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

Matt Holland (Bournemouth University, uk

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




Holland, M. (2004), "Information and IT Literacy: Enabling Learning in the 21st Century", The Electronic Library, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 365-366.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Information and IT Literacy began as papers presented at the IT&ILit2002 conference held at the University of Glasgow in May 2002. The book is in four parts: part 1 (two chapters) is an overview by the editors; part 2 (five chapters) looks specifically at the SCONUL Seven Pillars model; part 3 (11 chapters) contains case studies and discussions of implementation issues; part 4 (seven chapters) reports a range of research studies.

Allan Martin makes a case in the first chapter for integrating the two topics of the book, information and IT literacy, into a single concept “e‐literacy”. The subsequent re‐titling of the annual eLit conference indicates the soundness of this approach, now widely accepted. He sets out nine challenges to institutions that might choose to adopt an e‐literacy strategy. They range from organisational challenges of strategy, culture, and politics, to the challenge of developing an appropriate pedagogy and theory of e‐literacy as well as practical challenges of staff development, collaboration and managing complexity.

Hannelore Rader reviews initiatives around the globe in e‐literacy. She notes the widespread acceptance of the need for e‐literacy and the adoption of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) information literacy competency standards for higher education by a number of countries. The standards have also been translated into a number of languages. E‐literacy, she argues is driven forward by the creation of new electronic learning environments, developments in teaching and learning such as independent learning and policies directed at creating effective e‐literate citizens.

Hilary Johnson in the opening chapter of part 2 reports on the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL's) Seven Pillars Model (UK). The model is elegant and well formed, but does not provide the detailed performance indicators and outcome measures that guide practical implementation. Peter Godwin in his chapter on the South Bank University's experience gives a comprehensive benchmark of seven competencies at five levels from Foundation to Masters. Dillon et al. from the Open University report on two information literacy projects (SAFARI and MOSAIC) underpinned by the key skills framework. J. Stephen Town looks at critical factors for success for implementing information literacy programs, and Janet Peters looks at research into disciplinary differences, concluding that these are not significant. The SCONUL project is contemporary with higher education funding council's (HEFC's) sponsored program to create subject benchmarks for broad subject/discipline areas. Neither the SCONUL project nor the idea of information literacy had a significant impact on this process although librarians (including this reviewer) did contribute papers to the consultation in their own area of subject expertise.

Part 3 contains a number of discursive papers and case studies. Webber and Johnston point to the importance of assessment, an area new to many librarians who traditionally do not take part in formal assessment. Stern reports research that, perhaps not unsurprisingly, concludes that students are uncritical of resources they find on the Internet and critical thinking skills should be central to any information literacy program. In a challenging paper Refell warns that initiatives like ECDL have their own pedagogical logic that puts technical competence before theoretical and discursive approaches. The remaining chapters report case studies:

  • McKeown and Curran – Queens University;

  • Martin and Wilson – Edge Hill;

  • Beatty – University of Calgary;

  • Hodges and Johnson – University of York;

  • Stubbings and McNab – Loughborough University;

  • Place et al. – RDN Virtual Training Suite; Pavey – University of Durham; and

  • Walters et al. – University of Buffalo.

The case studies are very informative. The overall conclusion is that successful e‐literacy programs have to adopt the planning, review and assessment models of mainstream teaching.

The final section contains research papers. Three projects concern schools (McNicol, Madden et al. and Sutton), in a reminder that the e‐literacy agenda is not limited to higher education. The remainder looks at academic attitudes to the library's role in information literacy (McGuiness), the Big Blue Project (Makin), transcultural aspects of information societies (Naghshineh) and a behavioural study (Hepworth). The diversity of topics suggests plenty of scope for future research in this area.

The conference at Glasgow was clearly a watershed in e‐literacy. Some of the material will be superceded; there have already been two eLit conferences since 2002. However, there is much of substance in this book. It is an important read for all who work in higher education.

Related articles