The Role of the Library on the Evaluation of Scientific Information

Abstract

Nowadays, despite the fact that more and more pupils and students have access to scientific resources through the specific channels of new information and communication technologies, there are several gaps regarding its evaluation. Taking into account this reason, a series of global organizations have joined librarians on writing about the need to improve students’ information literacy development. It is very important for an educator to be able to guide the pupils and students on how to obtain useful information in the era of knowledge explosion. Recent research illustrated that this category of information consumers had been confronted with difficulties and they needed assistance in the process of information searching. When analyzing that aspect in the Romanian educational institutions, it could be observed that many pupils and students used the public library indeed, but in many situations they do not know what information became available. More, they have difficulties on determining the information they need and its quality, being unable to compare and evaluate various alternatives for getting informed. The paper tries to offer a reason that puts the library in the role of the evaluator of the scientific information taking also into account the pupils’ feedback collected with the occasion of their participation in several workshops (nonformal activities) oriented on the theme of Meeting the Nano-World , organized in the frame of the EU FP7 project entitled: “ IRRESISTIBLE - Including Responsible Research and Innovation in Cutting Edge Science and Inquirybased Science Education to Improve Teacher's Ability of Bridging Learning Environments ”.

Keywords: Scientific informationpublic libraryinformation literacyinformation evaluationnon-formal activitiesIRRESISTIBLE Project

Introduction

Just as in any activity area, holding and obtaining relevant and timely information has a positive

influence on the decisions adopted at any institutional level, information being considered a very

important resource along with the classical ones: work, nature, capital. It is known that information can

be accumulated constantly, yet it has, by excellence, a perishable character, a conclusive example in this sense being the expansion of the Internet (OECD, 2008). At the beginning of the 21st century, we faced an accelerated dynamics of the social changes, especially with their depth, as new development directions emerged on the educational level, aiming to align the instructive-educative objectives to the concrete demands of the knowledge-based society.

On the European level, things related to globalization, multi-culturalism or cultural diversity are becoming more and more intense mentioned (Dragicevic-Sesic, & Stojkovic, 2002), the educational domain being obliged to face the new trends and adapt itself to the technologically performant environment. In the above-mentioned context, the premises of the transition from the information society to the knowledge-based society have been created, where the individual is capable of understanding, evaluating and capitalization of information.

The role of the library on transferring of informational skills

At the basis of life-long learning, there are technological and research abilities. Without them we

cannot become informationally independent. Information-related skills are the first step towards the

realization of the educational objectives and those who can develop them are the specialists in the

information and documentation sciences, but also the teaching staff who needs to be involved in the

domain of the information-related activity, having the obligation to become aware that they are playing

the main role on ensuring the information culture. Unfortunately, there are some barriers in the creation

of a pertinent informational culture:

  • not knowing the documentary typologies;

  • not knowing the informational resources location strategies and techniques;

  • not knowing the forms and mode of information dissemination;

  • knowing the informational resources and their location, but finding it impossible to access them.

To be able to go over those barriers, we need to master the theories and the techniques of the

informational culture. The classical definition refers to “the ability of locating, evaluating and using

information to become, for the entire life, informationally independent” (ALA Presidential Committee

on Information Literacy, 1989). The basic elements of the informational culture involve the knowledge

on the information sources and their organization and mastering certain abilities:

  • precise definition of the needed information;

  • efficient determination of the location of the information sources;

  • critical evaluation of the informative elements and of the information sources;

  • integration of the information selected in the basic knowledge;

  • organization and communication of the information to other persons;

  • effective use of the information to realize the activity proposed;

  • ethical and legal use of the information;

  • synthesizing and building an added-value product based on the existing information.

The aim of the information culture is to provide to each individual with a minimal knowledge

allowing him/her to use information, to have diverse skills, in a context calling for informational

resources (Erich, 2007). According to a classical model of the information culture application, the

stages that each pupil, student, researcher etc. needs to go through are (Horton, 2008):

  • knowing the information and documentation structures (location, organization, services, offers);

  • library research training (knowing the services offered, the information sources etc.);

  • training on the use of information resources (finding the location and exploiting the information

regardless of the information source).

