[Library and Information Science] Library and Information Science Trends and Research Volume 2 || Chapter 7 Developing Contextual Perceptions of Information Literacy and Information Literacy Education in the Asian Region

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<ul><li><p>Chapter 7</p><p>Developing Contextual Perceptions ofInformation Literacy and InformationLiteracy Education in the Asian Region</p><p>Daniel G. Dorner and G. E. Gorman,with the assistance ofNicole M. GastonAbstract</p><p>Taking as its starting point the view that information literacy (IL) andinformation literacy education (ILE) are essential for national, socialand personal development in countries of the less developed world, thischapter looks at how context informs our understanding of the natureand process of IL and ILE in developing countries of the Asian region,with particular attention to Cambodia and Laos. The principal focus ison definitional issues related to cultural contexts. From the literatureand from personal experience as IL/ILE trainers in SE Asia, wemaintain that extant definitions and understanding of IL are principallyNorth American in origin and focus, or largely based on the NorthAmerican perception of IL and ILE. It was not until themid-years of thefirst decade of this century that we saw formal recognition that ILcompetencies are being applied within cultural and social contexts, andthat cultural factors are affecting information literacy. Our chaptercontributes on-the-ground support for this understanding. During thecourse of a series of IL/ILE workshops in Cambodia and Laos, a seriesof ad hoc focus groups was utilised to test the contextual effects onunderstandings of information literacy; contextualised definitions,each specific to and slightly different for individual countries, weredeveloped. What emerged from the focus group discussionsabout IL was a series of definitional nuances highlighting these keyLibrary and Information Science Trends and Research: Asia-Oceania</p><p>Library and Information Science, 151172</p><p>Copyright r 2012 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited</p><p>All rights of reproduction in any form reserved</p><p>ISSN: 1876-0562/doi:10.1108/S1876-0562(2011)002011b009</p></li><li><p>152 Daniel G. Dorner et al.points: (1) information literacy in definition and practice must becontextually grounded; (2) knowledge creation as a product ofinformation literacy is both knowledge based and problem focused;(3) the contexts of a society must be understood quite specifically; andmay be unique to each society; and (4) information literacy involves acontinuum that comes from and at the same time enables new learningrelated to the contextual aspects of information. Given these points, weconfirm that traditional definitions of IL are not particularly robust inthe context of less developed Asian countries. Further, we concludethat local understanding of IL results in definitions aligned with therealities of specific societies. This in our view leads to more robust,contextualised information literacy education.7.1. Introduction</p><p>In a book titled Library and Information Science Trends and Research: Asia-Oceania Region it is appropriate for one overwhelming reason to addressselected issues surrounding information literacy (IL) and informationliteracy education (ILE). That is, IL is now viewed as an essentialprerequisite for national, social and personal development throughout theless developed countries (LDCs) of the world. But, as we have shownelsewhere, the lack of IL, or what we term information illiteracy, leads tothe development trap, where societies and nations continue in the cycle ofpoverty and under-development (Ameen &amp; Gorman, 2009).</p><p>What we call dependency thinking as part of the outcome ofinformation illiteracy means that nations and peoples lacking in IL aredependent upon the largesse of other societies and nations, because theythemselves lack the knowledge base to make informed decisions about theirown development. The inability to make informed decisions then keeps theLDCs in a subservient position with regard to economic development and afair share of the worlds resources exploitation of the many (LDCs) bythe few (developed countries) continues unabated. The lack of developmentand access to resources affects all aspects of life in information illiteratesocieties, including the satisfaction of many basic human needs. Thisperspective is perhaps just an extension of traditional dependency theory,which we believe is maintained, and perhaps even more firmly embedded, inpart because of low or nonexistent IL.</p><p>Our view is that IL and ILE can contribute to helping societies overcomedependency thinking and to begin making their own informed decisionsabout their personal, social and national development. With the rapidencroachment of new technologies and systems, development is happening</p></li><li><p>Developing Contextual Perceptions of IL and ILE in the Asian Region 153in a more rapid and more uncontrolled manner, and, we think, with lessintelligence because of a lack of IL skills. We dont know what we dontknow can be replaced by at least we know some of what we dont know.Our research in IL and ILE in developing countries in Southeast Asia hastaken us along this route, to the point where we at least have a betterunderstanding of what we dont know.