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Scottish school libraries and citizenship

  1. Scottish School Libraries and Citizenship Lauren Smith Department of Computer and Information Sciences University of Strathclyde, Glasgow @walkyouhome
  2. A report on the work of the Learning Lending Liberty project, a CILIP ILG funded study into information literacy provision in the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum and General Election. The paper presents research findings and recommendations for practice.
  3. “The lesson I learned then was that if citizens are to make informed decisions in a democracy, and further, if they are to have the accurate needed to influence the decisions which affect their lives and those of others—to take advantage of their right to know—they need assistance through a maze of resources.” Durrance, J. (1984). Armed for Action. NY: Neal-Schuman, p. xi.
  4. Values of Librarianship “A fundamental aspect of libraries is strengthening democracy.” (Gorman 2000) “Library and information services contribute to the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom and help safeguard basic democratic values and universal civil rights.” (IFLA FAIFE Statement on Libraries and Sustainable Development 2014)
  5. Questions •How did school libraries support the provision of information and information literacy in the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum and General Election? •What barriers do school library services face when providing information and information literacy relating to political events? •What are the information needs of young people in relation to political participation?
  6. Online Survey •Produced in Qualtrics, an online survey tool •Distributed online, via mailing lists, Twitter, Facebook, emails direct to staff members and via library service managers •Scottish Government data indicates that there were 249 members of school library staff across Scotland in 2015 (Scottish Government 2016) •Received 174 responses in total, with 83 completed surveys. The completed responses represent approximately a third of Scottish school library staff
  7. Respondent Locations Edinburgh City (11.34%) Aberdeenshire (8.25%) North Ayrshire (6.19%) Dundee City (6.19%) North Lanarkshire (6.19%) Glasgow (5.15%) Perth & Kinross (5.15%) Aberdeen (5.15%) Highland (5.15%) Angus (4.12%) Argyll & Bute (4.12%) Scottish Borders (3.09%) Moray (3.09%) Falkirk (3.09%) East Renfrewshire (3.09%) Stirling (3.09%) South Ayrshire (2.06%) Shetland Islands (2.06%) Clackmannanshire (2.06%) East Dunbartonshire (2.06%) Inverclyde (2.06%) East Ayrshire (1.03%) Fife (1.03%) Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles) (1.03%) West Lothian (1.03%) Orkney Islands (1.03%) South Lanarkshire (1.03%) West Dunbartonshire (1.03%) Dumfries & Galloway (0%) East Lothian (0%) Midlothian (0%) Renfrewshire (0%)
  8. Follow-Up Interviews •Conducted by telephone/Skype with six participants •Lasted between half an hour and an hour •Semi-structured, with all participants being asked the following questions: • Can you think of any examples of activities (of any size) you were involved in at school in the run up to the referendum and general election? • What do you think might be some benefits of being involved in activities around political participation? • What do you think might be the reasons for schools and libraries not getting more involved in work around political participation?
  9. Young People’s Information Needs The topics young people wanted to know about included: •The main political parties; •Who their constituency representatives were; •History of the electoral process; •Manifestos from the main parties; •Political issues; •What the outcomes and repercussions of the events were likely to be.
  10. Response % Computers with internet access 93 97% Books about social and political issues 91 95% Books about the political system 85 89% Newspapers and magazines 67 70% Citizenship lessons 47 49% Politics lessons 32 33% Displays about politics 27 28% Other (please specify) 16 17% Which of the resources below are available for students in your school?
  11. Information Provision • Displays (e.g. General Election) • Setting up and running dedicated web space information, including election apps and websites • Ephemeral material and manifestos - collections of material on both sides of the referendum debate • 'Read Around...' lists • Providing library resources to support lessons • Materials for debates and research topics (e.g. PSE extension work) • "The Day" website and "Issues Online"
  12. “We hold our authentic schools elections mirroring exactly the process for the general election, Scottish Independence referendum etc. (poll cards, voting slips, same election furniture used in adult elections, full signage, training for pupil election officials) and all taking place in the library (used as a polling station for the day).”