Lately the users have been obliged to face a continually growing of information production,

especially due to the fact that - regarding the Internet searching action – the filtering of the useful

information calls for specific abilities. Therefore, both informational culture and technological culture

have become indispensable.

The informational culture represents the primordial condition of the professionalism and success of

the future specialist in any area. Consequently, simultaneously to professional training, the

student/pupil needs to acquire habits and experience in relation to scientific information, developing his

informational skills. Both the specialists in information and documentation sciences, especially the

librarians, as members of the educational community, and the teaching staff involved in the domains

which claim activities that process the information, need to learn to play the main role on ensuring the

information culture.

Using their creative professional capabilities and possibilities, and relying on programmes integrated

in the training courses, they need to actively contribute to the educational process, helping the pupils on

their aspirations of accumulation and improvement, of cultivation of the habits and skills, knowledge

and values, necessary to continue to study throughout their lifetime.

The County library and its role as evaluator of the scientific information

In general, the County libraries - taking into account their structure and size of the collections, but

also the specificity of the products and provided services -, represent encyclopedically libraries,

offering also access to special and specialized collections, in order to answer to most diverse

information demands, from the simple reading for fun to the fundamental and applied scientific

research. Consequently, the typology of County libraries is extremely diversified. In this sense, we are

talking about:

- Users who are citizens with different information interests, occupations and needs:

o pupils/students and teaching staff who are searching books/documents, generally in strong agreement with the school bibliography; o university students and teaching staff interested in the documents with a high specificity

degree, in relation to specific demands of the didactic and research activities. This type of users is

interested, as well, in the documents presented in the special collections of the County libraries, with

the view to be used in research activities. In order to meet the demands of this type of users, a much

more specific acquisitions policy is needed to be approached, an intrinsic collaboration existing

between universities and libraries, in order to avoid the acquisition of the same types of documents.

According to the new approaches in the area, we can even speak in this case about the transformation

of the County library into a public university library ;

  • adults, interested especially on finding encyclopedic information;

  • children and teen-agers who represent a very important group which is treated with priority.

In the actual knowledge society, more young people prefer the Internet as an alternative to reading a

book, by example;

  • young people skilled in the literary area for whom there are organized special programmes, thematic meetings, activities of presentation and promotion of their own creations;

  • elderly people for whom a book itself has become a luxurious object that not everyone can afford;

- Librarians and other public libraries o In this case, the County libraries have the function of methodological coordinators of the

public libraries, being a provider of services and products for this type of users, as well.

The role of the County library as evaluator of scientific information is more evident with the

occasion of various workshops or seminars in which pupils, students, but also their teachers are

involved. In general, approximately half of the readers are pupils and students, and this proportion can

be also easily retrieved in the participation to workshops and seminars organized by the County

libraries. As an example, in the case of “Ion Heliade Rădulescu” Dâmbovița County Library and in the

frame of the EU FP7 project entitled: “IRRESISTIBLE - Including Responsible Research and

Innovation in Cutting Edge Science and Inquiry-based Science Education to Improve Teacher's Ability

of Bridging Learning Environments ” several workshops was organized as non-formal activities, having

as main themes different activities related to Meeting the Nano-World ”. Beside the effort made by the

researchers and teachers who prepared and promoted those workshops, an important contribution was

done also by the librarians who searched and presented the most suitable books, articles or documents

which can be found in the library, regarding the chosen thematic area, after a fine process of evaluating

the scientific information.

Results and discussion

Referring to pupils, it is obvious that they are the main consumers of the information, being also the

most active users of the County library. As an example, in 2015, the number of active users (who came

to the County library for document loan services or study in the reading room) was 9183; Out of them,

a number of 3143 persons are newly-registered users. In this context, the number of active pupils was

4055 (44%), 928 being newly-registered users (30%).

Figure 1 illustrates the predominance of the active users, by occupation. It can be easily seen that

pupils take a big slice in the diagram, having a great presence - as readers - in the life of the library.

According to their occupational status, among the active readers, the pupils (69.75%) are followed by

university students (10.86%), intellectual professional people (8.52%), unemployed people (2.62%),

retirees (2.30%) etc.

Figure 1: The users’ predominance by occupation
The users’ predominance by occupation
See Full Size >

More than that, concerning the age of the users (Fig. 2) who came in 2015 to the library, the

statistics highlight that most of them are under 14 years old (44%) and over 61 years old (23%). Once

again, the pupils proved to be the main consumers of the information, becoming the main target group

addressed by the library.

