IFLA SL Newsletter

– a commentsblog

Information literacy – an assignment for the library

Veit G:son Berg
Chief librarian, Östra Reals gymnasium, Stockholm


As the necessity of a scientific approach is not confined to year three, the Östra Real School management has decided to use 20 “project study hours” in year one. The students do basic training in scientific work, including a “mini project”. They also do a 4 point (hours) course in information retrieval, information evaluation and library knowledge. (Of course students are informed about how to seek information and use a library in both primary and lower secondary school, but we find that they often forget what they have learned).

The objective for this is that the students in Östra Real, getting a basic training in seeking and evaluating information in Year One, become more adapt at finding information, using it and viewing it critically.

The school management has decided to delegate to the library and the staff there, two trained fulltime librarians (there is no clerical staff), to be in charge of the basic training in information retrieval and associated subjects.

The Library part of the 20 points, the four hours, comprises several different sections. One is a general library part, one an Internet part and also a part with an introduction to criticism of sources. As there are 11 classes in year one, it means that the librarians devote 44 hours to this, not counting time for preparation. We use both classrooms, computer halls and, of course, the library itself with its resources.

We start the first section, Library introduction (5-10 minutes), by talking about the library resources, opening hours, staff and terms of use. We put emphasis on the personal responsibility our users have for their loans and that they must replace or pay for lost books.

After that follows a section, What is information?, (70-90 minutes), when we discuss different forms information can take, with emphasis on printed sources, and the difference between them. We also discuss, fairly extensively, how to formulate questions, use the computerised library catalogue and how to use the information you find. How to navigate the library shelves is naturally also a part.

Included in this section there is a comprehensive session of practical exercises and a brief discussion. The exercises may be formalised, but are tailored to each class, the miniprojects the students do and themes the teachers want to emphasise.

Section three, Internet and searching the Internet, (90-110 minutes) starts with a recapitulation of the different kinds of information, but now with emphasis on Internet based material. We explore various search structures and stress the advantages of using the possibilities offered by the Östra home page. (Some search engines are paid for by the school and only available when using computers in the school).

The next session, Evaluation of sources (15-20 minutes), deals with the reliability of different kinds of sources and criteria to observe when evaluating your sources. We put special emphasis on the difference between ordinary printed material and what you find on the Internet, when it applies to general credibility. We stress the importance of using both traditional, printed matter and the new opportunities offered by the Internet.

Finally References. Here we discuss how to write a list of references, i. e. what to include and how to write, both with printed sources and those of a less permanent kind. We stress the importance of including all important facts in the list and, when “net sources” are used, that the students copy pages referred to, on paper or on discs.

To conclude the “Internet” part of the course and give the students a chance to practise this there are exercises (as before tailored to topics relevant to the class), followed by a brief but important discussion of the sources found.

These four hours form the basis for the students search for and using information. It also establishes the library, its resources and staff as a friendly, helpful and reliable partner for student use. (Of course the teachers in their teaching also talk about information retrieval and use as it applies to their subjects, stressing the importance of using the library and its staff).

In the years that follow, the library plays a central part in the students work, helping them define problems, formulate questions, decide on relevance in material and how best to present results, both with all the minor tasks they have and with the 100 point project that they have to do by the end of year three, of which the four hour course in year one is an integral part..

It might also be interesting to know that the library is in charge of handling all the text books the students use, which means that all students have to visit the library frequently.  (Since we started this, loans have soared from 4500/year to 26 000/year).

In the school evaluation each year the library comes out as the most popular institution in the entire school.

 Östra Reals Gymnasium, in central Stockholm, is a Swedish upper secondary school with 1050 students aged 16 – 19 (350 students in 11 classes in each year). The curriculum is theoretical, with programs in Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. Östra Real is very popular and the students come from all over the Stockholm area

Background: Since 2002, it is compulsory for all students in the third grade in Swedish upper secondary schools (their twelfth year in school, when they are approx. 19 years old), to do a major project normally with a scientific approach. The curriculum awards this project 100 points, equivalent to 100 hours. The result can be presented in various ways, e.g. orally, as a movie or as a play. There must also be a written report. To get the higher grades Non sine or Cum laude the result must be very good and the report must meet very exacting requirements. It is up to every school to decide how to distribute the 100 hours over the years 1-3.


January 14, 2007 - Posted by | 4. Issue 43, 5. Theme 43: Information Literacy, Sweden

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