Information and IT Literacy: Enabling Learning in the 21st Century

Martin Guha (Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Guha, M. (2004), "Information and IT Literacy: Enabling Learning in the 21st Century", Library Review, Vol. 53 No. 9, pp. 465-466.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The title of this book is slightly misleading, and, dare I say it, slightly dated. “Learning to manage knowledge” might have been a slightly more appropriate target for the editors to have set their authors.

I was slightly taken aback by a new MSc student this year (qualified nurse, been off work for nigh on 20 years, coming back as a mature student to do a masters degree in family therapy). I was showing them how to use the library catalogue and said “click on here” and she said “what do you mean, click?” It is some time since I came across that one. It will be very hard getting her up to speed during an already intensive one‐year course, but it must be done. Not only is a proportion of the information that she needs for her course most readily available in an electronic form, but she is going to end up treating informed patients who have access to NHS Direct ( or Mental Health Care ( or the National Electronic Library for Mental Health (, and she is going to find that some patients she will come across are already receiving computer‐based therapies. On the other hand, I have to remind myself (and I think that a few of the contributors to this book should remind themselves) that learning how to use information technology is not enough. Our student will still learn most of what she needs from attending lectures and seminars, from reading conventional textbooks (so much easier to handle than e‐books) and printed journal papers, and from talking with her colleagues in the common room. She will learn how to handle patients in the clinic under the direct supervision of experienced therapists, and, unless she decides on the sort of research project that requires statistical analysis with SPSS, she should be able to manage to write up case notes and family projects with the minimum of technological assistance. What she must learn is not just “how to use IT,” but, how to integrate knowledge from remote sources seamlessly with the knowledge that she already has, and with the knowledge that she will gain from direct contacts on her course. A much more difficult task.

This book arose from the IT and Ilit 2002 conference, held in Glasgow in 2002. Like all such books it suffers from being bitty, acronymic and anecdotal – a large number of librarians from British and American universities giving very short presentations on the ways in which they dealt with particular problems without having had much chance to see each others' contributions, and with insufficient editorial overviewing to bring out the common factors and points of general interest. On the other hand it has all the advantages of such books, in its immediacy, in the presentation of detail, and, especially, in that it is written by practitioners who have faced practical problems rather than by academics studying them at one remove. It consists of short detailed chapters on topics such as the work of the SCONUL Task Force on Information Skills, on information literacy training at the Open University, on ILIAD, on the RDN Virtual Training Suite, on carrying out a C&IT skills audit, on a project to measure students' information literacy, and so forth.

I am slightly surprised that CILIP decided to publish this in such an elegant and expensive form. Some books need to be properly bound in hard covers. They are going to be treasured, re‐read and bequeathed to future generations. Other books need to be devoured now. Most academic librarians, and a great many academics, would benefit from thinking about some of the practical issues raised by the contributors to this book now, and from trying to integrate ideas into their current work. I suspect that in a few years time it will look rather quaint.

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