IFLA SL Newsletter

– a commentsblog


By Helen Boelens,

Throughout the world, people are in agreement about the importance of information literacy skills, as a tool for lifelong learning.  The Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning, dated 9 November 2005, was published by the participants in the High Level Colloquium on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.  Many different groups of people who are interested in information literacy skills, have come into existence, for example comparative educational groups and other educators, E-learning groups, information literacy groups, lifelong learning groups, Filter groups, groups of college and university librarians, public librarians etc.  The list is long. In the opinion of the writer, many of the members of these groups, although excellent in their own fields, have very little to do with what actually goes on each day in primary or secondary schools.  They do not see what is happening on the school floor on a daily basis.

The question is: “How can young children be encouraged and inspired, at an early age, to become information literate?

In August 2006, I presented my paper entitled “A new kind of Information Specialist for a New Kind of Learning” at the World Library and Information Congress, 72nd IFLA General Conference and Council, in Seoul (South Korea). Information about this presentation can be found on www.ifla.org .  The presentation took place in a large auditorium; people from all over the world were kind enough to come and hear what I had to say. 

My paper was concerned with the goals of the modern school library and information centre.  One of these goals is instruction in interdisciplinary information literacy skills throughout the entire school, for both pupils and teachers.  At the Kalsbeek College in Woerden, the Netherlands, an attempt is being made to fulfil these goals, incorporating information literacy skills into the school curriculum. This goal is clearly mentioned in the policy statement of the school. Instruction, given by the school information specialist, takes place in the School Library and Information Centre, as part of a programme which incorporates the principles of E-learning and Project-based learning.  The school uses a matrix, known as the KILM (Kalsbeek Information Literacy Matrix), to co-ordinate the lessons.  During interdisciplinary projects, which are planned into the school programme at various times throughout the year, pupils receive information literacy instruction, which helps them to find the information which they require for a specific, interdisciplinary paper or task.  Pupils in all classes (11 – 18 years of age), at all different educational levels, receive instruction.  Each year, the matrix is extended, so that as many children as possible can benefit from the instruction.  The results up until now have been positive.

At the end of the presentation in Seoul, a very friendly school librarian from Spain came to me and said “Your school leadership sounds very enlightened”.  Another librarian from Ireland said “Your school sounds like paradise!”

When I looked at my audience and listened to their questions, I realised how difficult it is to address an audience of people who come from all over the world; from developing and developed countries.  Each person in the audience had a different definition of what a “normal” school library and information centre is, and how it can be used to teach information literacy skills to pupils. There are also many different opinions about role of the school librarian or school information specialist within the school and about the skills and academic education which this person should have.  People from developing countries must feel overwhelmed.  The faster they try to catch up with the developed world, the faster it moves on to even newer and, from their perspective, less attainable goals. I suppose they may wonder how they will ever catch up. 

As mentioned above, the teaching of information literacy skills is becoming part of the curriculum at the Kalsbeek College.  Education Innovation and Information, number 121, published in December 2005 by the International Bureau of Education, UNESCO, is entitled The Community of Practice in curriculum development is moving forward : The debate on competencies.  This article discusses the complex challenge of achieving a sound and a feasible implementation of educational innovations (such as information literacy and lifelong learning skills) into the curriculum in all schools, in both developed and developing countries. This article asks the question:  “ Can the competencies approach be a promising reality or an unreal utopia for developing countries?”  Read more about this at www.ibe.unesco.org. 

In the opinion of the writer, the problem – “How can young children be encouraged and inspired, at an early age, to become information literate? – can only be solved if people work together.  The different groups mentioned in the first paragraph need to work together towards a common goal.  Political and bureaucratic goals should be put to one side.

The Kalsbeek College is very fortunate.  It is a modern, well-equipped school with an enlightened school leadership. The school library and information centre has an excellent collection and facilities.  But the school is definitely not a paradise. The reason that the information literacy programme works as well as it does is because the school leadership, teachers, school information specialist, pupils and parents work together towards this goal. It is hard work. It takes a lot of dedication, leadership and diplomacy within the school itself, but as mentioned above, the results are positive. The School Library and Information Centre is a wonderful learning environment where pupils can learn all different kinds of skills.  The school librarians are the people who make this environment work.  Children leave the school with lifelong learning skills which they can use in their tertiary education and throughout their lives. 

In closing, I would like to draw your attention to one of my favourite quotations.  On first reading, it seems to refer to the use of pc’s (inside or outside the school):

“An instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.” 

This statement was made by Edward R. Murrow, at the RTNDA Convention in Chicago on October 15, 1958. He was referring to the new medium, television.

Helen Boelens,
Kalsbeek College,
Woerden.  The Netherlands.



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

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