European Approaches to Information Literacy

Several European scholars have discussed the concepts of information literacy and information skills. For example, the relationship between user education and information skills is discussed by Fjällbrant and Malley. They wrote:

Those involved in this development [user education for schoolchildren] (not all of the work is new) describe the work as 'information skills' (again not new). And although adding new terminology (or reinterpreting old terminology) to a subject already burdened with varying and often confusing descriptors must be viewed circumspectly, the use of the term information skills does usefully illuminate the nature of the new emphasis. It is an 'umbrella' term incorporating study skills, learning skills and communication skills, as well as library skills.... Of course there is nothing entirely new in all this - various librarians have argued along some of these lines before. What is new is that the personnel involved in this work have emerged the different backgrounds of teaching, educational research and libraries, bringing with them expertise and specialist knowledge from these different areas.

(Fjällbrant & Malley, 1984).


According to Rogers (1994), many authors argued about the term 'information skills' in the United Kingdom in the 1980s. Heather ( 1984) could find 'no general agreement on the boundaries of information skills' in her research review. Brake et al. (1985) found the term too vague and confusing.

Meek in "Developing resource-based learning: one school's approach" in 1985 seemed to accept the term but questioned whether there was agreement about what the skills actually were. She proposed that 'information skills' should mean skilled behaviour in respect of understanding as a result of successful interaction with a source of information and if this is so, two things result: skills cannot be taught apart from the context of their operation; we learn to study by studying, and because they are, in the end, indissolubly linked to personal knowledge, there is no set of skills to be 'acquired' as if one stretched out a hand and took them from the environment. Instead, they are developed as part of personal development.

Hopkins (1987) found that there is an unresolved dichotomy and confusion between the notion of information skills as
  • the retrieval and location of information, and
  • the analysis and synthesis of information, and the distinction between the two aspects is not clearly articulated in the literature.






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Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009