Workplace Information Literacy: It's Different: Learning Styles, Organizational Cultures and Competing Priorities Are among the Many Challenges Facing Librarians Who Want to Increase Information Literacy in Their Workplaces

By Abram, Stephen | Information Outlook, July-August 2012 | Go to article overview

Workplace Information Literacy: It's Different: Learning Styles, Organizational Cultures and Competing Priorities Are among the Many Challenges Facing Librarians Who Want to Increase Information Literacy in Their Workplaces


Abram, Stephen, Information Outlook


There are plenty of articles and studies on information literacy in our professional literature, and they mostly address the issue in terms of public, K-12 and academic libraries and focus on end users. We need more discussion about, and study of, the unique challenges of increasing information literacy skills in the workplace.

To that end, I am writing a chapter for a new book from Emerald that is expected to be published in 2013. The title of the book is Developing People's Information Capabilities: Fostering Information Literacy in Educational, Workplace and Community Contexts (the editors are Mark Hepworth and Geoff Walton).

In this column, I'll share with you some of the ideas and concepts that Ill be exploring in the chapter I'm writing. First and foremost, I take a broad view of information literacy and subscribe to the emerging discussion about "transliteracy." I believe that these skills will be essential in the 21st Century.

Here's the definition of transliteracy from Wikipedia:

  Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across
  a range of platforms, took and media from signing and orality
  through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social
  networks. The modern meaning of the term combines literacy with
  the prefix trans-, which means "across; through", so a transliterate
  person is one who is literate across multiple media."

This definition nicely frames the challenge of workplace literacy, where search, retrieval, and usage rarely suffice to create a competent and successful employee. Success in the workplace requires the integration of specific software, network environments, collaboration tools, learning tools, multiple content formats, and more. And it's incumbent on the employee (and the employer as well) to keep up to date with changes in the technical and content environments as well as the profession, sector and industry. The need for continuous learning, after all, is more than just a personal value--it's a matter of competitive advantage and survival. Sometimes lives depend on progress being made and adaptations spreading throughout the enterprise.

In my chapter, I intend to frame the key issues in workplace information literacy. I'm basing the chapter on my personal observations over the past 30 years, drawing on my experiences with multiple workplaces, intranets, corporate libraries, content development, training and development strategy, and product development.

These experiences and observations have taught me that the workplace is not a single or uniform population, as general consumers, K-12 students, and undergraduate scholars arguably are. These traditional literacy markets also differ from the workplace in another key respect--they are under the rigor of an institutional strategy and agenda (in the case of education) or make compromises (as in the consumer space) to acquire information at no charge from resources like Google or public libraries.

Workplaces are defined as the workers in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors who are tasked with running the organization, providing value to others, and delivering services to end users like learners, customers, clients, and patients. want to explore these issues and frameworks through key target audiences in commercial and institutional workplace environments. These audiences include the following:

* Teachers (as opposed to students);

* Professors (as opposed to young scholars);

* Corporate administrators and business decision makers, professionals, and consultants;

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

* Medical professionals such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists;

* Lawyers (in both private practice and internal corporate and government work);

* Engineers and architects;

* Financial professionals (accountants, auditors, and so forth); and

* Creative professionals (in advertising, marketing, art, and related sectors). …

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Workplace Information Literacy: It's Different: Learning Styles, Organizational Cultures and Competing Priorities Are among the Many Challenges Facing Librarians Who Want to Increase Information Literacy in Their Workplaces
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