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The Librarians' Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC) 2009

Rosie Jones reports on a three-day conference about Information Literacy held by CILIP CSG Information Literacy Group at Cardiff University over 30 March - 1 April 2009.

LILAC celebrated its fifth birthday in style in what proved to be a fantastic venue, Cardiff University. This occasion was commemorated with tour t-shirts available for all the delegates. The conference proved more popular than ever with a record number of presentations submitted and over 240 delegates from across the UK and worldwide. There were also seven funded places for Library students to attend, a fantastic investment in the profession for the future.

30 March 2009

With an extremely full conference timetable, the event began with pre-conference sessions covering diverse topics. In the first hour, there was a demonstration of RefWorks tools and services, the University of Plymouth's project to explore barriers to student use of online information retrieval and a workshop by the University of the West of England on iSkillZone [1], a resource to aid students and academics in their use of the library. The next sessions covered Imperial College London's Medicine and Information Literacy Group set up to support librarians teaching Information Literacy (IL) and my colleagues from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) who talked about a University-wide project the Library has been involved with called Aid4Assessment, which aims to evaluate the use of voting devices in assessment within Higher Education (HE). The pre-conference workshops proved to be almost as popular as the main parallels with many people arriving early in order to attend them.

The main conference began with an introduction from Cardiff University's Vice Chancellor Dr David Grant who, after welcoming us in Welsh, told us about the history and demographics of Cardiff University. He talked about the need for tackling the 'University of Google' head on. His positive attitude towards the Library and librarians was evident and this was reflected in the investment Cardiff University is making in a new state-of-the-art library.

University of Cardiff, venue for LILAC 2009

University of Cardiff, venue for LILAC 2009

Keynote: Melissa Highton: Managing Your Flamingo

The opening keynote was by Melissa Highton who is the Head of Learning Technologies Group (LTG) at the University of Oxford. The session was intriguingly titled 'Managing Your Flamingo', an analogy from Alice in Wonderland, where Alice is trying to play croquet and every time she goes to hit the hedgehog either the flamingo's head pops up or the hedgehog rolls away; this was used to represent the need for all components to work together to achieve their goal. Melissa spoke about different types of literacy, (digital, media and information) and questioned whether they were all comparable concepts or subsets of each other, and how far IL should integrate itself into these other literacies. This was clearly a hot topic for the University of Oxford as they were due to hold a conference on digital literacy the day after LILAC finished. Melissa felt that librarians should contribute to a digital literacy framework and encouraged us to edit and contribute to the digital literacy page on Wikipedia.

The skills of graduates and employees were questioned, with Melissa stating that many staff are developed for jobs that they already have, taught to use technology they already know, and to solve problems they largely understand. The importance of teaching IL to international staff in HE was also raised. All graduates, not just computing, needed modelling literacy and Oxford is currently working on a Modelling4all project [2]. Melissa predicted that Youtube U (an educational YouTube) was just around the corner, in much the same way as the University of Oxford has had a presence on iTunes U since October 2008.

30 March: Parallel Sessions

Enhancing Student Engagement with Knowledge and Research through Evidence – based Information Literacy Training

Angela Newton & Amanda Harrison, Leeds University

This was the third year that Angela and Amanda had presented at LILAC on this topic. Previous sessions covered the importance and reliability of IL assessment tools to provide evidence-based IL training and the relationship between IL skills and academic performance. The 2009 session covered the IL assessment tool that Leeds has developed for its undergraduates which was created in response to the University IL strategy. This tool has 26 multiple-choice questions based on six of the seven SCONUL IL pillars. A 2-year University-wide assessment project was funded testing students in years 1-3 across nine schools. This aimed to provide the schools with evidence about students' IL abilities and about the appropriateness and effectiveness of current IL provision. The results from the schools were then presented and the future of the project discussed.

