New pedagogic challenges for the university library


This article is an account of why and how the Bergen University Library (UBB) is taking measures to improve information literacy among students. Information literacy goes far beyond the ability to use a library, its reference books, catalogues and databases. It represents a fundamental aid towards self-help and the building of a basis for lifelong learning in today’s information society. The American Association of College and Research Libraries (2003) defines an information-literate person as one who can:

  • Define and formulate the amount of information required
  • Efficiently seek and retrieve the information required
  • Critically evaluate the information and its sources
  • Integrate selected information into his or her own knowledge base
  • Use the information effectively to achieve the desired purpose
  • Understand the economic, juridical and social aspects of accessing and making use of such information and do so in an ethically and legally correct manner.

In the following we shall first describe the background to these new challenges and our ideas for user education at UBB.We shall then present the course in information literacy developed by the library.

New pedagogic challenges
The national Quality Reform programme in education has created new conditions for professional and pedagogic activities in higher education in Norway and the special libraries are working to adjust their services to the new situation. Quality Reform places an emphasis on problem-based learning and invites the development of working methods aimed at activating students. Evaluation of academic progress is based on the accomplishment of written tasks throughout the whole period of study. Students will be expected to assume greater responsibility for the selection and completion of project work. At the same time they must come to terms with an ever-increasing supply of information and rapid technological development. For example, UBB is making available more and more printed and electronic sources of information, including electronic books and periodicals. A wealth of information, however, is not the same as real knowledge. It is therefore essential for students to acquire the skills necessary in order not only to search for sources of information but also to evaluate, select and use them.

Undergraduate students have not been a significant target group for the learning facilities offered by the majority of faculty libraries in Bergen. Traditional work methods and assessment procedures meant that these students felt little need to make use of libraries. The Quality Reform initiative, however, has significantly changed the picture and the University Library is therefore developing a user-education programme that will also meet the information requirements of undergraduates. In line with many other special libraries throughout the world, UBB aims to become a learning centre and a central pedagogic resource for the university courses of study. In a learning environment of this nature the librarian becomes both a navigator of information and a pedagogic adviser. The aim is for students to regard the library as a life jacket as they struggle to stay afloat in a sea of information.

The faculty libraries in Bergen arrange for the physical components required to run a learning centre, such as various types of study places and teaching areas, but even more important to the project is the need to develop a pedagogic plan. The rest of this article will describe how the University Library intends to tackle the new pedagogic challenges presented by the Quality Reform programme, particularly with regard to one particular user group – undergraduate students.

The student in focus
From a pedagogic point of view a change is taking place at UBB in line with other institutions throughout the world; a change from a formal teaching model to a situated learning model. Courses of study at UBB have traditionally been based on a formal teaching model offering independent courses on information retrieval and library resources. The learning of information skills has been regarded as unconnected with the academic content of the chosen course of study and has therefore been the responsibility of the library alone. Students simply acquire skills they can put into practice when later required.

The change now taking place is a move towards a situated learning model where the process of learning is contextualised. The development of information skills is linked to situations where the student directly experiences their value. Students acquire information literacy at the same time as they work with academic material, while library courses are linked to those already existing in the various academic curricula. The library’s user improvement activities focus on the students and their information needs rather than on library resources. This model presents a challenge, since it is conditional upon closer co-operation between the library and the academic milieu and demands a combination of traditional librarian roles with new pedagogic skills.

Developing a course in information literacy
In order to meet the challenges described above UBB has since September 2003 been working on a project entitled ‘A teaching programme for information literacy’. The objective has been to develop a net-based and module-based course in information literacy aimed in the first place at undergraduate students. The course is to be used as the starting point in the library’s user-education programme, in other words – ‘face-to-face’ teaching. The course also constitutes an e-resource for the individual student and can be particularly relevant in connection with distance learning.Modules make it possible to offer teaching packages specially adapted to the particular area of study concerned.

The present version of the course appears in diagram 1. UBB’s course in information literacy: Front page.

The course consists of seven modules (upper half of the page) and a guide to resources (lower half). The first five modules (from left to right) are a translated and modified version of SWIM, the course in information literacy developed by Aalborg University Library in Denmark. SWIM was chosen mainly because of its solid, pedagogic infrastructure, which is well suited to problem-based learning. SWIM is based on Carol Kuhlthaus’ (1993) model of the information-retrieval process. It takes the position of the student as its starting point and from beginning to end lays stress on the problem-solving process.