Figure 2: The users’ predominance by age
The users’ predominance by age
See Full Size >

Taking into account the previous facts, it was normal to propose and prepare a series of workshops

dedicated to pupils. In this respect, having the IRRESISTIBLEProject as principal mean for organizing

the non-formal activities in the County library -with the declared aim to design activities that foster the

involvement of young students and public in the process of Responsible Research and Innovation ( RRI)

-, more than 300 pupils under 14 years old were called to participate in several workshops dedicated to

the Nano-World topic. Figure 3 illustrates the measure in which the pupils perceived the workshop

topic as important for their scientific knowledge. As presented in the figure, there is an important

proportion (80%) that considered that Nano issues are important in a very great and great measure .

Figure 3: Pupils’ feed-back concerning the workshop topic as important for their scientific knowledge
Pupils’ feed-back concerning the workshop topic as important for their scientific knowledge
See Full Size >

During the workshops, near printed materials, small experiments and educational video-clips

(presented by the project researchers and educational experts), the pupils were introduced in the written

world of publications related to Nano issues. The librarians had the role to select and evaluate the

scientific information, being also the main vector for transferring the knowledge. Several books and

scientific articles were introduced, but everything was done coming to the pupils’ level of

understanding, being adapted to their age. Having the status of novelty, discussions around Nano issues

were held after the presentation and connections with the previous knowledge (a part of it also gained

in the library) were realized. In this sense, figure 4 illustrates the measure in which the pupils were able

to find out links with their previous scientific knowledge. Here, even 50% considered that they had that

capability, it remains an important proportion (other 50%) situated in the zone of moderate measure or

small / very small measure . This means that the transfer of new knowledge (especially for the topics

which are not part of the school curricula, as Nano issues) has to be considered with prudence, on a

gradually basis, making appeal and posing questions that could easily introduced the content in strong

relation with their previous scientific knowledge. On the other hand, the librarians must know very well

the actual content of the school curricula, in order to select and evaluate the proper information to be

presented to pupils. In addition, the role of multimedia must not be ignored. Matters related to Nano issues - where the things are happened at the 10-9 meters’ level) can be easily explained using educational video-clips, overlapping explanations and further information.

Figure 4: Pupils’ feed-back related to the measure in which they considered being able to make connections with
Pupils’ feed-back related to the measure in which they considered being able to make connections with
See Full Size >

their previous knowledge

Conclusion

The County libraries have a major role on guiding the pupils in the process of retrieving the most

useful information. As the pupils represent the most active readers, their involvement in scientific

workshops organized in libraries (as non-formal activities) become crucial for making them to

understand cutting edge scientific issues, as Nano ones. In this respect, the librarian plays an important

role, becoming a key person on selecting and evaluating the scientific information.

But the direct involvement of the librarian during the workshop activities is not an easy task. In

addition to the selection of the relevant documents, books or articles, the librarian must know the

school curricula and related contents in order to be able to raise the pupils’ interest for science, by

making connections with the pupils’ prior knowledge, motivating them and involving them in

educational quizzes or providing additional information using multimedia. The case of the

IRRESISTIBLE workshops proved to be suitable examples in this sense. On the other hand, the young

students’ thirst for knowledge have to be satisfied by all the educational stakeholders who act in non-

formal education. Its importance became more and more obvious, especially during the activities

organized yearly, during the week: “School, inanother way: To know more, to be better!”.

Acknowledgements

This work was funded through the Seventh Framework Programme Project “ IRRESISTIBLE - Including Responsible Research and Innovation in Cutting Edge Science and Inquiry-based Science Education to Improve Teacher's Ability of Bridging Learning Environments” - a coordination and support action under FP7-SCIENCE-IN-SOCIETY-2013-1, ACTIVITY 5.2.2 “Young people and science” - Topic SiS.2013.2.2.1-1: Raising youth awareness to Responsible Research and Innovation through Inquiry Based Science Education. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, under grant agreement no 612367. The support offered by the European Commission, through the project mentioned above, is gratefully acknowledged.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2016.09.45

Online ISSN

2357-1330