Finding information

Jakobstad-Pietarsaari is a bi-lingual city of roughly 20,000 inhabitants on the west coast of Finland. The city library has carried out various information search projects with young people.

The goal of the Idefix project was to promote concrete forms of cooperation with the primary school and the library. The emphasis was on information searches with fifth- and ninth-grade students. Monica Borg-Sunabacka, director of the library’s children and adolescent section, and Anne Unkuri (BBA), acted as project managers.

“In daily library work, you notice that the pupils, those seeking information, need a lot of help in finding information. Few teachers are aware of the pupils’ abilities in finding information, the actual processes in obtaining information”.

The teachers’ motivation was closely linked to the project. A total of over one hundred teachers took part. Idéfix was implemented with the pupils by doing information searches for specified subjects. The objective was to make both teachers and students aware of the different phases involved in obtaining information.

“The project leaders went through a description of Dr. Carol Collier Kuhlhau’s information search process with the ninth-grade class.”

The teachers gave much positive feedback about the project. All of them had learned something new. Obstacles to learning were, for example, a selection of subjects, which were too difficult, or the presentation of too much information in one library visit. Library employees also learned much during the project – including the ways in which librarians are different from teachers.

“The approach and methods of teachers and librarians are different,” says researcher Louise Limberg. Unkuri and Borg-Sunabacka explain, “Students communicate with a teacher in a different way from communicating with a librarian. Librarians go forward in an information search and think about different search methods and possible alternative answers together with the pupil. Teachers seldom see the whole process of obtaining information, they want to control what the pupil is doing. These different methods can cause misunderstandings between librarians and teachers, but they can also complement one another.”

“In instruction on library use and information searches nowadays, we note how important it is to teach the basics over and over again,” Anne Unkuri and Monica Borg-Sunabacka comment.

According to them, a prerequisite of teaching about information searches is that teachers and librarians maintain trust and respect for one another’s professional skills.

Mervi Heikkilä

Library Director
Nurmo municipal library
mervi.heikkila AT nurmo.fi

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Director of libraries, Seinäjoki