Information literacy in the Finnish university libraries

Information literacy (IL) skills are a con-tinuum and the level of IL skills evolves throughout our lives. University libraries shoulder their part of the responsibility for life-long learning of IL skills especially for that part which addresses scientific information, target groups ranging from stu-dents, who are starting their academic car-reer, to senior level researchers.

The national IL cooperation of the university libraries

During the past decade, IL cooperation between the university libraries was strengthened when The Council for Finnish University Libraries launched the Information Literacy Curriculum project (Juntunen & Lehto & Saarti & Tevaniemi, 2008). During the project, the IL network of Finnish university libraries was initiated. Currently, Turku University Library coordinates the network.

The project published the Recommendation for universities for including information literacy competency in the new degree structures (2004). The re-commendation has been a useful tool for the Finnish university libraries. During this decade, it is time to reconsider the recommendation and therefore a renewing of the IL recommendation is planned in the near future.

Another IL cooperation body of national importance is the IL work group of The Finnish Research Library Association which brings together different library sectors, such as IL teachers from the university libraries and the libraries of the applied universities. The IL work group arranges an annual IL seminar which is an important annual IL event in Finland. This year the theme is the impact evaluation of the IL teaching which is a challenging theme. Luckily enough, so far in the Finnish universities there has not been much pressure to seriously evaluate the impact of IL teaching. Although the students often give feedback which demonstrate their satisfaction with the IL teaching, it is difficult to provide evidence of the impact of the IL teaching of the university libraries.

Each university develops its own model: the University of Helsinki case

The libraries at University of Helsinki have a long tradition of teaching user education classes, as it was called back then, dating back at least to the 1960s.

At the university of Helsinki, each one of the numerous libraries had built its connections with the department and faculties in their own way. The national IL project 2004-2006 provided the same model for all the libraries and boosted the integration of IL teaching into the curricula. The restructuring of curricula due to the Bologna reform further aided the improvement of IL teaching and curricular integration because librarians were pushed to be proactive and build and strengthen the cooperation with the faculties and other teaching units at the university.

Each university library in Finland has modified its own model or application how to provide IL teaching for students. The University of Helsinki ‘Pick’n Learn’ Information Literacy Learning Menu (Figure 1) arose from the needs and challenges of the multidisciplinary university.

The university has four campuses, eleven faculties, and dozens of different fields of study, ranging from theology to veterinary medicine. The faculties have different teaching traditions and each degree programme has its own needs for information literacy teaching. As a result, the IL model needs to be flexible. The basic aim is to provide IL teaching in some form or another for all the students at the beginning of their studies, on the bachelor’s and master’s level and during the doctoral studies. The main part of the IL teaching is integrated in the curricular courses and the timing and content of IL teaching is tailored to the needs of each course (e.g. Kakkonen and Virrankoski, 2010).

In some faculties, the library offer credit-bearing stand-alone IL courses which are administered by the library. As timing is crucial in IL teaching, in addition to curricular IL courses, open courses are needed. The open courses are targeted to the university students and staff, and to external customers.

Self-study material is requested by students and it complements the face to face instruction. The production and updating of the online material is a constant challenge and more material and better material is always needed.

Tailored courses and one to one counseling is also offered in order to satisfy the varying needs of heterogeneous clientele.

‘Pick’n Learn’ Information Literacy Learning Menu tries to cater for all those who want to develop their IL skills in the fields of the University of Helsinki.

Information Literacy Coordinator at the Helsinki University Library


Juntunen, A. & Lehto, A. & Saarti, J. & Tevaniemi, J. (2008). Supporting information literacy learning in Finnish universities - standards, projects, and online education. In J. Lau (Ed.), Information Literacy. International Perspectives, IFLA publications (pp. 117-132). München: Saur. Kakkonen, A. & Virrankoski, A. (2010). Implementation of the Finnish University Libraries National Information Literacy Recommendation into Academic Studies at the Kumpula Science Library, University of Helsinki. New Library World, 111(11-12), 493-502. Recommendation for universities for including information literacy competency in the new degree structures. (2004). Retrieved from recommendation.pdf (accessed 22 October 2012).