Information Literacy Programs at the University of Ljubljana

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  • INTERNATIONAL PER! Information LiteraUniversity of Ljublby Alenka Sauperl, Silva Novljan,

    Available online 14 December 2006

    Slovenia is a country of about two million people with anarea covering 20,273 square kilometers. It now has threeuniversities. The first, the University of Ljubljana, was

    first integrated into a regular course curriculum in the Facultyof Economics and Business of the University of Maribor in1973. Fortunately when the Library moved to a new building

    and Head, Principal Library of Humanities, Faculty of Arts,The University of Ljubljana, Sloveniabalenka.sauSilva NovljaDepartmenScience andand ConsuThe NationUniversity Lbsilva.novljAndreja GrcThe

    4300294 The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 33, Number 2, pages 29community. This allowed librarians to prepare a new informa-tion literacy program, which included a two-hour lecture in thelibrary of an individual school, a two-hour lecture at theUniversity Library and two hours of practical work for firstyear students, and an additional lecture on subject-specificinformation resources in the third or fourth year of study.4

    Similar programs started at the University of Ljubljana atabout the same time where the Central Technical Library hadthe leading role. During the academic year of 1972/73, it

    t of Library and InformationBook Studies,

    ltant for public libraries,al andibrary, N;ar is the Librarian, Faculty of Sports,sity of Ljubljana, N.and a new information system was established, the library andinformation resources became more visible to the university N;n is the Assistant Professor,Department of Library and InformationScience and Book Studies,reference collection, the nature of library catalogs andsearching for literature in those catalogs. This program was

    Alenka Sauperl is the Associate Professor,established in 1919 after World War I when Slovenia becamepart of Yugoslavia after having been in the Austrian Empiresince the tenth century. Post World War II socialist Yugoslaviaadded the second university, the University of Maribor in1975.1 After Slovenia became an independent state in 1991 thethird university, Primorska University, was established inKoper (see Fig. 1).

    The universities have university libraries and the individualschools usually have libraries as well. The libraries are a part ofthe national library and information network. There has been atradition of close cooperation among the libraries in the country.The system was developed in the 1950s and was not interruptedeven after Slovenia gained independence. During most ofYugoslavias socialist years and the difficult first years of thenewly independent Slovenia, this system was vital for thesurvival of several libraries, and provided important informationto all levels of government, management, and the general public.

    Most university students take four years of coursework inwhich the vast majority of courses are required and only a veryfew are elective. It takes an additional year to complete theprogram, in which students usually have to write and defend athesis. Professors often prepare textbooks for their courses.These textbooks and some additional literature is Programs at thejanaand Andreja Grcar

    sufficient to pass the exams. Such an approach to studying,unfortunately, does not prepare students to use informationeffectively in an information rich society. A task such as writinga thesis requires a greater knowledge of information literacyskills than can be learnt just by reading a set text. These skillscan be provided by librarians or professors. All universitylibraries have already established information literacy courses,but some have been more successful than others in integratingthem into the regular curriculum. This experience is not uniqueto Slovenian librarians. The fact that the Bologna Declarationstresses the importance of information skills for every com-petent member of the society, gives librarians a new opportunityto implement information skills in the study curricula.2


    Instructions on how to use information resources and informa-tion literacy programs as we now know them started in the1970s. Dr. Stanislav Kos from the University Library ofMaribor at the University of Maribor pioneered an informationliteracy program at that university.3 He was certain that theknowledge of information resources in academic libraries was aprerequisite for one to study successfully and therefore a vitalpart of instruction in scientific work and research methodology.His program for all first-year students at the University ofMaribor started in 1970. As he only had two to three hours oflectures, he had to limit his topics to essential information onlibraries and their organization, information resources in a

  • Figure 1Map of Slovenia Indicating the Location of the Three Universitiesoffered programs to undergraduate and graduate students fromall schools of the University of Ljubljana, who wanted to attendthe classes.5

    In 1974, The National and University Library in Ljubljanaheld a conference for librarians responsible for informationliteracy programs at various academic libraries of the Uni-versity of Ljubljana. A product of this conference wereguidelines for user education programs. The guidelinesincluded the topics and instruction methods for the entireprogram. These guidelines were sent to the schools of bothuniversities. Many librarians were discouraged by the smallresponse from the schools authorities to this initiative.

    Interest in information literacy programs was renewed tenyears later when the committee of academic libraries of theassociation of Yugoslav library societies (Zveza drustevbibliotekarjev Jugoslavije) formed a working group for prepar-ing a new user instruction program. Breda Filo was a member ofthis group.6 She was the first professor at the Department ofLibrary and Information Science and Book Studies to includeinformation literacy in the courses of the departments regularprogram for librarians. Filo and the working group prepared a

    program that included learning information resources, this timeas a required assignment for students under the guidance oftheir subject professor and the librarian.7

    The basic idea of this program was that it had to beintegrated into regular coursework. Filo thought that teachingthe use of information sources per se was a waste of timebecause students are not able to associate the informationseeking process with the problem solving process. The basicgoals of the program were therefore:

    ! Students should understand that the library and informationservices are sources of information. Librarians are there toprovide students help in seeking information.

    ! Students should learn to search for information and to usethe retrieved information in their everyday work and lifesituations as needs occur.

    ! Students should understand the organization and function ofdifferent information sources and accept that searching forliterature is only a part of accomplishing their task, whetherit be an assignment, project, or work requirement.

    ! Students should learn to search, select, and evaluateinformation sources and library materials.

