The IL-DEM project is designed to answer three research questions which we set out in the post on 23 October. This post is our chance to start exploring elements of the third 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 are asking this because we believe that community councillors have a large role in gathering, sharing and processing information. This comes partly 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 those authorities are responsible, and to take such action in the interests of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable.
Section 51 (2), emphasis added by us
So community councils are legally directed to gather, process and share information on their citizens’ views. To do so, we believe they they need information skills. (They also need the time and/or financial resources to do so, but that’s another story.)
Also, in our experience, community councils receive information from Local Authorities and their subdivisions to pass on to citizens. These include information on neighbourhood partnership activities, funding opportunities, and weekly planning updates. These often need processing, such as working out which planning applications to share with citizens;translating from ‘officialese’ to language appropriate for blog-posts, tweets and emails; and combining information from official and other sources.
So in reality information flows through community councillors in at least two directions:
As we said in the previous post, many community councillors left formal education some time ago. So how are they to gain the information skills they need? We know that librarians are information (literacy) specialists. After all, the definition of information literacy in this project comes from the Society of College, National and University Libraries. The Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals has a similar definition. (Both definitions are at the end of this post.)
So while we hope that community councillors will have developed information skills during formal education, at work and from life in general, we suggest that librarians may be well placed to help develop and refine these skills. We also know that some libraries provide computing suites and some relevant training for their users, which we presume includes community councillors.
So we will investigate support offered by librarians to community councillors, whether it’s taken up and how it is received, and how this contributes to citizenship and social capital within community council areas.
Information literacy definitions
In order to be information literate, individuals need to understand:
- Their need for information
- The information resources available to meet such a need
- How to find the information in these resources
- How to evaluate the information accessed
- How to work with, and/or exploit, and/or disseminate the information accessed
- There are ethical considerations associated with handling information and standards for responsible use of it.
- Identify (able to identify a personal need for information)
- Scope (can identify current knowledge and assess gaps)
- Plan (can construct strategies for locating information and data)
- Gather (can locate and access the information and data they need)
- Evaluate (can review the research process and compare and evaluate information and data)
- Manage (can organise information professionally and ethically)
- Present (can apply the knowledge gained: presenting the results of their research, synthesising new and old information and data to create new knowledge and disseminating it in a variety of ways).
We’re using the SCONUL definition because it’s more recent and because, although it was developed for tertiary education, it’s claimed to be adaptable to different contexts (Goldstein, 2015b). Such adaptations include ‘open content’ (SCONUL, 2016), graduate employability (Goldstein, 2015a), the ANCIL project, for example (Secker & Coonan, 2011), (ANCIL, 2016), and the 2014 ACRL framework (ACRL, 2015).
References and footnotes
ACRL. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education.
ANCIL. (2016). ANCIL in practice.
CILIP. (2004). Information literacy-definition.
Goldstein, S. (2015a). A graduate employability lens for the SCONUL seven pillars of information literacy.
Goldstein, S. (2015b). Perceptions of the SCONUL seven pillars of information literacy.
SCONUL. (2016). SCONUL 7 Pillars through an Open Content ‘lens‘.
Secker, J., & Coonan, E. (2011). A new curriculum for information literacy: curriculum and supporting documents.
 A New Curriculum for Information Literacy
 Association of Colleges and Research Libraries