The Information Literacy Cookbook: Ingredients, Recipes and Tips for Success

David Bawden (Professor of Information Science, City University, London, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 25 July 2008




Bawden, D. (2008), "The Information Literacy Cookbook: Ingredients, Recipes and Tips for Success", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 322-323.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Academic or professional books with “quirky” approaches are usually to be avoided at all costs. So it was with a heavy heart that I took up my pen to review a text on information literacy written in cookbook style, with a matching title and appropriate chapter headings (“Information discovery stir‐fry”, “Information literacy beef bourguignon”…), with a cover depicting a set of kitchen scales, and with the biographies of the editors and chapter authors including their favourite foods and cookery skills. I was being unduly cynical. This is a good book, and the cookery metaphor, even if it does not please all readers, does not get in the way too much.

The editors declare this as a book to be used in the kitchen, to be dipped into when advice is needed but not to be read from cover to cover, and unashamedly by practitioners for practitioners. It therefore provides a useful complement to the more “academic”, and in some respects frankly more thorough and balanced, treatments provided in books such as those of Martin and Madigan (2006) and of Knobel and Lankshear (2008).

Apart from the opening scene‐setting chapter (“Appetisers and aperitifs”) and the conclusion (“Coffee, cheese, biscuits and petit fours”) there are seven main chapters, each relating to information literacy for professionals in seven major sectors: public libraries, health information, the commercial sector, the one‐person information service, school libraries, further education and higher education. The editors make a point, very rightly in my view, of arguing that information literacy, commonly associated with higher education, has a much wider area of applicability.

Each of the chapters provides a starter with an overview of the sector, and the importance of information literacy within it, before providing the main course of hints, tips, examples of best practice, resources and so on. There is inevitably some variability of approach here, since explicit support for information literacy has been practised on a greater scale in some sectors than others. There is much more practical experience to draw on, for example, in the higher education and schools sectors than in public libraries or in the commercial sector. However, the chapters on the latter two sectors are in some ways the most interesting in the book, since their authors have to address the issues of promoting information literacy to audiences to whom it is not a familiar concept, and its benefits may not be self‐evident.

The book is generally clearly written, and seemingly carefully edited, to remove undue differences in style between the chapters. There is a good detailed index. The style, consistent through all chapters is informal and direct, with much use of devices such as boxed “top tips”. People who like Delia Smith's How to Cheat at Cooking will love it; those of us who prefer the precision of Raymond Blanc or the wide single vision of Celia Brookes‐Brown may not. Generally it is a good style for its intended audience of busy practitioners, although the cookery metaphors of store cupboards, quick snacks, kitchen teams, and secret ingredients can get a bit wearing after a while.

This is a useful book, and both practitioners and students will benefit from some of its insights and ideas. It is best viewed as a complement to the deeper analyses of the subject in the references noted below.


Knobel, M. and Lankshear, C. ( 2008 ), Digital Literacy: Concepts, Policies and Practicies , Peter Lang , New York, NY .

Martin, A. and Madigan, D. (Eds) ( 2006 ), Digital Literacies for Learning , Facet Publishing , London .

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