    In 1993, Filo wrote that there was little chance that any suchprogram would be integrated into the university curriculum,but that all efforts had to be made to introduce such programsand make professors aware of the necessity of such programs.This was particularly important because students were by thistime receiving basic training in information skills in primaryand secondary schools.

    In fact, the experiences of school and youth librarians were ofgreat help to Filo and her colleagues during their preparation ofthe information literacy program for university. Primary andsecondary schools started to implement information literacy underthe title Book and library education (in Slovenian knjizna inknjiznicna vzgoja) thoroughly and systematically in 1971.8 Thefirst experiences of primary school libraries and youth librarieswith these programs were used to develop the national standards

    for school libraries in the 1980s.9 Information literacy programs(in Slovenian knjiznicno informacijsko znanje) for the primaryand secondary school level had a modern approach and includedcurrent and emerging information technology and dealt with theneeds of the contemporary information society. They are nowboth obligatory and receive occasional updates: the secondaryschool program10 was updated in 1997 and the primary schoolprogram11 was updated in 1998.

    The program for primary schools has been obligatory since1999. It consists of four hours of information literacy in each ofthe nine academic years. There is also an elective thirty-five-hour course in the ninth grade. In these cases, informationliteracy is taught in collaboration by both a subject teacher anda librarian. The primary school program focuses on basicknowledge of the library and library materials required forindependent use of library resources. The information literacyprogram has been obligatory in the secondary schools since2000. There are fifteen hours of teaching by a subject teacherand a librarian. It focuses on search strategies and the

    March 2007 295

  • evaluation of retrieved information for independent andsuccessful problem solving by using information resources.

    Although at the time no university curriculum or study

    Slovenian catalogs and databases, international databases,using the Internet (three hours in groups of seven students).program included information literacy, in 1989 library instruc-tion became a requirement in the national standards for aca-demic libraries.12 Standards were proposed by the nationallibrary association and accepted at the Ministry of Culture ofthe Republic of Slovenia, which is not responsible foracademic libraries. This means that the standards were andare not obligatory for university authorities. In 1999, Dolgan-Petric13 commented that in spite of the librarians wideexperience with these programs, even basic library instructionis not provided to students of all schools at the University ofLjubljana, the level and number of lectures are very diverse,depending on the interest of schools and individual profes-sors. Her review shows that in 1997 information literacyprograms were offered in all libraries at the University ofMaribor and 69 percent of libraries at the University ofLjubljana. In total, 1543 hours were offered to 9809 students.In 2003,14 twenty-three of forty-two libraries at the Universityof Ljubljana offered library instruction programs. They offered2000 hours of instruction to 9200 students. Only some librariesmanaged to integrate information literacy or at least instruc-tions in the use of information resources into their regularstudy programs. They were successful at the BiotechnicalFaculty,15 the Faculty of Medicine16 at the University ofLjubljana, and at the Faculty of Economics and Business at theUniversity of Maribor.17 Dolgan-Petric found that this was thecase also at the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Faculty ofMathematics and Physics, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineer-ing, the Faculty of Sports, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty ofTheology, and some departments at the Faculty of Arts and theFaculty of Natural Science and Engineering at the University ofLjubljana. Some of these faculties started their informationliteracy programs in the 1970s.18 Two successful programs atthe University of Ljubljana will be presented as case studies inthe following two chapters.


    Information literacy is mostly a neglected topic within theFaculty of Arts. However, a few years ago, a successfulcollaboration between a departmental library and facultyemerged.19 The librarians introduced information literacy as apart of the course Introduction to Geography in the academicyear 1998/1999. All first-year students are required to take thiscourse in their first semester. The course includes lectures andpractical work and consists of the following topics:

    1. An introductory tour of the library and a meeting withlibrarians. An introduction of library rules and informationresources in the library (one hour in the library, one hour inthe map collection, groups of fifteen students).

    2. A lecture by the geography professor or his/her teachingassistant on basic information science, with the emphasis oninformation sources for geography (one two-hour lecture forthe entire class of about seventy students).

    3. Practical work with bibliographic databases and otherelectronic information sources for geography: local and

    296 The Journal of Academic Librarianship4. Student assignments: every student has to prepare four assign-ments during the entire semester. The assignments require asearch for information in different information sources.

    5. Review and grading of the assignments with a discussion ofproblems by the geography professor or his/her teachingassistant.

    Dolgan-Petric and her fellow librarians have also preparedteaching materials: a chapter in the new edition of the textbook(4.2 Sodobni informacijski viri Contemporary informationresources)20, brochures on searching information sources, etc.Some of the materials are also available on the Internet (e.g.,course materials)21.

    A survey to evaluate the program was conducted in the firstyear of this program.22 The results show that students have mostof their problems in the selection and evaluation of informationsources retrieved in from databases and the Internet. Studentswere also not careful enough in their assignments. They werequickly satisfied with inappropriate sources and one-fourth ofthem had to repeat the assignment because of this mistake.Students did not have many difficulties in searching thematicbibliographic databases (e.g., Geobase-Geography) but struggledwith searching the Slovenian union catalog COBISS/OPAC.

    The positive outcome of the new program was that first yearstudents were more independent in searching for informationsources in the library than more advanced students who had notattended the program. The negative result was, as expected, anincreased workload for the librarians. They were not relieved ofany of their previous duties. Nor were they paid for the extrawork. The university does not consider librarians as teachingstaff, so whenever librarians join professors for informationliteracy programs or prepare library instruction programs, theydo it for personal satisfaction and professional commitment,not because they are required to do so. At present, theuniversity, generally, does not appreciate what contributionlibraries can make in information literacy.


    The information literacy program is a part of the course SportsInformatics (Slovenian Informatika v sportu) at the Faculty ofSports...


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