Libraries have long helped users to develop their capacity to spot where information is needed, and then to find it and apply it. From trying to deal with a health issue or finding a job, to the most advanced research, librarians build ‘information literacy’. With this people can be independent, and enabled to make the most of the information society.

Increasingly – and especially with the rise of the Internet, libraries have brought these skills online, helping people to understand how to use not only the content they find, but to take account of the context. Is it trustworthy? Is it complete? Is it biased?

Cover of EU Research ReportAs research recently published by the European Parliament (authored by Frank Huysmans) underlines, libraries are playing a role not just in promoting information literacy, but also media literacy. This reflects a broader trend away from being purely a building where users can read and borrow books, to a place for sharing, interacting and creating. IFLA’s work, alongside UNESCO, in developing and a unified framework for media and information literacy has provided useful tools for libraries and library associations in advancing this work.

There is evidence already that media and information literacy programmes make people into more confident, more skilled Internet users. More investigation will give further detail about what it is that makes for success.

The research also recommends a stronger focus on understanding the unique contribution of libraries, given their work outside of formal education institutions. Crucially, there is a need for properly staffed, properly resourced libraries that can really serve their communities.

Key Recommendations

  • The role of libraries in promoting all forms of literacy should be recognised in official policy documents
  • Libraries must be supported to become community learning centres
  • Include libraries in initiatives to define how to help people make the most of the information age
  • Focus European research programmes on assessing what works in promoting information literacy

Find out more about IFLA’s work on information literacy, and about how you can get involved