This week some of my students are looking at information literacy (IL) in higher education. Now when you read articles or reports about students going to university and using the library, there is an almost inevitable cry of “Why haven’t they come better prepared?” or “They don’t appear to have been taught much about using library resources at school”. Now, I’m not saying that this is never true and some students clearly arrive at a university library knowing as much about library catalogues and online databases as they do about the procreational habits of the lesser spotted dogfish. But the point that I think is often missed is that information literacy in HE is not just about libraries and clearly, those bright young things starting their university careers aren’t completely clueless about finding and using information. So we have to be careful not to compare apples and oranges (or dogfish) as new students who have never been in a large university library are bound to feel a bit confused. I think my memory of going into Edinburgh University Library for the first time as a raw youth from a small town and working class background, was that it was cavernous and cathedral-like – and totally confusing. So I think there needs – to state the obvious – to be more talking done between teacher librarians and university librarians.
It’s March and one of the great pleasures of living by the sea in the south east of Scotland, is to see the first gannets flying past on their way to the Bass Rock. You’ll soon be able to see these majestic birds flocking to the Bass Rock via the webcams at the Scottish Seabird Centre, so check it out and get your students to look at it – wherever you and they are in the world. The gannets are returning from the West Coast of Africa, so are they information literate? Well, I’m sure they’d struggle with a university catalogue but their use of information is unquestioned – how would you get from West Africa to the Firth of Forth with no map, satnav or the power of speech?