joined our discussions and we spoke about staff training and IL including: the Information Handling Skills course and qualification as part of the SLIC 2000 Learners Project (used by Midlothian Lothian Public Libraries for staff training) and the POP-i course (developed and used by Bradford Public Libraries for their staff) also the previous NOF courses and the recent CILIPS / SQA ICT qualification for Libraries. Some of their staff are currently undertaking the ICTL qualification.

We have had similar discussions with the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the Ewart Library in Dumfries. The Ewart Library offer an expanding programme of tutor led computer training courses and workshops in their libraries to assist local communities (in partnership with Adult Literacy and Numeracy Partnership , the local college and other learning providers). Included in the programmes is The British Computer Society eCitizen package which includes information literacy although it does not identify it as such.

Glasgow REAL Learning Centres which are part of Glasgow Libraries have a new team in place of Learning Support Officers who will look after the learning centres (including learning portfolios, ITC and the employability agenda). Of interest to the project is the partnership between Glasgow Libraries and the Chamber of Commerce and the breakfast sessions held at The Mitchell Library.

I’m sure we will be hearing and seeing more information literacy work in Public Libraries. If you are interested in this area then the Information Literacy Website has a section on IL and Public Libraries.