  13. Information Literacy Support • Courses at all stages S1 - S6 • Including political topics in information literacy (e.g. apartheid, political systems) • Using political topics as the focus of research projects and discursive essays to develop political and information literacy • Sessions delivered in the library • Embedded in S1&2 literacy classes delivered by class teachers • RISK programme (Research and Information Skills) course • Trip to Aberdeen University library for training • Ad hoc workshops for Advanced Higher students • Tutor time
  14. “I provide information and resources on social issues, racism, charities, human rights, poverty, issues surrounding illiteracy.” School librarians do political work
  15. Type of support provided Examples Provision of resources Displays, books, lesson support Information literacy instruction Research techniques Provision of space Venue for events e.g. public speaking and mock elections ICT space for subjects/lessons relating to citizenship Presence as a knowledgeable individual Pupils ask for help and advice relating to participation Relationship with teaching staff Making new staff aware of library resources Supporting research for lessons Presence as a ‘political’ individual Facilitators of discussion and debate Political Information Provision
  16. Barriers to information and information literacy provision
  17. Barriers: Personal • Not feeling confident or knowledgeable enough • Personal discomfort with engaging in political discussion • Not feeling it is relevant to library work • Not feeling it is a priority
  18. Barriers: Practice •Lack of culture of library engagement in school •Lack of time and resources •Not feeling it is appropriate •Risk aversion of schools •Complexity of the issues •Lack of age-appropriate resources about democracy and political issues and participation
  19. “We do not have up to date resources in our library for modern studies but are trying to build this up.” “Although we don't stock newspapers (due to budget restrictions) students are instructed in accessing good quality news online. We have a small range of magazines that have been donated but students are instructed how to access magazines online.”
  20. Some respondents indicated that political education is seen as the responsibility of specific departments within schools: “Citizenship and politics lessons are provided by the Humanities and Citizenship Faculty, not by the library.” “Modern Studies cover many aspects of the political systems both in Scotland and in the wider world.”
  21. Barriers: Policy •Perceived policy of neutrality of the library •Council policies around politics •Lack of clear guidance about what information provision and support is appropriate
  22. “They will be taught about politics and about voting etc. but we are not allowed to promote any political parties.” “Any kind of political campaigning is not allowed in [redacted] schools at all.” “As an employee of [local authority redacted] I am not permitted to discuss, debate or indicate my political preference within the school.” “We need to be very careful not to influence pupils in terms of party politics. Staff are not allowed to express political bias in any way.”
  23. “I wish I knew how to engage them more on these topics. I feel that the school is concerned with keeping the tone so neutral that they are frightened to engage at all - we are regularly sent Scottish Independent newspapers but I am not supposed to put them out for pupils to view as we do not have the opposing viewpoint also available. It is political correctness to the point of censorship.”
  24. Key Points • Different levels of political information and information literacy provision across schools • Lack of clarity about what they can and cannot do in terms of information provision and involvement in discussion about political issues • Variation in the degree to which information literacy is embedded in the curriculum • Variation in the role that libraries and library staff play in the education of pupils • Library staff are keen to support pupils’ educational and social development, including their political and information literacy • Pockets of good practice
  25. Recommendations •Explore where the boundaries are with reference to how ‘political’ it is possible to get in school context •Identify activities taking place in school that library staff can support •Share best practice for examples of information literacy activities that may be replicated •Record impact where possible as evidence of library value
  26. Potential to support Curriculum for Excellence “The librarian is ideally placed to see commonalities between sometimes disparate subjects in order to suggest interdisciplinary projects”
  27. The Four Capacities
  28. “In some aspects the work I do in the LRC is representative of the Global Citizenship ethos but it is not a formalized part of the lesson or support planning process.”
  29. Responsible Citizens Attributes: • Respect for others • Commitment to participate responsibly in political, economic and cultural life Capabilities: • Develop knowledge and understanding of the world and Scotland’s place in it • Understand different beliefs and cultures • Make informed choices and decisions • Evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues • Develop informed, ethical views of complex issues
  30. Contribution of School Librarians Librarians can help students understand: • Why they are seeing certain information in a personalized news feed; • The agendas and political leanings of the companies that provide news feeds; • The lack of regulation around and transparency among popular profit-driven news platforms; • Profit-systems behind information e.g. platforms allowing push notifications for profit, not public service.
  31. “By shutting those doors you’re saying ‘we’re not doing this, we’re not having these discussions’ and that leaves young people without any guidance towards good places to find information or places to get ideas or even to start the discussion. Because if you get kids going they will come up with amazing ideas.”
  32. “It’s like with the internet. We don’t teach kids how to use it different ways, we just block it, and if you block it, it just goes underground and they’ll do it on their phones or they’ll be doing it secretly. It’s not that they’re not doing it – but we just have no way of helping them.”
  33. Librarians can help students understand: •Why they are seeing certain information in a personalized news feed; •The agendas and political leanings of the companies that provide news feeds; •The lack of regulation around and transparency among popular profit-driven news platforms; •Profit-systems behind information e.g. platforms allowing push notifications for profit, not public service.
  34. Strategy for School Libraries School Library Advocacy Project working on including school libraries in How Good Is Our School document School libraries need to be statutory School libraries need to be properly staffed with qualified and trained library workers and clear mission statements Robust quantitative and qualitative data is needed around the impact of libraries on attainment and other outcomes as evidence for claims
  35. Thank You @walkyouhome