The public libraries and infomation literacy in a Nordic perspective

At the meeting of the Nordic central and county libraries in February 2003 in Stavanger, Norway, Jens Thorhauge, director general of the Danish National Library Authority, announced the idea of a common Nordic project on information literacy in public libraries. On behalf of the authorities in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark, the Danish National Library Authority made an application to Nordbok on the subject ‘Strategies on Information Literacy in Nordic public libraries’. The application was successful and the project received a grant of 75,000 NOK.

Representatives for the county/central and public libraries in each of the Nordic countries were assigned to carry out the project. The members of the group are: Margrét Ásgeirsdóttir (Iceland); Leena Marja Tikkanen and Leila Wirtanen (Finland); Helena Kettner Rudberg and Kerstin Olsson (Sweden), Hildegunn Hestness and Eva Mostraum (Norway); Annette Brøchner Lindgaard, John Nørskov Hansen and Mads Gaml (Denmark) with John Nørskov Hansen and Mads Gaml as project managers.The project is divided into two main parts. Part one is an analysis of initiatives and activities on the subject in the Nordic countries. Part two is the completion of a Nordic conference on the subject in association with NORDFOLKlit.

The analysis intends to describe the following sub-items:

  • Policies on national level in each Nordic country regarding information literacy as an essential skill for the citizen of today
  • The library as learning centre – defining the subjects of lifelong learning and informal learning in connection with the term of information literacy
  • The librarian as teacher – new skills and roles in association with teaching proficiency, theory of teaching and planning the education of the citizens
  • What’s going on in the Nordic public libraries – a research into and description of the actual activities in the Nordic public libraries in connection with the subject
  • Library learning activities on the internet
  • Accentuate the good examples – the highlights
  • Library strategies on different levels: local/national, librarians/teachers/ others, public libraries/educational institutions/research libraries.

The project group has held two oneday meetings in Copenhagen and in Stockholm. The agenda was to work out a common definition of ‘information literacy’ and to organise and prepare the analysis in each of the Nordic countries. The definition of the term is based on the theories of Louise Limberg and Carol Kuhlthau and inspired by the work of Anette Skov, The Royal School of Library and Information Science, Denmark. The analysis contains the sub-items listed above, and the project group was responsible for the more detailed description in each country of information literacy on the national level and for the research into concrete activities in the public libraries. The report is being prepared during August and September 2004 and is scheduled for publication in November 2004.

Some of the most important conclusions are expected to be: Finland is the only Nordic country to have an explicit national policy on information literacy. In the other Nordic countries information literacy is stated as a purpose and an intention in for example the library acts and in general education acts. All the Nordic countries are running a great amount of activities associated with learning, libraries and information literacy, and while it is possible to extract some good examples, but there also seems to be a great need to work out a stricter and more operational definition of the term information literacy in relation to the task and roles of public libraries. A final conclusion is bound to be that one of the main challenges is to create strategies and alliances across sectors and different library types. All this – and other conclusions and suggestions from the report – will be the main item at the conference for the Nordic central libraries in Malmø, Sweden in February 2005. Later on in 2005 it is the intention to arrange a broader based conference on the subject in cooperation with NORDFOLKlit, directed at public libraries, research libraries, the education sector and others with a particular interest in the subject.

Head of development, Gentofte Central Library.