</p><p>Some of what we do know now, that we did not know in 2005, includesrecognition that IL and ILE must be introduced into the education systemby local personnel.We maintain that for interventions of this type to be successful,advisors coming from developed countries must understand theimpact of local culture on learning in general and informationliteracy in particular. We further contend that outsiders mustwork closely with local educators and librarians to understandthe local context and to incorporate indigenous knowledge intoILE programmes to ensure their effectiveness by being context-ually and culturally appropriate. (Dorner &amp; Gorman, 2011).To share this understanding of the contextual nature of IL and ILE indeveloping countries, and how context informs the way in which we approachIL and make it relevant to specific societies, this chapter provides an overviewof the introduction of ILE into some developing countries in the Asia-Oceania region, focussing on definitional issues related to cultural contexts.7.2. The Work of Paul Zurkowski</p><p>We begin with a brief discussion of the seminal work of Paul Zurkowski,who in 1974 introduced the concept of IL to the world in his report to theU.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Thereport examined the relationships between the information industries andlibraries, and set priorities for a national programme to facilitate mutuallysupportive roles. In the body of the report Zurkowski identified theimportance of IL to U.S. economic progress, and he stated that the work ofthe Commission should be viewed in terms of achieving total informationliteracy for the nation (Zurkowski, 1974, p. 8).</p><p>Interestingly, Zurkowski did not provide a definition for IL, which is oneof the key issues addressed in this chapter. However, he provided an insightinto his thinking about such a definition in the reports prologue:Information is not knowledge; it is concepts or ideas whichenter a persons field of perception, are evaluated and</p></li><li><p>154 Daniel G. Dorner et al.assimilated, reinforcing or changing the individuals conceptof reality and/or ability to act. As beauty is in the eye of thebeholder, so information is in the mind of the user. (1974, p. 1)In those words Zurkowski identified some of the cognitive processesinvolved in, as well as the individual nature of, IL:</p><p> Perception Evaluation Assimilation.</p><p>Yet in the report itself Zurkowski referred only to various kinds ofrequisite skills for example, being able to find what is known orknowable on any subject (p. 23). This propensity to focus on the skillsrequired to be information literate has plagued the transfer of ILE from itsWestern origin into other cultural contexts.7.3. Defining IL A Developed Country Concept?</p><p>Since Zurkowskis 1974 report, the definition of IL has been the subject ofnumerous articles and debates among both professionals and academics inthe field of library and information management (LIM). Over the years ILhas evolved from almost a euphemism for information skills used bylibrarians, to increasing recognition in disciplines such as education andinformation systems, and their diverse understandings of pedagogies andtechnologies relevant to IL and its definition. One result of this extension ofIL outside the walls of academe has been a small number of increasinglymore elaborate definitions incorporating appreciation of the importance ofthe context in which the definition applies.</p><p>Many definitions, models, frameworks, descriptions and rubrics exist withinthe literature, all of which aim to shed light on the concept of IL. According toKapitzke (2003, p. 55), the prevalence of the term information literacy can beattributed to the failure of librarians and information professionals in the 1980sto have bibliographic instruction or library skills programmes integrated intotertiary education curricula. In the United States, the Association of Collegeand Research Libraries (ACRL) established the Bibliographic InstructionSection in 1977 which advocated for the American Library Association (ALA)to establish a formal structure to support quality higher education bypromoting instruction in the access, evaluation, and utilization of informationresources (ACRL, 2011).</p><p>It was not until 1989 that the ALAs Presidential Committee onInformation Literacy published its final report, in which it defined IL and</p></li><li><p>Developing Contextual Perceptions of IL and ILE in the Asian Region 155articulated its importance to business, industry and citizenship (ALA,1989). In response to the recommendations made in the Committees reportthe National Forum on Information Literacy, a coalition of education,business and governmental organisations, was established in 1990 (NationalForum on Information Literacy, 2011) and ILE became an importantfocus across all levels of education in the United States.