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Entries in Higher Education (16)


ECIL Conference Dubrovnik 20-23rd October 2014

The second European conference on information literacy took place in Dubrovnik this year. Bill Johnston was the rapporteur for the conference this year and with his permission I enclose his summary of all 175 abstracts from the conference. It is an excellent summary of the conference content.

John Crawford

ECIL 2014

Commentary on the Abstracts

Bill Johnston, Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Strathclyde, Scotland, UK 

The following impressions are based on my reading of the abstracts for papers, posters, pecha kucha sessions, workshops and panels accepted for ECIL 2014. 

During the conference I will be accessing a variety of sessions in order to present my further impressions and conclusions in the closing session of the conference.  I look forward to meeting colleagues and hearing their views on the current status of information literacy and the directions for future research, practice and advocacy.  

Introduction – What are we talking about in 2014?

The elements which constitute information literacy, as described in the abstracts, are mainly based on long-standing accounts of information literacy, such as those entailed in the ACRL Standards, Big6 model and other professional contributions. Consequently ‘assessing’ ‘searching’ ’ managing’ ‘evaluating’ ‘applying’ etc. are recurring key terms used to express the concept of information literacy.  Additional terms in use include:

  • digital literacy;
  • health literacy;
  • visual literacy;
  • infographics;
  • media and information literacy;
  • information behaviour;
  • trans-literacy;
  • post-literacy.  

This range of terms suggests an opportunity for a focused debate on the nature and scope of information literacy at this point in time. 

A frequently used framing strategy in the writing of the abstracts is to position the significance of information literacy in relation to broader notions of: 

  • information society;
  • digital society;
  • multimedia society;
  • knowledge economy;
  • the 21st century.  

These entities may suggest a relatively homogeneous perspective, with connotations of a particular kind of socio-technological formation and political economy.  However complementary and alternative conceptions of information literacy are represented in the abstracts, which should serve to extend the discussion. For example:  

  • indigenous perspectives;
  • post-colonial experiences; 
  • critical information literacy;
  • socio-cultural  interpretations of information literacy;
  • radical information literacy;
  • Green perspective.

Again an opportunity to discuss where and how information literacy connects to wider social and economic formulations and movements.  

In essence we have the opportunity to talk about not only the micro levels of information literacy experiences, individual’s searching for example, but also the broader social, cultural and historical contexts that encompass them. 

Methodological Features

A number of studies are founded on research, with a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods in use.   Research approaches and designs include:  

  • correlations between a chosen population’s perceptions and capacities, and an established professional/governmental framework for information literacy;
  • comparative evaluations of specific technologies and course designs;
  • phenomenography;
  • ethnography;
  • action research;
  • grounded theory;
  • bibliometric analysis and systematic literature reviews 

Equally a number of the studies offer detailed accounts of projects, new service designs and collaborative initiatives aimed at improving practice and raising the profile of information literacy in particular institutions. 


The bulk of contributions is from higher education institutions and mainly constituted by examples from university library practice. They illuminate multiple aspects of academic practice including:

  • adoption of educational theory and concepts as a basis for pedagogical decision making;
  • introduction of relatively new constructs, such as ‘Threshold Concepts’;
  • expanding/evaluating the range of technologies, particularly mobile devices, entailed by blended learning;
  • gameification of instructional design and teaching practice;
  • emphasis on active, collaborative, inquiry-based pedagogy to engender independent learning, critical thinking and a wider range of academic and professional skill;
  • acknowledgment of the importance of systematic course design as a key element of academic practice;
  • focus on assessment of learning;
  • specific initiatives for postgraduates and post doctoral students;
  • discipline specific examples, including LIS education programmes;
  • dealing with plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

Dissatisfaction with ‘one-shot’ teaching sessions is evident and linked to moves to develop longer sequences of integrated activities, with a much greater engagement with disciplinary and professional curricula and university-wide values and strategic objectives.  Consequently there is attention to larger units of analysis and action such as Freshman/First Year Experience initiatives, and institution/department-wide reform and re-design of curricula.

It seems clear that many university librarians are determined to make their universities more information literate, and to do this by moving their teaching and instructional services forward as part of educational development in their organisations. 

