Information literacy consultation responses

CILIP have responded to the following government consultations which have had particular relevance for infromation literacy.

  • Digital skills in the UK written evidence to the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee (September 2014)

There are a number of big challenges ahead if the UK is to thrive in the knowledge-driven economy. Four stand out for CILIP:

  • The transition from manufacturing to a knowledge driven economy will see the value of intangible assets such as intellectual property rise.
  • Increased mobility within the workforce means the ability to telecommute is more attainable than ever. This brings with it an increased threat of competition, especially from overseas, as digital economic activity reduces dependency on location/proximity to clients and colleagues.
  • Recognising the “I” for information in ICT. Information needs managing well and the skills and expertise of information managers need acknowledging as they will be an essential component to future success in a knowledge driven economy. This includes important areas such as information governance (e.g. freedom of information, data protection, copyright), data assurance and security and more recently the use of big data
  • Ensuring a digitally and information literate population able to participate in all aspects of human life whether as consumer, employee, learner or citizen.

Libraries, especially public libraries and those serving educational institutions, are important in addressing the literacies necessary for life. Libraries should be a partner within all local digital skills partnerships. They have a presence in most local communities; they are trusted institutions; and they have skilled staff.

  • Comments from CILIP on the GDS (Government Digital Service) checklist for Digital Inclusion (January 2014)
  1. Digital inclusion has been a priority area for CILIP for the last two years. The online world has become an important part in all our lives and an inclusive society must embrace the digital. By digital inclusion we mean the use of technology to improve the lives and life chances of all people and the communities in which they live. CILIP believes that a digitally inclusive society will only be possible when there is a digital by desire policy in place with the strategies necessary to encompass everybody. This means creating an environment in which people want to engage digitally. There are three critical elements to achieving digital participation: motivation, skills and access.
  2. No one profession or organisation can achieve this alone and in order to achieve a proper direction and coherence to digital participation- local digital partnerships with an overarching national strategy is the way forward and the library and information community should play a full part in this.
  3. Library and information professionals have the skills to help enable online living. They are trusted in their communities and have a proven record of engaging with and motivating people through what interests them personally. Local knowledge is key in building confidence. People listen to people they trust. One to one, face to face support is what many people who are digitally excluded respond to, and libraries are one of the best locations for this.
  4. Library and information professionals have an understanding of information and an appropriate skills set to teach how to use, create and manage information in an ethical way. Information is the currency of our profession. People are no longer passive consumers of information but create a digital footprint in an online environment. Having a knowledge of and skills set around e-safety issues are also a part of achieving digital inclusion. E-safety is part of the new national curriculum. Many of our members work in school libraries and are well placed to teach this element of computing.
  5. Another large constituent of our membership are those working in public libraries and in a recent survey the government’s digital agenda got quite a few mentions. Our members are noticing a sizeable impact upon libraries notably in the large numbers of people turning to the public libraries for help due to a lack of digital skills and confidence in using new technology and the new ways of accessing services. Anecdotal evidence suggests that libraries feel they are fire fighting when they would like to do more developmental work.
  6. Our members also wanted training so they could more adequately help others. For example, knowledge of assistive technology is essential given the profile of the digitally excluded. At a recent CILIP digital participation summit organised around the three themes of access, motivation and skills - the following key issues were raised by those working in the library and information profession and other stakeholders in the digital inclusion area.

The continuing divide between rural and urban broadband was of more urgent concern than the fast/ superfast debate. Cost is a large barrier to use. This is something that the Google Fiber project in the US is finding...if you offer internet access at an affordable price (and for the people who are digitally excluded this has to be a lower price) people will sign up and use it. 45% of UK households with an annual income of less than £17,500 do not have a broadband connection (Ofcom, Communications Market Report 2012).There will always be a need for some free access. Charging for internet access is gradually becoming the norm especially since the NOF (New Opportunities Fund) came to an end. Where some internet access is offered for free this is usually restricted to very small parcels of time (15 mins/ 30 mins) which are not enough for people to properly engage with the new digital services.Access to the internet at home has fast become an indicator of academic success and some schools have begun to use the pupil premium to fund the loaning of tablets and other devices in an attempt to prevent a growing attainment gap.
Motivation and skills
Most people working in the field of digital inclusion who have experience in motivating the so called “nevers” and low level users, agree that people will become motivated when their particular needs/ wants/ desires/ drivers are identified and targeted be they personal, leisure, communicating with family members, music and media etc. and once a person’s basic skills level has been reached they need time to develop those skills. The UK would surely benefit by a rise in “next generation” users as well those who are digitally excluded. There is little point in counting a person as being digitally included if they only ever access the internet or complete a transaction once and then never again. It must become an integral part of everyone’s lives.
In Conclusion
The landscape is complex and there are not huge pots of money available to do the work we know needs to be done so partnership working is definitely the way forward but some sort of national framework would help. SCL (Society of Chief Librarians) in its National Offers (which includes work on staff training) has made a start with many of the issues raised by our members working in the public library service and we hope this will be built upon. We will continue to advocate for the key role library and information professionals play in closing the digital divide and make sure that there is a clarity  in the messages we put out to our potential partners.