Information Literacy in the Faeroes

Arnbj�rn �. Dalsgar�, the National Library of the Faeroes

In the Faeroes some efforts are being made to heighten the level of Information Literacy. In recent years, several reports have been published about competence development, where Information Technology, Computer Literacy and to some extent Information Literacy have been important issues. Although Information Literacy is usually not mentioned in the term Information Literacy (Faeroese: kunningarf�rleiki), the ideas and the aims, however, are the same, and that is to heighten the overall Information Literacy in the Faeroes. This paper is a short overview over the actual situation, not an overview over good intentions and ideas. For those who may be interested in the reports and papers a brief directory is available under the subject of �IK-resurser� for the Faeroes on this NORDINFOlit site.

The Information Society
The small size of the country has in many ways influence on how information is being transferred between individuals and institutions. The distances are usually short, and people often know each other, or are connected in other ways. But the substance of the problems and the needs of each individual is the same in the Faeroes as in other developed countries. For instance, we see a significant increase in computer-based learning and distance education, resulting in a more continuous pressure on the interlibrary services, provided by only a few of the Faeroese libraries.

Also issues like Lifelong Learning and Competence development have become more and more common in public use, while at the same time substantial improvements have been achieved in developing a digital communication infrastructure. This increases the needs for a more general integration of information retrieval competences in education, as well as for providing courses for users outside of the educational system.

Libraries and education
One of the main problems in the context of user education in the Faeroes is the cultural gap between librarians and university lecturers or teachers, forsaken mainly by different educational backgrounds. Inside the educational system there apparently is not interest for considering libraries as anything more than book-storing places, rather than class-rooms or Learning Resource Centers. But at the same time, teachers do not have the necessary information skills to teach their students to become Information Literate. This is the main challenge in the Faeroes today, when we talk about Information Literacy; that is the cooperation between university lecturers/teachers and professional librarians, between libraries and the university/schools. 

Resource management
Another problem in improving user education in libraries is the small size of the Faeroese library system, which enforces a constant shortage of resources, both human and financial resources, such as teaching skills, preparation time and time to reflect on current teaching practices. Librarians can take courses in pedagogy in the Faeroes, but so far, it has not been the highest priority of the directions of the libraries, although some efforts have been made, such as sending librarians to IL-courses in neighboring countries.

Seeing libraries as just book-stores, and seeing teaching as a non-librarian occupation, is still the main view in the university, schools and libraries. But this view is likely to change, as the number of and the complexity of information sources increases and the role of the libraries as well as the librarian already have changed significantly. The range of electronic resources provided by the libraries, the National Library in particular, to different user groups, is already so wide, that the libraries have to focus more on the education, just to be able to use these resources themselves, and that is in fact also the case at the moment. In the National Library courses are given to reference librarians, just to cope with the development.

Courses in Information Literacy
In recent years, more focus has been set on user education in the Faeroes. The participation in the Nordic NORDINFOlit-project has been a good way to point out the importance of user education. For instance, Faeroese librarians have participated in most of the seminars, conferences and summer schools held by NORDINFOlit, and in June 2004, a summer school was held in the Faeroes, where IL and pedagogy, practices as well as theory, were the main issues. There were 20 participants; four from the Faeroes and the rest were from other Nordic countries.

Courses in IL in the Faeroes can be divided in two: library courses and other courses, held by other companies or institutions. To take the latter first, these are fundamental courses in basic information searching on the internet. The other one is library courses, held by the National Library. Here we have a range of different courses for different user groups, both students from schools and the university, and library staff, ranging from general courses in information retrieval to specialized courses in searching multiple complex information sources.

Today public and grammar schools, colleges, high schools and the university use the information sources, provided by the National Library, so this user group increases all the time.

Information about IL in the Faeroes
Until recent, we did not have a useful term in the Faeroese language for Information Literacy. When we began working with the subject, the need to describe it in Faeroese led to the creation of a new word, kunningarf�rleiki, which is a composition of the two words, kunning (=Information) and f�rleiki (=Competence).

Since then, some things have been done to inform about IL and about the NORDINFOlit project. In May 2002, a seminar for librarians was held in T�rshavn, where Information Literacy and Competence development were the issues. As a result of the seminar, two interviews were sent in the Faeroese radio, �tvarp F�roya, where IL was discussed as a necessary competence in the Information society.

The next move forwards was the creation of a Faeroese web page about IL, as a direct result of the launching of the NORDINFOlit project. This was done in 2003, and since then, the homepage has been updated frequently with new articles and other information about courses and issues, related to IL. A few informative papers have been written in annuals and magazines about IL, and they have all been published on the Faeroese IL web page as well. The address to the web page is: http://www.flb.fo/infolit.     

So far, little research has been made on the topic of Information Literacy in the Faeroes. One project about library course was run in grammar school in Hoydalar in May 2003, which included Information Literacy, and some articles have been published. A brief directory is available under the subject of �IK-resurser� for the Faeroes on this NORDINFOlit site.