Networking Evening

After a full opening day to LILAC the first social occasion was held in Caerphilly Castle. This was a beautiful venue, with fabulous food and plentiful wine. The chatter and buzz in the hall was evident and the evening certainly allowed for ample networking opportunities. Members of the original LILAC committee also cut a fifth birthday cake.

31 March 2009

Keynote: Patricia Iannuzzi: Transforming for Next-generation Learners

Patricia Iannuzzi is Dean of Libraries at the University of Nevada, and she also chaired the multi-association task force that composed the Information Literacy Competency Standards for HE. She served on the American Library Association (ALA) President's Special Committee on IL Community Partnerships and on the ALA Task Force for 21st Century Literacies. Patricia talked about the current IL situation in America where there is a particular focus on HE, and where politicians, parents, students and employers are all asking the same question 'what are they getting for their money out of HE?'. She talked about a number of key papers and books that refer to IL or the principles of IL. This included the Spellings Commission that asked two basic questions; firstly 'how can we ensure that college is affordable and accessible?' and secondly 'how well are HE institutions preparing our students to compete in the new global economy?' The 1998 Boyer Report talked about a shift to research-based learning. Patricia mentioned Derek Bok's book Our Underachieving Colleges (2006) which discusses failures in US education. She pointed out that Bok talks a lot about skills and abilities and that his writings are not dissimilar to IL statements but use different terminology.

Patricia referred to the Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) initiative (the work of the AAC&U) which showed that employers wanted students with better IL skills and so focused on the kinds of learning that will help students to succeed in this area. Patricia stressed that a consensus about learning outcomes is emerging across HE where our common goal is student learning and that the foundation for this is student engagement. She talked about the work of Marc Prensky and in particular his article 'Engage Me or Enrage Me', which is an area she highlighted as worthy of more investigation. She then played a video of people who are engaged with gaming environments such as Half-Life and World of Warcraft and examined what motivates them in this setting. Words such as community, immersive, customisation and problem solving were all used and Patricia questioned whether we could create similar environments to engage our students. She then discussed consumer literature about engagement and the gaming industry in Las Vegas which use all these motivating elements to appeal to their audiences. Patricia concluded with what this means for libraries and summed up that we should move away from the library being the centre of the campus and towards being the centre of student learning.

Keynote: Leslie Burger: From Information Literacy to Digital Citizenship

Leslie is the director of Princeton Public Library and also runs a consultancy called Library Development Solutions. She discussed public libraries delivering IL everyday to one person at a time, day in day out, year after year. She emphasised that information really is power and very much a currency of our democracy. There was recognition that the Web has changed the way we do business, as information has become a commodity and that good information relies on good research. However, she acknowledged that there is too much information to ever use it all. She found the Google Book Settlement a source of concern, because it would appear that they have the potential to sell libraries back their own information. Leslie used the phrase 'librarians on steroids', asserting that the Web has made us even better and that we are skilled information managers who can save people time and money.

She encouraged us to see each interaction with our user groups as an opportunity to change someone's life and referred to a particularly interesting paper from the ALA called 'A library advocate's guide to building information literate communities'. She recommended that we need to be monitoring trends continuously, market ourselves as much as possible and make information-seeking fun to solve real-life problems. She encouraged us to invest in technology, reach out to those who need you the most, lead the way, go for the unexpected and, most importantly, never give up.

30 March: Parallel Sessions

Help Viola: Using an Alternate Reality Game for Student Induction

Rosie Jones, Emily Shields and Bob Glass, Manchester Metropolitan University

On day two I presented my own session with fellow MMU colleagues on the ARGOSI Project. Sheila Webber was in the session and has written a blog post about it [3].

Information Obesity: Critical Theory and Information Literacy

Andrew Whitworth, Manchester University

This session talked about the term 'information obesity', which is caused by passively consuming information and not using it to produce knowledge. Andrew claims that information obesity has arisen due to increased quantities of information, a lack of technological awareness, increased dynamism and pace of change, economic pressures on us to consume and a lack of management of information resources. In the ideal world information is a resource available to all, with each of us taking as much as we need and no more. More information may be located at the Information Obesity Web site [4].

