Interview with Jesus Lau
Jesus Lau is well known worldwide for his research and practice on information literacy. Currently he is a professor at the Universidad Veracruzana (Mexico).
He received his BA (1974) in Law from Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa, his MA (1977) in Library Science from the University of Denver, and his Ph.D. (1988) in Information Studies from the University of Sheffield, England. Among his most relevant international contributions to the research area of information literacy, he has edited several books on information literacy published by IFLA and often funded by UNESCO, including Information literacy: international perspectives,Information literacy: An international state-of-the-art report and Towards information literacy indicators: conceptual framework paper. His research in the field of information literacy in both libraries and academic institutions has been normative, with the Guidelines on information literacy for lifelong learning published on behalf of IFLA, as well as the Marketing Manual and Guidelines for Information Literacy Assessment, involving and understanding the connections between theory and practice.
An interview by Anna Maria Tammaro
Q1: Information Literacy is not a “topic for all” at the moment. Many people don’t even know what it is. Do you think that the audience is going to grow soon or we still have to wait? Or it will never become a basic knowledge…
- Why is it difficult in your opinion to spread the message of the Information Literacy to the wide audience?
- Your “2 cents”: 3 suggestions to improve Information Literacy knowledge.
It is difficult to spread the message of information literacy to all. There are two challenges: the first one is the type of educational system which one may have: some may be more focused on teaching than on learning. The other is that the world is going through a difficult stage where politicians rely more on social media.
Suggestions are difficult, but I can recommend that we need to have a strategy for advocating for information literacy.
From the library point of view, most of librarians do not have political skills. They tend to focus on the small information world, but if they want to have an impact, they have to enter the political game, not to become politicians but to know the rules and strategy politicians use. The same for influencing the educational system: we have to know how to influence decision makers at schools, universities, and educational institutions from basic to higher education. We should facilitate a knowledge base for decision makers with the objective of improving learning.
Q2: To improve student learning it is important to rely on pedagogical theories. Do you have any experience of good practice?
- Assessment is crucial for information literacy learning success: which strategies do you recommend to librarians?
Librarians need to learn about learning theories and pedagogical strategies in the classroom. Information professionals can benefit from collections and resources that they have but need to acquire pedagogical and teaching skills, which are not taught in library schools and are generally learnt by trial. The learning facilitation process can be accelerated by taking training at education courses that institutions and universities normally offer, to become better library trainers and instructors.
In regard to my favorite pedagogical framework, I am inspired by Paulo Freire: a Brazilian who states that one has to be critical about what one thinks, one says, because any message has a purpose, an intent and a background that one has to ask: what is the intention?
About assessment I normally use a constructivist approach. I like my students to self-evaluate themselves. If they can assess themselves, they do not need the instructor evaluation. Students should learn how to evaluate themselves. In my teaching self-assessment skills are included at the beginning of the course giving some reward to those who are objective and correcting those who are not objective. I normally use rubrics on how to assess what they do.
The second strategy is peer evaluation which is more complex, because it relies on classmates own knowledge and skills but learning how to do peer evaluation reinforces self-assessment skills.
The last one, the feedback by the person who is in charge of assessment, the facilitator, has to step in some cases to complete a more holistic evaluation. The role I take is to help students to provide good feedback and a fair grade.
Q3: Collaborating with teachers for information literacy courses embedded in the curriculum is not easy, although librarians and teachers share the objective of improving learning.
- What do the IFLA Guidelines for Information Literacy recommend?
The IFLA Guidelines on Information literacy for Lifelong Learning published in 2006 do not include this specific topic. After these Guidelines I have written an Information Literacy Marketing Manual that is still on the IFLA website. The monograph deals on how to create bridges with faculty. This Manual was not promoted well and few people have used it, even though it provides practical advice on how to identify your community and the stakeholders, and how to manage marketing if you are in a library without a department to do this task.
Other Guidelines on how to collaborate with faculty should be written, as the marketing challenges are still similar. A problem at our universities is that we lack information literacy teamwork in general, we seem to have two isolated worlds of faculty and librarians who are not collaborating. A recent article by Stebbibg et al. investigate this issue of having an individualistic society, a behavior that has a negative impact on universities. Faculty think that what they provide is enough, and librarians, on the other hand, ignore how information is used in the course. Librarians and faculty, as you know, could benefit from collaborating in fostering information skills to improve student life-long learning capabilities.
I have two related examples, one recent and one older. My first experience with the Faculty of Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juárez, where I was university librarian invited to join this University by the University President. My requests in order to accept the position was:
- To have freedom to recruit librarians
- To have the library in the first tier of the organizational chart
- To have 5% of university budget
What could the Library do in three years’ time? These three requirements empowered the library to have the resources and the services that the learning community needed. The main gains wеre to play a vital role in information literacy of students and faculty themselves. All new students were required to take 20 hours compulsory course (10 hours were for independent study) entering the University, as well as requiring to new faculty to train in information literacy, as well as motivating all faculty to foster information skills with an integral institutional faculty assessment. The key element in this success was to be close to decision makers.
A similar experience I experience now at a Northern Mexican University where I have been providing consultancy for over seven years. An information literacy eight credit full campus course is part of the curricula and compulsory for all new undergraduate students. How was this goal achieved? One was close to the University decision makers. How to get closer to decision makers? This is the topic for another interview!
Q4: Impact indicators could demonstrate the success of information literacy games chosen/realized by Navigate. What impact indicators does UNESCO recommend for games?
- In your experience as facilitator, what are the most effective approaches that you have used?
- Have you ever used games? If yes, could you suggest a couple of them?
UNESCO has done some work for games but to be honest I do not know that much.
Games are the right track to improve learning processes. Students want to have a learning process similar to social media with full entertainment. Games are effective communication approaches in the classroom to improve information skills.
Social media methodologies can be used in classes such as Memes that can be provided as learning bits and could have an excellent impact for knowledge acquisition.
Any facilitator can use social media and social games in his or her classes and could have success in the learning outcomes. It is a matter of changing our attitudes towards games and learning how to create them, doing team work with computer specialists if one is at a place where these resources are available.
Using games in class is important but I have never developed one. I have not experience and I do not have resources, as one needs continuously maintain and innovate with new technology and new software. The ideal library should have a unit at the University to do teamwork in order to develop innovative games. Currently, I do not have the skills neither institutional support to develop these learning strategies. Mexico is a large country but as far as I know there are no games in information literacy, this is a development to be undertaken.
 Information literacy: international perspectives with IFLA (2008)
 Information literacy: An international state-of-the art report with IFLA (2007)
 Towards information literacy indicators: conceptual framework paper with Ralph Catts (2008)
 Integrating the information literacy logo : A marketing manual /Jesús Lau y Jesús Cortés.– Veracruz, Mexico: IFLA/UNESCO, 2010 https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/information-literacy/publications/infolit-logo-marketing-manual-en.pdf
 STEBBING, Deborah et al. What academics really think about information literacy. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 13, n. 1, p. 21-44, june 2019. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <https://ojs.lboro.ac.uk/JIL/article/view/PRA-V13-I1-2>.