Work on the IL-DEM project is now underway. Hazel has introduced the project already, but here I hope to explain what we’ll actually be doing. We’ll start from the belief that information literacy – the ability to source, process, store and pass on information – is a key part of community councillors’ duties.
This stems from the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973,
In addition to any other purpose which a community council may pursue, the general purpose of a community council shall be to ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which these authorities are responsible, and to take such action in the interests of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable.
Community councillors (CCllrs) are also often given information to pass on to their communities, so such information flows might be very simplistically modelled as
However, we strongly believe that information comes from and goes to many more places than just LAs and ‘the community’.
First step – literature review
As with any academic project, we’ll start with a literature review. Much of information literacy research focuses on formal learning environments (schools, colleges etc). We’re interested in how adults learn to research, process, and disseminate information, and we conjecture that a lot of this happens in other places. For example, an adult may be simultaneously any – or all of – parent, child, sibling, worker, colleague, organisation member and many other roles. Each of these, we conjecture, will offer opportunities to receive and share information.
So the literature review will focus on two aspects,
- lifelong learning, as modelled in the National Information Literacy Framework
- life roles.
These should then underpin two of our key research questions:
- What are the current practices of CCllrs in exploiting information channels for engaging citizens in the democratic process?
- What are the relationships between (1) information behaviours, (2) literacies (skills and capabilities), (3) resources, and (4) knowledge and experience, in the acquisition of information literacy amongst Community Councillors?
Addressing the first question will allow for an evaluation of how CCllrs (1) access and understand information on their duties and rights; (2) keep up to date with local developments of relevance to the communities that they serve; and (3) disseminate information to their communities, and identify where future efforts need to be directed to improve the skills and practices of this group.
Second step – data gathering
Our empirical work will involve interviews with around 20 community councillors across Scotland – from dense urban areas to sparse rural area, from well-off areas and deprived areas – so that we get as complete a picture as possible.
We will also gather information from community council liaison officers (CCLOs) about their support of CCllrs’ information literacies. We’ll also ask CCllrs about the support they would ideally like to receive. This connects with our third research question:
- What are the actual, and envisaged, roles of public library services in supporting the work of Community Councils, particularly with reference to the acquisition of information literacy amongst Community Councillors?
We also intend to work with public librarians, to find out about the support they offer (and would like to offer). This, we hope, will help inform national policies both for CCs and for libraries.
Third step – sharing our findings
Because this project touches both academic research and professional practice, we’ll publish in several ways:
- this blog, and our individual research blogs (Bruce, Hazel, Peter),
- our Twitter accounts (Bruce, Hazel, Peter)
- a project report (mostly aimed at the project stakeholders)
- a summary of the project report for the Information Literacy Group web site.
- conference and journal submissions for wider audiences