Forget about the 3Rs, Our Students Need the 3Cs: Citation, Connectors and Critical Thinking!

Jacqui Weetman DaCosta, The College of New Jersey (USA)

Having heard Jacqui's fantastic introduction to Lesley Burger's keynote I was compelled to attend her session and I was not disappointed. The session detailed IDS 102, an IL online course [5] at the College of New Jersey which is mandatory for all new students and has been running since 2004. It consists of six modules which are assessed using the VLE. Students need to pass the course in order to graduate. There were initial concerns from the Library as this online course replaced induction for the students and face-to-face contact was still seen as key. Only 50% of the participants actually go through the tutorial, the rest go straight to assessment, so in an attempt to encourage students to work through the module before trying the assessment, the number of attempts has been reduced from unlimited to three. Students have a pre- and post-course assessment that identifies whether the course has improved their IL knowledge. Questions include identifying a journal title in a citation, combining search terms and choosing the appropriate database.

The SMILE Project: A Blended Learning Approach to Information Literacy

Katy Wrathall, University of Worcester

The Study Methods and Information Literacy Examplars (SMILE) project [6] is an online course created to support learners. It was funded by JISC and is a joint venture with Imperial College London, Loughborough University and the University of Worcester. We were shown the similarities among IL, Digital Literacy and Media Literacy definitions, a theme that emerged very clearly in Melissa Highton's keynote. SMILE is composed of re-purposed content from Olivia (Imperial College London) and InfoTrail@Lboro (University of Loughborough) together with new content from the University of Worcester, including videos, podcasts and quizzes. Delivery is achieved via a blended learning approach including face-to-face sessions, practical tasks, discussions and tutorials. In the future the University of Worcester aims to make subject specific versions, and SMILE@Work for non-HE employers and employees. The SMILE learning objects are available to download and re-purpose via JORUM and the Information Literacy Group Web site.

Conference dinner

After yet another full day there was a quick turnaround to the conference dinner that was held at the National Museum of Cardiff. The evening started with the galleries being opened up for delegates to wander round with their glasses of wine. It provided a great opportunity for discussion and networking. After a fabulous dinner, the IL Award was presented to Ronan O'Beirne for his development of PoP-I [7] an online learning programme for IL designed for public libraries. Then it was on to a live band who kept everyone dancing until the early hours.

1 April: Parallel Sessions

The ISSAC Project – Integrating Study Skills into the Architecture Curriculum

Stephen Walker & Denise Harrison, The University of Sheffield

The ISSAC Project set out to develop a package of learning resources to support students within the School of Architecture. This package was designed for all levels of students from new undergraduates up to PhD post-graduates. It also aims to encompass a variety of disciplines that are associated with Architecture such as Philosophy, the Arts and Social Sciences. There appears to be no real mapping of what IL skills are needed in architecture and benchmarks do not give further guidance. However, some disciplines such as Town and Country Planning include more specific statements around the IL definition theme.

The South Bank Information Skills Benchmarking Project's [8] approach has been adopted and modified to provide a framework for applying the SCONUL Information Literacy Framework 'Seven Pillars' to architecture. The pillars have been mapped onto five levels defining what a student should be able to do by the end of a particular level in the course. The audit also identified three anchors (opportunities) where connections could be made to relevant IL skills. The aim is a consistent strategy for supporting the School of Architecture's core learning and teaching activities and the design, development and implementation of a coherent suite of study skills resources available to all students at the University, relevant at every level and for every module of their courses.

Are We Sharing Our Toys in the Sandpit?

