Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Developing Students' Information Skills in Brazilian School Libraries: The Librarian's Role

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Developing Students' Information Skills in Brazilian School Libraries: The Librarian's Role

Article excerpt

This exploratory study examined how school librarians in Brazil understand their role in developing students' information literacy and whether the notion of a formal program of information literacy informs their practice. The study data included published reports of librarians' practices as well as interviews and group discussions with 28 librarians, 14 of them from government schools and 14 from private schools, from nine different states. A qualitative, interpretative approach was used to analyze the study data. The results of the study show that the concept of information literacy, as a set of skills and attitudes to be developed through a planned, continuous and sequential library program was not found in the practice of these librarians. However, a significant range of skills and attitudes which contribute to make the library a place for learning was found. The study confirms that there is movement toward the practice of information literacy in Brazilian school libraries, but librarians still need to move further toward enacting the collective and permanent actions that characterize the concept of information literacy.

Introduction and Purpose

The concept of information literacy as a set of skills that people have to master in order to deal with the information systems characteristic of contemporary societies was embraced in the beginning of the 1980s by librarians in advanced countries and soon after it also aroused the interest of librarians in less developed countries.

The concept of information literacy was introduced in Brazil first by Caregnato (2000). Since then, other authors have explored the concept, mostly from the perspective of the international literature, identifying tendencies and seeking to understand the origin, meaning and importance of the concept (Campello, 2003b; Dudziak, 2003). Lecardelli and Prado (2006) examined the Brazilian literature on information literacy and recommended that researchers become familiar with related work being done in their own country

Some Brazilian authors have focused on information technology, emphasizing the need to develop information skills to allow the digital inclusion of citizens (Silva et al., 2005). Others have investigated whether a librarian's education fosters the development of that librarian's own informational skills (Campello & Abreu, 2005). Implementing information literacy programs in basic education demands collective efforts involving not just the librarian, but also the entire school community (Gasque & Tescarolo, 2007); this suggests the need for school teachers to develop their information skills (Belluzzo, 2004). Other researchers emphasized the need to build a concept of information literacy for Brazil and, accordingly, they aimed to verify the presence of information skills in educational policy documents (Campello, 2006) and in assessment tools of basic education (Melo & Araújo, 2007).

In Brazil, the term "school librarian" means a professional librarian who works in basic education schools, educating students from ages 4-17. Librarians in Brazil are educated in university undergraduate programs. A prerequisite for admission to these programs is a high school diploma (completion of medium level schooling for ages 15-17 in the Brazilian educational system). In addition, candidates must take a written examination that verifies their knowledge of curricular subjects at this level (Portuguese, geography, history, mathematics, and so on). The examination results determine which students are selected; this is necessary because in most Brazilian universities there is an excess of candidates for university degrees. Graduates of Library Science programs are qualified to work in every kind of library because the content of the undergraduate program is basic. There is no specific program for school librarians, and those who choose to work in a school library will be dealing with students in basic education from kindergarten (ages 4-6), fundamental level (ages 7-14) to medium level (ages 15-17). …

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