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School libraries, political information and information literacy provision : findings from a Scottish study

Smith, Lauren N. (2016) School libraries, political information and information literacy provision : findings from a Scottish study. Journal of Information Literacy, 10 (2). pp. 3-25. ISSN 1750-5968

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Abstract

This paper presents the findings of research which explored Scottish school libraries’ information provision and information literacy support in the run-up to two major political events: the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum (SIR) and the 2015 General UK Parliamentary Election (GE). To do this, the project identified, through an online survey, what political information seeking secondary school students engaged in through school libraries, what information provision and information literacy support was available to students relating to political issues and events, and what barriers school libraries faced in providing these aspects of political education. It also identified what information seeking students engaged in, what levels of information provision and information literacy support relating to politics are provided by school libraries, and to explore the perceptions and experiences of library staff relating to work in this area. Analysis of the results indicates that there are mixed levels of provision across school libraries in Scotland and that this variation may be influenced by inconsistent policies from local councils and individual schools themselves, as well as variations in the experience and views of library staff. Key activities to support young people’s political education are identified, and several reasons library staff do not engage in political work are discussed. The findings are linked to previous research, with a discussion of the need to encourage and support school library staff to contribute to the political education of students alongside teaching staff. Several recommendations for schools and library staff are made, relating to a consideration of the role of school libraries, how they can provide relevant political information, the importance of clear policies around political information provision and the support required for school library workers.