A discussion on issues surrounding the reuse and re-purposing of electronic information literacy learning objects in the UK

Nancy Graham, University of Birmingham, Rebecca Mogg, Cardiff University & Nicola Siminson JORUM

The session started with a short presentation outlining what was already available and highlighted resources such as Birmingham Re-Usable Materials (BRUM), the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) and Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT). The presentation began by looking at the excellent Information Literacy Resource Bank [9] created by Cardiff University. This resource contains a wealth of learning objects in manageable bite-size chunks, including engaging flash animations and podcasts. Cardiff is happy for the objects to be reused providing staff are contacted and told how this will be done. The presenters also discussed the RLO-CETL [10] a five-year project between London Metropolitan University, University of Nottingham and University of Cambridge, creating 150 high-quality learning objects on a variety of subjects including study skills. The BRUM [11] Project created 15 RLOs to support the development of information skills, which were again a mixture of quizzes, podcasts and captivate demonstrations. MERLOT [12] is a searchable collection of peer-reviewed online learning materials, which includes IL. A Community of Practice model based in Ireland called iSCoP (Information Skills Community of Practice) [13] was highlighted. It encourages users to share learning resources and information, and facilitates regular meetings. The question was put to the group whether we should set up a CoP ourselves? Finally, JORUM was discussed, including a current development it is working on called Community Bay [14]; it sounds as if might facilitate a similar environment to that of iSCoP.

Then it was over to the participants for what proved to be a lively debate based on a series of prompted questions discussing areas such as barriers/enablers to reuse, whether there should be a community of practice, quality control and updating of learning objects.

Keynote: Conor Galvin: Technologising the HE Learning Space: Red Pill or Blue?

Conor Galvin is a lecturer and researcher at UCD Dublin where he holds the President's Award for Teaching Excellence. This highly entertaining session was perfect for the final LILAC keynote and apparently had been adapted in the early hours after the conference dinner. Conor talked about the multiple identities a person presents which are fluid in today's society. He talked about the 'millenials', i.e. the students who have grown up over the turn of the 21st Century and whose lives are truly 'technologised'; they have been brought up with technology and are used to using it. He drew attention to the fact that our usual strategy is to use the university Virtual learning Environment (VLE) to engage with this type of learner; however the VLE tends to be rather bland and their reaction to it is often negative. The look and feel of the VLE is usually quite the opposite to sites like Bebo, YouTube and Scrapblog. Conor questioned if we were doing enough to engage our learners.


LILAC's fifth year proved to be yet another busy but enjoyable event. Both the conference sessions and the social side of LILAC were a great success. A special mention must be made of the lovely Cardiff University dragon that all participants received in their delegate bags. In my opinion, LILAC just seems to get better every year and I cannot wait till next year's conference. Other people obviously share this view as they have been actively blogging [15] and twittering [16] about the event.


  1. iSkillZone Web site http://iskillzone.uwe.ac.uk
  2. Modelling4all project Web site http://modelling4all.nsms.ox.ac.uk/index.html
  3. LILAC conference – ARGOSI blog post http://information-literacy.blogspot.com/search/label/lilac09
  4. Information Obesity: the Web site http://www.informationobesity.com
  5. LINKS tutorial Web site http://www.tcnj.edu/~liblinks/
  6. Information Literacy Support Material Web site http://www.lilacconference.com/sirlearnalot/
  7. PoP-I Web site http://www.bradlibs.com/intranet/POPi_testOneRO/ProjectWelcomePage.htm
  8. The South Bank Information Skills Benchmarking Project Web site
  9. Information Literacy Resource Bank Web site https://ilrb.cf.ac.uk
  10. RLO-CETL Web site http://www.rlo-cetl.ac.uk
  11. The BRUM project Web site http://brumproject.blogspot.com/
  12. MERLOT Library and Information Sciences Web site http://libraryandinformationservices.merlot.org/
  13. iSCoP Web site http://www.ndlr.ie/iscop
  14. Jorum Community Web site http://community.jorum.ac.uk/
  15. Social Software, libraries & e-learning blog
  16. Twitter #LILAC09 http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23lilac09

Author Details

Rosie Jones
Deputy Library Services Manager
Manchester Metropolitan University

Email: r.j.h.jones@mmu.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.library.mmu.ac.uk/

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