Getting information literacy into your organisation’s strategy

From information literacy to informed learning: professional development for a learning organisation

Andrew (Drew) Whitworth, University of Manchester

Drew began his session with an everyday information need: how do we make a decision about where to go on holiday?  We applied the same process to considering how we meaure the effectiveness of an information literacy session.  These strands emerged:

  • Personal/subjective:  feeling
  • Generic/objective: grades, quality/number of citations, whole class/individual, ask the academics, use of a control group?
  • Collective/shared: subsequent interaction with librarians, group reflection among staff on what worked and why

Drew’s perspective is that he is not a librarian, and sees increasing collaboration with academics as a sign of success of such programmes.  Anything relating to promotion or tenure will get the academics’ attention!

Cervero & Wilson (1994) and others investigated how interested parties share decision-making in educational institutions.  What happens around ‘planning tables’?  Where do these tables reside and who can direct the negotiations?  ‘Planning table’ is a metaphor for how decisions are made – could be a formal meeting, informal discussion at work or after work, casual conversation…

Rarely are decisions made for ‘rational’ reasons.  Not analytical e.g. cost benefit analysis, or pedagogically effective.  Rather, we decide on the basis of what feels good, but this doesn’t make a good basis for a funding proposal!

Successes may not be ‘seen’ by other stakeholders of the university if their criteria of success are different from ours.  See also Drew’s paper, Invisible Success (2012).

Could this be an active application of the GCSE English task about writing for a specific audience and purpose?

In his essay Homo academicus, Bourdieu carries out a sociological study of universities (here is a commentary).  If information literacy advocates lack capital within the organisation, how can this be built up?

Drew asked whose institutions mentioned information literacy within their strategies.  Was this the result of the actions of an individual agitator?  Not many raised their hands, but such agitation only needs one person!

We can either develop ourselves professionally, or it will be done to us.

Need understanding of information literacy as:

  • Collective practice and shared responsibility- us, students, academics, management
  • A pedagogy
  • A political activity
  • An instrumental artefact [that is, something which helps the organisation to meet its goals such as good PISA scores]

Who is setting the criteria of success?



  1. Pingback: Summary of IFLA information literacy conference « Laura's Dark Archive

  2. Pingback: Summary of IFLA information literacy conference | Laura's Dark Archive

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