Table 1 shows how the SWIM modules link together project work, information retrieval and the student’s emotional factors while working. The aim is that students should be made aware of themselves through these links and by combining this awareness with their own personal experience be better able to identify their own information needs and thus influence their search and retrieval behaviour.
Each module in SWIM has the circumstances of the student as its starting point in the process (‘Your situation’) and gives him or her advice and the means to identify and satisfy the need for information (‘Strategy for information retrieval’, ‘What is your best move now?’)

In addition to adapting the SWIM modules, UBB developed two modules of its own: Source Evaluation and Quotation Technique. By introducing these two modules the library aimed to take into consideration clear signals from the academic milieu that students need greater awareness and training with regard to source evaluation, quotation technique and, not least, quotation ethics. These are vital elements in information literacy, as illustrated by the definitions given in the introduction above.

Finally the course includes guides to the library resources most in use, both general and study-specific. The idea is that students can refer to this advice as they work through the modules and/or carry out a search.

Further work on this new course includes the development of a pedagogic programme explaining how the course modules can be employed in practical teaching situations. In addition the university library will be able to produce a variety of different courses specially adapted to specific subjects and target groups.

A successful pedagogic development at the university library is conditional upon closer co-operation with the academic departments. This requires a separate plan of action aimed at integrating the course – in all its different versions – into the subjects already existing in the academic curricula; a policy strongly recommended by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (2003), Philadelphia, USA. Compulsory subjects such as ‘Academic Writing’ and ‘Examen Philosophicum’ lend themselves well to such integration. Conclusion This article has dealt with Bergen University Library’s plan of action to tackle the new pedagogic challenges presented by the introduction of Quality Reform, particularly with reference to the needs of undergraduate students.With this new course the university library offers student users a teaching aid aimed at improving their information literacy during their period of study while at the same time helping them to create a basis for future lifelong learning. This represents an important assignment for the library as a learning environment, always assuming that the intentions of the Quality Reform initiative are acted upon by the university faculties.

Information literacy in Norway
In 2003 The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority granted financial support to two separate projects both aiming to develop internet-based courses in information literacy: The VIKO-project ‘The Road to Information Literacy’ is being carried out at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, while the project ‘Råd og VINK (Hints and Advice) is based on co-operation between the libraries and colleges of higher education in the county of Telemark and the Stord/Haugesund region in the west of Norway.

A presentation of these projects follows and reference will also be made to a third programme, ‘Education towards information literacy’, which is being carried out by the University of Bergen Library and which, similarly to the ‘Hints and Advice’ initiative, is inspired by the Danish project SWIM at the University of Aalborg.

The experience gained from these projects and the problems dealt with will form a basis for further efforts and new opportunities, such as closer co-operation with the various professional environments at universities and colleges of higher education. The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority also recognises the need for further efforts to widen experience in the field of information literacy.

Translated by Eric Deverill

List of references

Association of College and Research Libraries (2003)

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Last updated: 08 April 2004. Downloaded: 19 April 2004

Havnes, Anton (2000)

Modeller for læring i arbeid og utdanning – et sosialt perspektiv på læring (Models for learning during work and education – a social perspective on learning). I Raaheim, A.and K.Raaheim (Ed.). Læring hos voksne (Learning for Adults), Bergen: Sigma Publications.

Kulthau, Carol C. (1993)

Seeking Meaning. A Process Approach to Library and Information Services. Westport, Connecticut: Ablex

Middle States Commission on Higher Education (2003)

Developing Research and Communication Skills. Guidelines for Information Literacy in the Curriculum. Philadelphia: The Commission

University of Bergen Library (2004)

Undervisningsopplegg for informasjonskompetanse. Sluttrapport. (Teaching programme for information literacy. Final report) (Internet document). Bergen: Universitetsbiblioteket. Downloaded: 03 May 2004.

University of Aalborg Library (2003).

SWIM pædagogiske manual (SWIM pedagogic manual) (Internet document). Last updated: 05 Dec.2003. Downloaded: 30 April 2004. Aalborg: Universitetsbiblioteket.

Ålvik, Trond (2003)

Referat fra arbeidseminaret Hvordan kan vi legge til rette for utvikling av informasjonskompetanse hos studentene?(Report from a work seminar. How can we best organise the development of information literacy among students?) Holdt på Pedagogisk Utviklingssenter, Høgskolen i Oslo, den 23.09.03. (Held at the Centre for Pedagogic Development, Oslo College of Higher Education, 23 Sept.2003)

Higher executive officer, Bergen University Library.
Academic librarian, Bergen University Library.
Senior academic librarian, Bergen University Library.
Academic librarian, Bergen University Library.
Faculty librarian, Bergen University Library.
Senior academic librarian, Bergen University Library.
All authors were involved in the project A Teaching Programme for information literacy.