an international conference held at Malmoe University on 15-16 April, highlighted current trends in information literacy and focused on the library as a learning-resource center from a global as well as a domestic perspective. The conference provided clear proof of the renaissance currently taking place within the library community, and this new vitality was vigorously and enthusiastically expressed by the participating lecturers, who talked about existing developments and future visions of the library as a place of learning.
One such development was the creation, in 1997 in the United States, of the National Information Literacy Institute (NILI), now known as the Institute for Information Literacy (IIL). The focal point of the talk given by Cerise Oberman, dean at Plattsburgh State University of New York, was the work behind the establishment of this institute as well as the goals that the Institute would like to achieve in order to assist local libraries and schools in meeting people's needs when it comes not only to searching for and accessing information but also to teaching people how to evaluate information and use it wisely. To reach this objective of educating people, especially students, to become information literate, one has to ensure that those who teach are also knowledgeable across the entire spectrum of information literacy. It has been necessary to redefine the future role of the library as well as that of the librarian. One aspect of this work has been to redevelop the old concept of the "teaching library", and thus a key component in the success of this project has been the role of the instructional librarian.
The initiatives that the IIL has taken include providing "immersion programs" that prepare librarians to become effective teachers of information literacy programs, promoting "community partnership programs" and strategies for assisting individual institutions in creating and implementing effective information literacy programs, and ensuring that information literate competencies are integrated into the instructional curriculum. It is worth noting that students find it hard to adapt to IL in other areas if it is taught as a segregated subject. The institute stresses the importance of integrating all information literacy components into subject-specific courses.
The work of the IIL is supported by both libraries and such organizations as the American Library Association, the Association of College & Research Libraries, the American Association of Higher Education, and the National Forum on Information Literacy.
An example of how to transform a library into a learning resource center was furnished by Graham Bulpitt, Director, Sheffield Hallam University, who told about the work behind, and the success of, the Adsetts Centre, an integrated learning center within the University. Sheffield Hallam is a national professional university geared to resource-based learning that puts an emphasis on independent learning and the potential of new technology. The Centre was intentionally built to accommodate all aspects of information literacy in an integrative environment. This meant that the staff had to consist of integrated teams that shared common job schemes and were familiar with all IL sources, such as printed, audiovisual and multimedia materials, but were also well versed in information technology, including computer-based learning materials and network services. The staff, having "across the board skills", is capable of giving advice and tutorial support with regard to all services relating to library, information, computing and learning resources. The Centre provides support to teaching staff on curriculum initiatives as well as production facilities for multimedia, TV, photography, graphics, and audiovisual work. The building is designed to bring services together in an inviting and attractive open-plan milieu that is easy to use as well as environmentally sound.
Paulette Bernhard, Professor at Université de Montréal, gave a demonstration of a selection of Internet tools available to information-literacy instructors that clearly showed the endless opportunities and possibilities provided by the new technology. The availability of electronic resources and references is constantly growing and changing, making it necessary for instructors as well as users to be familiar with various ways of accessing information, to possess the know-how to evaluate and organize information as well as the ability to synthesize and apply it in a coherent and correct way. For successful information retrieval one has to master the art of questioning. Some of the sources demonstrated were Library Explorer, Internet Detective, and Netskills.
Another potential way of using the library as a learning and resource center is throughthe establishment of virtual classrooms as an aid in computer-based distance education. Professor Rolf Attström of Malmoe University demonstrated how modern technology and the Internet can revolutionize distance education by allowing students from varied backgrounds and countries to come together and study, in this case, a course in virtual interactive periodontology. The virtual classroom is built around a system of problem-based learning conducted online but with the aid of CDs containing images and film—a virtual library with references to recommended literature and qualified reviews, links to other sources, a web board, and a bulletin board.
The success of online learning is based on the idea that participants stimulate learning, while teachers provide content as well as an agreed set of principles that will act as guidelines for both students and teachers. Students should influence the make-up and maintenance of the web pages and, preferably, at some point, meet their teachers and fellow course participants.
The online learning project DEDICATE, which enables students from five Central and Eastern European universities to pursue courses in Training for Information Literacy, was another example of computer-based learning. The work that has gone into this project was described by Nancy Fjällbrant, Deputy Director, Chalmers University of Technology. She emphasized that functioning and worthwhile online courses must meet university standards and fit into an academic curriculum. The Internet as a learning environment provides an outlet for searching for information within a specific subject area that can be incorporated into a distance-education course. The goal that the DEDICATE project hopes to achieve is to create courses tailored to the needs of selected user groups within their parent universities. The primary targeted group of participants are library and academic staff.
Ken Dowlin, library planner, consultant and former head of the San Francisco Public Library, showed how virtual schools and virtual libraries are fast becoming a reality. The Virtual School of Library and Information Science uses information technology to extend the SLIS program beyond current distance and time constraints and utilizes innovative E-library, E-classroom, and E-text (the possibility of creating any book needed) in its programs. The school collaborates with the California State Library System, Stanford University and San Jose State University as well as private partners such as NetLibrary, Divicom, and Silicon Graphics, Inc. The school's quality is guaranteed by the American Library Association Accreditation for Librarians and the California Department of Education Certificate for School Media Specialists. The greatest challenge for creating a successful virtual school, according to Mr. Dowlin, lies in the ability to generate and create a community of scholars that can interact, not only in virtual time but also in real time.
All these innovative changes and challenges to libraries are affecting library architectural language, and subsequently the shape and form of library buildings. The importance of library design in integrating virtual possibilities into the physical space has been shown to be just as important in the creation of a well-functioning learning environment as is the need to acknowledge that within libraries space is multi-functional. It is desirable to find a balance between self-service possibilities for users and the services provided by qualified staff. Elementary questions are solved by users, while complicated information problems are handled by librarians. As pointed out by Pierre Evald, Senior Lecturer, Royal School of Library and Information Science in Denmark, libraries are more than just an information center. They are also a cultural, social, and knowledge center.
As Graham Bulpitt said in his talk, life-long learning is now the accepted norm, and to meet this challenge effectively universities must develop programs of study that will meet the needs of new students and exploit technology and information resources while maintaining a high degree of flexibility. Future students will see themselves as consumers, and consequently demand in-depth service fromacademic and library employees. This will merely accentuate the need for providing an information- literate staff. As Cathy-Mae Karelse, former director of INFOLIT in South Africa, put it, the need for learners to go beyond their institutional boundaries and encompass new resources for information will increase as will their need to be able critically to judge, evaluate and use accessed information.
The conference concluded with a call for the establishment of a Nordic Center for Information Literacy.
18 April 1999