</p><p>A degree of technological determinism also features in explanations ofthe origins of IL. A case in point is Owusu-Ansah (2005), who suggests thatIL was a natural product of a period in the late 20th century marked by theinformation explosion, during which the rapid expansion of informationand communication technology led to an exponential growth in information(pp. 367368). Regardless of its origins and the debates about its meaning,IL has become an established concept in the literature. In developedcountries, as well as some developing countries, ILE has become a key focusin a number of school and academic libraries, despite the ongoing debatesabout what IL actually is, and how it should be taught.</p><p>Much recent literature about IL directly cites the ALA or ACRLdefinitions. The ALA definition, created from a U.S. perspective and for aU.S. audience, has remained largely the same since 1989. This definition statesthat IL is having the ability to recognize when information is needed, then tobe able to locate and evaluate the appropriate information and use iteffectively (ALA, 1989). The ACRL definition, published in 2000, issomewhat fuller and describes an information literate person as being able to:</p><p> Determine the extent of their information need Access that information effectively and efficiently Critically evaluate both information and its sources Incorporate into their knowledge base selected information Effectively use information to achieve a purpose Understand the economic, legal and social aspects of information use Access and use information ethically and legally. (2000)</p><p>Both of these definitions are predominantly skills-based, but the evolutionfrom library skills to a combination of information-seeking skills andcognitive processes is apparent in the latter definition with the addition ofterms such as critically evaluate and understand.7.4. Perceiving IL and ILE in a Wider World</p><p>In 2003 the Australia and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy(ANZIIL) was established to focus specifically on promoting and supportingILE in the vocational and higher education sectors within those countries.</p></li><li><p>156 Daniel G. Dorner et al.ANZIIL supports organisations and individuals in the promotion of ILand, in particular, the embedding of IL within the total educational process(ANZIIL, n.d., p. 1). In a document outlining the principles, standards andpractice incorporated within the ANZIIL framework for IL, Bundy (2004,p. 3) acknowledges that ANZIIL has borrowed heavily on the ACRLstandards. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the ANZIILconceptualisation of IL is very similar to that of ACRL, although it goeswell beyond ACRL in its recognition of critical thinking, independentlearning and lifelong learning. ANZIIL states that information literatepeople</p><p> Recognise a need for information Determine the extent of information needed Access information efficiently Critically evaluate information and its sources Classify, store, manipulate and redraft information collected or generated Incorporate selected information into their knowledge base Use information effectively to learn, create new knowledge, solveproblems and make decisions</p><p> Understand economic, legal, social, political and cultural issues in the useof information</p><p> Access and use information ethically and legally Use information and knowledge for participative citizenship and socialresponsibility</p><p> Experience IL as part of independent learning and lifelong learning(Bundy, 2004, pp. 34)</p><p>At about the same time that ANZIIL was developing its understanding ofhow IL might usefully be perceived, UNESCO promulgated a highlyperceptive definition of literacy in support of the UN Literacy Decade2003-2012. It defined literacy as:The ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, commu-nicate and compute, using printed and written materialsassociated with varying contexts. Literacy involves acontinuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve hisor her goals, develop his or her knowledge and potential, andparticipate fully in community and wider society. (UNESCO,2005, p. 21)For our discussion, there are two key aspects of this definition of literacy.The first is its recognition of the importance of context, that is, itsrecognition that for a person to be literate he or she must call upon different</p></li><li><p>Developing Contextual Perceptions of IL and ILE in the Asian Region 157types of competencies and different types of materials associated withdifferent contexts. The second key aspect is the definitions recognition thatliteracy involves a continuum of learning; that is, learning through literacy isboth incremental and developmental. This insight is highly significantbecause it recognises that people are not operating within a static world, butrather that each persons world is evolving as he or she becomes increasinglyliterate.</p><p>We contend that IL also must be viewed as being contextually based andthat it also involves a continuum of learning, as people advance into newand higher-level domains through the knowledge they gain via their ILcompetencies.7.5. The Alexandria Proclamation</p><p>The Alexandria Procla...</p></li></ul>

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