About the Project

Monday, 12 December 2016

Meeting with Information Literacy Community of Practice in Edinburgh

On Tuesday I took the train to Edinburgh to attend the Information Literacy Community of Practice The Right Information: information skills for the 21st century biannual meeting at the Scottish Government building on Victoria Quay. I was invited by John Crawford to present some of the initial research findings of the research project on Syrian new Scots’ information literacy way-finding practices.  John is an active member of this group with a significant level of experience in the domain of information literacy.  One of the research projects that John has led together with Christine Irving is The Scottish Information Literacy Project which ran from October 2004 - March 2010 at Glasgow Caledonian University.

The meeting was well attended and I had the opportunity to meet with a number of people who have an interest in information literacy across the whole spectrum of government, public, university and school libraries. It was also great to meet with a few familiar faces! A number of interesting information literacy activities, initiatives, collaborations and conferences were presented at the meeting and this offered an informative overview of current developments within the area of information literacy.

I was also delighted that I had the opportunity to present some of the initial findings of Phase 1 of our research project in front of an engaging audience. 

My presentation offered an overview of the current situation in Scotland and the activities in place for Syrian new Scots. As of May 2016, Scotland has welcomed 1,602 Syrian refugees as part of the wider UK Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) Scheme, aiming to resettle 20,000 Syrians (over a period of five years drawn from established refugee camps). As part of my talk, I offered some evidence from the focus group interviews with Syrian new Scots and SRC corordinators we have conducted together with Professor Simon Burnett, highlighting in particular, the importance of community awareness and engagement for helping the families to integrate locally and feel welcomed. 

Findings from Phase 1  

The main information needs expressed by the Syrian new Scots participants revolve around the learning English and this is directly linked with increasing self-confidence, health, well-being, job opportunities, financial security, community engagement and reducing feelings of isolation.

Another need that facilitates integration relates to travelling freely and gaining confidence to navigate around the city/town to attend appointments and meet basic needs. However, government benefits do not currently consider these additional expenses.

All participants also highlighted the issue of family separation. This creates complex information needs around issues that are concerned with the possibility of being reunited with family members located in different countries. 

In relation to the use of technology and the Internet, there is plenty of support provided by the local community, volunteers and the SRC to ensure that the families have the basic means to use computers and that they are connected to the Internet. However, the families mostly use their smart phones.  The most used application is WhatsApp. It is used regularly to communicate and exchange information. However,  it is only useful as long as everyone follows a ‘shared rhetoric’ to communicate.

In their daily lives in Scotland, the families prefer the help of a person, particularly that of the coordinators, interpreters, volunteers and friends, who are important players in the adaptation process. The Mosque and the community centre also play a key role in terms of a common place where they could meet.

Information provision to the families requires a more step-by-step process that acknowledges the particular needs of the families in different stages. Needs, priorities and resources are set differently depending on local variables. Exchanging examples of good practice across the different councils is very important for increasing awareness of the issues and understanding what makes a successful integration. Families who have already settled could play a significant role in the integration of new arriving families.

As part of my talk, I also emphasised the role of public libraries in this area and a number of steps that could be followed that would help towards this direction.  In the slide below I have included a few ideas of initiatives that could be developed.  If you feel that you can take any of these forward please get in touch with us to discuss ideas.

I enjoyed attending the meeting of the IL CoP in Edinburgh and I found it a very engaging and interesting experience. I would like to thank all the organisers for this excellent opportunity and particularly, John Crawford, for the invitation and Jenny Foreman (Scottish Government) for the great organisation and hospitality.

See you again soon Edinburgh!

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