Primary and Secondary Schools 

A significant number of contributions focus on this sector and include:

  • implementation of national curricula;
  • teacher/librarian collaboration;
  • inclusion of parents and families in supporting pupils;
  • online ‘risks’ and ‘safety’;
  • entailing information and other literacies in curricula and school practice;
  • measures to improve pupil information literacy; 

Public Libraries

Whilst there are a small number of contributions, there is a strong sense of ‘mission’ to provide information rich environments for the widest range of patrons to meet their varied purposes, and to foster the skilled use of information technologies in the service of that mission.  There is an equally strong sense of combating inequality and helping marginalised sections of the community.   Given the capacity of public libraries to impact large and varied populations, the number of contributions should not be taken as a potential weakness for the conference.

National Studies

A variety of studies are provided including: 

  • information literacy in citizen development;
  • public libraries contribution to socioeconomic inclusion;
  • sectoral and cross-sectoral overviews of information literacy policy and practice;
  • whole age group studies;
  • specialist groups studies;
  • historical accounts of information literacy;
  • development of a professional community of practice for information literacy;
  • database development;
  • implications of copyright legislation.

The range of national origins of these contributions goes beyond the formal borders of Europe and underlines the strong international character of the conference.


The themes I identified are diverse; some are discussed singly in their own right, whilst others are entailed in particular contexts.  Themes include:

  • nature and definition of information literacy;
  • relations between research and practice;
  • nature and meaning of ‘reading’ in understanding information literacy;
  • implications of changes in copyright arrangements in digital publishing;
  • generational approaches, seniors as well as younger age groups;
  • media socialisation.

Conclusion – Where are we going in 2014?

It is difficult to sum up the riches promised by the abstracts, however my short formulation of the direction of travel is – creating information literacy and lifelong learning for digital citizenship in the 21st century.


Bill Johnston



Information literacy is for life, not just for a good degree 

Good to see Information literacy is for life, not just for a good degree by Dr Charles Inskip a lecturer at UCL's Department of Information Studies and a member of CILIP's Information Literacy Project Board. 

In addition to the information on the web page there is a  literature review which includes work by John Crawford and I. 

Charles would like to know:

  • Have you been involved in teaching or researching workplace information literacy skills? 
  • What do you think are the main challenges around this area?

Let him and the CILIP Information Literacy Project Board know your comments via the web page

About CILIP's Information Literacy Project Board

"The main objective of the Information Literacy Project is for CILIP to be seen as a key stakeholder and participant in information literacy across a range of domains. Digital inclusion continues as an important issue for the project but information literacy in the workplace is a new area which we have just started to explore. Charlie Inskip’s literature review is a first step towards understanding this interesting area and our exploration will continue with an information literacy in the workplace event towards the end of the year.


Digital literacy and graduate attributes - request

Request for examples from Andy Jackson at the University of Dundee 

Andy is working on a project looking at how digital literacy training is used specifically to address graduate attributes or employability (as opposed to DL activities which develop competences for students for use on their courses).

For example, he is looking for examples of digital literacy training addressing the following:-

  • Imagination & creativity
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Ethical behaviour
  • Commitment to social justice
  • Understanding of diversity
  • Global & environmental responsibility

Does anyone have any examples from their institutions of where this is done?

Responses to




SMIRK a new information literacy resource for use with mobile devices

SMIRK is now live at

SMIRK stands for small mobile information literacy realworld knowledge. It is an information literacy and communication skills resource developed especially for use with tablets and smartphones. It is developed from SMILE, but has simplified content and structure. SMIRK is completely free for everyone to use and has no login.

Please have a go! I would really appreciate your feedback (contact on the content and usability of our new resource!


Marion Kelt


LILAC 2014 key note - Alison Head / Project Information Literacy

Alison J. Head, Ph.D. is a Research Scientist in the University of Washington’s Information School and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She is the founder and director of Project Information Literacy (PIL), an ongoing research study in the US that has investigated how college students conceptualize and operationalize research tasks for course work and “everyday life” use. Since 2008, Alison and her team of PIL researchers have interviewed and surveyed over 13,000 undergraduates at 57 US four-year public and private universities and colleges and two-year community colleges. In 2013, Library Journal named PIL one of the “Big Four Research Studies” about library users. PIL is available at:

Alison is a good speaker and many of her findings resonated with my findings from 2005. 

Her presentation Truth Be Told: How Today’s Students Conduct Research is now available along with the other LILAC 2014 presentation